What makes a beach good? Undoubtedly, we all have our own preferences, but you might find our preferences align with yours. In our search for the best San Diego beaches our criteria for defining ‘good’ were based on these factors: crowding, family-friendliness, safety, sand, overall cleanliness and pollution.

We’re pretty picky when it comes to deciding what makes a good beach. Here’s our list of best San Diego beaches!

Crowded beaches can be loud, it could also be tough to find a good spot to lay down your towel. An extremely important aspect to consider, especially when out with the kids, is safety. These San Diegan beaches are patrolled by San Diego lifeguards regularly to keep you and your family safe. Always exercise caution with your children near bodies of water, being vigilant is key to prevent drowning! The beaches are clean and sandy as opposed to littered and pebbly. These locations are a short walk or drive away from restaurants, parking and washrooms. Remember to always check the conditions and water quality with the local lifeguard or ranger before going to the beach!

1. South Imperial Beach

Imperial Beach is pretty crowded near the pier, but if you walk or drive to the south end of San Diego, Imperial Beach turns into a quiet and tranquil spot. A good time to go is between the morning and early afternoon. The quaint little beach town is awesome and more affordable than other ocean front towns. Lifeguards patrol the shoreline from 7:00 AM to dusk, 365 days a year. During the summer months, eight lifeguard beach towers, two emergency vehicles and the pier observation tower are staffed as needed to provide the 2.5 million annual visitors with maximum beach and ocean safety.

You can find out the status of the water quality and the conditions on the Imperial Beach website here before you go.

2. Silver Strand State Beach

If you still find South Imperial Beach to be too crowded opt for Silver Strand State Beach. This beach connects Coronado and Imperial Beach, this 2.5 mile ‘bridge’ between the two beaches is quiet. It’s the perfect place to have a picnic, swim around, kayak, play sports, surf or take a nap.

3. Black’s Beach

Black’s Beach isn’t as crowded as other beaches along the San Diego coast because it takes a fairly long hike down a steep trail. Alternatively, to get to Black’s Beach you can walk down the coast from Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. This secluded beach is San Diego’s only legalized clothing-optional beach – so you can come down here and be au-naturale. We don’t judge!

Despite the seclusion of Black’s Beach, it is still patrolled by lifeguards! Note that the city of San Diego recommends you use the adjacent North and South beaches to access this beach. The high cliffs and unimproved and unmaintained trails can be dangerous. The cliffs of Black’s Beach are unstable and slides can occur without warning, so it is best to stay well away from them.

4. Swami’s Beach

Swami’s offers a sand beach available from 4 A.M. to 2 A.M. and has lifeguard towers open from 10 A.M to 6 P.M. during the period of Late June to early September. The park at Swami’s Beach is a great vantage point for watching surfers and has shaded areas to enjoy a picnic as well. Come to Swami’s Beach at  low-tide to explore the tide pools north of the stairway.

Which do you consider to be the best San Diego beaches? Know of any hidden gems? Let us know in the comments below or @ us on Twitter or Instagram!