Overview of surfing in San Diego County
San Diego County starts on the Southern edge of San Clemente and ends on the Mexican border to the south. This coastline is historic, containing legendary surf breaks and fostering some of the top surfing and shaping talent in the world (Rob Machado, Ryan Burch, Rusty, etc…). The Northern part of the county is made up of plains and short cliffs that plunge into the Pacific. The mid to Southern parts are made up of small beach towns (Oceanside, Encinitas, etc…) and the city of San Diego itself. All areas have their own unique waves and culture. There is a massive variety in these waves, from perfectly groomed cobblestone points, sucky and heavy reefs, soft and long rolling reefs, to the full range of beach breaks. The urban areas here are much more laid back than LA. The coastal towns are the quintessential Southern California surf culture centers and the city of San Diego is a great place to get some nightlife with small town vibes.
The 39 best Surf spots in San Diego County
Overview of surfing spots in San Diego County
Surf spot overview
The coastline here is diverse and full of fantastic and historic surf spots. The first notable spot is Trestles. This spot is the premier high performance wave in Southern California as well as the world. Often compared to a skatepark this wave is a conveyor belt for top surf talent. Moving further south we come to the wave rich region of Ocenaside-Encinitas. These breaks are all easy to get to and can be very good on their day. Blacks Beach is the next famous spot: a heavy, heaving, barreling beach break. A step up and cajones are necessary here on a good day, but you will be rewarded with some excellent tubes. Moving south the coves of La Jolla provide smooth, rolling waves that became famous as surfing became more popular in California. These waves still provide excellent cruising opportunities for all levels of surfers. Crowds an be a problem along the entire coast. There are great waves everywhere here for all levels of surfers, have fun!
Access to Surf Spots
Have a car here and you can get to any spot. Some of the ares in the North require a short walk to get to, but most breaks are park and walk straight onto the sand. Almost all spots can also be checked from a car and it can be rewarding to drive a little bit to find the uncrowded wave on the day.
Surf seasons and when to go
The best time of the year to surf in San Diego County
San Diego County boasts a warm and dry climate almost year round. Summer is hot and very dry, winter is a bit more moist and cooler (but only a little). The mornings, as with most of the rest of California usually bring a great marine layer that carries much needed coolness and moisture to the air. Layers in the morning are necessary, but usually not more than a sweatshirt and pants, even in winter.
This season is warmer and usually has smaller swells, although many spots will only break well during this season. The onshore winds usually pick up a little earlier than in the winter, mornings are often the best time to surf when the fog is still keeping it glassy. A 3/2 is all you’ll need this time of year, although boardshorts or a bikini are not unheard of.
This time of year the swells are bigger and heavier from the Northwest. The weather cools down and the winds are better for more of the day. These groundswells light up the beach breaks and thicker reefs. Bring a step up and a 4/3 to be prepared. Locals can get territorial during this time of year.
San Diego County surf travel guide
Find trips that fit a flexible lifestyle
There is the full run of options here. From camping options in the Northern parts of the county to the resorts and hotels in the more populated areas, there is something for everyone’s preference. Be aware that these places can be pricey and booked out. Plan ahead and be ready to pay for close access to the coast.
A little less touristy than the LA area, there is still plenty to do in this county. Legoland is the place to be for amusement park fun and the San Diego Zoo is another great family friendly activity. Check out hiking options in the Northern Parts of the county for your outdoor itch. The city itself boasts a great nightlife scene with college town vibes. The small towns are lovely places to have a laid back bar or brewery experience. This area is great for families that want to do a bit more than just hang on the beach, but be a touch away from the bustle of LA.