San Diego’s 18 Best Beaches for Families

by | Sep 9, 2023 | Family Adventures

(This article may or may not contain affiliate links. What does that mean?)


San Diego’s coastline is calling your name. Think exploring tide pools at La Jolla Cove Beach or flying kites at Coronado Central Beach. With 18 family-friendly San Diego beaches to choose from, fun, adventure, and lasting memories await. Our family finds any excuse to go to the beach, and with so many choices and miles of coastline to travel, we have buried our feet in the sands of many of these beaches. 



San Diego's Best Beaches for Families


Family beach lovers can get close to marine life, build Instagram-worthy sandcastles, and have fun going toe-to-toe against the breaking waves. San Diego beaches have them all. Entertaining and lively, these beaches breathe life into family vacations. So, pack your bags and join us. Your family’s next favorite destination among San Diego beaches is waiting.


Best Family Beaches In La Jolla 

These three gems among San Diego beaches are must-visits for family travelers. Each one brings a unique experience to a family vacation. Let’s explore why these La Jolla hotspots are more than just pretty views.


La Jolla Shores Beach

La Jolla Shores Beach is the spot for families itching for a beach day beyond the sandcastles and sunbathing. With its gentle waves, it’s not just a beach but a training ground for the next generation of surfers. 

While surfing might be the initial draw, La Jolla Shores Beach offers many additional family-friendly activities. Whether kayaking in the adjacent marine reserve, exploring tide pools filled with sea critters, or playing beach volleyball on the pristine sands, this beach offers a range of experiences beyond the surfboard.

Plus, if your kiddos aren’t tuckered out by the end of the day, you can check out these nearby family-friendly activities in San Diego at night


Where To Stay Near La Jolla Shores Beach

Stay and play at La Jolla Shores Hotel and grab a bite to eat at the on-site restaurant, The Shores.


Photo of Person paragliding over La Jolla beach

Get your heart pounding with fun activities at the beaches of La Jolla – Photo by Micah Fluhart on Unsplash


La Jolla Cove Beach

Adventure calls at La Jolla Cove Beach. Think snorkeling with colorful fish. Imagine exploring intriguing caves. It’s a beach for the curious. Kids and parents alike will marvel at the marine life. It’s not just fun. It’s an education.


Where To Stay Near La Jolla Cove Beach

Stay at the stylish Cormorant Boutique Hotel, which has close beach access, which saves families the headache of trying to find a free parking space at La Jolla Cove Beach. 


Shell Beach

Shell Beach is all about natural wonders. It’s a place for exploration and imagination. Shell Beach is a wonderland for young explorers, from tide pools to stunning rock formations. Even the adults will feel like kids again. 


Where to Stay Near Shell Beach

Families will enjoy the luxurious touches of The Inn At Sunset Cliffs. Parents can unwind and recharge at the hotel spa and dine together at the on-site restaurant. 


Best Family Beaches In Coronado 

Golden sands and family-friendly vibes define Coronado Central Beach and Silver Strand State Beach. Located near iconic hotels and delicious food places, these San Diego beaches give families more than just a place to relax.


Coronado Central Beach

Kite flying, sandcastle building, beachcombing – Coronado Central Beach is a family playground. Soft sands and gentle waves welcome visitors of all ages. 


Where to Stay Near Coronado Central Beach

A trip to Coronado Beach isn’t complete without a stay at the legendary Hotel Del Coronado


Silver Strand State Beach

Silver Strand State Beach invites adventurous travelers to come biking, hiking, and bird watching. Kids will love the nature trails and open spaces. Visitors can explore the shoreline or enjoy a picnic. 


Where to Stay Near Silver Strand State Beach

Loews Coronado Bay Resort is a great place to stay for families who want a mixture of relaxation and play. Kids will enjoy the activities hosted by the hotel, and parents can gel in the spa. chill in one of the three pools, or detox in the sauna. Families need not venture far to enjoy their onsite restaurant.  Those ready to get off the sand can take a swing on the tennis court or explore on one of the available bicycles.


Photo of 2 people jumping in the air at the Coronado Beach, in San Diego.

Kids and parents will jump for joy at these San Diego beaches – Photo by Joshua Coleman on Unsplash


Best Family Beaches in Encinitas and Carlsbad

The coastal cities of Encinitas and Carlsbad harbor beachside bliss for visitors. Moonlight Beach, Swami’s Beach, Tamarack Beach, and Frazee Beach each have a unique small-town charm. Here’s what makes them favorites for family travelers.


