When most people think of Coronado, what typically comes to mind first is the iconic Hotel Del Coronado and the picturesque Coronado Bridge. Others probably also think of the US Navy. But the long, sandy Coronado beaches are consistently voted some of America’s best.
How to Get to Coronado Island
Coronado is not an island (a fact that even many San Diegans are unaware of). It’s a peninsula connected to mainland San Diego via a narrow 7-mile strip of land called Silver Strand or “The Strand” which leads from Coronado to Imperial Beach.
Despite Coronado being a peninsula, visitors to Coronado have for decades driven merely over the Coronado Bridge to get there and back. The bridge intersects the mainland just south of downtown San Diego, which is closer to the heart of the city than entering Coronado via Imperial Beach and Silver Strand.
Know Before You Go
Warning: Coronado beach parking. Like the excellent beaches in Del Mar and La Jolla, finding a parking spot (free or paid) anywhere near the beach areas of Coronado can be a challenge during peak beach days. Take an Uber or go early in the day if the sun is out and it’s summer, a weekend, or a holiday.
Due to proximity to the Naval Air Base, kite flying, balloons and other flying objects (drones included) are prohibited. According to the Coronado Beach Map, the city allows kite flying in a small area at Coronado Shores Beach.
Glass containers and alcohol are prohibited. However, you can order adult beverages from the Hotel Del Coronado to a Del Beach rental (more details below).
Coronado is an entirely smoke-free city which means that one can’t smoke in any public areas, including the beach.
Like other San Diego beaches, Coronado uses Beach Warning Flags to advise guests of swimming conditions.
Fishing in California requires a license.
Check the Coronado City website for more frequently asked questions and rules.
Best Coronado Beaches
Most day visitors to Coronado beaches typically head for Coronado Central Beach. The Hotel del Coronado is adjacent to part of it. There are several other, less prominent beach areas in Coronado as well. Each is described below.
Coronado Central Beach
Coronado Central Beach is a 1.5-mile long beach regarded as one of the nation’s best beaches by the likes of The Travel Channel and similar outlets. It runs along Ocean Boulevard with the Hotel Del Coronado at its southern end.
The beach is flat with an unusually broad (for San Diego) strip of sand between the boardwalk and ocean, which means even on busy days, it’s possible to spread out. A mineral called mica causes the sand here to glimmer. You can see these little flecks of gold shimmer best in the swash and calmer knee-deep water before the waves break.
Popular activities: This is by far one of San Diego’s best beaches.
- Tide pooling in front of the Hotel Del Coronado (during winter low tides)
- Boogie boarding
- Beachcombing (go in the morning in search of shells like sand dollars)
- Surfing (seasonal hours apply as no hard boards are allowed from 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day)
- Surfing lessons during seasonal hours (Coronado Surfing Academy is one option)
- Volleyball (bringing a net is advisable as city nets are not always up)
- Bike rentals (for use on the boardwalk)
Amenities: This beach also has public restrooms and showers near the Central Beach Lifeguard Tower, as well as fire rings and beach volleyball courts. Lifeguards are on duty here year-round from 9:00 a.m. to sunset.
A limited amount of beach wheelchairs are available at the Central Beach Lifeguard Tower.
The Hotel Del Coronado has an area called Del Beach where visitors can rent chairs and cabanettes and enjoy food and drink service to the sand. One need not be a guest of the hotel to enjoy these, but it is on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Parking: Free street (and often scarce) Coronado beach parking is available along nearby Ocean Boulevard. There are also two accessible parking spaces.
Locals and dog owners head just north of Coronado Central Beach to North Beach. Dogs are allowed at its northern end, referred to as Coronado Dog Beach. It’s leash-free year-round, as indicated by signs that run along Ocean Boulevard from Sunset Park to the U.S. Naval Station. This beach also boasts excellent views of the Hotel Del Coronado and Point Loma.
- Frisbee, ball and other dog-friendly games
- Surfing (In front of Dog Beach is the only place to surf in Coronado when it is seasonally prohibited at other Coronado beaches)
Amenities: Directly across the street from North Beach is Sunset Park. Its massive grassy areas make it ideal for soccer and picnics. There is also a small kids’ playground. Dogs need to be leashed at the park. Bathrooms and showers are available as are fire pits. Seasonal lifeguards staff the area.
Parking: Street Coronado beach parking is available along Ocean Boulevard, but it’s a bit of a walk to the beach from there.
