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 beach in front of the hotel is consistently voted one of America’s best.
Coronado beaches (and The Del) are why most people ask me about staying in this resort town before anywhere else in San Diego County. We residents love them, too, so I’ve put together a few things you need to know about Coronado Island beaches before you go. Because now, more than ever, you must understand the current situation of the bay or ocean water.
The Best Coronado Beaches to Visit
Most day visitors to Coronado beaches typically head to Coronado Central Beach first. The Hotel del Coronado is adjacent to part of it, with the shops and restaurants of Orange Avenue also steps away.
There are several other, less prominent Coronado beach areas as well. Each public beach is described below (we’ve left the ones that require Naval base access of the list).
CORONADO BEACH TIPS & ALERTS
- A more sensitive ocean water testing system was implemented in San Diego County recently that triggers closers of the ocean for swimming when bacteria levels are considered high.
- The ocean beaches most impacted are from Coronado to the Mexico border.
- Closures are most likely to happen after rainfall, but there have been a few occasions in 2023 when closures were triggered with no rain.
- We haven’t had complaints yet from guests staying at Hotel del Coronado during ocean closures because the beach itself is still open, and there’s still so much to do!
- You can check the latest status at sdbeachinfo.com (updated once per day), or @SDBeachH20 Twitter feed seems to have more frequent updates. Multiple Coronado beach areas are tested. The station in front of the Hotel del Coronado is Coronado Lifeguard Tower. If that is green/open, you can swim in front of the hotel.
1. Coronado Central Beach (at the iconic Hotel Del Coronado)
Coronado Central Beach is a 1.5-mile-long beach regarded as one of the best beaches in the United States by the likes of The Travel Channel, Dr. Beach, and similar media outlets. When people talk about visiting Coronado beach, this is the one they are talking about.
It runs along Ocean Boulevard with the iconic Hotel del Coronado beach resort at its southern end.
The beach is flat with a vast (for San Diego) strip of soft sand between the boardwalk and the ocean, which means it’s possible to spread out on this sandy beach even on busy days.
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. This makes it one of the most picturesque beaches in Coronado and very popular with families.
Popular activities (This is by far one of San Diego’s best beaches because there is so much to do.):
- Tide pooling in front of the Hotel del Coronado during winter low tides (on our list for best San Diego tide pools)
- Coronado beach swimming
- 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 a.m. – 6 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day)
- Volleyball (bringing a net is advisable as city nets are not always up)
- Bike rentals (for use on the boardwalk)
Amenities: This beach 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 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 close to the resort called Del Beach, where visitors can rent chairs and cabanettes and enjoy food and drink service on the sand.
One need not be an overnight hotel guest to enjoy Del Beach, but rentals are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. They will also set up chairs and umbrellas closer to the shoreline.
Parking: Free street (and often scarce) parking is available along nearby Ocean Boulevard. There are also two accessible parking spaces. You can also pay for the self-parking or valet parking at Hotel del Coronado.
2. North Beach/Coronado Dog Beach
Locals and dog owners head just north of Coronado Central Beach to North Beach. Dogs are allowed at its north end, referred to as Coronado Dog Beach.
It’s definitely one of the best beaches on Coronado Island for dog lovers and owners alike. In fact, it’s one of the best dog beaches in all of San Diego.
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, Coronado 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 shower facilities are available, as are fire pits. Seasonal lifeguards staff the area.
Parking: Street parking areas at this Coronado beach are available along Ocean Boulevard, but it’s a bit of a walk to the beach from there.
3. 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 called Shipwreck Beach or Stan’s Beach (thanks to a memorial plaque there dedicated to a Coronado resident who was president of the Coronado Surfing Association, among many other notable contributions).
It’s also famously the location of the SS 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 with beachgoers.
- Surfing lessons during seasonal hours (Coronado Surfing Academy, a top San Diego surf school, teaches here)
Amenities: It’s staffed by seasonal lifeguards and accessible via walking in from Coronado Central Beach or small stairs down from the beach boardwalk.
Parking: There is a free lot behind the Coronado Shores Beach Club condominium complex.
4. Silver Strand State Beach
This big sandy beach is 4.5 miles south of Coronado Village along the 7-mile isthmus called “The Strand,” the spit of land connecting Coronado to the mainland.
As mentioned above, the road along the Silver Strand is an alternative to the Coronado Bridge if you drive to/from Coronado from mainland San Diego.
The Coronado beach is actually in two parts: a 2.5-mile stretch of ocean beach and a 1/2-mile stretch of beach along the San Diego Bay’s calmer waters. If you are staying at Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Silver Strand State Beach is within walking distance, though the resort regularly operates a shuttle from the lobby.
Three pedestrian underpasses extend from the ocean beach parking lots under the highway to the bayside of Silver Strand State Beach.
Silver Strand State Beach is run by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, which offers some amenities that other Coronado beaches do not. For example, it’s a favorite spot for camping. Check the campground rules and regulations, first but note that reservations can be made online.
- 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)
- Grunion running (it’s one of the most popular grunion run beaches in San Diego)
Amenities: Beach restrooms (for day-use visitors) and cold showers are 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. You’ll pay a day use parking fee (at a kiosk, no humans staff the lot).
