February 23, 2024
best san diego surf spots

10 Best Surf Spots in San Diego Chosen by Locals

San Diego’s coastline is over 70 miles long and is peppered with waves. Our team has meticulously scoured the coastline from San Onofre to Imperial Beach in order to bring you the best surf spots in San Diego.

In this Top 10 List, we will uncover the best San Diego surf spots and where each wave is. Using our unique Wave Rating System, each surf spot is ranked 1-10 based on critical factors like wave quality, consistency, and crowds. Whether you are a novice to surfing or an expert, there is something for everyone on this list.

Read on for a detailed breakdown on each of these top 10 San Diego surf spots. Now, you will really never miss a wave again. At the very least, you will know where to find the best surf spots in San Diego.

Locals List: Top 10 Best Surf Spots in San Diego

San Diego has numerous surf spots. We have been surfing San Diego for over a decade. It can be overwhelming to choose a break for your next session. Based on our experience, we will make it easy on you by hand selecting what we believe are the 10 Best Surf Spots in San Diego. After that, all you have to do is paddle out. Read on for the complete list.

Trestles

Rating: #1

Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Honestly, Trestles is in a league of it’s own. It is the most perfectly manicured, natural wave that I have ever surfed. Due to this, Trestles easily receives the number one spot on our Top 10 list. It’s sit’s on it’s own as the best wave in San Diego, if not California. The only factor that tarnishes Trestles is the mass of surfers that make the pilgrimage to surf this amazing wave.

best surfing san diego
Lowers surf break at Trestles.

Accessibility: The parking is free but it is a long walk to the beach.

Wave Quality & Consistency: Can I say natural wave machine?

Crowd Factor: The mass of people surfing here prevent a perfect score.

Overall: 4.9/5

Link to Full Trestles Review

Blacks Beach Surf Spot

Rating: #2

Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Blacks Beach is #2 on our list of the best surf spots in San Diego. This is because Blacks Beach is blessed with unmatched waves and scenery. Towering bluffs of Torrey Pines sit majestically above a near perfect beach break. One of the reasons that Blacks is so special is due to the sheer size of waves here. An underwater canyon funnels waves to a shallow ocean floor resulting in waves larger than anywhere in San Diego. Unfortunately, Blacks also get heavy crowds.

Blacks Beach is part of Torrey Pines State Beach in La Jolla. Interestingly enough, there are three routes to hike down to Blacks Beach making it accessible from a variety of parking options.

best surf spots san diego
Blacks Beach – one of the best San Diego surf spots

Accessibility: Similar to Trestles, free parking but a long trek to the beach.

Wave Quality & Consistency: Consistently the largest waves in San Diego are produced here. Barrels, corners, cruisers. Blacks has it all.

Crowd Factor: Also crowded but peaks are a little more shifty and spread out than Trestles.

Overall: 4.5/5

Link to Full Blacks Beach Review.

Swamis

Rating: #3

Skill Level: Intermediate

Swamis Surf Spot is another unrivaled break in San Diego. This spot is special as it is one of few points breaks in the San Diego region. At this location, waves peel off the point allowing for some of the longest and best groomed waves in San Diego. Furthermore, Swamis can hold swell when it’s well overhead. Sadly, crowds are also here in mass.

To get to Swamis, drive up the coast to Encinitas. This will land you at Swamis State Beach.

Swamis Surf Spot
When Swamis is on, its on!

Accessibility: Free lot right on top of the break but usually full.

Wave Quality & Consistency: Epic point break and leg burning long rides.

Crowd Factor: Crowds make us sad. Swamis is crowded. No bueno.

Overall: 4.2/5

Link to Full Swamis Review.

Sunset Cliffs

Rating: #4

Skill Level: Intermediate

Another one of the best San Diego surf spots, Sunset Cliffs is a true gem of South County. This is a beautiful stretch of coastline with unmatched sunsets! On the other hand, Sunset Cliffs also has multiple high quality breaks lining this section of coastline. I recommend surfing Sunset Cliffs during a low to mid tide winter swell. This break fires in winter but is pretty much nonexistent in summer. Choose your time of year wisely. Lots of locals surf here but localism isn’t like it once was in the 90s.

To get here, travel South to Point Loma. Sunset Cliffs is basically an extension of Ocean Beach.

