6 Best San Diego Beaches for Families

Posted By Katie on Jul 21, 2015

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San Diego has over 70 miles of coastline and boasts some amazing beaches. How do you decide which San Diego beaches are best for families? Many beaches have a little different flavor, depending on what types of activities you are looking for. Do you want to play in the waves? Explore tide pools? Snorkel? We have our favorite San Diego beaches, but we also turned to a few of our family travel blogger friends to see what they recommend. Here are the six best San Diego beaches for families.

The 6 BEST beaches in San Diego, California for families - from those who have been there.  | tipsforfamilytrips.com

La Jolla Shores

La Jolla Shores is a mile-long stretch of beach that has something for everyone. Swimmers and surfers flock to La Jolla Shores on summer days. La Jolla Shores is also a favorite of seals and sea lions, so families enjoy visiting to watch the wildlife. Erin at Travel with Bender loved watching seals in the wild when her family visited La Jolla Shores.

I spent a lovely morning at La Jolla Cove, which is a protected cove on the north end of La Jolla Shores that is the perfect place for families looking to snorkel or explore tide pools. There is a shop right on the cove where you can rent snorkel equipment. See my tips for visiting La Jolla Cove here.

Scripps Park nearby is a grassy park that is perfect for picnics, throwing a frisbee, and enjoying beautiful views.

Best San Diego Beaches for Families | tipsforfamilytrips.com

Oceanside Beach

Oceanside is a great beach for active families. This is the beach where my husband met his friends to boogie board and surf as a teenager. We visited a few years with our family, and I can see why he loves it so much. We were able to rent surf boards and boogie boards for a few hours or a full day at a small surf shack right on the beach. The prices were reasonable and they offered a variety of equipment. The day we visited, the waves were too strong for my younger kids (under 8) to boogie board, but my teenagers loved how exciting the waves were.

My younger kids loved playing on the playground right on the beach, and we all enjoyed walking along the beautiful pier in the late afternoon. Unlike some other San Diego beaches, parking at Oceanside was easy to find.

Best San Diego Beaches for Families | tipsforfamilytrips.com

Carlsbad Beaches

Carlsbad’s seven miles of beaches are a hit with families. Allison’s family has visited South Carlsbad State Beach and Tamarack Beach, which are pretty much the same beach, but in different parts of Carlsbad. During Spring Break and Fall Break, there was plenty of space to spread out and play in the surf, build sand castles and fly kites.

Tamarack Beach is near Carlsbad Village – a bustling part of town full of shops and restaurants. South Carlsbad State Beach is quieter, but with fewer amenities. There is a campground at South Carlsbad State Beach. Highway 101 runs along Carlsbad’s beaches, with a steep drop in between. There are many hotels on the other side of the highway for an ocean view and a short walk to the beach.

Best San Diego Beaches for Families - Coronado Beach

Coronado Beach

Coronado Beach was named one of the 10 best beaches for families in 2014 by Family Vacation Critic. Coronado Beach is popular for surfing, boogie boarding, paddle boarding and swimming. There are tide pools at Coronado Central Beach that can be explored at low tide. Warming up by a fire in the fire pits on the northern section of Coronado Beach are a great way for families to unwind at the end of the day.

Allison’s family visited Coronado Beach a few years ago, and loved that the beach was a short walk from shops and restaurants and hotels. The historic Hotel del Coronado is on the beach, and worth seeing, even if you don’t stay there.

Best San Diego Beaches for Families - Coronado Beach

Mission Beach

Allison’s family visited Mission Beach during a stay at Catamaran Resort and Spa. The Catamaran has its own beach on Mission Bay and Mission Beach is just a block away. The combination of the calm waters of Mission Bay and the waves of Mission Beach means that there are limitless ways to play on the water in this charming neighborhood.

Farther south on Mission Beach, you’ll find Belmont Park – San Diego’s version of Coney Island. Ride the roller coaster, buy a hot dog or cruise the boardwalk on roller blades It’s a classic American experience.

Moonlight State Beach, Encinitas

Mary at The World is a Book is a San Diego local. She recommends Moonlight State Beach in Encinitas, in north San Diego, as one of her family’s favorite beaches. They enjoy the wide sandy beach. It is clean and has great facilities, including a concession stand with many treats, restrooms, showers, picnic tables and fire pits.  Forgot something? There is a store onsite to rent various beach and sports equipment.  

There are volleyball and tennis courts to keep the family busy. Her kids love the playground with its varied structures and green spaces. It never gets as crowded as the other popular San Diego beaches. It’s a wonderful, family-friendly beach where you can spend the day.

Best San Diego Beaches for Families | tipsforfamilytrips.com

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Katie is a busy mom living in Northern Virginia with her husband and five children ranging in age from toddlers to teens. When she isn't traveling, she is planning her next trip. Katie loves all types of travel, but she especially loves beach vacations. The Outer Banks of North Carolina is a favorite family destination.


  1. This is very helpful, thanks. It is true that beaches are so different and when you are visiting an area it is hard to figure out which meet your personal tastes. I’ve been to Coronado and La Jolla (both briefly) and they were beautiful.

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  2. Oh, wow! I had no idea there were so many beaches in San Diego. This city is definitely on our bucket list. Is the water warmer here than in, say LA? Could you go swimming in April? Yes, I’m Canadian:)

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    • I have visited Carlsbad beaches in April and October. It’s a little chilly for swimming, but it could reasonably be done.

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing this! We visit San Diego quite often, but have one been to the beach once in all these years.

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  4. Nice info. those beaches are great and I have been to San Diego numerous times. Even though those are family friendly beaches depending when you go they could be chilly. I was in Carlsbad this March with my babies and the beach was so cold that only surfers were enjoying the waters. My kids did play at the beach far away from the water

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  5. I live 2 hours from San Diego and didn’t know all of this. I have visited the del sol shop though. I’d buy some Disney shirts and nail polish of course 🙂

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  6. Beautiful photos! Sadly, our vacation this year was spent in big cities, and if we want to see a beach, we’ll have to do with a weekend trip. Too bad San Diego is too far to go there for the weekend for us! Looks like it offers some great beaches.

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  7. Thank you very much for this list! I’m heading to San Diego with my family soon, and we were struggling to narrow down which places to go, so this is a great help!

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