Fall is an ideal time to explore San Diego’s 70 miles of sparkling beaches, as the summer crowds diminish, temperatures average a pleasant 74 degrees and seaside hotel prices dip from peak season rates. Whereas the beaches of La Jolla and Mission Bay have long had mass appeal, San Diego’s lesser-known stretches of sand offer visitors a spot to lay out their towels, bask in the golden glow of the sun and splash in the surf with nary a tourist around.
From beaches along the international border to the North County coastal region, visitors can find that these “secret” sands are just as inviting and Instagram-worthy.
BORDER FIELD STATE PARK
Sitting in the most southwestern corner of the United States along the Mexico-U.S. border, Border Field State Park comprises beautiful sand dunes and the largest salt marsh habitat in Southern California. Along its scenic 1.5 mile stretch of secluded sand, visitors can enjoy sunbathing, birdwatching, picnic areas, barbecues and the only beach in San Diego where guests can go horseback riding.
STAN’S BEACH (AKA SHIPWRECK’S BEACH)
Located south of Coronado Beach and adjacent to the towering Coronado Shores condos, Stan’s Beach features the silvery white sands the island is famous for, sans the throngs of beachgoers. Ideal for sunbathing, swimming and boogie boarding, the beach – named for the late local surfer and “Ambassador of the Sea” Stanley Searfus – is home to the shipwreck of the SS Monte Carlo, a fascinating draw for curious onlookers during low tide when the outline of the ghostly wreckage of the 1930s gambling ship appears.
A miles-long, locals’ favorite on the Point Loma peninsula, Sunset Cliffs is a must-see with its spectacular sculpted sandstone cliffs, coves, arches and sea caves that are especially striking at sunset when a palette of fiery red and orange hues paints the coast. At the 68-acre Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, a small secret beach with tide pools can be found at the foot of the bluffs. Low tide is the best time to visit and enjoy this uncrowded seaside sanctuary at the ocean’s edge.
Located in Mission Bay, the largest manmade aquatic park in the world, isolated Mission Point is a breezy, fun-filled oasis of soft white sand and green park space. Families with small children are sure to love sunning and swimming in its calm waters, picnicking, bicycling along flat winding paths, running around the playground or flying a kite off its windswept shores.
SOUTH MISSION BEACH
South Mission Beach is an expansive, less-crowded alternative to the perpetual spring break vibe and crowds of Mission Beach and Pacific Beach. Visitors can find acres of open white sand to plant their beach umbrella and spread out beach towels while enjoying the crashing waves and ocean breezes. For sporty beachgoers, there’s a basketball court and more than a dozen beach volleyball courts to spike the day away or just watch the action.
Located beneath the 300-foot bluffs of the Torrey Pines mesa in La Jolla, Black’s Beach – named after the Black family, whose horse farm overlooked the beach – is challenging to hike to via its steep canyon trails, but worth every sandy step. For a wide two-mile stretch of scenic, unspoiled beach awaits those who make the journey. A beloved surf spot for locals, who usually hang ten on the southern end, Black’s secluded location also attracts nudists (or ‘nakes’ as surfers call them) and the LGBT community who tend to gather north of the Glider Port trail.
SOUTH PONTO BEACH
Located in Carlsbad just south of the Batiquitos Lagoon inlet on Historic Highway 101, South Ponto Beach is secluded with its high sand dunes and is wider and more laidback than its northern namesake. Visitors can find campers and day-use guests riding bikes, playing beach volleyball and body surfing on the often uncrowded beach below. Savvy surfers can hang ten at Ponto’s more well-defined peaks than the faster-closing surf breaks on South Carlsbad State Beach to the north.
SEASIDE STATE BEACH
The beaches in Encinitas are some of the best hidden gems in San Diego’s North County, especially Seaside Beach which runs parallel to Highway 101. A lot less busy than other beaches in the area, this long stretch of sand is great for families wanting to swim, surf or boogie board. Seaside is also a prime spot for beachcombing and exploring tidepools. Find your smile in San Diego. For more information on San Diego’s offerings, including exciting vacation packages and valuable coupons for attractions, restaurants and more, visit the San Diego Tourism Authority’s website at www.sandiego.org.