Sunset Cliffs Surf Spot
Fun winter waves at Sunset Cliffs Surf Spot

Accessibility: Free nearby street parking but getting into the ocean from the cliffs can be sketchy depending on the tides.

Wave Quality & Consistency: A reliable wintertime break that holds big NW swells.

Crowd Factor: Not great but not terrible either. Crowds really depend on the break and long it’s been since a good swell.

Overall: 4.1/5

Link to Full Sunset Cliffs Review.  

Windansea Beach

Rating: #5

Skill Level: Intermediate

Windansea Beach is a La Jolla local favorite and is one of the best surf spots in San Diego for good reason. This reef break offers both lefts and rights from its small takeoff zone. When the surf is up, the lefts can barrel. When the surf is up, the crowds also come out to play.

Windansea is located in La Jolla. Paddle out just south of the surf shack on the beach. Parking can be tricky along this narrow section of road.

best surf spots in san diego
The Windansea surf shack.

Accessibility: Limited parking. Will have to do a few laps to get a spot or park a few blocks away. Paddle out on either side of the break for easier entry.

Wave Quality & Consistency: A classic La Jolla reef break that peels magnificently both left and right.

Crowd Factor: A tight takeoff window is worsened by thick, local crowds. Stay on the outside if you new or inexperienced.

Overall: 4.2/5

Link to Full Windansea Review.

Ponto Jetties

Rating: #6

Skill Level: Advanced

Also, one of the best San Diego surf spots in North County. Ponto Jetties is a beach break well known for its fast breaking waves. Due to this, they require skill to maneuver and attract a more advanced crowd. However, it is still one of the most fun waves in San Diego for advanced surfers. Best and busiest here during summer.

Ponto Jetties is part of the Carlsbad State Beach system. This break sits on the south end of Carlsbad State Beach. It has both beach and street parking.

ponto jetties surf
Ponto Jetties.

Accessibility: Usually can find something between the street parking or the beach parking on the South side of the beach. Paddle out manageable unless closed out.

Wave Quality & Consistency: A primo summertime break. Fast and hollow, for the advanced surfer.

Crowd Factor: Busy right off the jetty but that is also where the waves are best. More spread out the further you get from jetty.

Overall: 4.0/5

Link to Full Ponto Jetties Review.

Oceanside Harbor

Rating: #7

Skill Level: Intermediate

Oceanside Harbor is another one the best waves to surf in San Diego (North County). Since Oceanside is so far north, it is primarily a summertime break. South swells pound this part of the San Diego coastline during summer making for some unforgettable surf.

Oceanside Harbor has both free and paid parking where you are able to walk to the beach break.

surf spots san diego
Heavy day at Oceanside Harbor.

Accessibility: Easy parking. Paddle out can be a shoulder burn on a big swell.

Wave Quality & Consistency: Quality and consistent surf, especially in Summer.

Crowd Factor: Pretty full lineups, especially in Summer but there is some room to spread out.

Overall: 3.8/5

Link to Full Oceanside Harbor Review

Tourmaline Surf Park

Rating: #8

Skill Level: Beginner

Tourmaline is the best spot for longboarding in San Diego! It’s a reef break that gently breaks off PB Point. The wave is so soft and slow here that is absolutely perfect for longboarding. Due to this, it is also the best surf spot in San Diego for beginners. This gently sloping wave allows plenty of time to stand up and perfect your skills. However, another very busy wave!

Tourmaline Surf Park is on the northern edge of Pacific Beach. They have free lot parking. If it’s full, head to the street.

surfing tourmaline beach
Tourmaline Surf Park.

Accessibility: Large lot with free, easy parking.

Wave Quality & Consistency: All time wave for longboarders, beginners or people just looking to cruise a long ride.

Crowd Factor: Very popular and busy but friendly.

Overall: 4.3/5

Link to Full Tourmaline Review.

Seaside Reef

Rating: #9

Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Seaside Reef is a local’s favorite in North County. This reef break is known for its long left that can peel for days offering up plenty of turning sections. Beware of the small takeoff zone that can become crowded quickly.

Seaside Reef is located on the southern edge of Cardiff by the Sea. This beach offers a paid lot for parking.

seaside reef surf spot
Seaside Reef

Accessibility: Large lot but parking is paid.

Wave Quality & Consistency: An extremely rippable and fun wave.

