San Diego Beaches
San Diego is known for it’s spectacular beaches, which rim 7 miles of the coast. Boasting sparkling sand for miles under the sun, some beaches sport crashing, foamy waves ideal for surfing, while at others waves lap at small children’s feet. Whichever beach experience your’e looking for, we’ve got it! So dive in to San Diego’s Beaches
La Jolla Cove
Ideal for: Swimming – Kids – Diving
La Jolla Cove is our Jewel. Designated by the State as a Marine Reserve. Just find the beautiful city of La Jolla and head west a block or two until you hit the ocean. The water is protected somewhat by its orientation on the coast and the surrounding geography making it both less rough and affected by the waves. The cove is Swimming, Scuba Diving and kids friendly.
Upon arrival you are greeted by a large picturesque grassy area in front of the Cove lined with enormously tall palm trees. The cove basically exists on stunning clay cliffs that drop down into the ocean. Look for the Lifeguard Tower and there are some stairs leading down to the sandy beach area below. You will have your feet in the water in a moments time. The cove is great for swimmers of all types including long distance swimmers that can swim directly out to the ¼ and ½ mile buoys. You will see a line of swimmers doing the trek from sunrise to sunset.
The Cove is an incredible divers paradise (underground playground) for those certified. Suit up on the flat grassy area above and walk down the stairs, directly into the water. Easy beach access. The minute you put your mask on you will be astounded by the local marine life. Bright orange Garibaldi fish will greet you as you enter. From there you will see lots of lobsters (remember it is a reserve, you can’t take any) Seals, small Sharks, Guitar fish, Moray Eels and even seals await you. As you enter the water head out 100’ or so and stay out on left side of the cove or directly out from center and you won’t be disappointed. Depths in the cove are generally within the safe diving limits with average immediate depths from shore to about 55’-60’. If you find a depth past that you are to far out and will see less marine life. Stay in the Cove area and the average depth is about 20-25’ which is about the average visibility on a low swell day.
Of course conditions vary, so check in with the lifeguard station and the posted daily dive report. You know the rules. Always dive responsibly. That means if the conditions aren’t right, be safe and come back another day.
Parking is on the streets surrounding La Jolla with several ways to walk down to the cove off the main street of Prospect or along Coast Walk. Summers can get busy, but be patient and may we suggest dropping your buddies and respective gear off at the grassy area and then find parking so you are not lugging your gear around. No surfing, floats, kayaks or boats allowed in this area.
Shown: Ellen Browning Scripps Park
La Jolla Shores
Swimming – Surfing – Kids -Kayaking – Diving
This flat, sandy beach is great for the whole family. Lots of lifeguards oversee the beach and the swimming and surfing areas are well marked. Bring your boogie boards, surfboards, kayak or diving gear. The beach is accessible from a semi-large parking area with additional parking on street. Due to the popularity of La Jolla Shores, parking can be a challenge in the mid-summer months. You can also walk up to the Pier on the north end of the beach. The south end of the beach is mainly for kayaks with a loading/unloading area with close proximity to the sand for easy access. The large grass area stretches the length of the beach and is a great place for divers to suit up. Also, divers, La Jolla Shores, although flat at the beach, drops off 30-40 yards off into a canyon for some deep diving. While there is not a lot of sea life, the beach is just plain good fun and one of the few places to go deep diving in San Diego. In addition, a few firepits scatter the beach. Always fun at night.
Swimming – Kids – Diving
Now the locals will tell you there was a day this was a great place to swim, dive and bring the kids, thus the name “Children’s Pool”. Not so right now. The environmentalists have basically shut this place down except for the seals. So if you want to do some seal watching, you can find them here laying on the beach laughing at us. They now basically own it. It has been in a litigation for years and the seals remain. Does the beach belong to the seals or the people? Bring the family down – the kids will love this place. Now, we should mention just south of here, walking distance are stairs down to a beautiful sandy area for swimming or reading a book. No surfing, floats, kayaks or boats allowed.
