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When you live or visit San Diego, life’s a beach! And even though it’s obviously all one coastline, each beach is really different. Some are great for walking, some for swimming, and some for surfing. So let’s take a ride up the coast heading north and talk about the different beaches to check out. Even if you live in San Diego, I find that local people tend to have their favorite spots and forget about how many great beaches the county has.
Let’s start with Point Loma and the Cabrillo Monument. It’s San Diego’s only National Monument. The drive out to the park is beautiful, with the ocean on one side and the bay on the other. After you enter the park, take the road to your right and go down to the tide pools first. It’s usually pretty easy to get a parking spot down there so you can enjoy the tide pools. If the surfers are active, it’s fun to sit on the rocks and watch them. Next, head up to the visitor center parking lot. It’s easy to spend an hour or more here. There’s a wonderful hiking trail and lighthouse to visit. The visitor’s center and gift shop have interesting exhibits. The whole area is a fun place to bring kids, too.
For well over a century, Coronado’s beach has been its jewel. It stretches for miles behind the Hotel Del Coronado. The main beach, Coronado Central Beach, stretches 1.5 miles along Ocean Boulevard. Swimmers, body surfers, boogie boarders, sand sculptors, tide poolers and pretty much everyone who likes to stroll or sit by the beach hangs out there. From December through February, there’s even whale watching! At the far north end of the beach, is Dog Beach, where, as you might guess from the name, means that dogs are allowed to run off leash.
If walking on sand isn’t for you, there’s also a sidewalk path behind The Del that is lovely with benches along the way. It goes for about 2 miles so you can either walk north or walk south. Also, during the winter season, around Christmas time, there’s an ice skating rink at The Del. Yes it true. The grassy area behind the hotel is turned into a winter wonderland.
Once you leave Coronado and head north, there are three beaches that are often linked together in people’s minds. Ocean Beach has always been a funky small community. The best thing about the beach is that is has a dog beach! Mission Beach starts just over the causeway from Ocean Beach and extends to Pacific Beach. These two beaches are lively, with lots of activities. The sidewalk along the beach is great for walking, running or biking and the ocean is fine for swimming or beginner surfers. There’s even an amusement park in Mission Beach called Belmont Park!
While Mission Bay isn’t technically the ocean and a beach, it certainly qualifies as a big bay and a huge area for enjoying time by the water. There’s the Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa on the bay and it’s a really nice property with a great central location. It backs onto the bay. There’s miles of walking and biking paths there and plenty of parking. It’s a great spot for a picnic and in the evenings during the summer, it’s the perfect spot to watch the Sea World fireworks display!
As you continue to head north from Pacific Beach, before you get to downtown La Jolla, you come to Bird Rock. Bird Rock is a quiet, funky little community in La Jolla that many San Diegans don’t realize exists. The reason I’m mentioning it is because Bird Rock Coffee, one of my favorite coffee places, has their original cafe there!
The gem of La Jolla, as far as beaches go, is La Jolla Cove. It’s a small crescent of sand tucked between beautiful sandstone cliffs. I’ve read that this cove is one of the smallest but also one of the most photographed beaches along the Southern California coastline. It’s also a popular spot for scuba-diving and snorkeling, and when visibility is good, you’ll have up to 30 feet of wildlife protected by the La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve.
The next part of the county is referred to as North County. Exploring the beaches and towns in North County makes for a lovely and fun day. Between La Jolla and Del Mar is Torrey Pines State Beach. It’s popular for surfing and swimming at the beach, and hiking along the 8 different trails on the high road. It’s an absolutely beautiful place to spend time! At the southern end of the beach, you’ll find San Diego’s unofficial nude beach, Black’s Beach. In Del Mar, you can walk on the beach or take a great long walk up top on the train tracks. The beaches in Encinitas are popular for surfing. Carlsbad is one of my favorite towns, and also has a great beach. Along the Carlsbad Beach, there’s a sidewalk you can walk along if you don’t feel like sand in between your toes! If you’re visiting Legoland, the beaches in Carlsbad will be your closest beaches.
The last beach I’d like to mention, which is just north of Carlsbad, is Oceanside. Oceanside, as a community, has really improved its reputation over the years. It used to be thought of as a rough and even dangerous place, so the changes have been welcome. It’s a very underutilized beach, so you can often walk or swim there and see almost no one. There are new shops opening all the time and it’s home to one of my favorite coffee houses in San Diego, Revolution Roasters.
So there you have it, 11 reasons why life’s a beach in San Diego! I hope you’ll enjoy as many of the beaches as you can. We sure are lucky here because there really is a beach for everyone, no matter what you enjoy about spending time by the water.
Any questions? Let me know in the comments below.
Check out all the Coronado / San Diego Week posts here: