Thinking about a weekend down south? You don’t have to cross the border to enjoy a little heat with your surf and turf. Consider planning your next coastal getaway to one of these swell sandy spots—plus our tips on nearby active things to do and places to eat—in San Diego.
Pacific Beach Crystal Pier | 2500 Ocean Boulevard
Though you may recognize shots of Pacific Beach in this season’s MTV Real World, do not let that discourage you from dismissing this laid-back beach town. From bikes to boards, to bare feet, Pacific Beach (locally deemed “PB”) is home to many of San Diego’s twenty-somethings in addition to the best swimsuit shacks, thrift stores, beach bars and late night eats. With its endless board walk which first opened in 1927, stretching three miles from Garnet Avenue to the Mission Bay Harbor Channel, you will find plenty of cyclists, rollerbladers, surfers, and joggers along the way. As San Diego’s magnet for college folks and young adults, there is no doubt you’ll meet some new friends. Pacific Beach from the Crystal Pier to Pacific Beach Drive offers bathrooms and pockets of dedicated parking at Grand Avenue and Pacific Beach Drive. You can find anything from beach cruiser rentals to biker bars along the coast. Bicycle Discovery, located off 742 Felspar Street, offers rentals on bikes starting at $7 an hour. Brought your bike? Find something to take remember your bike day at the beach and discover authentic San Diego bike accessories.
Access: Pacific Beach is full of bikers, boarders and bladers. Street parking is available and getting to the beach is easy
Public Perks: If you’re in Pacific Beach on a Tuesday evening, you’ll watch as Garnet transforms into a market of local produce, food trucks crafts and music for the weekly Farmer’s Open Air Market. With vendors such as Bread & Cie gourmet baked goods as well as plenty of other treats and eats.
Beach Eats: Depending on whether you want something quick, fast or portable—options are endless. With places like Ciro’s Pizza and Brewhouse you’ll find craft pizza and beer at a delicious price. For great outdoor seating right off Garnet, Zanzibar Cafe serves up a plethora of paninis and Mediterranean inspired salads.
Getting There: Take the 5 freeway south, exit Garnet/Grand Avenue. Turn right on Garnet Avenue, continue until you hit Mission Boulevard.
La Jolla Shores | 79500 La Jolla Shores Dr.
Just down the hill from the University of California and below a cliff lies San Diego’s La Jolla—deriving from the Spanish word “the jewel”—harbors quaint eats, authentically pristine shops, and world-famous beaches. Known for being a local spot for novice surfers to catch some gentler waves, La Jolla Shores draws many first-time travelers because of its close proximity to luxury resorts and the breathtaking La Jolla coast. Also home to The Scripps Institute of Oceanography and Scripps pier, La Jolla beach-goers can check out guided kayak tours, learn how to snorkel, deep-sea dive, and even sign-up for a surf lesson. Surf Diva will equip surfers with a board, rash guard, and fan club. Voted as the #1 surf school for women for more than 12 years, Surf Diva will help you ride the waves in style for exclusive private or group lessons taught by locals themselves.
Public Perks: There are volleyball areas, BBQ and bonfire pits, and shower/restroom facilities at the north side of the beach.
Traveler’s Tip: Serious about setting up a bonfire? The early bird gets the worm at La Jolla Shores as many college kids and locals stake their claim before the sun sets.
Beach Eats: After hours in the sun, experience true coastal wining and dining with a trip up the road to The Cottage. Stop in for a revitalizing bite of contemporary California cuisine with a local twist, like a crab melt with sliced avocado, sharp cheddar cheese, onion, and tomato served on parmesan sourdough toast or try out the Eggs La Jolla for brunch, with Canadian bacon, sautéed mushrooms, spinach and roasted tomato paired perfectly with the spot’s signature Bloody Mary.
Getting There: From the southbound Interstate 5 exit La Jolla Village Drive west, then left on Torrey Pines Road to La Jolla Shores Drive. Turn left at Avenida De La Playa, right on Camino Del Oro and go two blocks to Kellogg Park. There is one major parking lot next to an open grassy area that hugs the shoreline. But no need to find a place to park if traveling by bike or on foot.
15th St. Beach Del Mar | 15th St. and Camino Del Mar intersect
Here, the old time cliché still rings true: Del Mar is where the surf meets the turf. Often known for being a secluded oasis for Hollywood celebrities, this little coastal city is prize to the Del Mar Racetrack and summertime San Diego County Fair. Stretching nearly 4 miles from Solana Beach to the Torrey Pines Reserve just north of La Jolla, this seaside is a true escape surrounded by cliff trails and a jaw-dropping view of the Pacific. Bringing along a furry, four-legged friend? Walking on the shore north toward Solana Beach will bring you to one of San Diego’s most popular dog beaches, where dogs are free to mingle, get wet and wild. Once you have exhausted the great possibilities of sunbathing, hiking and window-shopping in Del Mar, check out the Cardiff’s Restaurant Row, right on the beach and just up the highway. For original art, handcrafted furniture and other one-of-a-kind treasures, visit the South Cedros shopping district up the coast in Solana Beach on South Cedros Avenue. Want to experience local live music? Round out your trip with a stop at the Belly Up Tavern, also on South Cedros Avenue known as San Diego’s top live music venue.
