If there’s one thing San Diego is known for, it’s our beautiful beaches! San Diego has 70 miles of coastline with a variety of beaches with something for everyone. From North San Diego County, to down by the border- let’s get started!
- Tamarack Beach – Carlsbad
Tamarck Beach is a great family beach! It is easily accessible, has plenty of parking, and large sidewalks off the sand for easy strolling. This state beach offers swimming, surfing, scuba diving, kayaking, windsurfing, fishing and beachcombing.
- Beacons Beach – Encinitas
Beacons Beach is known for its very narrow trail with three switchbacks that leads down to the beach. The steep entrance make it less popular for families with small children or tourists, but it’s a great spot for locals! There is a small parking lot on Neptune Avenue between Jasper Street and West Leucadia Boulevard.
- Moonlight Beach – Encinitas/ Leucadia
Moonlight Beach is a great beach for everyone! There are plenty of volleyball courts, a large playground for kids, bathrooms, and showers you can use to rinse off after an afternoon in the sand and surf. Moonlight Beach is also close to lots of San Diego-favorite restaurants like Leucadia Pizza, Handel’s Ice Cream, and lots more!
Fun fact: Moonlight Beach gets its name from the fact that local residents used to come to this area for midnight picnics in the early 1900s!
- Cardiff State Beach & Seaside Reef – Cardiff by The Sea
These beaches are great for surfers and families alike! Cardiff State Beach is known for having great surf breaks, so you’ll likely get to watch some surfing while you’re visiting. Not a surfer? You can also explore the tide pools which are always a hit with our families! Both beaches have great parking (one of our favorite features!), bathrooms, and delicious restaurants that aren’t too far away!
- Torrey Pines State Beach – Del Mar
Torrey Pines State Beach is a popular one and for good reason! Torrey Pines isn’t just a stretch of sand, it also has great hiking trails with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. Click here to check out the video we did about this great beach.
Torrey Pines is also close to one of my favorite taco shops in San Diego County, Roberto’s. Be sure to hit Roberto’s on your way home for some delicious Mexican food!
- Del Mar Beach & Dog Beach – Del Mar
There are only a few dog beaches here in San Diego County and Del Mar Dog Beach is one of the best. You can let your dog run around while you enjoy some sunshine and sand!
Del Mar Beach is a beautiful stretch of sand right off Highway 101. It is one of the busiest beaches for visitors because of its easy access. There are also some great restaurants right on the sand like Jake’s Del Mar and Poseidon’s on The Beach which are both great places to take family and friends from out of town! Keep in mind Del Mar Beach is not a state beach so you must find street parking or pay for parking in a designated parking lot.
- La Jolla Shores – La Jolla
La Jolla is known as “The Jewel of San Diego”, and you’ll quickly see why! La Jolla is full of beautiful areas to explore including La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Cove. At La Jolla Shores you can swim, snorkel, or surf. There is also a playground as well as fire pits for use. You can also check out the Scripps Pier and the Birch Aquarium at Scripps for a fun family day in the sun.
La Jolla Cove is just south of La Jolla Shores and also full of things to do and see. You can stroll the beach, watch the seals, and walk downtown La Jolla. This is another great spot to take visitors!
- Pacific Beach – Pacific Beach
Pacific Beach is known for having a young demographic of residents and a lively atmosphere! Pacific Beach has three miles of boardwalk, beautiful Crystal Pier, and Sail Bay at Mission Bay with its own playground and boardwalk as well. There are lots of great bars and restaurants to enjoy throughout Pacific Beach.
- Mission Beach – Mission Beach
Mission Beach is just located just south of Pacific Beach and is your quintessential boardwalk beach town. Probably known best for Belmont Park, this is a great place for families and visitors to enjoy the sand, surf, and some fun all in one place!
- Silver Strand State Beach – Coronado
Silver Strand State Beach is another great family beach! This beach is a great spot to run, walk, bike, or rollerblade due to its flat landscape. And apart from this beautiful beach, spending the day on Coronado Island is a great weekend activity or staycation spot! What did you think of our favorite beaches in San Diego? Leave us a comment below with your favorite places to enjoy some sun, surf, and sand!
Living in San Diego can be expensive – after all, who WOULDN’T want to live in a place with endless days of sunshine, gorgeous beaches, and the best Mexican food on the West Coast? But there are still plenty of free things to do in San Diego. In this video on Off the 56, Courtney and I share our list of the best free things to do in San Diego from Balboa Park to the Self Realization Center in Encinitas and beyond!
