Best Surfing Beaches in San Diego

San Diego has a long history of surf culture. Several of San Diego’s beaches are infamous because of this culture (Old Man’s, Windansea, Tourmaline Surfing Park). Today I would like to list some of the best surfing beaches in San Diego. It is important to note that I will be covering the entire San Diego County, starting North.

Swami Stooge best surfing beaches in San Diego
The ‘Cardiff Kook’ is placed right before downtown Encinitas

To add a bit of semblance to this list, I will be adding a linked google map to each site. I will also be specifying the wave type and direction, which swell/ wind combination works best, the reliability of the location as well as any additional information that I find interesting or have written about in a prior post.

Swamis surfing sign best surfing beaches in San Diego
This sign is located right near Swami’s, in Encinitas

I will also be listing the best surfing beaches in San Diego that are primarily geared for intermediate to advanced surfing levels, followed by the best surfing beaches for beginners.

San Diego County Map Google Map

#Please click on any photo to see a larger version

Where Are The Best Surfing Beaches in San Diego?

Trestles-Lowers

Surfing Trestles driftwood surf holder sandy beach

3929 S El Camino Real

Located on the very northern tip of San Diego County, Trestles Beach, which is part of San Onofre State Beach, is very isolated. There are a few ways to get here. To see additional information on how to get to this location, on the link below.

Wave Type– cobblestone reef break/point break

Wave Direction -lazy right and hollow left

Best Swell– S, SW, SSW (May-Oct)/ wind NE

Reliability– very consistent

Special Note-hard to get to, very crowded, easy paddle out, advanced only

Other Breaks NearbyMiddles and Church to the south; Uppers and Cottons to the north.

Trestles Surfing Best Surfing Beaches in San Diego

Additional Information


Oceanside Harbor Beach

Oceanside Harbor Beach Best Surfing Beaches in San Diego

N Pacific St

Oceanside Harbor beach, with its two jetties (one to the north, one to the south) help to make fantastic surf here all year long.

Wave Type– beach break, sand bottom

Wave Direction– right and left

Best Swell– W/ wind NE

Reliability– very consistent

Rating– intermediate

Special Note– best at high tide, can get very busy, paid parking, great all year long

Other Breaks Nearby– to the south Oceanside Pier and Oceanside Blvd

Oceanside Harbor Beach 2014 jetty beach waves

Additional Information


D Street Beach

D street beach access staircase sand waves
D-Street Beach

400 B St Encinitas

Moonlight Beach is located in Encinitas which is known for its surf culture. Wherever you look, there are surfboards. One of the locals’ ‘secret’ spots to surf is D Street Beach which is found immediately south of the Moonlight Beach parking lot. Remember not to tell anyone about this place, ok?

Wave Type– sand bar

Wave Direction– left and right

Best Swells– SW/ wind E

Reliability– fair

Special Notes– summer has the best conditions, fast beach break

Other Breaks Nearby Moonlight to the north, Boneyards to the south

D Street beach best surfing beaches in San Diego

Additional Information


Swami’s

Swamis Meditation Gardens Swamis reef surfers
Looking down from Self-Realization Fellowship Meditation Gardens

1298 S Coast Hwy 101

Swami’s has a beach break as well as a  remarkable reef far offshore that produces perfect lined walls with the winter swells

Wave Type– beach break and right point reef break 100 yards out

Wave Directions– right

Best Swell– W, NW, SW/ wind E

Reliability-fair

Special Note-extremely busy, best with winter swells, dangerous conditions due to rocks only advanced recommended

Other Breaks NearbyBoneyards to the north, Pipes and San Elijo State Beach to the south

surfing sunset Swamis State Beach

Additional Information


Cardiff Reef- Suckouts

Suckouts Surf break San elijo lagoon inlet
San Elijo Inlet during low tide

Cardiff Reef also has some of the best waves in San Diego. In fact, several surf contests are held here. As you can see by the photo above, this surf break is influenced by the San Elijo Lagoon inlet and is at its best when the tide is going out.

Wave Type-reef break

Wave Direction– left (best) and right

Best Swell-WNW /wind E

Reliability– very consistent

Special Note-can get crowded, experienced only, best in winter, San Elijo Lagoon runoff, advanced only

Other Breaks NearbySan Elijo State Beach to the north, Georges and Seaside to the south

Surfing San Elijos Best Surfing Beaches in San Diego
North sections of Cardiff Reef

Additional Information


Black’s Beach

Gliderport Trail Going Down Torrey Pines State Beach
Gliderport Trail going down to Black’s Beach

2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Dr, La Jolla

Black’s is one of the worlds best beach break because there is submarine canyon located offshore. Another thing that makes Black’s so special is that it is also a nude beach.