Access: There is plenty of street parking, metered parking, and even validated parking in the Del Mar Plaza, although it gets insanely crowded and fills up fast, so there’s a good chance you’ll be walking to the beach from afar if you get there after 11am. Beach Eats: Experience a little piece of Del Mar history with a stop at this historical cape-cod inspired Stratford Court Cafe. Serving up family-style favorites and organic California cuisine, choose from soy smoothies, cilantro-pasta salad, and savory sandwich options.
Public Perks: 15th St. has its own showers located clear of sand so you can wash off without having anything stick to you after. There are also public restrooms located near the showers, which are directly to the south side of The Poseidon Restaurant. There are no bonfire pits allowed on the beach, but you can bring your own BBQ to the park. The beach at 15th Street is in close proximity to stellar playground and cliff-top park, as well as 15th st bars and stores
Getting There: On Interstate 5 coming from the north, exit Via De La Valle west, south on Pacific Coast Highway (Camino Del Mar) to 15th Street.
Mission Bay | Mission Beach Boardwalk, 3704 Mission Blvd.
With easy access to bars, the boardwalk, and the bay, which is caddy-corner to the beach and within walking distance, Mission beach is where the beach meets funnel-cake and ferris wheel kind of fun. Similar to Pacific Beach in location and character, however, tends to be less crowded and more family-oriented than PB. That’s not to say that Mission Beach doesn’t have its share of fun for those the twenty-something’s. Local surfers usually don’t like the crowds that Mission Beach attracts, but a good reason is due to Mission Beach being home to San Diego’s coolest and wettest music venue, The Wavehouse. A wave simulator that has attracted the likes of a few famous surfing pros, this technology behind flow-boarding has created quite the stir as the only one of its kind in the United States.
The Boardwalk is home to Belmont Park, a wooden walk of carnival games and rides and a great place for renting all sorts of personal beach transportation like bikes, kayaks, segways, and rollerblades, which can be found dominating the beach crowd. Mission Beach buzzes with activity between the sand and the bay, the bars and the surf.
Access: There is a giant parking lot for beach-goers, although it does fill up fast and parking can be hard to come by if you are coming late on a weekend. Parallel parking will definitely be your friend. As for wheelchair access, the beach is on the same level as the street, so there should not be any issues like cliffs or rocks standing in your way of having a great time.
Public Perks: Lifeguards are on duty and enforcing the separate swimming and surfing areas. The only danger here is you may have to watch out for skateboarders and rollerbladers whizzing by you. Public Restrooms located at Belmont Park, just no bonfire pits allowed.
Getting There: Take the 5 freeway south and take the 8 West. Mission Beach is located Just off the 8 Freeway on West Mission Bay Dr.
Ocean Beach | Newport Avenue
For a community that is home to the artsy hippies, surfing yuppies and many of San Diego’s generation Y, the neighborhood of Ocean Beach manages to be eco-friendly, artsy, dog-loving, beachy-keen, reflecting all things sun-kissed and perfectly so-cal. Newport Avenue is home to plenty of places to sip and shop. Find authentic, hand-made swim suits all year round at Molly B Bikini’s located at 4966 Santa Monica Avenue or perhaps indulge in a one-of-a-kind juicy hamburger from local favorite, Hodad’s. Burgers so good, you might just have to wait in line. Headed straight to the shore? The beach begins at the end of Newport Avenue and there are designated surf and swim areas. Dog Beach is a revered attraction in OB: a K-9 haven where dogs are free to roam about unleashed and ecstatic. Laying out in the summer sun, or making friends out on designated volleyball areas, there are tons of activities to discover in Ocean Beach – all to the sound of Bob Marley serenading you from someone’s old school pickup truck. Of all of San Diego’s glorious beaches, OB will surely leave you in a chill mood. Dogs are allowed at all hours and without a leash, so make sure your furry partner gets along well with other dogs and you’re bound to have a splash together. There is a beach wheelchair that can be lent at no charge, but is given to the first person. What’s not to love about this doggy-friendly, laid-back, prime surf spot, walking distance to popular Ocean Beach restaurants and bars?
Access: In addition to street parking, there is a parking lot that can fill up quickly with summer crowds.
Beach Eats: While on Newport Avenue, and Hodad’s is not your thing, Newport Pizza and Alehouse has a tap list worth visiting and sell pizza conveniently by the slice. Feeling like using your noodle? Head over to the OB Noodle House. Create your own spicy, Asian inspired concoction is fun and the tasty possibilities are endless. Tastes better when paired with a sake bomb.
Public Perks: Public restrooms and showers are offered on Abbot St. Bonfire pits provided during the summer, but they are strict about burning only wood, charcoal, and paper products. Lifeguards are on duty during summer, usually from 9am to sunset.
Getting There: Take 5 freeway south and take the Sea World exit 21, toward Tecolote Road. Turn right onto Sea World Drive and stay straight until Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. Newport Avenue is less than a mile off of Boulevard.