10 Best Surf Spots In San Diego, California, USA

surf spots in san diego

There’s something magical about riding the ocean waves. Surfing may be difficult and perchance a little dangerous to some, yet it’s one of the most rewarding outdoor water activities. It also offers a full body workout and teaches you to be extra patient. San Diego has some of the best surf spots in California. The waves and the wind are perfect for surfing. Some of these surfing spots are surfable even in the winter. If you’re planning to catch some waves when you visit, here are 10 of the best surfing spots in San Diego. Start packing your surfboards and plan your surfing vacation today.

1. Oceanside

Source: Pixabay

In San Diego, Oceanside is dubbed as one of the most consistent surf spots for it’s where most beginners and advanced surfers go to in Southern California. It has almost 4 miles of beaches (6.5 km) of beaches and you can find a surf spot at any time of the year. It has a surfing ambiance, which reminds you that this exhilarating activity is part of the city’s culture. Both the Oceanside Pier and the Harbor are good places to surf. They are mostly crowded, though, and you’ll find several surf shops situated just along the coastlines. If you’re into surfing, Oceanside should be your go-to place. Beginners usually surf during the summer months and some advanced surfers hit the waves in the colder season. Those who want to find out the history of surfing may visit the California Surf Museum situated downtown.


Address: South of California

2. Black's Beach

Black's Beach Surfer
Source: Photo by Flickr user Tony Webster used under CC BY 2.0

Black’s Beach waves are unique and powerful, thanks to the underwater canyons. Also called Torrey Pines City Beach, Black’s may not suit beginners. It’s not frequented by many surfers except when there is an event. Only experienced surfers surf the waters of Black’s Beach. The waves here are high-quality and really good. The water is crystal-clear and it’s also the beach in San Diego to spot a bottlenose dolphin. Black’s Beach is also called the nudest beach where some surfers surf naked. Today, this beach is now part of the Scripps Coastal State Marine Conservation Area.

Black's Beach

Address: San Diego, CA 92037, USA

3. Del Mar

If you’re looking for fun and diverse waves, Del Mar is your place. It’s ideal for all skill levels and accessible to all surfers in the city. You’ll find some good waves all year round too. Also, it’s one of the few places in San Diego that has good waves with small crowds. You can surf on the north end, south or the middle part of the beach. The most consistent waves are usually found in the 11th and 15th streets on the south side. The north end has larger waves since it’s near the Pacific Ocean. The middle part of the beach, on the other hand, has about a mile (1.6 km) of the surfable beach. Stay careful though, for they can have overhead waves too.

Del Mar

Address: California 92014, USA

4. Tamarack Surf Beach

surf spots in san diego | tamarack surf beach
Source: jd__photos on Instagram

Ideal for experienced surfers, directions of the waves here are right and left. The normal length of the waves is about 50 m (164 ft) and longer rides would be between 150 to 300 m (492 ft - 984 ft). Although this surfing spot is most crowded on the weekends and considered as San Diego’s popular surf spots, be careful with the rocks and rip currents here. There are five peaks in the Tamarack Surf Beach but the first peak isn’t good for surfers. It’s mostly for longboards. In one of the peaks, there is a need for a surfer to really be a good swimmer for there is a strong tow that will take you toward the jetties.

Tamarack Surf Beach

Address: Carlsbad, CA 92008, USA

5. Sunset Cliffs

Sunset Cliffs, San Diego, CA 92107, USA - panoramio (3)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Roman Eugeniusz used under CC BY-SA 3.0

At Sunset Cliffs, Garbage Beach is the popular surf spot. It’s mostly packed with intermediate surfers. When you’re lucky, you can ride the waves longer than in any surf spot in San Diego. However, you will need to really be careful as you could get injured when you paddle out far. This part of Sunset Cliffs has two primary breaks and both are good. Just be careful with the rocks and the rips. Coral cuts during reef breaks can be pretty painful, so always take extra precaution when surfing. It’s best to surf during medium and low tides at Sunset Cliffs.

Sunset Cliffs

Address: San Diego, CA 92107, USA

6. The South Bay

The South Bay surfing spot is from Coronado to Imperial Beach. Ideal for beginners, the waves here are gentle, especially in the coastline from south to the Imperial Beach. The best time to surf South Bay is in the summer. If you’re an experienced surfer though, try surfing between December and February where big swells create barrels and walls. Surf in the early mornings when the waves are great. If you’re new to the sport, you can enroll in a surfing lesson at Coronado. All lessons already include the wetsuits and the surfboards.

The South Bay

Address: California, USA

7. Windansea

Windansea Beach, La Jolla CA
Source: Photo by Flickr user Lavender Dreamer used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Located at La Jolla, it can be pretty challenging to surf Windansea beaches. It’s best for experienced surfers only. They have consistent surf breaks, has a competitive atmosphere and gets really crowded. The reef waves could go in any direction – left or right - and for about 50 - 150 m (164 - 492 ft). If you want a more challenging wave, surf during the winter to get double overhead waves. Just make sure you have enough surfing experience before deciding to surf at Windansea. Watch out for corals and sharp rocks here.


Address: San Diego, CA 92037, USA

8. Point Loma

Point Loma is bordered by rock cliffs. Ralph’s, located on the east side of Point Loma, is excellent for experienced surfers for it has some of the longest and greatest waves in San Diego. Although you can surf in the winter or summer, the best time would be during the fall when the wind is minimal and you get south swells. Beginners may also try surfing at Ralph’s in Point Loma for, although the waves are longer, they aren’t dangerous. The only downside here is it can get pretty crowded. Expect about 30 boats lining up here. It’s always better to visit during the weekday when there are lesser crowds.

Point Loma

Address: San Diego, CA, USA

9. Cardiff State Beach

surf spots in san diego | cardiff state beach

Cardiff State Beach has excellent surf breaks in San Diego. The beach is at Cardiff by the Sea - where there are gorgeous cliffs and perfect sandy beaches. Cardiff State Beach is the perfect place for surfers, stand-up paddleboarders and scuba divers. During swells, you could catch bigger waves. Also, there can be strong rip tides and currents in this area, so be extra careful. If you love surfing, consider visiting Cardiff State Beach. They hold surf competitions constantly.

Cardiff State Beach

Address: Encinitas, CA 92007, USA

10. Trestles

Source: Photo by Flickr user troy_williams used under CC BY 2.0

Trestles - specifically Lower Trestles - is a diver’s paradise. The waves here are simply perfect; in fact, you can surf here every day for the whole year and get that same perfect wave. At Trestles, the waves are endless and it’s easy to paddle out. It’s akin to a surf pool which means this surfing spot is perfect for those still training to surf like a pro. However, this part of California is also one of the crowded surf spots. The sea floor may be rocky but they’re really not as dangerous as you might think. Just one thing to know about Trestles though; there could be sharks in this area so be careful.


Address: California, USA

Surfing lessons and other non-water activities

Source: Unsplash

Don’t worry if you’re a beginner for you can always enroll in a surfing class. An experienced and skilled instructor will guide and educate you on everything you need to know about surfing. You can also rent wetsuits or surfboards. Another thing to love about San Diego is the countless activities that you can do apart from surfing. Yes, surfing would be the highlight of the trip but at night, you can always do other fun activities such as going to the Gaslamp Quarter, seeing Balboa Park or discovering San Diego’s art scene. If you’re visiting soon, do check back on our recommendations on the best surf spots in the city.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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