Wave Type– beach break

Wave Direction– right and left

Best Swell-WNW / wind E

Reliability– consistent

Special Notes– only advanced, very isolated, winter best, nude beach

Other Breaks NearbyTorrey Pines State Beach to the north, Scripps Beach and Scripps Pier to the south

Blacks Beach Bluff View Torrey Pines

Additional Information


Windansea

South View WIndansea Beach La Jolla

Neptune Pl & Nautilus St, La Jolla

Windansea is another one of the best surfing beaches in San Diego, and it also has a rich history of surfing history to boot. People have been surfing at this location since the early 40s. Did you know that this beach was the inspiration for Beach Party movies in the 60s?

Do you see the surf shack in the background? Well, it was first built in 1946 and was later named a historical landmark in 1998.

Wave Type-flat rock reef break

Wave Direction– long right and  short hollow left

Best Swell– SW/ wind E

Reliability– fair

Special Notes– advanced only- protruding rocks and ample reefs it is very hazardous here-winter best but good all year round

Other Breaks NearbyHorseshoe to the north, Bird Rock to the south

Windansea Surfing Best surfing beaches in San Diego

Additional Information


Tourmaline Surfing Park

Tourmaline Surfing Park Panoramic Pacific Beach

601-635 Tourmaline St

As we make our way more south towards San Diego, we have the Tourmaline Surfing Park. People have been enjoying surfing here since the 1930s. This surfing spot is known as the friendliest surfing beach in San Diego. All levels are seen here.

Wave Type– reef break

Wave Direction– right and left

Best Swell– SW/ wind NE

Reliability– fair

Special Notes– there are three different breaks- to the north waves are long and mushy, in the middle waves are smaller, and to the south end there is a classic break great for all skill levels

Other Breaks Nearby– to the north Pacific Beach Point, south Law Street

tourmaline surfers best surfing beaches in san diego

Additional Information


Sunset Cliffs- Garbage Beach

Surfing Sunset Cliffs south Point Loma

1253 Sunset Cliffs Blvd

Some of the best surfing is over at Sunset Cliffs, but it is hazardous as there is only one staircase, over near Garbage Beach and that is it. Locals scale the bluffs, with their surfboards in tow just to get near the water. And once you get in the water, you must paddle out very far. I would suggest just watching over here if you are not an advanced wave rider.

Wave Type– reef break

Wave Direction– right and left

Best Swell– W/ wind E

Reliability– very consistent

Special Notes– best in winter, watch out for rocks and sharks, the break is far offshore, advanced only

Other Breaks Nearby– to the north- North Garbage, Luscomb’s, to the south- New Break and Subs

Surfing garbage beach Point Loma bluffs ocean
Paddling out from Garbage Beach

Additional Information


Best Surfing Beaches in San Diego For Beginners

Old Man’s Beach

Old Mans Beach Surfing rocky shore ocean

Old Pacific Highway

Just south of Church is Old Man’s Beach. Here the cobblestone and shelf bottom slows down the energy of the waves, making them very gentle and forgiving; thus making it a great place to learn how to surf.

Wave Type– cobblestone reef break

Wave Direction– right and left

Best Swell– SW or SW/W-winds NE to E (slight Santa Ana is best)

Reliability– very consistent

Special Note– extremely busy on weekends, porta-potties, pay to park

Other Breaks NearbyThe Point to the north (south of Church) and Dogpatch (another great beginner break) to the south

Old Mans Surfer best surfing beach in san diego

Additional Information


Beacon’s Beach

Beacons beach 1 best surfing beaches in San Diego

 948 Neptune Ave

Beacons Beach is another local favorite and located within the residential area of north Encinitas. There is a great community ‘feel’ here and an all in all friendly vibe. The parking lot is tiny, and please be aware that there are sharks in this area.

Wave Type– beach and reef break

Wave Direction– right and left with a right-hand reef break

Best Swell– W/ wind E

Reliability– very consistent

Special Note– works best with a low to mid tide, not much parking, no restrooms, great for beginners to advanced

Other Breaks Nearby Grandview to the north, Stone Steps to the south

Beacons Beach Switchback north Encinitas surf break
Beacon’s Beach Switchback

Additional Information


La Jolla Shores

La Jolla Shores Surfing sandy beach waves pier

8246 La Vereda

La Jolla Shores is my number one pick as the best beach in La Jolla as well as the best family beach in all of San Diego. Here the water is relatively calm in the summer, making it one of the best places to swim, snorkel, Paddleboard, kayaking, and surf.

