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San Diego County’s Best Beaches

San Diego County’s Best Beaches
Surf, swim, and sunbathe at one of these five postcard-worthy beaches

Seventy miles of coastline makes San Diego County a shining destination for lovers of sand and surf. And with all that shore, there’s something for every sort of beach goer. From budding marine biologists to experienced shredders, here are five of the best beaches to please them all. Insider tip: Always stay for sunset to see if you can catch a glimpse of the ephemeral green flash. 

Swami’s Beach

The surf culture is strong in Encinitas, a beach community in San Diego’s North County. The city offers plenty of breaks for the catching—Seaside, Pipes, D Street to name a few. But with big swells and high performance waves, Swami’s is a local favorite. Try this recipe for a truly rad morning: surf a dawn patrol session followed by a massive breakfast burrito at Pipes Cafe, coffee from local roaster Zumbar, and a peaceful walk through the Self Realization Fellowship Gardens from which Swami’s Beach gets its name.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

This reserve, which protects 1,500 acres of land along La Jolla’s coast, is one of the only places where you can see the country’s rarest conifer, the torrey pine. Explore groves of jutting pines as you hike from the top of sea cliffs all the way down to the shore on the aptly named Beach Trail. Celebrate your efforts with a root- or ginger-beer float. There are six to choose from on the menu at the Lodge at Torrey Pines. Or better yet, spend the night at this five-star resort.

Belmont Park at Mission Beach

Click, click, click, click, weeee! The Giant Dipper at Mission Beach’s Belmont Park delivers buzzing anticipating and stomach flips drops for $6 a pop. Built in 1925, it’s one of the last two wooden roller coasters still in operation on the west coast. The oceanfront amusement park brings nostalgia-inducing staples—including mini golf, carousel rides, and arcade games—to the sands of Mission Beach for a day of boardwalk fun.

Coronado Beach

Often voted one of the top beaches in America, Coronado Beach’s wide span, calm waters, and soft golden sand is a favorite of couples and families. Hotel del Coronado, the massive Victorian confection overlooking the beach, has been impressing guests since 1888. Sixteen presidents and hundreds of celebrities have enjoyed the hotel’s beautiful beach views, which were featured prominently in the classic film Some Like It Hot. An impressive dedication to modernization has allowed the hotel to stay completely current. The resort now offers yoga on the sand as well as mermaid fitness classes, tail rental included.

La Jolla Cove

San Diego is known for its award-winning zoo, but some of the very best animal watching is right along the shore. La Jolla Cove is home to sea lions (large, dark brown, big flippers) as well as seals (smaller and more mottled), and it’s easy to spend hours watching them swim, play, and sunbathe along the rocky coast. Admire the creatures from land at Shell Beach, Children’s Pool, or after a journey down the stairs into Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave. You can also choose to swim or kayak with your newfound friends by renting gear from outfitters including La Jolla Kayak and Everyday California.

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San Diego County’s Best Beaches
Seventy miles of coastline makes San Diego County a shining destination for lovers of sand and surf.
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Myles McGuinness

Discover San Diego County

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76
September
Average (°F)
Sept - Nov
73°
High
60°
Low
Sept - Nov
73°
High
60°
Low
Mar - May
67°
High
56°
Low
June - Aug
74°
High
65°
Low

Imagine 70 miles of sun-drenched coast, an inviting ocean, and a year-round daily forecast of 70°F, and you’ll understand why this southernmost stretch of the state is all about outdoor fun. Discover top theme parks and attractions like SeaWorld San Diego, San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and LEGOLAND California.

The first European explorer to land in California, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, came ashore in San Diego in 1542.

Relax at legendary retreats like Hotel del Coronado, find art and culture in San Diego and surrounding cities like luxurious La Jolla, and enjoy world-class golf at Torrey Pines, and enjoy culture and diversity, all at the edge of a sparkling blue sea.

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Journeys: San Diego

Reward yourself with a relaxing weekend getaway in “California’s Beach City”
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Your fourth and final day in San Diego should be all about pampering. Start the morning with brunch in the Hotel del Coronado’s Crown Room, one of the oldest parts of the resort. The brunch boasts a chilled seafood bar, a gourmet Bloody Mary bar, and made-to-order mimosas. It is regarded as one...

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John Bahu

Spotlight: San Diego

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California dreamers, endless coastline & sunshine

As if all that sunshine isn’t enough, here’s a waterfront city brushed by perfect breezes, the light just right, the beer perfectly hoppy after a...

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L’Auberge Del Mar

Beachy vibes meet high-end elegance at this luxury resort just north of San Diego

L’Auberge Del Mar creates the illusion that you’re staying at your personal seaside villa, but it has all the amenities of a...

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Carlsbad

This family-friendly coastal town has feel-good appeal

Carlsbad’s legacy as a tourist hot spot dates back to the 1880s, when a local farmer tapped into mineral springs and a spa town...

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Oceanside

Find exceptional restaurants, inventive breweries, and a thriving local art scene in Northern San Diego County

It doesn’t take an etymologist to figure out how Oceanside got its name:...

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Encinitas

Head north of downtown San Diego to experience one of the best surfing cities in the world

Encinitas isn’t just a city; it’s a vibe. Visit the coastal community 25 miles north of downtown San Diego and you’ll instantly...

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Del Mar

This San Diego County beach town is home to blissful ocean views—but it also knows how to throw a party

Despite Del Mar’s idyllic oceanfront setting, this little town just north of San Diego was, in many ways, born around horses. The...

