Skip to content

Here is a list of our favorite beaches in and around the city of San Diego organized by the activity that they are best known for.

This list includes Coronado and La Jolla which are adjacent to San Diego, but not the North County area (Del Mar to Oceanside). There are so many great beaches in this majestic city that it’s hard to create a best beaches list.

The editors of California Beaches have personally visited every San Diego beach and put a lot of hard thought into this. Luckily the beaches near San Diego have just about every beach-related activity covered. Here are the beaches listed by their top category. See our “Best Overall Beach” at the bottom of this list!

Tide Pools

Cabrillo National Monument – We highly recommend the epic tidepools hidden below steep sandstone cliffs of Point Loma in this underrated national park. La Jolla is another place to visit for tidepooling and it’s covered on this list of all the San Diego Tide Pools.

Family-Friendly Beaches

Mission Bay Park has about 20 different parks on a man-made tidal bay. Most of the parks have sandy beaches plus picnic areas and safe swimming. It’s an incredible place for families and SeaWorld San Diego is on the bay too.

Walking on the Beach

Silver Stand State Beach has about two miles of gradually-sloping beach for walking. The sand is firm and feels good under your feet so you’ll want to take off the flip-flops and get your toes wet on this one.

Hike to a Beach

Flat Rock at Torrey Pines State Beach is a stunning beach with colorful sandstone cliffs and a big flat rock to climb onto. This state park has hiking trails meandering all about the bluff top with awesome views of the area and the ocean for whale watching and sunsets.

Kayaking & SUP

La Jolla Caves is an amazing destination to paddle to. You’ll rent your kayak (and get a guide if desired) at La Jolla Shores and then paddle on La Jolla Bay to see The Seven Sea Caves.

Sunbathing Beach

La Jolla Shores Beach has wide expanses of sand and a western exposure which makes this half-mile long beach a superb place for sunbathing. The overall best beach at the bottom of this list is tops for basking in the sun too.

Best Walking Path

The La Jolla Coast Walk is a pathway that connects most of La Jolla’s beaches. If you haven’t been to La Jolla before this is a good way to get some exercise and see why the waterfront here is so desirable.

Beach Volleyball

South Mission Beach is just one of many beaches in San Diego with beach volleyball courts, but this one has a strong community of locals that welcome anyone.

Taking Sunset Photos

Hospital Beach is a little-known beach in La Jolla with an excellent vantage point for watching the sun set in the evenings. All of the piers are wonderful spots for Instagram-worthy sunset photos too (see the next section).

Best Pier

Ocean Beach Pier is one of several delightful San Diego fishing piers where you can get a view of the shore from the water without getting wet. These structures are such fun for visitors and you don’t have to be fishing to enjoy them.

Best Lighthouse

Cabrillo National Monument actually has two lighthouses to see and much more! Here’s a list of beaches with lighthouses in California.

Dog-Friendly Beaches

Coronado Dog Run Beach is definitely one of the best off-leash dog beaches in San Diego. Here’s a list of all the San Diego dog beaches

Lodging on the Beach

The Crystal Pier Cottages at Pacific Beach are hard to beat when it comes to lodging by the beach. These unique cottages are actually on the pier and above one of the best beaches in San Diego.

Best Beach to Rappel Into

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is access challenged so we consider it one of the hardest beaches to get to. The path to this beach is so steep that there’s a fixed rope to hold onto for safety. It’s a cool spot that’s worth the effort if you are up for it.


Tourmaline Surf Park is one of many surf breaks in the San Diego area so this was a tough one to pick. If you are into surfing, see this list of all the San Diego Surf Spots.

Wildlife Watching

Children’s Pool Beach is home to seals and sea lions for much of the year. It’s a safe and easy place to see these entertaining animals up close.

Camping by the Beach

Campland on the Bay is a family-friendly resort campground on Mission Bay in San Diego. They have so many activities and amenities aimed at kids and families so you’ll want to stay for several days. Here’s a list of all the San Diego Beach Camping options.

Best People Watching

Mission Beach is a popular place with a big sandy beach, a paved boardwalk, an amusement park and abundant parking. It attracts tourists, locals, and some interesting folks. You’ll find shops and restaurants of all types within walking distance of the beach.

Clothing-Optional Beach

Black’s Beach in La Jolla is a well-known beach for avoiding tan lines. It’s not the easiest beach to get to yet many folks make the steep descent to enjoy this gorgeous beach.

And the Best Overall San Diego Beach is…

Coronado Beach

Coronado Beach is our top recommendation for a beach visit in the San Diego area. Why you ask? Well it’s just a short drive over the San Diego-Coronado Bridge from downtown and has all the qualities of a top Southern California beach. The location is usually protected by Point Loma so the waves are mellow. Add to that the constant presence of lifeguards and you have a safe family-friendly spot. The beach and the surrounding hotels, shops, and restaurants are clean and inviting. There are places to walk behind the beach and and the facilities are well-maintained. And even though Coronado Beach is popular, the beach is huge so there is always room for visitors to spread out and enjoy it!