Swimming – Hold on to your kids – Surfing
Surfs up folks! The main draw to Wind ‘n Sea is great world-renowned surfing. Oh, and did we mention the beauty? This place is stunning. Find the straw hut built on top of the cliffs, below the street parking area and you are in Surfers Paradise. Ask a Lifeguard or fellow surfer for etiquette and best places to paddle out. The cliffs essentially drop off right into the water and there are many reef systems to avoid, but remember, reefs help create this great surf. Enjoy.
For swimmers and family’s, simply walk south a few hundred yards and you will be greeted to some sandy areas to plop down and aqua waters begging you to jump in. But please be careful, there are some rocks and reef areas to avoid. Further south the better and you will see where people are entering the water. The surf is usually a shore break so don’t advise body surfing for the novice. On really good surf days the break is further out, follow the locals if you are a very good swimmer. This high surf can also lead to some rip currents so enjoy but be careful. For the reasons above, don’t suggest this as the best kids beach unless you hold on tight.
Tourmaline Surfing Park
The name says it all surfing or watching surfing. You drop down from the main street La Jolla Boulevard straight down to the parking area. Tourmaline is surrounded by cliffs leading to the Ocean. Park your car, unload your surfboard and hit the waves. This place will take you back to the Beach Boys era. This beach is basically for surfing only! Toes to the nose. Peace out!
Swimming – Surfing – Kids – Bikes
Flat beaches with lots of sand. Pacific Beach centers around the Pier. You can walk out on the pier and feel the waves pounding against the pylons or watch the surfers below. Great spot for a morning coffee and a stroll or ride a bike north or south along the beach or the adjoining paths and boardwalk. Directly in front of the Pier is a great surfing spot where and endless swell of waves lap onto the beach. Just south of the Pier at the Lifeguard tower is the ideal area for swimming and settling your beach chairs. Nothing but flat beach awaits you. Ride your bike to the beach or rent one there and cruise the boardwalk miles of flat path down to Mission Beach and a few blocks south and back up Mission Bay boardwalk side is a fabulous time. Drive into Pacific Beach through Grand Ave or Garnet from the Interstate 5. The great thing about PB is that there is a plethora of restaurants and shops within a few blocks of the beach.
If you choose to head north of the pier the landscape changes to more San Diego cliffs and a little tougher access from the street and limited parking,but a quieter beach for relaxing and the beach is flat regardless so if you start at the pier and walk north, you’re good. Any further north becomes more of a surfing area and turns into Tourmaline Surfing Park.
Mission Beach (and Belmont Park)
Swimming – Surfing – Kids – Bikes
Just south of Pacific Beach is Mission Beach. The same wide open flat beaches can be found here. It is really just an extension of beach running north and south. Mission Beach and South Mission is very popular for beach Volleyball. South MB is Belmont Park, where you will find the Coaster and the and amusement park. Ride an old wooden roller coaster or play arcade games. Check out the Flow Rider. A mechanical surfing machine enabling you to ride an almost endless artificial wave. Great spot for the kids as a break from the beach. Also a great place to park the car and wander down to the Beach. Lots of casual restaurants line the beach community.
Swimming – Surfing – Kids
One of San Diego’s most relaxed beaches with an eclectic group of people enjoying the sands. Generally a younger crowd of 20 somethings. Students, artists and local surfers frequent the area. Come as you are. Bring the family as you won’t be judged here.
Ocean Beach has a large pier for fishing, walking or reading a good book on top of. You can feel the waves breaking below your feet or catch an aerial view of the surfers below. This flat sandy beach provides easy access for swimming and surfing only with plenty of lifeguards throughout. Surfing area is marked with checkered flags and the rest (to the north) is for swimming. The lifeguard tower has showers just to the side to wash your feet. There is a parking lot just north of the pier and another just north of the lifeguard tower. Good luck!
Now just to the North of the main beach is Dog Beach. Yes you can bring your dogs here and let them run loose. The dog will have as much fun as you do, playing with the other fidos. The beach area gets busy so parking can be somewhat of a challenge but the north of the main beach seems to always have spot. Take Sunset Cliffs to Newport and hang a left for the main beach.
Video Series: Beaches of San Diego: Sunset Cliffs
Video: High Surf Pounds the OB Pier
Live Beach Webcams:
Courtesy of Surfline, Webcams.travel, and OBHotel
2012 Tide Calendar:
Download the PDF: 2012 Tide Calendar.
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