Please check the Silver Strand Beach section of the California Department of Parks and Recreation website for more details.
5. 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 over 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 a 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
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.
See also: 30 Things to Do in Downtown San Diego
6. Glorietta Bay Park Beach
This small, family-friendly beach borders the San Diego Bay. Glorietta Bay Park also has a playground for kids.
- Parties and playdates
- 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 gear rentals and classes are available at the Boathouse.
Parking: Use free street parking on Strand Way just off Silver Strand Boulevard at Rendova Road.
7. Coronado Tidelands Park
- Cycling 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 all visitors.
How to Get to Coronado Island in San Diego
Coronado is a land-tied island (a fact that even many San Diegans are unaware of). It’s connected to mainland San Diego via a narrow 7-mile tombolo strip of land called Silver Strand or “The Strand,” which leads from Coronado to Imperial Beach.
Despite land access, travelers to Coronado have driven over the Coronado Bridge to get there and back for decades. The bridge intersects the mainland just south of downtown San Diego, closer to the city’s heart than entering Coronado via Imperial Beach and Silver Strand.
You may also take the 15-minute Coronado Ferry from downtown San Diego. It departs from either the Broadway Pier on the Embarcadero or near the San Diego Convention Center. The arrival spot is Coronado Ferry Landing.
The Old Town Trolley Tour also stops on Orange Avenue near The Del. There are also various Coronado tours offered by other companies like Another Side of San Diego that focus specifically on the area or bundle multiple neighborhoods into one sightseeing adventure.
Tips for Enjoying Coronado Beaches
Here are a few tips to help you and your family enjoy the beaches of Coronado Island.
Coronado Beach Parking
Warning: Coronado beach parking can be difficult. Like the excellent beaches in Del Mar and beaches in La Jolla, finding a parking spot (free or paid) anywhere near a beach can be a challenge during peak beach days.
If you drive yourself, you’ll find free parking on Ocean Boulevard and Ferry Landing Marketplace. Besides that, you’ll have to opt for whatever street parking you can find unless you’re staying at a Coronado hotel or resort near the beach.
If you’re having difficulty securing a spot, try the residential streets east of Orange Avenue, as they are less busy.
But to save yourself the trouble, I’d suggest taking an Uber or going early in the day to the beaches on Coronado Island, especially if the sun is out and it’s summer, a weekend, or a holiday.
You can also check Parkopedia for available parking lots, paid and free.
Due to proximity to the Naval Air Base, kite flying, balloons, and other flying objects (drones included) are prohibited.
Glass containers and alcohol are prohibited. However, you can order adult beverages while enjoying a Del Beach rental.
Coronado is an entirely smoke-free city which means that one can’t smoke in any public areas, including the beach.
Like most other beaches around the world, littering is not allowed. Neither is noise pollution, so be sure to respect those around you while enjoying the beach.
Check the Coronado City website for more frequently asked questions and rules.
Like other San Diego beaches, Coronado uses Beach Warning Flags to advise guests of swimming conditions. These indicate any danger in the water or if it’s too rough for swimming and water activities.
Most recently, flags and signage also indicated if the ocean is closed for swimming due to pollution. You can read more about that on the City of Coronado’s website.
When it comes to fun at the beach, your safety and that of your family come first and foremost. So beaches with lifeguards are important, especially if your kids can’t yet swim. During the summer months, additional lifeguards are staffed around the beaches.
If you’re planning on spending an entire day in the sun, be sure to pack your beach umbrella (if none are available for rent at the beach you are going to) as well as high SPF sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s harsh rays. This is especially important for young children. You will need sunscreen even on cloudy days in San Diego.
Coronado Beach Activities
There are a variety of activities you can take part in at Coronado beaches. Browsing the tide pools, surfing, boogie boarding, paddle boarding, and soaking up the sun on the sand are all wonderful Coronado beach activities.
Beach volleyball is another popular activity. Facilities are available for this at Central Beach, but it’s recommended that you bring your own nets as the city’s nets aren’t always available.
Fishing in California requires a license, but with it, you can fish at many locations around Coronado Island.
Many ask about snorkeling. I think this is because the Coronado Islands in Mexico are famous for snorkeling. While you could certainly try it, you’re not likely to see much.
Map of Coronado Island: 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 to help you discover Coronado beaches relative to nearby hotels.
Frequently Asked Questions About Going to the Beach in Coronado
Is Coronado Beach Open?
Yes, the beaches in Coronado are open. Coronado beach hours are from 6 a.m. to sunset. However, you’ll want to separately check to see if the ocean or bay in front of them is open for swimming on sdbeachinfo.com.
Is Coronado Beach Open to the Public?
Yes, the Coronado beaches on this list are open to the public. There are some beaches in Coronado that aren’t open to the public and these include Gator Beach and Breakers Beach. These are inside the island’s Navy bases and for the use of military families and their guests.
Are the Beaches in Coronado Free?
Yes, they are free to use. However, you may have to pay for parking which can be difficult to find on peak days.
Which Coronado beach is your favorite and what do you like to do there?