Moonlight Beach

Moonlight Beach is a total family favorite, and it’s easy to see why! There are fantastic playgrounds for the kiddos, fire pits for chill evenings, and lifeguards keeping an eye out. It’s safe, it’s fun, and it’s the perfect spot to hang out. 


Where To Stay at Moonlight Beach

Just south of Moonlight Beach, the Hampton Inn Encinitas provides free breakfast for guests and is ten miles from LEGOLAND. 


Get discounts for LEGOLAND tickets here!


Swami’s Beach

Not just for surfers, SWAMI’S Beach in Encinitas is rich in tide pools. Kids love exploring, and the surf culture adds a cool vibe. Grab a bite at Swami’s Cafe, well-loved by locals and guests alike. SWAMI’S is more than a beach. It’s a place where family adventures begin.


Where To Stay in SWAMI’s Beach 

The Hilton San Diego/Del Mar hotel is less than a five-mile drive from SWAMI’S Beach, where family travelers can stay and relax poolside, enjoy free breakfast, and discover what the surrounding areas have to offer. 


Photo of surfers in the San Diego pacific ocean

Surf’s up for the whole family at SWAMI’s Beach! – Photo by Micah Fluhart on Unsplash


Tamarack Beach

Tamarack Beach in Carlsbad is a family-friendly oasis offering calm, shallow, low-tide waters perfect for young swimmers and an expansive sandy area ideal for beach games and sunbathing. Convenient perks like public restrooms and lifeguard towers make it super easy for parents, and being close to local seafood joints guarantees a tasty way to wrap up a day at the beach.


Where To Stay Near Tamarack Beach

Family travelers can stay at the Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort and take advantage of ocean beach views and family-friendly activities like Pizza Bingo and treasure hunts. 


Frazee Beach

Volleyball lovers, Frazee Beach in Carlsbad is your spot! Families can join community games or enjoy the view. Local food trucks offer delicious options for hungry players. Frazee Beach is not just sand and sea. It’s a lively community space that welcomes all.


Where To Stay Near Frazee Beach

Family beachgoers will love the Park Hyatt Aviara, where guests can rent e-bikes and discover the nearby coastal trails. 


Best Family Beaches In Del Mar and North San Diego

With its picturesque coastline, Del Mar and the North Coastal areas of San Diego are teeming with beaches that families love. Del Mar City Beach, Torrey Pines State Beach, South Ponto Beach, Solana Beach, Tide Beach Park, Cardiff State Beach, and Pier View North/South in Oceanside – all dazzle families with unique attractions and delicious dining experiences for visitors.


Del Mar City Beach

Families enjoy Del Mar City Beach for its playgrounds, grassy areas, picnic tables, and calm waters. It’s more than a sandy stretch. It’s a place where kids can play, and parents can relax. 


Where To Stay in Del Mar City Beach

L’Auberge Del Mar invites guests to stay and play with the whole family. Travelers can rent beach cruisers, play a few rounds of tennis, or chill poolside in a private cabana. 


DON’T MISS! Folly Beach Hotels: Oceanfront Options


Torrey Pines State Beach

Torrey Pines State Beach combines the perfect blend of natural beauty and outdoor activities, making it an exceptional pick for families. The beach features golden sands and gentle waves for swimming and relaxation, and it’s also home to hiking trails that lead families right to oceanfront cliffs. Free parking is available along the Coastal Highway 101. 


Where To Stay Near Torrey Pines State Beach

Family beach lovers will love Hotel Indigo for taking a stroll down the beaches of the Pacific Ocean and local coastal favorites like the Del Mar Coastline.


South Ponto Beach

South Ponto Beach is the quintessential family-friendly destination. It is beloved for its broad, sandy expanses, providing ample room for picnics, sunbathing, and beach games. The beach’s gentle waves cater to kids looking to wade or try boogie boarding. It is a versatile choice for families seeking relaxation and light water activities. 


Where To Stay Near South Pronto Beach

Check out the Hilton’s Cape Rey Resort for an affordable beachside option. 


Solana Beach

This beach destination combines the best of both worlds: adrenaline-pumping surf conditions for wave enthusiasts and a thriving arts scene with nearby galleries and local craft shops for the art buff.


Where To Stay Near Solana Beach

The Courtyard by Marriott in Solana Beach has an affordable parking lot for guests, an on-site restaurant, and plenty of local favs for dining nearby. 