Crowd Factor: Popular North County wave with limited takeoff windows means you have to be selective here.

Overall: 3.9/5

Link to Full Seaside Review.

Ocean Beach Pier

Rating: #10

Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Ocean Beach Pier is a mainstay of the San Diego surfing scene. Not only is it one the best surf spots in San Diego, it is the best pier surf spot in San Diego. Waves break off (and sometimes through) the pier. This beach break has lefts and rights. It gets busy during summer time but winter actually has the best and biggest surf.

Ocean Beach Pier is of course in OB. Look for free parking in the lot next to the pier or the streets through town.

pier surf spots in san diego
Ocean Beach Pier Surf Spot

Accessibility: Street and lot parking but OB is a busy place.

Wave Quality & Consistency: A fun, above average wave that is quite consistent.

Crowd Factor: Get here on dawn patrol but you can still spread out to surf.

Overall: 3.5/5

Link to Full OB Pier Review.

Start the discussion – what would you change on this list?

Honorable Mention Best Surf Spots in San Diego

It’s always tough to choose a Top 10 list on anything. As such, here’s a short synopsis for a few additional breaks that did not quite make our list for the Top 10 surf spots in San Diego. They include:

Big Rock

Big Rock (in Bird Rock) is considered San Diego’s pipeline when its pumping. It’s super hollow when big and waves will barrel directly in front of a big rock. As such, this spot is only recommended for experts.

San Onofre

The little sister to Trestles. San Onofre also has super clean and fun waves during the summer. However, it is just as crowded despite being only 10 minutes South of Trestles.

Horseshoe

Horseshoe is one of the premiere waves in San Diego during heavy winter swells. It is a precarious, shallow reef break only suggested for experts. This reef break is in La Jolla.

Wrapping up my top 10 best San Diego surf spots – Choosing a favorite break is largely based on personal opinion. However, based on wave quality and consistency – these breaks will be at the top of most lists. To score these waves at the best time of year, be sure check out my seasonal surf guide. Otherwise, you might want to try check out one of the uncrowded waves in San Diego. They aren’t as good but I prefer more waves over more people.

Link to all San Diego Surf Spot Reviews for further reading.

Related: The Most Gorgeous Beaches in San Diego if you are looking for other activities besides surfing.

best places to surf in san diego
Enjoying some of San Diego’s best surf spots 🙂

Our Method to Ranking the Best Surf Spots in San Diego

Our Wave Rating System is what allows us to assign ranking from 1-10 for each of the waves part of this list. There are three main criteria that allow us to rank a wave which include Accessibility, Wave Quality/Consistency, and Crowd Factor.

Accessibility: Generally, how easy is the wave to access. This includes factors such parking availability, distance of walking to the beach and difficulty of the paddle out.

Wave Quality + Consistency: This measures good the actual wave is combining factors including how long the ride is, how clean the wave is and how rippable it is. Lastly, we measure how consistent or often the wave is actually of high quality.

Crowd Factor: This all depends on the people. Less crowded and more friendly surfer, we score it higher.

Using these three main criteria and giving each criteria equal weight, we attempt to assign an overall ranking for each surf spot from 1-10. This is similar to criteria that we use when assigning a surf spot a rating out of 5 stars.

Mapping out the Best Surf Spots in San Diego

To find all of the surf spots in San Diego, I would suggest using a map. For an easy to read map of all the waves in San Diego, check out Franko Maps. They have a two sided laminated map; one side landmarks all of the surf spots in North County; the other side landmarks all of the surf spots in South County.

best surf spots in san diego map
Mapping out the best surf spots in San Diego.

If you prefer a digital version, I will be creating and releasing my own digital map of each surf spot in San Diego soon. Subscribe below to be alerted on it’s release and obtain a free edition.

Overall, I hope you’ve found this list useful. Please refer to it at anytime and share with your friends and surf buddies. I release a new surf spot review monthly so it’s possible this Top 10 list for Best Waves in San Diego will change in the future.

best surf spots in san diego
Good luck on your quest to find the best surf spots in San Diego!

Author

  • Gavin Bechtold

    Gavin has been living and surfing in San Diego for over a decade. He loves the ocean and is lucky to call San Diego home. Frustrated with mainstream reviews, he set out to create the best source of surf reviews for San Diego beaches. Check the About page for more info!