6 Beautiful Family-Friendly Beaches in San Diego

Introducing guest blogger Maria from San Diego Explorer

San Diego is known for its beautiful beaches, and many of them are perfect for a family-friendly beach day. A trip to San Diego is not complete without a day on the beach, and it is one of the top things to in San Diego.

Not only the beaches but also the weather, people, and culture make San Diego a great place to live. I have lived here for many years, and if you’re thinking about moving to San Diego, I can’t recommend it enough.

I also can’t get enough of the beaches, so I am sharing my top recommendations for the best family-friendly beaches in San Diego with you.

This post is part of our Explore My City series – come and visit cities around the world through the eyes of locals

1. Mission Bay

Mission Bay is the best option if you have really small kids. As this is the bay side, you have very few waves, and the water is calmer. Mission Bay Park also has great facilities, lots of grass and shade to run around in, and picnic tables and grills.

There aren’t any shops or restaurants nearby, so I recommend you bring a cooler with drinks and snacks. Mission Bay is perfect if you want to spend the whole day on the beach, play catch in the grass and also want some shade under the trees. 

2. La Jolla Shores

La Jolla Shores is a super long stretch of white sandy beach, one of the most famous beaches in California. The atmosphere at La Jolla Shores is usually very relaxed and family-friendly.

There are great facilities and also a grassy park area with some shade that you can switch to if it gets too hot or you and your little ones need some break from the sun. There are some stores and restaurants nearby along Avenida de la Playa if you get hungry between swims.

If you go on the weekend, we highly recommend doing a Brunch in La Jolla before you head to the beach. There are some really great brunch spots in La Jolla that are worth checking out. 

La Jolla is arguably also one of the best places to see the sunset in San Diego.

3. Torrey Pines State Park

Torrey Pines State Park is a great option if you want a gorgeous backdrop and might even be interested in a hike during your beach day. The state park is split between the Torrey Pines Beach and the gorgeous cliff behind it.

Torrey Pines San Diego via CanvaPro
Image Credit Daniel Kirchner via Canva

When you had your fill of ocean fun, you can hike up the trail to the upper part of Torrey Pines State Park. You’ll have a gorgeous view over the Pacific, and if you are lucky, you might even see some whales from up there. 

Parking is not free once you enter the state park. You will have to pay a daily fee of $12-25 (demand-based), but there is parking along the Pacific Coast Highway, which will be cheaper if you only want to stay a short time. 

4. Mission Beach

Mission Beach is also a great choice for families. There are plenty of lifeguard towers and lots of space to find a nice spot for yourself and your family. You will also find surf schools, bike rentals, beach volleyball fields and lots of bars and eateries along the boardwalk.

For some more entertainment, you can head to historic Belmont Park for some rides, fair games, and junk food. The perfect place to make some wonderful childhood memories. 

5. Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach is the hippie beach of San Diego. It has a unique vibe and a very relaxed atmosphere. Be aware that this community is very 420-friendly. There is also a separate area designated as a dog beach, so if you are traveling with your 4-legged friend, this beach is a great option.

Ocean Beach San Diego

Ocean Beach has a pretty large parking lot (free), but we recommend getting there early. For some exercise, you can walk along the walk/bike path along the inlet. It is a great spot for bird watching, especially at dusk. 

When you walk towards Ocean Beach Pier, you’ll find a lot of shops and restaurants to grab a bite and take a break from the beach. Check out OB Noodle House for some tasty Asian food or Hodad’s for some really great burgers. 

6. Silver Strand

If you want to be pretty much by yourself and need no amenities, the southern part of Silver Strand is a great option. Even in the height of summer, Silver Strand is not that crowded. It is also perfect if you like long walks on the beach, as you can walk for miles and miles. The northern part of Silver Strand is more developed and busier. 

Silver Strand Beach
Image credit Sneha Inguva via Canva

All of these family-friendly beaches in San Diego have free parking available, except Torrey Pines and Silver Strand. Especially in the summertime and on the weekends, the park lots fill up quickly, though. I recommend getting there before 10 AM during peak season.

If you want to make it easy, I recommend staying at one of the many beachfront resorts in San Diego; that way, you can just go back to your room to take a shower, rest up and grab some snacks, and not worry about parking. And don’t worry, San Diego has some great options for almost every budget – you can check out some of the best AirBnB options for San Diego here.

If you want to explore beyond the beach, rent a boat in San Diego and get out on the water for a day, or you’re not far from Anaheim if you want to combine a California beach vacation with Disneyland.

The beaches in San Diego definitely deserve a spot on your San Diego itinerary, and your kids will love the time on the beach. Nothing makes for better summer holiday memories than some fun family time on the beach, does it? 

See more of the best things to do in San Diego with kids here

About the Blogger

Maria Haase has been a travel writer since 2007, stumbling into this profession during an internship in China. She grew up in Germany but has lived in San Diego since 2006. Maria is a globetrotter but also adores exploring her own backyard whenever she is home.

She loves to share her favorite spots, help visitors plan their trips, and share helpful tips about her chosen hometown San Diego. You can follow along with Maria here:


With thanks to Maria for her contribution to our guest series.  You may also like to read about Greater Los Angeles with Kids, or learn more about fabulous outdoor adventures on San Francisco Day Trips

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More beach inspiration?

We have a great collection of beach guides on the Globetrotters blog; why not pop across and read next:

Did you catch the rest of our Explore My City Series?

Written by parents & travel writers who live in the city they love; Get insider tips, must-see events and hidden gems from our guest bloggers, click here to learn more.

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