Turquoise waters, bright blue skies and squeals of delight from beach lovin’ kids — that’s what summer in San Diego is all about. While there’s no shortage of gorgeous beaches in “America’s Finest City,” there are a few stretches of sand that stand out for their family-friendly perks. Read on for 7 local beaches that will have your whole crew doing the ‘wave.’

Best Beach for a Quintessential Summer Day: La Jolla Shores

They don't call it "The Crown Jewel" for nothing. La Jolla Shores beach is a breathtaking place to spend the day with friends and family. Located on the southern end of La Jolla Underwater Park, this kid-friendly beach offers gentle bay like waters and a sandy ocean bottom for pint-sized swimmers. Kellogg Park, with its awesome jungle gym and swings offers a grassy place to start or end your day. Looking for a local place to grab a bite to eat near the beach? Pop in The Cheese Shop and try one of their mouthwatering sandwiches and a homemade cookie. These days are what summer is all about.

Insider's Tip: Waves at La Jolla Shores are typically the most gentle of all San Diego beaches during the summer months.

Located at: 8300 Camino Del Oro, La Jolla

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photo: Aimee Della Bitta

Best Place to Catch the Sunset: Moonlight Beach

Hands down, Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, is an absolute favorite among local families. Rooted in history (the name "moonlight" traces back to the early 1900s when residents used to have midnight picnics on the beach) and rich with local flair, this is a beach that begs you to play all day and relax while watching the sunset at night. In addition to updated bathrooms and a buzzing snack shack, there's a play structure at the park for those who want a little extra entertainment. Lifeguards are on duty during designated hours, but this spot does get crowded during the on-season. Make sure to venture to the far north end if you're looking for a little extra space away from the masses.

Located at: 400 B St., Encinitas

photo: Beth Shea

Best Kept Secret: Ponto Beach

North county folks know how to keep a secret and one of them is just how awesome Carlsbad's Ponto Beach is. This small, beautiful beach is a favorite among locals for good surfing and quality family time. The flat shoreline makes it easy to keep an eye on the kids while they play in the sand. There's street parking as well as a pay-to-park lot and the restrooms are clean and easily accessible, making this slice of paradise worth the drive north.

6039 Carlsbad Blvd., Carlsbad

Best Place To Explore Marine Life: Tide Beach Park

A curious kid's dream, Tide Beach Park  is a hidden treasure among San Diego beaches. Located at the north end of Solana Beach, the secluded area of sand is rarely crowded. Get ready to hike down a long set of stairs that leads you to a semicircular cove and a large reef, called Table Tops. Try to get to the tide pools at low tide for the best experience. Prep your little ones to keep their eyes out for anemones, starfish, crabs and other varieties of little fish. Be sure kids use the potty before heading out on your adventure since this beach does not have a restroom. Parking however, is easy breezy, just look for free street parking nearby the intersection of Pacific Ave. and Solana Vista Dr.

Located at: 302 Solana Vista Dr., Solana Beach

photo: Beth Shea

Best Overall: Del Mar City Beach

Fenced in playground, check. Look out point, check. Cool trains passing by, check. You will be hard pressed to find anything at all wrong with Del Mar City Beach ––and that's why there are quite a few San Diego residents that will insist it's the best in town. The beach is complete with lifeguards, restrooms, a grassy park area with a playground and it is situated right near Del Mar's prime shops and restaurants. This beach had us hooked from the first wave!

Located at: 17th St., Del Mar

Best Beach to Build Sandcastles: Cardiff Reef Beach

Cardiff Reef Beach is located in the beautiful neighborhood of Cardiff by the Sea. This gently sloping beach is great for families with young kids. You can collect shells, walk in the water, soak up the sun and build sandcastles. The beach has restroom facilities and lifeguards are on duty at certain times. Parking can be tricky during peak hours, so come prepared to scout out a spot or try to stop by at off-times.

Located at: Highway 101, Cardiff by the Sea

photo: Aimee Della Bitta

Best Beach for a Staycation: Silver Strand Beach

Topping Parents Magazine's list of "10 Best Beach Towns," Coronado is a staycationer's dream. Coronado Beach was also just named one of Dr. Beach's Top U.S. Beaches for 2017. And while there are plenty of gorgeous white sands to choose from at this idyllic locale, our favorite is Silver Strand Beach. The 3 1/2 mile stretch of sand is less crowded during peak season than other options and offers gentler waves for beginner swimmers. And, if you decide you need a picnic lunch to make your staycation complete — head through a "tunnel" that leads to the Loews Coronado Bay Resort and grab some food from their Market to Go Cafe. This is all the destination vacation you'll need this summer!

5000 Coast Hwy. 75, Coronado

Which San Diego beach is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

––Aimee Della Bitta

 

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