TRAVEL: Four Iconic San Diego Beach towns

Windansea Beach in La Jolla, by Jefferson Graham for the PhotowalksTV series.

Just like the South Bay’s Redondo/Hermosa/Manhattan Beach trio of beach cities, each unique and different from each other, California’s second largest city, San Diego, has four distinct beach cities as well, all worth exploring. 

For the latest episode of #PhotowalksTV, I brought my iPhone 14 Pro Max to San Diego to explore life outside of the South Bay Bubble. Beaches are all the same, yet so different, as I discovered when I ventured South. Last week I told you about visiting interior San Diego. This week it’s all about the beaches. 

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park in San Diego by Jefferson Graham for the PhotowalksTV series

Ocean Beach: This is a party town that’s full of bars and nightlife, like our Hermosa, and it also happens to have one of the longer piers in SoCal. But what we don’t have, and what was easily the highlight, for me, is Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. Here you get 68 acres of parkland on Point Loma, miles of hikes, and an awesome 100-step walk down to the rocky cliffs that has to be seen to be believed. See the picture directly above? That pretty much tells the story.

Belmont Park’s Giant Dipper in Mission Beach, which is part of San Diego.

Mission Beach: Home to the iconic Belmont Park amusement park. There are very few beach towns that still have a classic wooden roller coaster by the sea, and San Diego has one of them, the Giant Dipper, circa 1924, along with the “Plunge” which dates back to 1925, a classic 1900s era swim stadium. Beyond that, Mission has a long paved walkway for strolling, biking and such by the sea. San Diego tourism calls Mission “San Diego’s lively take on the classic boardwalk beach town with nearly two miles of oceanfront boardwalk, numerous rental shops and Belmont Park, a boardwalk amusement park.” Think of Mission as Redondo with an amusement park. 

The motel on the Pier in Pacific Beach, San Diego

Pacific Beach: The liveliest of the three beach towns, with tons of restaurants, bars and shops, along with your beach life. One highlight to look out for. The Pier happens to have a bonus: a motel directly there, that lets you sleep over the water. However, rooms are hard to come by–when I called in January they were booked solid through November, and they are not cheap, starting at $400 nightly. Think of Pacific as your Manhattan Beach. 

Windansea Beach in La Jolla, by Jefferson Graham for the PhotowalksTV series.

La Jolla: San Diego’s jewel, home to a University of California branch, aquarium and three must-see beach attractions. The Scripps Pier in La Jolla is not the old wooden variety, but made of concrete, and it’s a stunner to see. The La Jolla Cove is a beach that is favored by seals and sea lions, so if you’d like to get up close with them, this is the place, and it also sports some awesome sea caves. The Children’s Pool also attracts seals. And finally, the Windansea Beach has this wonderful little shack built by service personnel in the 1940s that still stands today, and makes you feel like you’re on some remote island somewhere. La Jolla also has a lively downtown with tons of high-end shops, restaurants and galleries. La Jolla can’t be compared to anything in the South Bay. It’s dramatic coast is reminiscent of Palos Verdes, but different, while the downtown could be a little Manhattan, but with more stores. 

On a good day, you can drive to San Diego from the South Bay in 2 hours, more when there’s traffic. 

Readers: if in San Diego on 2/11, we’ll be leading a free photowalk event at Embarcadero Marina Park. Come join us!

San Diego:

The live photowalk:


Greetings from San Diego:


48 Hours in San Diego:


San Diego Gallery:


Part 1 of the PhotowalksTV San Diego episode.


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