San Diego boasts an incredible 70 miles of coastline and enviable year-round weather, with over 265 days of sunshine each year. It’s no wonder people flock to this Southern California hot spot when they’re craving a beach vacation. “America’s Finest City” is especially popular with families. Check out five of our favorite family-friendly beaches, and don’t forget your sunscreen!
La Jolla Shores
The vibe: With a wide stretch of sandy beach, gentle waves and an adjacent palm-tree lined park with a playground, La Jolla Shores Beach is a quintessential SoCal family beach. Any day of the week, you’ll see kids flying kites, riding scooters on the boardwalk and splashing in the waves — and there are lifeguards on duty year-round. Location: La Jolla Shores is located in a posh seaside enclave just north of downtown (and blissfully removed from the more raucous beach neighborhood of Pacific Beach). This mile-long, crescent-shaped beach is easily accessible thanks to a large (free!) parking lot. Also nearby: The La Jolla coastline is teeming with aquatic wildlife. Head into the heart of La Jolla to the Children’s Pool or La Jolla Cove, the best places to spot sunbathing seals and sea lions.
The vibe: Easily one of San Diego’s most popular and well-known beaches, Mission Beach is bursting with activities, no matter the time of year. South Mission Beach is quieter, with wide stretches of beaches, beach volleyball courts and single-family homes. Head north up the boardwalk and you’ll find yourself at Belmont Park, a beachfront amusement park that’s home to the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, a restored wooden coaster built in 1925. Location: Situated on a sandbar between the Pacific Ocean and Mission Bay, the two-mile beach is just minutes from downtown San Diego and easily accessible from most central San Diego neighborhoods. Also nearby: If you arrive in Mission Beach via freeways, you’ll likely drive past SeaWorld on your way. Less than a 10-minute drive from Mission Beach, SeaWorld is an ever-popular family attraction.
Coronado Central Beach
The vibe: Often recognized as one of the best beaches in America, Coronado Central Beach boasts golden sand, small waves and sandcastle creations built on a whim by a handful of local experts. At low tide, kids and parents can often be found exploring the tidepools. Any time of day, boogie boarding, stand up paddle boarding and swimming are popular activities. Location: Coronado is an island community connected to San Diego’s mainland (just a stone’s throw from downtown) by a massive bridge, making the journey just as breathtaking as the destination. Also nearby: Coronado is home to the famous Hotel del Coronado, which served as the backdrop for the Marilyn Monroe movie “Some Like It Hot.” And while your kids may not have heard of the movie, the whole family will enjoy wandering through “the Del,” a National Historic Landmark that’s been charming visitors with its Queen Anne architecture since 1888.
Torrey Pines State Beach
The vibe: The long stretch of pristine beach is framed by red-hued bluffs at Torrey Pines State Beach, which offers a nature-filled escape just a few minutes outside of town. The park has convenient parking, public restrooms and showers to rinse off the sand. Location: Torrey Pines State Beach is located off Highway 101, north of La Jolla. Stick to the central stretch of sand near the lifeguard towers. Swimming and sunbathing below the cliffs is, obviously, not recommended. Also nearby: The beach is nestled below Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, a 1,750-acre reserve filled with pine forests, sandstone canyons and family-friendly hiking trails – plus incredible Pacific Ocean views.
Ocean Beach Dog Beach
The vibe: If your family includes a four-legged member, you won’t want to miss Dog Beach in San Diego’s eclectic Ocean Beach neighborhood. One of the first official off-leash beaches in the United States, Dog Beach is the perfect place to let your pooch dig in the sand, splash in the water and make some new furry friends (humans are welcome, too). Location: Dog Beach is located between Mission Beach and Point Loma on the northern tip of Ocean Beach, where the San Diego River meets the Pacific Ocean. Also nearby: The neighborhood of Ocean Beach is worth a stroll once Fido has had his fun. Walk the Ocean Beach Pier, grab some fish tacos, see how many community murals you can spot, stop in the local surf shops, or simply enjoy some good old-fashioned people watching.