San Diego has long been celebrated for its seemingly limitless sunshine, miles of beautiful coastline, and captivating cultural attractions such as the San Diego Zoo. San Diego’s beaches are undeniably some of the most gorgeous in the world. San Diego has the perfect beach for you, if you’re searching for a hidden nook where you can spend the day relaxing and meditating to the sound of crashing waves, or a bustling urban beach where you can alternate between surfing and people watching.
No coastal city is complete without a lively boardwalk town. Mission Beach is home to an amusement park called Belmont Park that features classic rides such as a Coney Island-esque roller coaster that was first built in the 1920s. Mission Beach is ideal for families with kids and active visitors who love to surf, rollerblade, and play beach volleyball. Belmont Park offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy a snack or a full meal and listen to a performer such as G. Love & Special Sauce as the blue waves of the Pacific crash ashore in the distance.
If you find clothing oppressive, Black’s Beach is the spot for you. Black’s Beach is often hailed as one of the largest clothing optional beaches in the United States. If you have never been brave enough to fully disrobe at the beach, Black’s Beach is an excellent spot to shed your swimsuit for the first time because it is surrounded by sizable cliffs that are conductive to privacy. It is important to note that although the entire length of Black’s Beach was once a nude beach, the southern section of the beach which is managed by the city of San Diego does not allow nudity. The northern section of the beach which is managed by the state of California still allows visitors to roam freely without clothing.
CORONADO CITY BEACH
At first glance, the sands of Coronado City Beach appear to be sprinkled with gold. When the sun shines on Coronado City Beach, mica deposits shimmer like buried treasure waiting to be unearthed. Coronado City Beach will forever be one of San Diego’s most glamorous beaches, due to its proximity to the swanky Hotel Del Coronado. Marilyn Monroe graced the Hotel Del Coronado in the iconic film “Some Like it Hot.” Coronado City Beach features miles of elegant golden sand and a touch of old Hollywood charm.
Windansea Beach is a relatively small beach that attracts dedicated surfers. Powerful waves and potentially treacherous rocky terrain draw skilled surfers who are looking for a challenge. Those who don’t surf can scale the unique rock formations that line the shore. The current is incredibly strong, and the waves are immensely powerful at Windansea Beach, so swimmers are advised to proceed with extreme caution. A small surf shack with a roof constructed out of faded palm fronds graces the beach and offers visitors a little shade and the ideal spot to watch the Pacific Ocean’s fierce waves crash ashore.
MOONLIGHT STATE BEACH
Moonlight State Beach is the perfect destination for visitors searching for a safe beach with ample lifeguards posted along the shoreline. Moonlight State Beach features showers, restrooms, and plenty of secure spots for kids to frolic in the sun and the sand. Volleyball nets and tennis courts allow visitors to work up a fun-filled sweat then cool off in the temperate waters of the Pacific. Moonlight State Beach is one of the best spots for visitors who love to take their shoes off and walk the length of the beach as salty waves wash over their feet.
POINT LOMA TIDE POOLS
If your childhood dream was to be a marine biologist, a visit to the Point Loma Tide Pools is an absolute must. California is home to countless magnificent tide pools, but any marine life enthusiast will tell you that the Point Loma Tide Pools are truly exceptional. At low tide, you may see octopus, crabs, or sea urchins scattered among the pools. Visitors are advised to watch where they step, and not touch or otherwise disturb any of the marine life that may appear in the delicate tide pools. Thankfully, the Cabrillo National Monument offers a high degree of protection to a magical stretch of San Diego’s coast which is teeming with life.
Stan’s Beach is a beach within a beach. Located on the southern end of Coronado Beach, Stan’s beach is named after beloved surfer Stan Searfus who served as a community leader and mentor. A bronze plaque affixed to a rock encourages onlookers to “live like a Stan.” Stan’s Beach is also known as Shipwreck Beach, as the remains of the SS Monte Carlo are sometimes visible at low tide. The SS Monte Carlo was a boat that was anchored near San Diego in the 1930s which hosted gambling and various forms of debauchery. In the late 1930s, powerful waves caused the SS Monte Carlo to wash ashore and collide with the beach. The remains of the SS Monte Carlo have been partially submerged beneath sand and water ever since. If you visit Shipwreck Beach at just the right time, you may be able to search the remnants of the SS Monte Carlo for leftover gambling money that may be stashed away in a hidden compartment.
SUNSET CLIFFS NATURAL PARK
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is a charming, romantic name for a coastal area if ever there was one. San Diego locals have long chuckled over the fact that the beach at the bottom of Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is referred to as Garbage Beach. Never fear—Garbage Beach is just as picturesque as the Sunset Cliffs. The towering Sunset Cliffs offer a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean. Visitors can make their way down to Garbage Beach and relax in the pristine sands which thankfully do not live up to their trashy name. The Sunset Cliffs certainly do their name justice every evening when the sun begins to set.
DEL MAR CITY BEACH
Del Mar City Beach is located near California’s legendary Highway 101. Every beach that borders Highway 101 is truly the stuff that dreams are made of. Powerhouse Park offers visitors several picnic tables, places to purchase food, and a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean. Del Mar City Beach is the ideal spot to spend a leisurely day at the beach sunbathing, dipping in and out of the water, and enjoying the sheer majesty of San Diego’s spectacular coastline.
PACIFIC BEACH/CRYSTAL PIER
Located near Pacific Beach, Crystal Pier is a popular fishing pier that offers an exquisite view of the Pacific Ocean. Crystal Pier was once home to a glitzy ballroom where couples wore their Sunday best and twirled around a large dancefloor all night long. Crystal Pier visitors can rent quaint cottages situated on the water that are steps away from surfers and sunbathers enjoying Pacific Beach. Locals have a special love for Pacific Beach and Crystal Pier due to the area’s mellow vibes and retro charm. Watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean from the deck of a cottage on Crystal Pier is an experience that you will cherish for all time.
When you’re heading to the beach, it can be heartbreaking to leave your best fur friend behind. Thankfully, Dog Beach allows your favorite fur companion to frolic alongside you. Dog Beach is world famous among people who love to travel with their dogs. You may spot a Dalmatian, a dachshund, or a Dobermann Pinscher playing in the waves. In most areas of Dog Beach, leashes are not required. Just make sure that your pup behaves around other pups, and is vaccinated against diseases that may make other dogs sick. Also, please clean up after your dog unless you want an earful from a fellow dog owner. Dog Beach provides baggies so that your dog doesn’t have to leave any hidden treasures behind in the sand.
Imperial Beach is as far south as you can go in the state of California without crossing the border into Mexico. The Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve offers a unique habitat for hundreds of different birds, many of which are endangered. Imperial Beach features ample opportunities to view wildlife. The Living Coast Discovery Center offers visitors the chance to learn more about the area’s distinctive ecosystem. An Art Deco sign which features neon cutouts of surf boards welcomes beach bums to Imperial Beach. Surfers have a special love for the thunderous waves of Imperial Beach. Since 1960, sandcastle enthusiasts have gathered at Imperial Beach to see who can build the most impressive sand sculpture of them all. The Sun & Sea Festival offers the world’s most talented sandcastle builders the opportunity to spend several hours attempting to build the most glorious sand sculpture imaginable. The results of the sand sculpture competition are so stunning it is a shame that the waves of the Pacific Ocean ultimately carry all of the sand sculptures out to sea.