1) First up is Torrey Pines Gliderport. While this one might not technically be free if you are actually paragliding, it’s a great place to go and enjoy views of the ocean, beach, sunsets, and paragliders.
2) Next on our list is one of our favorite places in San Diego, Balboa Park. While many of the museums do charge admission, there is one day a month where select museums are free for San Diego residents. A few of the museums are actually free all the time! Plus, it costs nothing to stroll around the park and enjoy the picturesque grounds and stunning architecture.
3) Every fall, the Miramar Air Show returns to San Diego. While it does cost money to attend the air show on the MCAS Miramar base, if you live nearby, you can take in the show for free from the comfort of your own car, backyard, driveway, or roof.
4) If you’ve never been to the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, add this to your weekend to-do list! While the park is really more of a street, it’s filled with museums, preserved historic buildings, shops, and restaurants. There’s also a Mission you can explore. Some of the attractions have paid admission, but it’s free to go down and explore the area, particularly when there’s a celebration going on like Cinco de Mayo or Dia de los Muertos. Fun fact: There are only two registered haunted houses in all of California and one of them, the Whaley House, is in Old Town San Diego!
5) Many new residents of San Diego are surprised to learn that San Diegans love to hike and mountain bike! With miles of trails all over the county, this heart-pumping activity is #5 on our list of free things to do in San Diego. Click here to find a trail near you! Some of the most popular hiking trails in the area are the trails that make up the 5 Peak Challenge, in Mission Trails Regional Park. There’s also Los Penasquitos Canyon, Potato Chip, Torrey Pines, and more!
6) La Jolla Cove is a popular destination for tourists and residents alike. It’s free to go and enjoy the antics of the harbor seals that hang around the rocks and cliffs in downtown La Jolla. There are also great tide pools to explore with the family and beautiful beaches where you can swim, surf, snorkel, and more! Just be sure to bring money for parking.
7) Sunset Cliffs in Point Loma is one of the most gorgeous places in all of San Diego. If you’ve never watched the sunset at Sunset Cliffs, you are missing out! While there’s not a ton to do there, it’s definitely an experience that makes you feel blessed to live in beautiful San Diego.
8) The Cabrillo National Monument commemorates the landing of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in San Diego Bay. He is remembered as the first European to set foot on the West Coast of the United States. Also in Point Loma, Cabrillo National Monument is free to visit and explore. There’s a museum there and an old preserved lighthouse. You can also explore the trails in the area which lead to some great tide pools!
9) It’s not summer in San Diego if you don’t take in at least one outdoor movie or concert. Of course, the weather in San Diego is great all year round, but in summer most communities in San Diego offer regular free movie nights or concerts with local bands in a community park. We recommend packing a picnic or bringing some snacks to get the full experience! We should also note that there’s actually still a drive-in movie theatre in Santee, though it’s not free.
10) The Mt. Soledad Veteran’s Memorial is one of the most recognizable sites in San Diego. Situated at the top of Mount Soledad, it features a massive white cross, which you can actually see from the 5 freeway. While paying your respects to our veterans, you can enjoy panoramic 360-degree views over La Jolla, Pacific Beach, and downtown San Diego. Get there early to find parking!
11) Seaport Village is another popular tourist haunt that’s free to explore. Located in Downtown San Diego right on San Diego Bay, it’s full of cute shops and restaurants. They also have an old-fashioned carousel that was hand-carved in 1895. Grab an ice cream cone and take in the stunning views of the Coronado Bridge!
12) Beach bonfires are a popular, free summer activity in San Diego County. Not every beach allows bonfires, but several of the most popular beaches in the county like Coronado, La Jolla Shores, and Mission Beach do allow them. Just make sure to observe the rules about dogs, glass containers, and alcohol while enjoying your bonfire.
13) You may or may not know that Encinitas is home to the Self-Realization Fellowship Center, which was founded by an Indian Monk named Paramahansha Yogananda. It features a gorgeous garden and seaside trails you can enjoy while you meditate.
14) Mission Bay is an amazing place to spend the day. If you have your own kayak or paddleboard, it’s a great place to go and get some exercise in the sun. You can also picnic or walk or bike on the trails around the bay.
15) While few people make the trek out to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park except during the spring “Super Bloom” which is when the desert erupts with colorful wildflowers, this park is free to explore all year long. A nice contrast to all the beaches on the list, this rugged desert landscape has its own harsh beauty. We hope you enjoyed our list of 15 free things to do in San Diego! Do you have any additions? Leave us a comment below!