Southern California has more beaches than we can count, but there is something special about the San Diego sand. Here, the four main beaches—Mission Beach, La Jolla, Pac Beach and Ocean Beach—make waves with their charm and unique appeal. Which beach will you visit? Try all four!

Mission Beach

The two-mile stretch of beach between Belmont Park and Pacific Beach is a thriving boardwalk with many, many attractions for travelers. Families and thrill-seekers head straight to historic Belmont Park for classic rides such as the Tilt-a-Whirl and bumper cars, and everyone jumps at the chance to raise their hands on the Giant Dipper roller coaster, which was built when the park was new in 1925. Visitors can also enjoy more modern favorites like a high ropes course and laser tag, and they can even ride a wave here without taking the trouble to walk down to the beach.  The boardwalk itself is the perfect place to take a stroll, grab a bite to eat or simply sit and people-watch. Many shops will rent out bikes or rollerblades so travelers can breeze through like a pro. Mission Beach is the ideal beach for families or travelers who enjoy staying active. Although it is a very busy place, Mission Beach does have quieter sections as well — South Mission Beach Park, for example, which is great for fishing and relaxation in general.

La Jolla

Nestled in the affluent neighborhood of La Jolla, this beach stretches from the sea cliffs just north of La Jolla Cove to Black’s Beach, south of Torrey Pines State Park. Surfers looking for a challenge head to Black’s Beach to ride the waves, and although public nudity is illegal in California, Black’s Beach is the spot for those who wish to let it all hang out. You’ve been warned. Kayakers set out from La Jolla Shores to explore the sea cliffs and caves to the north, but boards of any type — surf, boogie, etc. — are prohibited in order to protect the tame underwater wonders that frequent this area. Garibaldi fish and other marine animals beckon swimmers, snorkelers and scuba divers to explore. La Jolla is a laid-back location that will work well for those who wish to sit back and enjoy the scenery as well as for young families who are interested in a tame environment for their little ones to enjoy the sun and sand. Everyone — regardless of age — loves the Children’s Pool near downtown La Jolla, an area that was originally built as a safe haven for children, but is now a protected area for the seals and sea lions who have claimed it as their own.

Pac Beach

Just north of Mission Bay is Pacific Beach, an iconic SoCal town drawing in the young crowd. The boardwalk along Pac Beach is littered with clothing stores, restaurants and bars, making it a favorite place for the 20-somethings who party on the beach during the day and along the strip at night. Families flock to the stretch from Tourmaline to Crystal Pier, where the waters are calmer than in other areas and the lifeguards are always abundant. Swimming and surfing are separated in Pac Beach, and the surfers head to Tourmaline Surfing Park. The waves here aren’t anything special, so this is the best spot in San Diego to hang out for those who are trying to learn how to ride a wave and those who like to paddleboard.

Ocean Beach

The hip crowd’s beach of choice is Ocean Beach. People from all walks of life head here for the vintage Cali vibe — surf shops, taco stands and VW vans. The OB,(for short) is also where the locals spend their days. Swimmers and sunbathers delight in the relaxed atmosphere here, and our furry friends do too. Pets are encouraged to run free at Dog Beach, located between Mission Bay Harbor Channel and the jetty at the north end of Ocean Beach. The biggest attraction in OB, however, is the half-mile-long pier —one of the longest piers in Southern California — that has sensational views of the coast and the Pacific regardless of the time of day.

Every beach in San Diego offers travelers something new and exciting. The laid-back traveler relishes the groovy vibe at Ocean Beach, and partygoers flock to Pac Beach. Explorers and families alike soak up the sun at La Jolla, and every type of traveler will delight in the activities along the boardwalk at Mission Beach. There’s no better way to spend a getaway than indulging in some San Diego sun and sand.