Many travel articles and publications tout Imperial Beach as San Diego's "hidden" beach, a wonderful find, and the ambiance there is charming, but it and other beaches south of San Diego have problems with water quality, especially after a winter rain and we do not recommend it.
Check the weather page of the San Diego Union-Tribune for the latest surf and water quality reports.
We've compiled a list of the best beaches by type and interest to help you choose.
We've listed the beaches below by the activities they're best for, now why don't you tell us which one you like best?
Poll: What is your favorite San Diego beach?
Best Beaches by Type
- Best San Diego Beaches: Walking: Mission Beach: For a slice of California beach life at its best, take a walk along the paved boardwalk that runs between the houses and the sand. You can access it from any of the walking streets off Mission Boulevard.
- Best San Diego Beaches: Beach Volleyball: Mission Beach: The south end of this narrow beach sports a lot of well-maintained volleyball nets.
- Best San Diego Beaches: For Kids: Coronado Beach: With downtown Coronado nearby, lots of clean sand and gentle waves, this is a great place to take the kids.
- Best San Diego Beaches: For Dogs: Ocean Beach Dog Beach: Dogs area allowed to run free on the beach here, every day. A bit further for tourists to travel but great for locals is Del Mar's Dog Beach, where the upscale pup goes to see and be seen.
- Best San Diego Beaches: Amusements: Mission Beach: Belmont Park is home to the Giant Dipper, originally built in 1925, a classic carousel and some modern thrill rides. The Plunge here is Southern California's largest indoor heated swimming pool.
- Best San Diego Beaches: Weekend Getaway: Coronado Island and Beach: This charming island isn't really an island but a peninsula, and its beach is one of the country's best.
- San Diego Beaches to Bare it All: Blacks This clothing-optional beach is one of the country's most popular.
- San Diego Beaches for Sandcastles: Imperial Beach The U. S. Open Sandcastle Competition is America's largest and longest-running sand castle competition.
- Best San Diego Beaches: Surfing: Windansea: Windansea is considered one of San Diego's best surfing beaches, but it's not for novices.
- Best San Diego Beaches: Romance: La Jolla Shores: This long, flat beach is a great place for a hand-in-hand stroll, and it's got great views of La Jolla.
- Best San Diego Beaches: Tide pools: La Jolla Cove: One of the smallest beaches, it has some great tide pools and a small, rocky cave. Check the tide tables to be sure you get here at low tide.