With over 33 beaches to discover, there’s no doubt as to why San Diego is considered California’s beach city. And the city’s many coastal neighbourhoods give you ample access to sand and surf.
There’s Coronado, situated just across the bay from San Diego; La Jolla boasts a dramatic coastline and incredible views. With an ambiance of an eternal spring break, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach are the gathering place of San Diego’s 20-something crowd.
While each beach is different, there is a general etiquette that applies whether you’re there to catch some rays or chase a wave.
Like all public areas, crowd size and access is dependent on time of day or season. Holidays like the Fourth of July mean that the beach packs up early.
Slow-moving traffic happens. And sometimes finding nearby parking is next to impossible. If you find yourself stuck or out of luck, consider leaving the immediate area and parking a few blocks away.
Speaking of parking…
Carry cash and quarters for pay lots and meters, check the signs, lock up your goods and above all, take note of where you left your car.
Consider riding or renting a bike (rent from DecoBike then park at bike rental stations near the shores of Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach and Mission Bay.), or take the bus or hail a taxi.
Closures and cautions
The beach is magical place for a midnight cuddle or stroll, but some spots are actually closed down at sunset. If you and bae want to fit in a quick snog at midnight, you might come back to find that your car’s been ticketed or towed. And unless you’re a registered guest of an official campground, you are never allowed to stay overnight at any beach.
Some beaches, parks, parking lots and campgrounds may have seasonal or unscheduled closures on account of weather, construction and other circumstances.
There are restrictions regarding noise, structures (tents, fences, banners), concessions and the like. Special events like weddings, big gatherings and competitions all require special permits, usually obtained months in advance through the appropriate division of the local beaches or Parks and Recreation offices.
Local organizations may host events like concerts, fireworks displays, triathlon races to sand castle contests.
Etiquette and common sense
Don’t do anything to compromise your own safety or that of others (obvi). Respect other people’s privacy and avoid disturbing activities like playing loud music, throwing Frisbees in tight crowds and tracking sand over your neighbor’s towel.
Try to limit your time in the shower and offer to share public facilities like picnic tables and fire pits with others.
Littering is uncool (and illegal), and totally contrary to beach protocol. If you can’t find a trash or recycling receptacle, pack up your garbage and take it home with you. Better yet, make your visit to the beach a constructive one and dispose of any other trash you find.
Bare feet and broken glass are a recipe for disaster, so glassware is never permitted anywhere at any time on any of San Diego’s beaches and boardwalks.
Booze and bonfires
In reference to the aforementioned glass, it goes without saying: alcohol is no longer allowed on any San Diego beaches, including Coronado and State Beaches.
All bonfires are restricted to designated fire rings, and barbecues are generally permitted at all parks and beaches. (Never dump coals or firewood in the sand; they can burn well into the next morning, leave nails and other debris on the beach, and have been the cause of untold injuries to bare feet.)
Oh, and about those feet…
Another, less obvious sun-related hazard is the black asphalt of streets and parking lots, or black sand near the shoreward sides of beaches; these can get unbelievably hot on a mid-summer day. Shoes and sandals are the only defense, and should always be worn – even if only for a short trip to the bathroom or beach bar.
While certainly not exclusive to the beaches of San Diego, these common-sense tips can help you safely and successfully navigate your time in the sun. Enjoy!
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