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    San Diego Beaches: Southern California Coastline Guide

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    Lluis Enric Mayans

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    The pleasant climate of San Diego and the scarcity of rainfall entice you to outdoor activity and here in California, heading south along Coast Hwy 101, we will range between the beaches of San Diego and its county. There are about thirty beaches, but for reasons of time we will necessarily have to make choices.

    Il San Diego shoreline and the county is a spectacular place where everyone finds their ideal space, for simple relaxation or sporting activities, all within easy reach of other entertainment and points of interest, Sea World and Legoland to name a couple. It is a destination not to be missed to which, if possible, devote all the time it deserves.

    When we arrive in the city we will discover its streets, its architecture, restaurants and shops for all tastes and pockets as well as high-level museums, but for the moment we focus on one of the flagships, the beaches, definitely not to be missed and forged by Mother Nature in such a way as to please everyone. Along the more than 100 kilometers of coastline in the county, of which about thirty in the San Diego area, there are many beaches, different types of coasts to the north and south of the city, all to be discovered.


    • The beaches of San Diego
      • South carlsbad state beach
      • Swami’s Beach
      • Del Mar City Beach
      • Torrey Pines State Beach
      • The beaches of La Jolla
      • Tourmaline Surfing Park Beach
      • Pacific beach
      • South mission beach
      • Ocean Beach
      • Coronado Central Beach
      • Imperial beach
      • Silver Strand State Beach Park
    • Accomodation

    The beaches of San Diego

    Some beaches are ideal for surfing and kayaking while others are perfect for snorkeling and diving but everywhere you can simply enjoy the sun, the view, perhaps immortalizing the evolutions and virtuosity of those who feel perfectly at ease riding the waves. . Here is our itinerary with some indications and suggestions on these beautiful sites overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

    South Carlsbad State Beach

    Departing from Los Angeles, about 40 minutes from San Diego, we reach South Carlsbad State Beach (Carlsbad Blvd. and Hwy 101, Carlsbad), long, white, clean, uncrowded beach where you can swim when the currents and waves are not too strong or stay close to the shore; here we see many surfers, divers and fishermen and they tell us that the sunset is spectacular. We have to believe it because we cannot dedicate a day to every beach. Stairs lead to the campsite which is very popular especially in summer. We opted for free parking in the nearby streets but you can park for a fee on site ($ 15). Great combination with a visit to the colorful and fun world of Legoland.

    Swami’s Beach

    In Encinitas, at 1298 S. Coast Hwy 101, we park the car for free (attention, space is limited), go down the stairs close to the cliff flanked by palm trees and arrive at Swami’s Beach to take a look. We discover to our great surprise that this hitherto unknown place is actually famous, and will always be, as mentioned by the Beach Boys in the song Surfin 'USA. But beyond the fame we like to discover a further note of merit, namely that the ecosystem is preserved in this area. You can swim while paying attention to the presence of rocks, surfing and diving.

    Del Mar City Beach

    When we get to Del Mar City Beach (Coast Blvd - Del Mar) we are about half an hour from San Diego, but we will stop several more times before reaching the city. We see people swimming and others surfing. To be more precise, we can divide the area into two sections: the northern one, sandy, partly dog-friendly and close to two parks; the one to the south is more rocky, with pools created by the tide and the presence of paths that descend from the cliffs (to which it is good to pay attention). There are various possibilities to park for free in the nearby streets or residential areas, but it is necessary to arrive early, at least in the morning.

    Torrey Pines State Beach

    We continue towards the Torrey Pines State Beach (12600 Torrey Pines Rd.) Just north of the locality of La Jolla. The beach is located at the base of a sandstone cliff of over 90 meters. On holidays, parking costs $ 25 in the south and $ 20 in the north. In the low season (October to Spring Break) the cost is $ 12 and $ 10 but you can try to park your car for free along Highway 101.

    A hike from the top of Torrey Pines State Park leads down to the striking beach of the same name, home to a rare species of protected, broad-crowned pine called Torrey Pines. Here you can swim and surf, perhaps the favorite activity of the locals, but also enjoy the lagoon and splash in the water. This area equipped with toilets, showers and lifeguard service all year round is nevertheless one of the wilder coastal areas in Southern California and keep in mind that you must bring food and water if you intend to spend a few hours or the whole day on this beach, which is accessible from 7.15am to sunset.

    The beaches of La Jolla

    The drive is short from here to the popular resort of La Jolla, where La Jolla Shores (8300 Camino del Oro) is a perfect beach for families but also for those who practice surfing, paddle boarding, scuba diving. This possibility makes it very popular, also because with a short walk you arrive at the nearby Kellogg Park, perfect for a picnic or a bit of shade after being on the beach. There are free parking spaces and also free parking spaces along the road, the only problem is crowding so if you don't want to leave your car far away you have to arrive early in the morning.

    Just a few kilometers and this area continues to amaze us a La jolla cove (1100 Coast Blvd.), a small picturesque bay with a white and grainy sand beach embraced by sandstone cliffs, a place in our opinion not to be missed. In the blue waters of this stretch of sea a rich marine life proliferates, clearly visible when practicing snorkeling or diving; the Garibaldi fish stands out, recognizable by its orange color.

