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5 Spectacular San Diego Beaches

5 Spectacular San Diego Beaches

You can’t go wrong when heading to a San Diego County beach, but these belong on your short list

When it comes to beach destinations, San Diego County stands out as a true gem on the West Coast. With its picturesque coastline, vibrant communities, and endless good vibes, it's no wonder this region has become a haven for beachgoers and adventure seekers alike. Whether you're looking for a tranquil escape, thrilling activities, or natural beauty, these five San Diego beaches are sure to captivate your senses, listed south to north.

1. Coronado Central Beach

In the proverbial shade of the iconic Hotel del Coronado, this popular beach delivers mid-century glamor, peaceful waters, and bright white sand. Beginner-friendly waves make this beach a great option for first-time surfers and families with little ones. Lean into your inner Marilyn Monroe (she filmed Some Like It Hot here) and laze on the beach with a cocktail in hand. Explore elaborate 3D sculptures crafted by local artist Bill “The Sandcastle Man” Pavlacka. Gaze skyward and you might catch a glimpse of navy jets taking off from North Island—reminiscent of a very different blockbuster starring Tom Cruise.

2. Mission Beach

Miles of oceanfront boardwalk and a wooden coaster mark Mission Beach, located a few miles north of downtown. The heart of the action lies in Belmont Park, a historic fun zone built in 1925 by a local sugar magnate. Relish in a delightful stomach drop with a ride on the Giant Dipper and refuel with a house-made waffle cone from the Sweet Shoppe. Head south for a quieter expanse of sand, the widest in the city, or try your luck fishing off Point Medanos Jetty, no license required.

3. La Jolla Shores

One of the county’s most popular spots for a reason, La Jolla Shores delivers something for every sort of beachgoer. Surfers appreciate the consistent break, while sunbathers can relax on a mile-plus of uninterrupted sand. Plus, the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, located just offshore, means the area is rife for exploration. Rent a kayak and paddle south to spot orange garibaldi in the water and sea lions barking from the rocks. In August and September, beautiful (and harmless) leopard sharks swarm in shallow waters.

4. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Marked by windswept cliffs and a rare tree that gives this park its name, Torrey Pines exudes natural beauty at every turn. Covering 2,000 acres on the La Jolla coast, this reserve is more than just beachfront. Yes, you can take an invigorating dip in the Pacific or hunt for sea life among the tide pools. But the adventure starts inland as you hike up the headlands to uncover patches of wildflowers and outstanding ocean views.

5. Moonlight State Beach

Venture north to the surfside city of Encinitas to find a pristine beach, perfect for families and those yearning for plenty of amenities. A children’s play place (complete with a mini rock-wall), tennis and volleyball courts, and a lifeguarded swimming zone make it easy to post up on a blanket and spend the day. The beachside concession stand serves sandwiches and more than 20 flavors of shaved ice. Stake out a first-come-first-served fire pit to roast marshmallows as you watch the sun set beneath the surf.

Official Resources