With an unbeatable selection of Top California Beaches, San Diego is the quintessential surf town. Whether you want to swim, surf, snorkel or sail, or have a fun family day -- including with the dog -- you'll discover what you're looking for in sunny San Diego.
La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Cove, pictured at left, are top California beaches. In Spanish, La Jolla means "the jewel." True to its name, the town offers coastal charm, elegant shopping, nice and easy surfing, and plenty of family fun. Scenic parks and walkways line the bluffs.
Our top California beaches in this part of the state are not only easy to get to, but there is not a bad one in the bunch. Starting from Coronado in the south and heading up to Oceanside in the north part of San Diego County, there is plenty of sand and sun to go around.
White shimmery sand -- and a lot of it -- is one big reason Coronado Beach, pictured above, has been ranked as America's number one beach.
Coronado Beach: The Crown Jewel of San Diego Beaches
Starting in the southernmost part of San Diego County is Coronado, which stands at the top of our "Top California Beaches" list. Coronado is not only the crown jewel of the San Diego coastline, but of ALL the beaches in the U.S.
This 1.5 mile gem, located across the bay from San Diego, was recently named the top beach in America by "Dr. Beach" -- quite a prestigious designation.
Best known for its location next to the iconic Hotel Del Coronado, which has made its way into major movies and welcomed many stars and dignitaries, Coronado Beach boasts plenty of gleaming white sand and excellent swimming. At the north end is a sizable off-leash dog park (adjacent to the Naval Air Station), and toward the south end you can scope out the historic hotel.
Pictured above is Cardiff State Beach -- home of two of San Diego's best surf spots: Seaside on the southern end and Cardiff Reef a bit further north.
Surf's Up in San Diego
As far as Top California Beaches go, surfing is what San Diego is famous for, and you'll find plenty of great "breaks" up and down the coast throughout the county, including at Cardiff State Beach, pictured above. Cardiff Reef and Seaside are two of the best surf spots in the Cardiff area. Look for a gathering of surfers in the water and you'll know you're in the right place. Check out our list of top San Diego surf breaks on the upper right of this page.
Sunset Cliffs, pictured above, may be San Diego's most picturesque beach.
Picturesque Sunset Cliffs
Sunset Cliffs may just be the San Diego area's most picturesque beach, with its striking cliffs forming a wall against the sea. During the day, the sandstone bluffs are beautiful golden brown, but at sunset, they seem to turn a bright shade of orange in concert with the sky. The water runs right up to the cliffs, so this is really not a traditional sandy beach, or a beach that most visitors would choose to swim in. Instead, it offers a place to hike the rugged shore or watch for sea creatures in the tide pools. Mostly, you will find yourself amazed at surfers who rush out into the water without fear of crashing into the rocks.
Ocean Beach, pictured above, is known for its pier and its 60's counter-culture vibe -- not to mention great sand and surf!
Sixties Culture in Ocean Beach -- Otherwise Known as "O.B."
The views are very different in Ocean Beach, which boasts a busy pier and a social component that is reminiscent of the1960's. Restaurants, bars and interesting little shops abound. But what often gets forgotten -- amidst the fascinating culture surrounding "OB" -- is that the beach is spectacular and very deserving of the "Top California Beaches" designation. In contrast to Sunset Cliffs, it has white sand in abundance. The water is also excellent for swimming, sailing and other activities (especially in the adjacent channel), and there is an off-leash dog beach just north of the pier and jetty that is one of the best around.
People will wait in line for the best burgers in town at Hodad's in Ocean Beach, pictured above.
Things to Do Near the Beach in San Diego
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is a 68-acre park spanning along the Pacific Ocean bordering the western edge of San Diego's Point Loma area. The sights from this locale, along with its sensitive habitat, make it more than worthwhile to visit.
The historic Point Loma lighthouse is also not far from this area, and if you choose to stop for a look, you'll find 360-degree views of San Diego from a vantage point that is one of the best around on a clear day.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, located above beautiful Torrey Pines State Beach, is also an excellent place to hike. The trails wind through the rugged coastal brush and flora, offering stunning views down the bluffs to the coast below. The reserve is home to America's rarest pine tree -- pinus torreyana.
Above: The bluffs above the beach at Torrey Pines offer hiking trails that are among the best in San Diego County. Image courtesy Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
Above: Family-friendly Moonlight State Beach in Encinitas offers a nice sandy beach, lifeguards (in summer), safe swimming, volleyball courts, a small playground, bathrooms and a snack bar (open in summer). Moonlight is where all the locals go, and you may just see some famous volleyball players getting a workout if you're lucky!
The channel adjacent to Ocean Beach makes for enjoyable swimming and sailing -- and your dog friends are welcome to join in.
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