Tide Beach Park

Tide Beach Park captivates young explorers and parents looking for scenic beauty. The beach is renowned for its unique rock formations that serve as a natural playground, inviting families to explore tide pools brimming with marine life. It’s also a fantastic spot for snorkeling or simply soaking in the picturesque ocean views.


Where To Stay Near Tide Beach Park

The Hilton San Diego/Del Mar is a great option for families who want to hit up a few of the other closeby beaches on this list. 


Cardiff State Beach

Cardiff State Beach is a treasure trove for families who love water activities and exploring natural wonders. The beach is a hotspot for water sports like surfing and paddleboarding, offering thrills for older kids and adults. Meanwhile, the abundant tide pools provide a curiosity-driven adventure, allowing youngsters to get up close to marine life. 


Where To Stay Near Cardiff State Beach

Try Cardiff by the Sea Lodge for cute themed rooms and ocean views. 


Pier View North/South in Oceanside

At Pier View in Oceanside, versatility is the name of the game, offering a two-for-one beach experience that appeals to every family member. The Northside serves up surfing conditions that will thrill wave-riders, while the Southside is a family haven with calmer water, ideal for swimming and paddleboarding. Adding to the charm are picnic spots, a playground for the kiddos, and some great places to eat nearby. And let’s not forget the beautiful Oceanside Pier that completes the picture—making it a perfect spot for families to create their beach day experience.


Where To Stay Near Pier View in Oceanside

The Southern California Beach Club lets families relax in the comfort of a private beach villa just steps away from the sandy beaches of San Diego.



Best Family Beaches In Mission Beach 

Whether building sandcastles or taking a leisurely paddleboard ride, Mission Beach and Mission Bay in San Diego are packed with family activities. It’s not just about the sun and surf. These beaches offer a blend of recreation and relaxation. Here’s what makes them a top choice for family travelers and where to stay nearby.


DON’T MISS!  San Diego family Camping: Campland on the Bay Review 

Mission Beach

Mission Beach is where the action is! From beach volleyball to amusement parks and roller coaster thrills at Belmont Park, families can find endless entertainment here. A paved boardwalk is perfect for rollerblading, biking or strolling sand-free along the ocean.

Head to the South Mission Beach area for a quieter and more spacious environment. Enjoy nearby cafes for a delightful brunch.


Where To Stay in Mission Beach

Check out local beachfront hotel, Bahai Resort Hotel. They are known for family-friendly amenities and easy access to the beach.


Mission Bay

Mission Bay offers a calm and scenic escape. Kayaking, paddleboarding, or sailing – water fun is endless. 

The East Mission Bay area provides playgrounds, picnic spots, and gentle waters, perfect for younger kids.


Where To Stay in Mission Bay

Unwind after a long day at the beach at San Diego Mission Bay Resort. Kids can toast marshmallows around a beach fire pit and play a few rounds of volleyball on the beach. 


Photo of sail boats in Mission Bay

You don’t need your sea legs to have a good time at Mission Bay! – Photo by Sarah Sheedy on Unsplash


When You Go



Getting To San Diego From Los Angeles

Depending on where you start – and the time you head out – San Diego County can be between a 2-6 hour drive. Fridays are tricky, as are long weekends. Check your traffic app, but we usually aim to be on the freeway after the morning rush hour and before the evening mess. Taking the 405 to the 5 freeways between 10 am – 3 pm is a family’s best bet. Or if kids can sleep on the road, between 4 – 5 am is great too.

There is also the Surfliner Amtrack train that can drop families off along one of the coastal cities, or a flight takes about one hour.

An excellent discount site for flights (and cars, hotels) is Expedia! This is where we start our research for the best deals! 


To get discounts on tours in the area, we recommend Get Your Guide or Viator (which offers 51% off last-minute tours!).


When To Go To San Diego

With San Diego’s Mediterranean climate, anytime is the best time to experience the allure of San Diego’s breathtaking beaches, where the mesmerizing blend of natural beauty and vibrant culture beckons. Your next unforgettable family adventure awaits on the shores of San Diego.



Fun & Sun: Best Family Beaches in San Diego


Traci George, freelance writer and founder of Nomadically Ever After, specializes in family-friendly and affordable travel. A connoisseur of Dark Tourism and horror literature, Traci infuses her passion for adventure into her work. From RV trips across continents, tasting exotic foods, to living as an Alaskan expat in Mexico, she transforms ordinary experiences into extraordinary journeys.