Do you remember the underwater trench I mentioned over at Black’s Beach? Well, that trench as well as the kelp beds offshore, both influence the swells over here. By the time the wave makes it over here, most of the energy has been used up. This, in turn, causes the waves to be very forgiving on this beach, which is why it is a great place to learn to surf.

Wave Type– beach break

Wave Direction– right and left

Best Swell– W/ wind ESE

Reliability– Fair

Special Notes– works best when the tide is going out, waves increase in size the more north you go- watch out for rip currents and shuffle when walking in the water to avoid stingrays-winter is best-very crowded on weekends and summer

Other Breaks NearbyScripps Pier and Scripps Beach to the north, Horseshoe and Windansea to the south

La Jolla Shores Sunset San Diego

Additional Information


End of the List

So what did you think about my picks for the best surfing beaches in San Diego? Which surf break has piqued your interest?

Flying Trestles best surfing beaches in San Diego
Surfer flying at Lowers

One thing is for sure though, and if you ever make it down to San Diego, you must check out Trestles and Black’s Beach! Not only are they the two top San Diego surf breaks in the county, but the two most isolated as well. Both beaches are relatively untouched, which is a rarity in Southern California. I guess the only downfall for both locations is that it is quite a hike to get there, especially carrying a surfboard!

surfing blacks beach torrey pines state beach
Going down Gliderport Trail to Black’s

Please feel free to leave any questions or comments you may have down below.

Until next time!

9 Replies to “Best Surfing Beaches in San Diego”

  1. Hi Colleen,

    I am a beach lover and i prefer the ones which are isolated. So i will be definitely exploring Trestles and Black’s Beach. Thank you for providing info on wave type, direction, best swell and reliability. I really like the way you organised the whole, i am defintely bookmarking this post for my future reference.

    Thanks for sharing and happy surfing 🙂

    1. Hi Satish! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I am with you in regards to wild beaches; I love them, especially now that I am trying to learn all of the native plants in the area. If I may add, Torrey Pines State Beach is another wild beach that you should check out if you are ever in the area! Thank you for sharing! I appreciate it!

  2. Hi Colleen,
    Thanks for sharing so many excellent surfing beaches, very informative post!
    Personally, i like spending holidays on the seaside and enjoy some entertainment games on the sea beaches. But i never tried surfing, which seems require high skills and courage… While some of my friends like it. I will keep your list and share with my friends. Thank you!

    1. Hi Shaun! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I have never surfed before, but I have boogie boarded, and body surfed. I am excited to go to the next level and try it out this year. Because of this, I had so much fun researching. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Hi Colleen,
    Thanks for sharing your expertise with us. It has always been a dream of mine to move to San Diego. Ever since I found out how great the weather is there I’ve wanted to go there. If blogging works out I may actually be able to follow that dream 🙂 With that said, D Street Beach has a nice feel to it. I have a son and would love for him to learn to swim and surf. For some reason I can just see him being that kind of kid. Lol. I’ll bookmark you site for further reference, you know, just in case. Thank you.

    1. Hi Jen! Thank you for commenting! Yes D Street Beach is a great place to go, as it is just right next to Moonlight Beach that has anything and everything that you would like in a beach. Such as a restroom (always a plus), showers, lifeguard stand, food stand as well as a rental office (surfboards, boogie boards). Thank you for the bookmark and I hope someday you make it down here!

  4. Hey, Colleen!
    I love these beaches. I’m sticking with the beginner ones for sure the next time I go to San Diego, but they all look so good and fun.
    I especially like the La Jolla Shores. I read your article about it and it feels like my kind of place.
    Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

    Have a wonderful week,
    Barbara.

    1. Hi Barbara! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment. Yes, La Jolla Shores beach is definitely one of the best beaches in all of San Diego. What I especially love about it, is that the Scripps Institute of Oceanography is located north of the beach. As for surfing, I am with you! I can not wait to learn how to surf, so I will be staying on the beginning beaches as well.

    2. Hi Barbara! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. Yes, La Jolla Shores Beach is one of the best beaches in all of San Diego. In fact, it is the favorite beach that my kids never complain when we go. What I love about it, is that there is so much beauty there, not to mention the fact that there is a submarine canyon located offshore. I hope you can witness the beauty in person some day. Have a great week too!

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