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Chula Vista

San Diego County’s second largest city boasts authentic Mexican food, a burgeoning craft beer scene, and outdoor activities galore

About seven miles from downtown San Diego in one direction and the Mexican border in another, Chula Vista is quickly developing its own strong...

Escondido
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Escondido

Explore the craft breweries, culinary scene, and adventurous outdoors of this unique San Diego city

About 30 miles northeast of downtown San Diego, Escondido is the best little...

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Photograph by Peggy Sirota

California Questionnaire: Annie Lawless

The Suja Juice co-founder, yoga instructor, and wellness aficionado is passionate about her Southern California home

As one of the founders of the nation’s leading organic juice brand, Annie Lawless knows a thing or two about living a healthy lifestyle. She...

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Coasterra

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Book a table at this San Diego waterfront knockout

Got a boat? That’s the only way you’ll get a better view of San Diego’s waterfront skyline and twinkling bridges than the panorama you get from...

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Where to Watch a La Jolla Sunset

Want to nail your sunset shot? Our expert has six sensational recommendations to match any mood

As a San Diego concierge for more than a decade, Brett Hamblen is well versed in sunset recommendations. For his role as the chief concierge at...

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Stretching 1,942 feet, the historic Oceanside Pier is the longest wooden pier on the Pacific Ocean.
This San Diego music festival combines A-list acts with local flavor and upscale beach culture

You don’t need a high tolerance for open fields, concession-stand dining, or possibly mud to enjoy K...

KAABOO Del Mar
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Courtesy of San Diego Zoo

Spotlight: San Diego Zoo

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See rare and endangered species

Visiting this expansive zoo in San Diego’s Balboa Park is more than a chance to see animals from all over the world: it’s a chance to see one of...

Too darned pretty. Everywhere you look out there, everything's just too danged pretty! I'm usually the prettiest thing!
musician Little Richard on San Diego
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Trip 8-10 days 10 stops

Ultimate Southern California

Beach Towns & Big Thrills
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Your trip begins in California’s largest city. L.A. has nonstop action and things to do, but it can be a challenge to navigate, so planning your trip in advance is a big plus. Start in the coastal city of Santa Monica, with a wide, uncrowded beach, a signature pier topped by carnival rides and...

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Discover quintessential sun and fun at these coastal charmers

Take one part water, one part sand, one part sun-soaked coastal charm, and you’ve got the recipe for some of the Golden State’s most appealing destinations....

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Lucas Himovitz
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Where to eat, what to drink

Endless Sun, Oceanfront Dining & Craft Breweries

With its endless sun and oceanfront location, as well as strong influences from Mexico, San Diego offers plenty of dining options—from flaky fish...

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Kid-friendly fun zones, special kids' menus & amazing wine for the grownups

Sure wine country is romantic, but now it’s a surprisingly great destination for families too, with a growing number of vineyards trading in elegant tasting rooms for kid-friendly fun zones that...

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Check these amazing experiences off your bucket list

Kiss a beluga, see cool movie props, and learn about Walt’s secret hideaway on exclusive and behind-the-scenes tours at California’s theme parks and attractions. Here’s a roundup of worth-the-...

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Unleash the kid within at California’s ultimate playgrounds

From Disneyland classics to beachfront carousels, the Golden State’s best-in-class theme parks deliver something for everyone. Take a tram ride to tour movie back lots at Universal Studios...

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The historic 101 Café in Oceanside is the oldest continuously-operating restaurant on historic Highway 101.
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Alexa Miller

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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Find out where the wild things are

Like a journey to Africa, a day at this spectacular park lets you see some of the world’s most magnificent—and endangered—animals at close range...

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Farm-fresh produce, culinary adventures

Juicy heirloom tomatoes and just-picked strawberries. Super-sweet peaches shaped like mini UFOs. Artisanal cheeses, emerald-green olive oils, local wildflower honey—California’s farmers’ markets...

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Laura Flippen
Thanks be to God, I arrived here...at this Port of San Diego. It is beautiful to behold, and does not belie its reputation.
Father Junipero Serra
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Make memories at some of California's family-favorite beaches

Sand, water, and kids—it’s a natural combination for easy family fun. This sandy dozen offers appealing, family-friendly features, such as calm water for new swimmers, tide pools for intrepid...

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From north to south, beer is booming in California

With nearly 500 breweries statewide (and probably more by the time you read this), it’s safe to say that the craft beer movement isn’t just booming in California, it’s BOOMING—capital letters...

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World-class accommodations in world-class locations

Head to the heart of California’s cities for luxurious stays at world-class accommodations. From San Francisco’s historic hotels to celebrity hot spots in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, California’s...

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Lynn Gately/Flickr
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Mission & San Diego Bays

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Visit waterfront parks for boating, biking, and coaster rides

Mission Bay and San Diego Bay trim the edge of the city like sparkling gems. Dozens of outfitters can get you out amidst the blue via every...

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Trip 5-7 days 10 stops

Highway One Classic

Take the trip that captures the heart and soul of the Golden State
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Taste the delicious dishes from these amazing California chefs

From a candy-colored pastry shop to Michelin-starred dining rooms, top restaurants run by celebrity chefs dot the Golden State. And even if you don’t know these chefs from the TV...

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San Diego Golf

Get your daily dose of greens at oceanfront courses

Perfect weather, challenging course, and incredible settings make San Diego County a golfer’s dream destination. It’s not surprising that many of...

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Visit a surprising mountain town that’s as American as apple pie

Poised between the desert and the coast, a little more than an hour’s drive east of San Diego, this surprising mountain town makes a great day...

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.
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