One of my family’s favorite destinations, San Diego offers a wealth of activities for all interests, whether you enjoy museums, hiking, nightlife or all things ocean. 

One of our favorite things to do is to explore the diverse San Diego beaches, which run from Mexico in the south to Oceanside in north, coming in all sizes and personalities.

Here are some of my family’s favorite San Diego beaches to visit when we’re in town.


7 Amazing San Diego Beaches

1. Coronado Beach

Coronado Beach

Regularly honored as one of the most beautiful beaches in the U.S., Coronado Beach is located on Coronado Island just across San Diego Bay from downtown. Home to the iconic Hotel del Coronado with its red pointed roofs, the area is also the location of multiple military installations. My family even spotted Navy Seals training in the ocean one day!

The beaches here do seem nearly perfect with sizeable waves ideal for playing in the sea, surfing or boogie boarding. You can also rent bikes for a lovely 6-mile pedal around the island and a visit to Ferry Landing Marketplace for fantastic downtown views.


2. Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach

If you want to feel like you’re on a beach vacation, head to Pacific Beach, which has the vibe of a true seaside holiday with a beachside boardwalk, lots of hotels and restaurants, beach gear rentals and more. 

Plus, the “P.B.” (as locals call it) makes for great people watching. It is a popular spot for young adults to hang out but is also family-friendly.


3. Mission Beach

Mission Beach Pier San Diego

Mission Beach is one of the busier beaches in the area and offers its own classic California boardwalk amusement park, Belmont Park, with wooden roller coasters, arcade games, bumper cars and more. It’s also just a 30-minute walk from Pacific Beach if you want a pleasant oceanside stroll. It is close to SeaWorld San Diego, as well. 

Here are more top San Diego attractions on Alamo’s Scenic Route.

For a less-crowded experience in the Mission Beach area, head to South Mission Beach, which is quieter and has a basketball court and more than a dozen volleyball courts for some beachside action.


4. La Jolla Beaches

La Jolla Beach San Diego

One of our favorite areas in San Diego, gorgeous La Jolla, is the former home of Dr. Seuss (you can even see some of the unusual trees that inspired him) and is filled with stunning rocky cliffs, sea caves and sea lions. 

There are several beaches in the area where you can hang out literally right next to loud barking sea lions or look on at the more shy and reserved seals sunning on the beach.

Check out the Children’s Pool area, which seals have adopted as a safe haven for rest, the gorgeous Torrey Pines State Beach and La Jolla Shores

We also highly recommend a sea cave kayak tour with Everyday California where, if the tides are right, you can kayak right inside a sea cave or else explore all around them in the ocean as the state’s orange Garibaldi fish (and the occasional sea lion) swim alongside.


5. Sunset Cliffs

Sunset cliffs San Diego

Located along the gorgeous Point Loma peninsula, Sunset Cliffs is filled with sea caves, arches, sandstone cliffs and lots of coves. 

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is a small secret beach in the area with tide pools.

It’s a great spot at sunset and low tide, and sometimes you can even spot gray whales migrating further out to sea. 

Looking for the perfect California girls’ getaway? Check out these great ideas from Alamo’s Scenic Route.


6. Seaside State Beach

Seaside State Beach Encinitas

Located in Encinitas, north of the city, Seaside State Beach runs along Highway 101 and offers great opportunities for exploring tide pools, searching for shells, as well as the standard swimming and surfing. Visitors will find white sand beaches, rocky bluffs and plenty of surf spots.

Check out an amazing drive along San Diego’s coast on Alamo’s Scenic Route.


7. Windansea Beach

Windansea San Diego Beaches

On a recent electric bike tour with San Diego Fly Rides, I discovered the charming and famous Windansea Beach. Home to many a surfing competition, which happened to be taking place when I visited in December, it’s also the spot where the Beach Boys first performed in a small wooden shack that still stands on the beach and which is now a protected historic landmark.

Want more San Diego? Here are our top 35 things to do in San Diego.


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  • Lyn Mettler

    Lyn Mettler is a longtime travel writer for US News & World Report, USA Today 10Best and The TODAY Show who created Families Fly Free, a program which teaches families her simple system to use travel rewards to fly for free.

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