Pavlo has been working as a travel writer for more than 8 years, and his work has been featured in CNN Travel, BBC Travel, Time Out and Fodor's, among others. Changing cities and continents is a lifestyle for Pavlo, he has been to more than 40 countries across the globe. He can’t get enough of exploring the world and loves to share this passion through travel writing.
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With some of the best beaches in the U.S., San Diego is the ultimate ocean destination that will make kids and their parents happy. It has 70 miles of golden sands, an abundance of water activities, and fantastic weather that define the coastline of America’s Finest City. Lifeguards are almost always present, the facilities are excellent, and there’s space for everyone. From La Jolla to Imperial through Coronado, here are the best San Diego beaches for families.
Why Come Here: It’s best for first-time surfers and young water sports enthusiasts.
A top San Diego beach for families, La Jolla Shores is all about the Pacific enjoyment. Soft sand is perfect for lounging and playing sports. Access to the water is super easy and straightforward (though as everywhere with the open ocean be aware of the waves). La Jolla Shores is the place to start your surfing journey or embark on a kayaking trip, you can find rentals and trainers on Camino del Oro Street close to the free parking. Two parks with picnic tables border the beach, both coming with playgrounds for the youngest members of your family.
Why Come Here: It’s best for family picnics and wildlife watching.
Not your regular sunbathing beach, La Jolla Cove is a gorgeous bay that every San Diegan family loves and cherishes. Coming here for a picnic while watching the cute sea lions and seals is a generational must-do in this city. Moreover, there’s a possibility to swim, snorkel, and scuba dive, activities the older kids will definitely enjoy. Access from the city is extremely easy, La Jolla Cove is right off Coast Boulevard and parking is available.
Why Come Here: It’s the best San Diego beach for families for 360-degree fun.
Coronado for San Diego is very much like Santa Monica for LA, a legendary stretch close to the Downtown with an unlimited Pacific enjoyment potential. With its devotion to family leisure and a more low-key ambiance, Coronado may win the competition for a better beach though. Fully lifeguarded, offering tidal pools, and boasting white sands as far as the eyes can see, this San Diego stretch is great fun for families. Hunt for shells, build sandcastles, try kitesurfing, play volleyball, or simply catch the sun rays from the comfort of your towel, Coronado is perfect for all these things.
Why Come Here: It’s best for scenic camping on the beach.
An open secret next to San Diego Bay, Silver Strand State Beach is how you escape the crowds and get a tranquil time by the water. For years families have been flocking to this California state park for the amazing oceanside camping experience. The waters are shallow, the views are magnificent, and it feels a world away from the big city bustle. What you’ll get are warm and calm waters that will be a delight both for children and adults. Surprisingly, Silver Strand is just 20 minutes away from the Downtown by car so it’s a very short ride.
Why Come Here: It’s best for affordable family fun.
Take your family on a memorable outing full of the fresh salty breeze, clean white sands, and awe-inspiring panoramas. Family-friendly to the core and more affordable than its San Diego counterparts, Imperial Beach Pier is an awesome destination. Also, it’s a go-to spot for fishing, head to the wooden pier with your kids to try your luck with the Pacific marine life. To end the day right, buy some snacks and drinks in town and take a spot on the sand to watch an incredible Californian sunset.
Why Come Here: It’s best for all-day beach leisure.
A quintessential San Diego family beach, Mission is there for all-day fun. Come early in the morning to have easy and free parking, choose a good place on the sand, and give in to the easygoing vibe of the city’s most beloved oceanside neighborhood and a kind of a mini-version of a classic resort town. The boardwalk is extra-scenic here, the restaurants are plenty, and the family orientation is absolute. For a more thrilling visit, head to Belmont amusement park with many cool rides and get nostalgic kicks at the old-school wooden Giant Dipper Roller Coaster.
Why Come Here: It’s best for sheer natural beauty and family-friendly hiking.
Torrey Pines State Beach and the State Reserve Park nearby are perfect family destinations to admire the grandeur of Southern California’s nature. Come here for the panoramic hiking trails, picturesque buffs, indigenous Torrey Pine trees, and, of course, the gorgeous sandy beach. Torrey Pines State Beach is an exceptional place for walking, picnicking, and sunset-watching. Surfing and swimming are also options, the lifeguards are on duty daily, and you’ve got bathrooms and showers for comfortable beach time.
Why Come Here: It’s best for dog-friendly and easy-going splashing.
Dogs want some beach fun too and your kids will love to play with your fido outside to the sound of the waves. Del Mar’s Powerhouse Beach is among the top San Diego beaches for families. There’s a grassy park part and a sandy stretch with shallow access to the water. Parking is available nearby, but as everywhere else in the county, the first come first served rule applies. The atmosphere is very relaxing here, it rarely gets too crowded, and there are several seafood restaurants close by. And don’t miss the sunset – Del Mar is famous for picturesque ones.
Why Come Here: It’s best for inspired SoCal beach camping.
Generations of San Diego families have camped at San Elijo State Beach at some point in their lives. It’s a hidden gem of the region’s coast and the ultimate place to sleep next to the ocean. Expect gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, a chill surfer ambiance, and clean, pleasant sands. It’s an uber-popular campground so book well in advance to secure the spot for your family. If spending nights under SoCal skies is too much for you at that point, come here for some calm Pacific bliss as a day visitor.
Why Come Here: It’s best for a budget-friendly laid-back family trip.
An outing to Encinitas is an amazing idea for a family day trip. Moonlight State Beach is where you want to be. It’s kid-friendly, features volleyball courts, and has a playground. Waves are mostly on the calmer side of the spectrum so you can have a great swimming experience too. There’s a convenience store nearby to buy everything for a family picnic as well as free parking with plenty of space. Once in a while dolphins show up, so keep your eyes open.