Signup Login

Forgot password? Don't have an account? Sign up here Close
Signup Login


Reset my password


Best Beaches in San Diego North County (Guide)

Best Beaches in San Diego North County

Given our amazing climate and gorgeous seaside vistas, we’re assuming beach time is high on your list this season. What’s an especially cool thing about San Diego is that we have dozens of beaches and they all have their special personalities, pros, and perks. And sure, chances are, you already have your favorite spot and know just where to park for easy access, or where to put your beach chair for optimum sunning. Still, if you’re looking for somewhere new to try or just want to mix up your hang time a bit, here are some of North County’s best beaches in our opinion:

1. Del Mar City Beach

Let’s get this out of the way first: parking blows here, but many say it’s worth it to search for a spot just to visit this picturesque cliffside beach in the summer. There’s sand, sun, and surf, yes, and also a kids’ park with a play structure for the little ones. Situated just behind upscale Jake’s Del Mar, this beach extends for two miles with the north end designated as a dog beach for pet lovers. Powerhouse and Seagrove are two coastal parks also located along this beachfront, and make excellent picnic spots. If you’re the grab-and-go sort, the beach is close to shopping, restaurants and snacks. If you want to grill instead, grab a BBQ in one of the parks and start cooking. Lifeguards and showers are also available here, making the beach a nice family option. If you’re not into families, rumor has it you should steer clear of the 25th street entrance.

2. Torrey Pines State Beach

Parts of this three-mile stretch of beach located just south of Del Mar lie below beautiful bluffs and winding hiking trails. Lifeguards usually staff the north end of the beach, which is where the bathrooms and showers also sit. Nice swaths of sand mark the beach, which is a favorite with families, boogie boarders, and sunbathers. Parking can get expensive here, and some days cost $15, but if you’re industrious you can find street parking. You’ll probably have the most luck searching for parking before you hit the lower lot. If you find something, park and walk through the lower lot and follow the trail to the beach. If you don’t mind paying, try the lot by lifeguard tower two and walk over the street right to the beach.

To make the most of Torrey Pines, it’s nice to set up shop on the beach and then take a walk up the bluffs or even along the “Beach Trail” by the Visitor’s Center leading you back to your spot after a little workout.

If you’re daring and free, and up for a bit of a walk or steep hike as the case may be, hike south from Torrey Pines Beach and visit Black’s Beach, a clothing-optional beach, which is also accessible from the Torrey Pines Gliderport.

3. Moonlight State Beach

Moonlight Beach is a treasure trove of one-stop-shop beachiness with fairly easy parking, picnic areas, fire pits, a play area, volleyball courts, a snack shop, and showers for after swimming. This is one seriously family-friendly beach. Get there early enough and you’ll almost certainly see dolphins frolicking in the surf. If you’re looking for heartier fare than what the snack shop offers, pack a picnic or take a break and walk to “town” a few blocks away where plenty of restaurants and bars await.

4. Fletcher Cove Park

If you want something simple, straightforward, and kid-friendly, this small Solana Beach spot sports a nice grassy area, and also has a playground for kids who get bored of swimming. Fletcher Cove also has picnic tables, bathroom facilities, and a beach wash station. This beach is best for walking, playing (there’s a basketball court, too) and boogie or body boarding, but if you’re looking to lounge on the sand all day, try somewhere else because the sand is limited here and sometimes completely swallowed by high tides.

Fletcher Cove is, however, perfect for families with small kids as most of its areas are contained and there are life guards. A dozen dining options are nearby, too, for snacks, or lunch. Try the Beach Grass Cafe or Naked Cafe for lunch.

Parking here isn’t bad either, and if you want to forgo it altogether, try the train, which is walking distance from the beach.

5. Carlsbad State Beach

Extremely popular with locals, though strangely not crazy crowded, Carlsbad State Beach gives beach goers free parking in several areas, easy access to the beach, clean restrooms and showers, and beautiful views from the cliffs. Nearly five miles long, the beach’s south end welcomes campers and is also a favorite with surfers. If you’re visiting just for a run, there are paved jogging paths along the beach and just above the water.

Close to downtown Carlsbad, the beach is an easy walk to several dining options, too.

6. Buccaneer Beach

A family-friendly little beach located smack dab in South O (that’s Oceanside),  Buccaneer Beach is a cool little local beach with spots designated for swimmers, waders, body boarders, and surfers. For those with kids, Buccaneer Park is right across the street from the beach and offers a large grass area, play structure, basketball court, picnic tables, BBQs, restrooms, a shower, and a snack bar. Hit up the Buccaneer Cafe for coffee and breakfast in the mornings, and then wander over to the beach to make a beautiful day of it. Parking is free in the lot across from the beach, but it’s best to get there early if you can swing it.

Your Turn…

We certainly missed several beaches beloved by North County residents. What are your favorites? What should we know about them? Share your tips in the comments!

Debbie Anderson: Debbie is a freelance writer and editor who’s been blogging at San Diego Momma since 2007. Debbie's been featured in Writer's Digest, the San Diego Reader, and San Diego Magazine, and was named Top 25 blog by Red Tricycle, nominated for an InfluenceSD "Best in Lifestyle" blog award, and appeared on NBC, Fox, and The CW Network as a blogger spokesperson. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or at Google+.