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San Diego Beach Activities

Endless fun in the sun

Whether you are an accomplished expert or taking up a new sport for the first time, you'll find everything you need in San Diego to do it right, from equipment and rentals to charters and instruction.

Fish, Surf, Dive & More

As if just hanging out at the beach isn't fun enough, people have invented all kinds of ingenious ways to enjoy it even more—surfing, windsurfing, bodysurfing, bodyboarding, skimboarding, kiteboarding, wakeboarding, skateboarding, rollerskating, rollerblading, sailing, boating, jet skiing, jet packing, water skiing, fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, volleyball and a myriad of other activities.


California fishing licenses valid for salt water ocean fishing are required by all persons 16 and over to fish, spearfish or collect marine game (like lobster). Any of the tackle shops around Mission Bay, Point Loma or Oceanside issue fishing licenses as do some specialty dive shops and sporting goods stores, and they can give you a publication that defines all the details regarding seasons, species, size and catch limits. There is an extensive marine preserve extending from La Jolla Cove to Torrey Pines, where fishing of any kind is prohibited.


San Diego is loaded with surf shops, surf camps and surf culture. Experienced surfers will be stoked with the fast, hollow reef breaks in La Jolla and snappy performance beachbreaks in North County and the South Bay. Trestles, Black's, Windansea and Sunset Cliffs are all world-famous and, when the conditions are right, world-class.

Surfing is extremely difficult to learn and takes years to master. If you've only got an hour or two to invest, consider starting with a boogie board. It's much easier, less frustrating and really fun. Newcomers should take a surf lesson before venturing out into the sea and start at beaches with gentle breaks. It’s also a good idea to study other surfers to see where they take off and how they ride the wave. Once you understand how to read the surf and tap into the rolling energy on the face of the wave (as opposed to the pushing force of the white water), then you'll be ready to tackle surfing. Strong swimmers and people already familiar with the dynamics of skateboarding or snowboarding will have a decided advantage.


The diving in San Diego may not offer the colorful fish and coral reefs found in tropical destinations like Hawaii or the Caribbean, but we do have rich undersea kelp forests, fascinating shipwrecks and offshore islands like San Clemente and the Coronados close at hand. The best scuba diving in San Diego is found on the inshore reefs of La Jolla and Bird Rock, the Point Loma kelp beds and the submarine canyon outside of La Jolla Shores. For snorkeling, nothing compares to La Jolla Cove, where you can see tame fish in calm, shallow water just a few paces from shore.

The best seasons for diving in San Diego are in the summer with the sun high overhead and the water warm and calm, or in the dead of winter when flat spells between the storms can leave the water crystal clear. The best way to dive in San Diego is through one of the many boat charters, certification classes or guided tours offered through local dive shops. WARNING: There are days of high surf, strong surge and poor visibility when it just isn't safe (and definitely not worthwhile) to dive. At those times, check out the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, or SeaWorld in Mission Bay as an alternative way get your underwater fix.


San Diego's fantastic climate and excellent bays are ideal for boating. You can spend a peaceful day sailing the inlets and islets of Mission Bay or round the Point Loma Lighthouse and head for the open sea. Small sailboats, powerboats and personal watercraft (jet skis and waverunners) can be rented at several locations in Mission Bay, and kayaks can be rented at many beaches along the coast. You can hire a private fishing charter in Oceanside or join the party on one of the daily pre-scheduled boats that leave from Fisherman's Landing in Point Loma. At the Embarcadero you can take a three-hour tour of the harbor or jump on a cruise ship bound for the Panama Canal. Even landlubbers will enjoy the vicarious thrill of watching the sailboats racing by, or a visit to the downtown San Diego Maritime Museum.

Beach Games

If you're into volleyball, Frisbee, horseshoes and other leisure sports, you'll find plenty of like-minded people on San Diego's beaches. Volleyball games are played at the Del Mar Rivermouth, the foot of Oceanside Pier and in front of the hotel on Coronado's Center Beach. Whether you're flying a kite or pitching a horseshoe, please be respectful of other people's safety and space.

Tide Pooling

Many San Diego beaches offer excellent tide pooling. The best time to see the many sea creatures that cling to the rocks are during the fall and winter months when very low tides occur. But you can still have an excellent experience year-round. Some of our favorite tide pooling beaches include Point Loma, just below the Cabrillo National Monument, Ocean Beach near the pier, Shell Beach and Children's Pool in La Jolla, Tourmaline Surfing Park, Tide Park in Solana Beach and Swami's in Encinitas. Please be careful not to disturb the animals as their ecosystems are fragile. Guided tours are available through Birch Aquarium at Scripps and the Visitor Center at the Cabrillo National Monument.  

Boardwalks and Beach Trails

A paved boardwalk runs the length of Pacific Beach and Mission Beach, and is a bustling highway for bikes, skaters and pedestrians. Smaller scale boardwalks can be found in Oceanside, La Jolla and Ocean Beach, but they're not as high energy as the scene in Pacific and Mission Beaches. A parade of people fill these boardwalks in a continuous flow. In addition to the boardwalks, there are all kinds of jogging trails, bike paths, skate parks and other places to run, ride and roll around San Diego's beaches.

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