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Best Beaches in San Diego

5 of the best San Diego beaches to spend the day, let your dog run, do some yoga, Hike, and explore amazing tide pools!

Sunset cliffs natural park San Diego
down at the Sunset Cliffs natural park beachfront

During the last week of my visit, I started hitting the beach spots. and it’s probably a good idea I waited, or else I may not have gotten to see much else. Almost every spot I visited had large free parking lots. Restroom accommodations varied spot to spot.

Sunset cliffs Beach surfers
Surfers at Sunset cliffs, San Diego, CA

All were the types of places you could spend the whole day, and technically, up to about 10 pm. Travelling in a van, it was also a good place to unwind and relax and be a little less self conscious. There’s a lot of activity going on. People are changing clothes, waxing surfboards, cooking food, doing yoga and exercising. there’s even public beach showers. Each of the places I went offered a completely different feel.

Black’s Beach

This is the only beach with residential parking. And it’s in a swanky neighborhood. So make sue your in a legal parking spot, otherwise parking is free. This spot is a little hidden and a little extra effort to get down to the beach. Actually, it’s all downhill to the beach. There’s a pretty steep curved paved road that winds down between the hills to sea level. Be prepared for the hike back up! Once the pavement ends, there’s some well kept up bathrooms to the right, and then the path opens up to the beach. It was the least populated spot I went to and had amazing views. Mainly popular with surfers, only the most dedicated try to reach this beach. And if you keep going north along the beach, at some point, it becomes clothing optional. Directions to Black’s Beach

Black's beach path
The path down to Black’s Beach

Ocean Beach

So, Ocean beach was the most fun, and most social. I’ll say it’s because the horrendous bathrooms must help to keep the “family” element away. Besides that, this area is popular for van lifers, surfers, and just more randomness. The beach was nice, and had concrete bonfire pits, Volleyball nets, and beach showers. There were a lot of people doing yoga and picnicking in the grassy area next to the lot. There were some folks with musical instruments playing tunes. What really made this spot special though, is that it connects to “dog beach” Directions to Ocean Beach and Dog Beach.

Dog Beach

Imagine hundreds of dogs allowed to run around with hundreds of other dogs on a huge swath of beach! It was so much fun just to watch all the dogs interacting, playing and rolling in kelp. There were big dog gangs, tiny dog gangs and ‘lone wolf’ types roaming and playing in the surf. Dog beach shares the same Ocean beach parking lot, and continues up until the estuary of the San Diego river. Dog beach directions

La Jolla Shores

La Jolla Shores seemed like the most family friendly normal type beach of the places I visited. Perhaps that’s owing to the nicer and plentiful bathrooms that families demand. It’s a long and wide type of beach with plenty of space. When the surf’s up, this place gets busy. There is also an underwater park for scuba divers. The parking lot can become pretty active with people preparing their gear for various aquatic activities. Behind the lot there are picnic tables on grass if sand isn’t your thing. La Jolla Shores directions

La Jolla Shores Beach San Diego
La Jolla Shores Beach

Sunset Cliffs natural park

Overall, the Sunset cliffs natural park is the winner for comprising all the best elements of the other beaches. It’s a 68 acre resource based park stretching along a beautiful patch of Pacific ocean. The park’s topography includes carved coastal bluffs, arches and sea caves. From the clifftop parking area, you can watch surfers, and sometimes, even California gray whales migrating to Baja California and back. During the low tide, you can walk down the stairways and explore the tiny worlds of tide pools. Also, there are plenty of easy trails in and around the coastal scrub bluffs. Sunset Cliffs natural park Directions

Click here to read more about what to do on a San Diego road trip!

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