Sandy San Diego: the Best Beaches in America

Picture California in your mind, and you’ll likely envision a beautiful beach. With 420 public beaches along its 840-mile coastline, the state has no shortage of sun-drenched locales to enjoy. San Diego claims 17 miles of this magnificent coastline within its city limits and is home to some of the most beloved beaches in the state. Sink your toes into the warm sand and soak in the abundant sunshine and unique culture of San Diego.


01 Mission Beach

nightlife amusement park mission beach Art Wager / Getty Images

A well-known spot for both fun-in-the-sun and people-watching, Mission Beach is a lively and popular destination. Not only does it offer a spectacular beachfront, but you’ll also enjoy the boardwalk, the parade of diverse restaurants, and the vibrant nightlife within walking distance of the beach. The boardwalk is also home to Belmont Park, a historic amusement park with rides, games, and a miniature golf course.


02 Black’s Beach

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On the southern end of Torrey Pines State Beach is Black Beach, the surfside locale famous for its clothing-optional policy. Its stunning, picturesque views create a peaceful and serene setting where you can exhale, unwind, and savor the surrounding landscape. Prepare yourself for a bit of a hike to reach the beachfront. Locals suggest parking at the base of Torrey Pines State Reserve, then walking south about two miles to get to the beach. If you’re up for joining the unclad beachgoers, head north from the Glider Point Trail.


03 Ocean Beach

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A favorite beach for locals, Ocean Beach also features a dog beach, a leash-free site where your canine pal is free to roam the shores. Experience sweeping views from the Ocean Beach Municipal Pier, or try your hand at some fishing, no license necessary. The beachfront neighborhood of Ocean Beach is about seven miles northwest of downtown San Diego, full of historic Craftsman bungalows and cottages. The summer’s Chili Cook-Off in June and the Fourth of July Fireworks off the Pier are popular annual events.


04 Long Branch Avenue Beach

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If you enjoy a spirited game of beach volleyball, you can mingle with fellow players at Long Branch Avenue Beach. There’s a local league, so you can catch a competitive game alongside other enthusiasts on the weekends. It's a busy beach, but there's plenty of space to relax on the shores as well as grassy picnic areas that make it a great all-day beach getaway.


05 Bermuda Avenue Beach

bermuda avenue cliffs san diego dancestrokes / Getty Images

You’ll need to take the stairs at the end of Bermuda Avenue, just west of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, to get to this neighborhood beach, but the descent through the cliffs is worth the trip. Lots of local residents hang out here, so if you’re seeking an authentic San Diego experience, this is the place to be. The prime attraction here is the spectacular sunset. Climb on top of one of the giant moss-covered rocks along the beach during low tide to enjoy the breathtaking view as the sun dips below the horizon. Rip currents can create treacherous conditions, so avoid the water during high tide.


06 Saratoga Avenue Beach

saratoga avenue ocean beach Scott C. Wilson / Getty Images

Also in the Ocean Beach neighborhood, most people describe Saratoga Avenue Beach as a family-friendly beach due to its less-chaotic atmosphere. This characteristic also designates it as a popular site for those seeking a relaxing, beach-lounging experience. The street-only parking rules for Saratoga Avenue beach means there are generally fewer people here than there are on the beaches to its north and south, so it isn’t hard to find a little privacy. Although eating establishments are blocks away, there is a grassy picnic area available.


07 La Jolla Shores Beach

la jolla shores Art Wager / Getty Images

Expect large crowds at the mile-long, crescent-shaped La Jolla Shores Beach. Its waves are the gentlest of any beach in San Diego, and the beachside cliffs and easy ocean access make it one of the most popular beaches in the city. The beach is located on the southern end of the La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, making it a perfect spot to see an abundance of sea life in these waters. Watch the sea lions and seals soaking up the rays near the coves. Sign up for some scuba lessons or join in on a yoga class on the beach while you absorb the gorgeous ocean views.


08 Windansea Beach

la jolla surfers windansea AutumnSkyPhotography / Getty Images

The La Jolla neighborhood is home to Windansea Beach, a historically significant and challenging locale for surfers, and one of the most scenic sites in San Diego. The steep ocean floors along the beach help create the powerful waves that continue to beckon to surfers today. The strong ocean-break can lead to dangerous conditions for swimming, diving, and snorkeling, and officials advise against these activities here. You can, however, learn the history of the site and visit the protected San Diego Windansea Surf Shack, built in 1946. Visiting Windansea is a bona fide way to experience San Diego surfing culture and pride.


09 Pacific Beach

strand pacific beach Art Wager / Getty Images

A two-mile stretch of beach that locals call “The Strand,” or simply “P.B.,” Pacific Beach is home to thriving beach culture and exciting nightlife. You’ll not only love the abundance of things to do here, but you’ll appreciate the wide, flat beach and ocean views. Start the day by grabbing breakfast at one of the beachside eateries. Experience a Spring Break atmosphere, with large gatherings of people playing beach sports, especially during the summer and on the weekends. Once the sun goes down, the real parties begin. Bonfire parties on the beach and the many Garnet Avenue bars and restaurants nearby light up the night.


10 Wipeout Beach

bluff rocks tide pools caves Stephen Simpson / Getty Images

If you’re seeking scenic, photographable views rather than water sport locales, explore Wipeout Beach. You’ll find it a short distance from Children’s Beach in the La Jolla neighborhood. Wipeout Beach loses much of its sand during the winter months, leaving behind a rugged bluff. To reach the beach, you’ll need to be agile enough to climb over the rocks. During low tide, you’ll find exposed tide pools and caves, but be careful during high tide. Photographers love the beautiful sunsets and picturesque landscape. Once you’ve scored that phenomenal pic, you can walk to Whispering Sands Beach nearby to experience the unique rock shapes, coves, and tide pools there.


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