Where to Get Sun on Those Buns: My Guide To San Diego Beaches

San Diego has amazing fish tacos, hosts Comic-Con every year, and the weather is sunny almost year round (sometimes we have these insane storms of drizzle to the point that I actually have to turn on my… um… what are those things called? Oh yeah, windshield wipers.) But why do people flock to San Diego, besides the beautiful people, palm trees, and alcohol? The beaches of course.

When I used to work at a hotel in San Diego, the beach was the number one thing people were looking for directions to. There are quite a few beaches in San Diego and sometimes it can be hard to choose which one to go to. They are all gorgeous but they each have their own perks and are suitable for different types of people. Here is a list of the more popular beaches that you can choose from, in order from nearest to farthest from Downtown:


Coronado beach

One side of Coronado

Soft white sand, cleanliness and family friendly are the reasons to love this beach. It’s also the easiest to access if you are staying near downtown San Diego. The thing is that Coronado is actually a small island outside downtown that is easily accessible by ferry ($4.75 for one way). The ferry drops you off at one side of the island where you can see the San Diego skyline, but you can easily rent a bike and ride to the other side where the larger beach is located. The sunset on the other side is very beautiful and calming, a great spot to meditate or take time to think. You can also head over to the Hotel Del Coronado, an old hotel that supposedly is haunted, but rocks some amazing interior design. Oh, a small warning though, when the water is warm, stingrays do like to migrate to this side of San Diego. Many people are stung, my friend included, but the lifeguards there take care of it right away. All you have to do though is shuffle your feet when you enter the water!

Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach San Diego

Sunset on the Ocean Beach pier

Do you prefer the hippy way of life? Then this is the beach for you. Ocean Beach is well known for the residents’ relaxed lifestyle meaning the scent of weed is wafted outside everyone’s window the same way that Cinnabon blows the scent of cinnamon baked goods to lure customers. Just kidding (kinda), but in all seriousness, OB has some great places to get food before/after/during your time on the sand, like Hodad’s burgers, OB Noodlehouse and Lighthouse Ice Cream and Yogurt. All the shops located on Newport Ave. are locally owned and sell the cutest handcrafted clothes, incense, cloth bags, and jewelry. The water in the ocean isn’t as clear as the other beaches, but the atmosphere makes up for it and it’s still a San Diego beach so there’s not much that can go wrong here.


Mission Beach

Mission Beach, San Diego

Fun at Mission Beach

Mission Beach is a beach for the adventurous. Kids love it, adults love it and old surfer dudes live here, so it must be great. Belmont Park, the amusement park next to the beach, is a great place for the kids if they don’t feel like building sandcastles. If you don’t have kids then you can simply relax in the sun or at Wavehouse, an outdoor bar facing the ocean where you can also try to surf on their simulated wave.

Mission Bay, San Diego

Mission Bay, across from Mission Beach

Mission Beach is also across the street from Mission Bay, where you can rent paddleboards, jetskis, boats, and so on. Rent a boat and float around the bay for a while or just relax on a paddleboard without a worry in the world. The bay is my personal favorite because of all the things that you can do but also because it’s less crowded and great if all you are looking to do is get a tan rather than fight some insanely strong waves to cool yourself down.


Pacific Beach

Once upon a time you were allowed to drink on the beaches of San Diego. This is not so anymore. What’s the next best thing? Bars on the beach. PB is the party beach. Go to the beach, get light headed from the sun rays, then go to a bar, get blacked out from the alcohol. That seems to be the way of PB. It’s a younger crowd so if you are down to drink  in your tank top, shorts, and flip flops (guys and girls) while the sun is still up, then this is definitely the beach for you. All the bars are close to each other and easy to hop from one another.

Pacific Beach, San Diego

The view from Lahaina

The best ones with a view of the beach or the sunset are PB Shore Club, PB Alehouse and Lahaina Beach House. Oh yeah, and the sand and water are nice too, if you’re trying to actually hang out on the beach.


La Jolla

La Jolla Beach

View of La Jolla Shores from the cliffside

In my opinion, the best beach for beauty, but a bitch to get to, even if you have a car. It’s about a 20 min drive from Downtown San Diego and there’s one parking lot close to the beach. I’ve found that parking far away in the residential area and then walking is the easiest and fastest because of all the traffic. But there’s a reason this beach is popular. Once you get there… Oh it’s so gorgeous. The sand is soft, the water is warm, clean, and clear, and the perfect blue-green. This is the beach you go to to enjoy the scenery. But if you are more active, there are some kayaks for rent and you can explore the caves around the cliffs. If you are looking for a unique experience, leopard sharks also enjoy La Jolla shores and you can stand in the water as they swim around you. Don’t worry they are completely harmless. Also, if you get a chance to venture away from the beach, there is an area along the cliffs where the sea lions sleep. Some people actually get in the water and swim with the babies.

La Jolla, San Diego

Taking selfies with seals

But be careful, if you see the big daddy on the cliffs and he’s barking, I wouldn’t be a tourist and take pictures as he’s charging toward you. Just saying.


As you can see, they all have different environments and experiences to be had so choosing just one can be difficult. Whatever you choose, the beaches should be on the top of your list of things to see when visiting San Diego. Which beach would you choose?



My name is Tuliyani, traveler, adventurer, dreamer, and bartender. I’m slightly obsessed with finding cheap flights to anywhere and doodling. 


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