Coronado Shores Beach/South Beach
Coronado Shores Beach, otherwise known as South Beach, is located directly south of the Hotel Del Coronado. It’s also famously the location of USS Monte Carlo shipwreck. The floating gambling casino sank in 1936, and at very, very low tides, it’s possible to walk (carefully) on its remnants.
This beach tends to (usually) be less crowded.
- Kite flying (according to the Beach Map),
Amenities: It’s staffed by seasonal lifeguards and accessible via walking in from Coronado Central Beach or stairs down from the beach boardwalk.
Parking: There is a free lot behind the Coronado Shores Beach Club condominium complex.
Silver Strand State Beach
This beach area is located 4.5 miles south of Coronado Village along the 7-mile isthmus called “The Strand,” the spit of land that connects Coronado to the mainland. As mentioned above, the road along the Silver Strand is an alternative to the Coronado Bridge if you are driving to/from Coronado from mainland San Diego.
The beach is actually in two parts: a 2.5-mile stretch of ocean beach and a 1/2-mile stretch of beach along the calmer waters of the San Diego Bay. If you are staying at Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Silver Strand State Beach is within walking distance.
Three pedestrian underpasses extend from the ocean beach parking lots under the highway to the bay side of Silver Strand State Beach.
Silver Strand State Beach is run by the California Department of Parks and Recreation which means it offers some amenities that other Coronado Beaches do not. For example, it’s a favorite spot for camping. Be sure to check the campground rules and regulations first but note that reservations can be made online.
- California Junior Ranger Program (for kids ages 7–12) on Saturdays between 3:30–4:30 p.m.
- Nature walks, kayak tours, volunteer opportunities and other special events
- Camping (self-contained recreational vehicles, motorhomes, or trailers only)
- Bay beach (calmer water) activities
- Fishing (will need a permit)
Amenities: Beach restrooms (for day use visitors) and cold showers are available. The Silver Strand Beach Café operates from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend. In addition to concessions like ice cream and sandwiches, guests can rent boogie boards and other beach gear here (call ahead to see what is available). Fire pits are available on a first-come, first-serve basis during the summer.
Parking: Four large parking lots here can accommodate up to 1,000 vehicles. Day use parking rates are $10 Monday–Friday and $12 Saturday–Sunday (prices are subject to change so check before arrival).
Please check the Silver Strand Beach section of the California Department of Parks and Recreation website for more details.
Coronado Ferry Landing Beach
This small stretch of beach is where the Coronado Ferry transports passengers from Coronado to the Broadway Pier in downtown San Diego. The views here over the San Diego Bay to downtown are quite spectacular. It’s a favorite place for kids to play in the sand before or after a ferry ride or meal at one of the many nearby restaurants at the Coronado Ferry Landing.
The Coronado Ferry Landing is on the opposite side of Coronado from the Hotel Del Coronado, about 1.5 miles away. It takes about 30 minutes to walk between the two.
- Kids’ activities (sandcastle building, playing at the water’s edge)
- Fishing off of the pier
- Taking the Coronado ferry to downtown
See also: 20 Things to Do in Downtown San Diego
Amenities: The shops and restaurants of the Coronado Ferry Landing.
Parking: The Coronado Ferry Landing parking lot is complimentary for patrons of the shops and restaurants.
Glorietta Bay Park Beach
This small, family-friendly beach borders the San Diego Bay. Glorietta Bay Park also has a playground for kids.
- Paries and play dates
- Family-friendly beach activities (play at the water’s edge, sandcastles)
- Bay water sports (kayaking, swimming, SUP)
Amenities: Seasonal lifeguards, restrooms, boat launch, picnic tables and a paved bike path are present here. Water sports rentals and classes are available at the Boathouse.
Parking: Use free street parking on Strand Way just off Silver Strand Boulevard at Rendova Road.
Coronado Tidelands Park
Coronado Tidelands Park is the largest of the San Diego Bay parks and has a small, picturesque slice of beach with views of the Coronado Bridge and downtown. This park is near the Coronado Marriott.
- Biking around the bike path
- Casual sand play
Amenities: Visitors will find restrooms, picnic areas, lots of grass and a bike path to ride or walk along. The bike path spans from Silver Strand to the Ferry Landing.
Parking: There is a free parking lot for Coronado beach parking.
See also: 20 Best Things to Do in Coronado
Map: Coronado Beaches and Popular Coronado Hotels
Coronado isn’t big and is one of the easiest places in San Diego to go carless. However, I’ve created this map as it helps to see the location of the beaches relative to popular Coronado hotels.
Which Coronado beach is your favorite and what do you like to do there?