July 20, 2024
stingrays in san diego

Stingrays in San Diego: Are they Common?

There’s lot of sea life in the Pacific Ocean including all kinds of fish, sharks, jellyfish, dolphins and more. And yes, there are stingrays in San Diego.

In this article, we will explore the most common places to find stingrays in San Diego, what it feels like if stung, plus how to treat and avoid them.

Where are Stingrays in San Diego Beaches Most Common?

Stingrays in San Diego can be found at just about any beach. Some beaches are more common than others. But generally, stingrays in San Diego beaches are in shallow water. Stingrays thrive in warm, shallow waters. Subsequently, it’s common to find stingrays in San Diego along the shoreline. Due to this, beach goers need to be careful when walking or swimming in shallow depths.

Because of the warm water, stingray season in San Diego is also most common during summer months. The ocean temperature in San Diego is much warmer in the summer. As a result, you need to be much more careful to avoid stingrays during summer than winter.

While stingrays are just about everywhere in San Diego, stingrays are most common at these San Diego beaches:

Dog Beach Del Mar: Dog Beach is a haven for stingrays. This is most likely due to the river mouth that empties into the ocean here. The warm water from the marshes empties out which heats up the ocean. The water along the beach is also shallow for nearly one hundred yards along the coast. It’s common to see stingrays swimming here during summer months. Personally, this is the beach where I was stung 🙁

Black’s Beach: Blacks is notorious for sea life. Being located on a natural preserve with less people other than surfers, sea life also thrives here. Stingrays are just another sea creature to be aware of when swimming or paddling out to the lineup here. Nearby Scripps Pier is also used for studying marine biology; hence lots of sea life here.

La Jolla Shores: The shores is another ecological reserve. Particularly by La Jolla Cove, there is a reef with lots of marine life popular for snorkeling. The sheltered cove tends to keep water temperatures warmer as well. As a result, take caution for stingrays when swimming and surfing along this beach.

In summary, stingrays in San Diego beaches are common at the above spots. However, it’s good to generally be cautious during summer months and areas with shallow water.

stingrays in san diego beaches
Dog Beach in Del Mar is a hotspot for stingrays in San Diego

What Does a Stingray Feel Like?

Stingrays have a tough leathery skin. However, if you feel this; you are likely about to be feel their stinger! Stepping on an unsuspecting stingray is what triggers their defense mechanism. They have a barb in their tail that will lash out to jab you.

Speaking from personal experience, a stingray feels like being stabbed in the foot. At first, you will experience a sharp and shooting pain. This pain will hobble you and make it difficult to walk. Depending on the severity of the sting, you may be bleeding.

After the initial strike, you will experience a deep and painful throbbing sensation for nearly an hour. The pain will come in waves. However, once you get through the first hour, the pain will begin to subside.

Overall, a stingray feels like an unpleasant experience and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.

How to Treat a Stingray Sting?

After a stinging incident, it’s important to know how to treat a stingray sting. Proper treatment will not only help relieve the pain more quickly but also help to avoid infections. Here are some tips to properly treat a stingray sting.

  • Immediately cleanse the sight of the sting with hot water. In fact, it’s best to soak your foot in warm/hot water for 5-10 minutes to draw out the stinger’s venom
  • Do not confuse stingray treatment with jellyfish treatment (no peeing on the sting needed lol)
  • If a barb came off in your skin, use tweezers to pull it out
  • Elevate your foot and take a pain medication like Advil to reduce any pain/swelling
  • If the pain is continuous or doesn’t stop bleeding, go to a hospital

Overall, if you treat a stingray sting with these steps, you should be nearly recovered by the next day. Continue to monitor the site of the sting for infection. This is why cleaning and soaking the wound is the most important step to treat a stingray sting. This will help you avoid any infection. After my sting, my foot became infected and was swollen like a balloon. Due to this, I had to go to my doctor and take a course of antibiotics.

what does a stingray feel like
An infected stingray sting

How to Avoid Stingrays while Surfing in San Diego?

Stingrays in San Diego beaches are common. This doesn’t make it easy to avoid stingrays while surfing in San Diego. Of course, avoiding them altogether is the best option but that is nearly impossible to do so. To begin, I would suggest avoiding or being careful at the beaches listed above where stingrays are common in San Diego. Avoid surfing Blacks? Yea right!

Surfers aren’t going to skip out on their favorite breaks so here is the best way to avoid stingrays while surfing in San Diego. Do the stingray shuffle!

The stingray shuffle is a technique used while you are walking through shallow waters. Rather than picking up and dropping your foot with each step, try shuffling your feet along the ocean floor instead. A normal walking motion could drop your foot on an unsuspecting sting ray causing them to strike with their tail. Alternatively, shuffling your feet along the ocean floor will stir the sand and alert stingrays with that movement. As a result, the stingray will typically swim away instead of being surprised by your foot landing on them.

In conclusion, use the stingray shuffle when going through shallow waters. Once it’s deep enough to paddle on top of your board, you’ll have reached safety!

I hope this post has helped you learn more about stingrays in San Diego and how to avoid them. For more knowledge on surfing, sea creatures and more; subscribe below.

Other Sea Creatures in San Diego

Seals Guide

Sharks Guide

Jellyfish Guide


  • 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!

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