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.
Coronado’s 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.
Note: This information is based on when the beaches are in full normal use. Restrictions may currently apply. You can check the City of Coronado website to see what regulations are in effect.
How to Get to Coronado Island
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 Coronado land access, visitors to Coronado have for decades driven 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.
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 with the shops and restaurants of Orange Avenue also steps away.
There are several other, less prominent Coronado beach areas 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, Dr. Beach, and similar outlets. It runs along Ocean Boulevard with the popular Hotel del Coronado beach resort located 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 on this sandy beach.
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.
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 to the sand. One need not be a guest of the hotel to enjoy these, but availability of rentals is on a first-come, first-serve basis. They will also set up chairs 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 the self-park or valet park at Hotel del Coronado.
North Beach/Coronado Dog Beach
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 definitely one of the best beaches on Coronado Island for dog lovers and owners alike.
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 showers are available, as are fire pits. Seasonal lifeguards staff the area.
Parking: Street parking at Coronado beach 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 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.
Silver Strand State Beach
This big sandy beach 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 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 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) usually 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 on holidays 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 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 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
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
See also: 20 Best Things to Do in Coronado
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 the beach areas of Coronado can be a challenge during peak beach days.
If you drive yourself, you’ll find some free parking on Ocean Boulevard and at Ferry Landing Marketplace. Other than that, you’ll have to opt for on-street parking unless you’re staying at a Coronado hotel or resort near the beach. If you’re having a hard time 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 you take an Uber or go 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 if you are 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 if there is any danger in the water or if it’s too rough for swimming and water activities.
When it comes to fun at the beach, the safety of you and your family comes 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 harsh rays of the sun. 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. There are facilities 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 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?