Legendary among surfers for its shorebreaks, this beach found literary fame as the setting for Tom Wolfe’s The Pumphouse Gang. The beach gets a little wider south of the “Shack,” a local landmark, but those with small children should still take care.
The laid-back atmosphere of Ocean Beach attracts not just locals but also some out-of-towners. Surfers usually go out around the pier, and swimmers farther down the beach. There tends to be a strong rip current at the beach, so it is best not to swim out of sight from a lifeguard station. The beach has plenty of facilities, including showers, several picnic tables, and volleyball courts.
A beach-going spirit fills the air as skateboarders, joggers, and cyclists cruise the promenade parallel to the beach. Chances to people-watch are endless, since Pacific Beach has a reputation for being the place to hang out. Walk out to the Crystal Pier Hotel, past the bungalows, to watch surfers shooting the curl.
A great family beach with sunbathers, Frisbee-throwers, and boogie-boarders spread out along a broad, sandy white strip lapped by gentle surf, it gets crowded in the summer. Kellogg Park, alongside part of the beach, is a good picnic area for those who forgot their towels. The La Jolla Underwater Ecological Reserve is just offshore, so divers are usually out in the water.
Miles of sandy beaches and secret coves nestle beneath towering sandstone cliffs. During low tide, tide pools offer a glimpse into life under the sea. Torrey Pines is a San Diego favorite because of its lack of crowds, intimacy, and natural beauty. Parking is available at the Torrey Pines State Reserve or by the gliderport on top of the cliff.
North end of Ocean Beach at San Diego River
Leashes optional! Your dog can run loose to chase after balls, Frisbees, and other dogs with joyous abandon. The beach is open 24 hours, so you can even come here for a midnight swim. Posts with handy plastic bags help you pick up the aftermath.
This beach is best known for its nude sunbathers. Access to the beach, which is between Torrey Pines State Beach and La Jolla Shores, is either down an unstable 300-ft (91-m) cliff or via a 1-mile (1.6-km) walk along the beach from either the north or south during low tide. Surfers find the southern end of the beach ideal, as do the hang-gliders who launch off from the cliffs above.
Between the iconic Hotel del Coronado and North Island Naval Air Station, along mansion-lined Ocean Avenue, Coronado’s municipal beach has been ranked as one of America’s best. Its wide swath of golden sand invites sunbathing, sandcastle building, and family fun. Areas are designated for surfers, swimmers, and fishers, and the north end is for dogs and their humans. US Navy SEALS occasionally pop out of the ocean while training.
At this popular beach, sunburned, sandy bodies vie for space upon the sand, volleyballs and Frisbees fly overhead, and skateboarders and cyclists try to balance drinks and MP3 players as they careen down the board-walk. If the beach scene gets overwhelming, Belmont Park is just a block away.
Protected from the waves of the Pacific Ocean, 27 miles (43 km) of shoreline, including 19 miles (30 km) of sandy beaches, coves, and inlets, offer idyllic picnic locations. On sunny days, the water is filled with sailboats, kayaks, waterskiers, windsurfers, and rowers. Bike paths wind for miles along the shoreline, and wide grassy areas and ocean breezes make flying kites ideal.