With over 70 miles of coastline, an almost year-round calendar of sunny days, calm weather, and beautiful clear beaches, San Diego certainly boasts some pristine spots for families seeking a wide variety of beachside entertainment.
Best for Beginning Surfers: Moonlight Beach, Encinitas
Moonlight Beach’s gentle and consistent waves are just right for little grommets seeking to improve their skills. Numerous year-round, kid-friendly surf lessons are available from the pros. In addition to great waves, Moonlight Beach features bathrooms & showers for cleanup, a snack bar, on-site lifeguards, fire pits, and even plentiful free parking.
Best for teens: Mission Beach
The combination of the boardwalk-lined beach, amusement park rides, restaurants, and shops make Mission Beach a best bet for tweens and teens looking for a hip scene. Belmont Park, situated directly across from Mission Beach, offers numerous rides from old-fashion favorites to thrilling high-tech attractions. Be sure to check out the Wave House at Mission Beach. This restaurant is a very happening spot where you can learn to surf by riding artificial waves on “the Flowrider.” Even if you aren’t interested in learning to surf, grab a bite to eat and watch the free entertainment!
Best for sandcastles
Certainly most sand-laden beaches are enough for the average kid. But if your castle-maker has grand goals, be sure to head to Imperial Beach. Although budget cuts and roadwork plans deterred the 2012 US Sandcastle competition that annually calls Imperial Beach its home, a 2013 showing is likely to return. I sure hope it does; walking up and down the shore while marveling at amazing pieces of (temporary) artwork is a great way to spend an afternoon.
Best for Tide Pools
San Diego boasts quite a few excellent tide pool spots including the La Jolla Cove tide pools, Shell Beach, and Swami’s Beach, but my favorite spot for tide pool exploration is at Cabrillo National Monument. At Cabrillo, the park rangers are excellent guides helping your kids not only learn about, but also find some of the ocean’s most intriguing critters including anemones, octopus and a plentiful amount of hermit crabs.
Best overall for Families
There is something incredibly magical about Coronado Beach. I may romanticize a bit, but as I sit in the clean white Coronado sand and watch my children play, I feel like I have gone back in time. We love the space to run and play, the small tide pools located off the rocks, the numerous shells to be discovered, and the diversity of the shoreline’s visitors. With the beautiful Hotel Del and downtown Coronado at my back, we have plenty of options for potty breaks, snacks, beverages, meals, diversions, and necessities, but I truly love the simplicity and beauty of this beach. My favorite part of the day at Coronado is sunset: Point Loma’s tip stretches out at the horizon, and the ocean and sky glow in an amber colored haze of happiness. Coronado forces me to sit, relax, and enjoy the simplicity of my family. Isn’t that what the beach should be about?
Turn your kids into beach bums with a San Diego family vacation!
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photo: Katie Bodell