    This is a good location to swim in, although many only stop for a walk and to observe / photograph seals and sea lions. The coast is accessed by a very green, large and panoramic park bordered by palm trees, with a wonderful view of the beach below. The rescue service is active every day from 9 to sunset and outdoor showers and toilets are available. Arriving early in the morning you can find free parking along Coast Boulevard or else there are paid garages nearby.

    Tourmaline Surfing Park Beach

    On our way south a jewel awaits us, close to a cliff, called Tourmaline Surfing Park Beach (Mission Blvd. N. approximately 16 miles from San Diego). It is the meeting point for locals who practice surfing, kiteboarding, windsurfing, in reality there are not many tourists here, and we can observe them while we sunbathe; they tell us that it is a nice place all year round and that there is some space where swimming is allowed but still it is not the ideal place for this activity. There is free parking at the end where Tourmaline Street reaches the ocean, as well as showers and toilets.

    Pacific beach

    Now in the San Diego area, between Pacific Beach Drive and Crystal Pier it develops Pacific beach (Grand Ave.). We immediately notice the pier, from which you fish and you have a different perspective of the beach, the surfers and the city. On the coast there is a walkway that runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean along which it is possible to ride a bicycle (but there are also those who use roller skates). Here you can practice surfing and kayaking, sailing and swimming. Toilets and showers are at the rescue service on Grand Avenue between the boardwalk and Mission Boulevard while cars are parked freely along the street, for example at Grand Avenue and Pacific Beach Drive.

    South Mission Beach

    South mission beach (Mission Blvd. and N. Jetty Rd.) Is one of the busiest beaches in the city because it has spectacular ocean views, Belmont Park is very close and both the Ocean Front Walk and Sea World water park are not far away. It is perhaps the widest beach in the city, a popular spot for sports such as beach volleyball and basketball. South Mission also has the only oceanfront area dedicated to the “Over-The-Line” championship (a kind of beach baseball).

    This sandy beach is popular with surfers but swimming is allowed and then you can fish at Mission Bay Pier. The beach has good facilities and services including showers, toilets and the presence of numerous lifeguards. The closest parking areas to this beach are Mission Beach Park (300 Mission Blvd.) and Belmont Park (3146 Mission Blvd.).

    Ocean Beach

    We leave the car in the parking lot at 1946 Abbott Street and are ready to find out Ocean Beach, a wide sandy beach of about a kilometer and a half, surrounded by lots of greenery, suitable for those who prefer less crowded coasts than Pacific and Mission Beach, but still with showers and toilets, monitored by lifeguards who recommend paying attention to currents and not to stray from their visual control. The view to the south is dominated by the Ocean Beach Pier, from which it is possible to fish even without a license. On this and other San Diego beaches in the summer there are parties and events that you will find details in our article dedicated to San Diego events.

    Coronado Central Beach

    Our beach tour necessarily includes Coronado Central Beach (Ocean Blvd), a long coastline of golden sand in the famous peninsula of the same name from which you can enjoy the San Diego skyline and which can be easily reached by bus, car, taxi via a spectacular bridge. On this beach it is possible to swim, surf, collect shells but also walk and cycle along a quiet path. The waters are initially shallow to the point where the waves then break through.

    In fact, the Coronado coastline is divided into four beautiful areas (also with green spaces and the dog-friendly section to the north). Toilets and showers are near the lifeguard stations active every day from 9 to sunset. Free parking spaces can be found along Ocean Boulevard but they fill up quickly. An area of ​​the beach is dedicated exclusively to the clients of the prestigious and famous Vacation Specials, a really beautiful complex and deserving to be visited in a particular way with the evening lighting.

    Imperial Beach

    We continue our tour a Imperial Beach (Seacoast Dr. - Imperial Beach), approximately 25 minutes south of downtown San Diego. In this location, surfing and swimming are practiced (the area near the pier is the safest), there are toilets and showers and the rescue service is active all year round. From the dock many people fish and others observe birds. There is the possibility to park along the street in residential areas or in some public parking spaces.

    Silver Strand State Beach Park

    The San Diego shoreline also boasts a beach that is good to differentiate from the others. Not just because it probably is the most beautiful of this stretch of coast, but because unlike all the others it is a state park. Well maintained and full of services, such as the camping area for campers and caravans and canoe rental, it is one of the most popular beaches for locals on summer weekends, as well as for tourists who stay at the campground for long periods.

    La Silver Strand State Beach it runs all along the thin strip of land that connects Coronado Island to the mainland (what makes Coronado indeed a peninsula, despite the name). Access to the beach would be free, but given that parking is subject to charges and it is very difficult to reach it without a car, it can be said that it is a paid beach. Access to the car park costs $ 10 per day from Monday to Friday, $ 12 per day on Saturdays and Sundays.

    Opens every morning at 7, but the closing time varies according to the season. Specifically, it closes at 21pm in summer, 20pm in spring and autumn, and 19pm in winter. On this page you can check the exact days in which the timetable changes.

    To be precise, the beaches are two: parallel to each other. Towards the ocean we find the boundless expanse of silver beach from which the state park takes its name. Across the thin spit of land, it overlooks the San Diego Bay Crowne Cove. On this side, where the sea is always flat as a table, canoes are rented and it is one of the best beaches for children in terms of safety and entertainment. The two sides of the peninsula are connected by tunnels that pass under the road, allowing pedestrians to pass from one beach to another in complete tranquility.


    For information on staying overnight, find advice on nearby areas and the city in our article dedicated to where to sleep in San Diego.

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