There are numerous beaches up and down the coast of California. From Venice to Pismo and back down to Huntington, the options are endless, but none compare to the laid-back, relaxed atmosphere that San Diego provides. With over 70 miles of coastline, San Diego is home to some of the most diverse and unique beaches in the state of California. If you’re interested in fresh fish tacos, easy access snorkeling, and award-winning craft beer, consider planning your next vacation to the sandy city of San Diego.
After years of spending school breaks on the beaches in San Diego, I have come to love all and favor a few great ones. During those years, my best friend and I, who now lives there, would run hog wild along the coast. Day after day and sunburn after sunburn, we relished in the laid-back atmosphere and freedom that comes with the California lifestyle. Over time we developed an unspoken list of our favorite places, that we frequent to this day. Here is that list.
More About San Diego, CA
The Best Beaches in San Diego Overview
Coronado Central Beach
Known for its vast white shoreline and breathtaking scenery, Coronado Island is a much admired by visitors year-round. With five beaches spread across the peninsula, picking just one can be a bit difficult. So for time sake, we’ll focus on the most well-known and sought after, Coronado Central. Aside from its vast landscape and fun atmosphere, Coronado Central has countless activities to fill your day. The most talked-about attraction on the island is Hotel Del Coronado, which is a favorite spot for visitors because of its rich history and gorgeous architecture. This hotel has been a thrilling attraction for decades because it is believed to be haunted by prior patrons. If you’re brave enough to find the truth to this tale, comment below and let the readers know what you experienced! Aside from the spooky legends, Hotel Del Coronado is steps away from an array of thriving tide pools that are home to less ghostly surprises.
As you make your way off of hotel grounds, Coronado Central can be experienced by a variety of methods. Segway and bike tours are popular choices, as well as the classic rollerblade option. If you have all day to spend on the Island, you may want to consider taking the ferry to the Broadway Pier and checking out the USS Midway Museum. Doing this allows you to experience the enjoyment of the ferry, as well as the richness of one the world’s largest aircraft carrier until 1955. If you’re not a history buff like myself, maybe stick to the tidepools and Segways.
This is first on the list for a reason. With a great local feel and a busy boardwalk, this beach will quickly become your favorite spot in San Diego. If you’re interested in staying near the water but are working with a small budget, Beach Bungalow Surf Hostel is a great place to stay. Bunk reservations are generally around $40, which is pennies in comparison to other options in the city, and staying in a community space is a great way to meet other travelers.
Once you’ve settled in, and you’ve checked out the beautiful shoreline, make your way over to Lahaina Beach House, which is walking distance from the hostel. Lahaina sits directly on the boardwalk and has a large wooden deck that is usually packed with social beachgoers looking to have a good time. Unfortunately, this is a cash-only establishment, but don’t let that deter you from indulging in a good ol’ messy carne asada nacho plate, because trust me, it’s worth it.
Assuming you’ve paced yourself and can continue through the night, head on over to PB Shore Club for some colorful cocktails and more great views. With two floors, a balcony, and great drinks, it is easy to see why this is a local favorite. While there, be sure to ask about their daily specials, and if you happen to be there on a Wednesday, be sure to make it in time to see the infamous goldfish races!
Mission is one of my favorite beaches in San Diego for a fun time! This is where the infamous Belmont Park resides, and believe me; it is worth seeing! If you’re not familiar with Belmont Park, it is a boardwalk carnival loaded with greasy snacks, fun rides, and teddy bears waiting to be your new best friend.
If carnivals don’t interest you, there are many other ways to spend your day. The beach itself is beautiful, but typically a bit crowded because it is such a popular area. If you’re also not interested in the water, head back to Belmont, and you’ll run into Wings Beachwear. It’s a great place to pick up some new strappy sandals, and a cute bikini guaranteed to get you a free drink later.
After all of this walking, you’ll have surely worked up an appetite. Hopefully, it’s a hefty one because Luigi’s At The Beach sells pizza slices the size of grown man’s head! With fresh ingredients and a homey atmosphere, Luigi’s will be sure to satisfy.
La Jolla Cove
Snorkeling and kayaks and seals, oh my! The La Jolla area has a lot of fun things to do, but La Jolla Cove is one of the best, beaches in San Diego. Before visiting the area, make sure to get yourself a snazzy little snorkel from Amazon because you’re going to need it at this location. There are three specific points to check out while snorkeling at La Jolla Cove. The first point is the easiest and because it’s the immediate cove area where everyone is lying out. Second is the south end of the cove out to the kelp beds. Although visibility is often better the further out you swim, be sure to check with the lifeguards to make sure it’s safe that day. The third and most exciting point to check out is along the caves, just north of the beach. Personally, I find it easier to walk back to the street and access the water by climbing down the large rocks because swimming that distance can be strenuous. Once you’ve reached this area, you may notice a large family of seals sunbathing on the rocks. This area is obviously a great time to snap a photo for Instagram. If you have a GoPro, I encourage you to take it with you during your dive, because this area is known for its stingray sightings!
If snorkeling doesn’t interest you, but you want to experience the wildlife and scenery, kayaking is a great way to spend your time at the Cove. There are a handful of kayak tour groups that go out in that area, but be sure to check out Groupon first. Why spend unnecessary money. Am I right?
Did all of that exploring make you hungry? Great! Karl Stauss Brewery is a local favorite and has an unbeatable happy hour Mon-Fri 3:00 pm-6:00 pm with $5 beers, bites, and flights. After your long day of dodging rays and seals, I think you’ve earned a cold one so pull up a chair and make it a memorable night.
Unlike the other beaches, Solana Beach is a bit homier. The main road, Cedros St., is lined with quaint boutiques, cozy restaurants, and small pop up shops that sell local art and handmade items. On Sunday between 12:00 pm and 4:00 pm, there is a great farmers market just south of Rosa St. This is a popular spot for locals and visitors in the area. Along with the typical fresh fruits and veggies, you’ll also find a variety of yummy food trucks, including my personal favorite, Crabby Crab Cakes.
If you find yourself at Solana beach when the farmers market is closed, don’t worry. There are still a ton of great things to do in the area. Fletcher Cove is the central waterfront in Solana, and it’s a beautiful place to dip your toes in the water for a bit. This area is a lot calmer and less crowded than the other beaches, so if you’re looking for a quiet day with less amusement, you may want to set up shop here.
When it comes time to fuel up, consider swinging by Pillbox Tavern to try their signature hot wings or get beachy with their Shrimp and Mahi Citrus Ceviche. If you’re in the mood for a different type of fuel, make a left for Culture Brewing Co. and end your day with a few ice-cold craft beers. Both options are sure to be the perfect addition to your day at Solana Beach.
If you have been to any of these beaches in San Diego, plan to visit a few in the future, or know of one I should add to the list, comment below and let me know!