From Ocean Beach to Fiesta Island, here’s where to (legally) play with your pup on San Diego shores.
San Diego is famous for its diverse beaches, attracting both locals and tourists alike — but what about canine visitors?
Though there are plenty of options where humans can enjoy the ocean, it can take some digging to find spots where furry companions are also welcome. So we searched the coast and found four leash-free dog beaches in San Diego for your four-legged friend.
These beaches welcome pups of all shapes, sizes and breeds — it’s common to see a Great Dane and a Chihuahua in the same visit. Just make sure your dog plays well with others, and has up-to-date licensing and vaccinations.
Ocean Beach Dog Beach
Enter at W. Point Loma Boulevard and Voltaire Street, Ocean Beach
The scoop: It’s rare for the grounds to be empty at San Diego’s original dog beach (which, according to the Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association, is also one of the first off-leash dog beaches in the entire country). Sandwiched between several rock jetties on the north end of Ocean Beach, it resembles a flat desert with a large portion of sand perfect for pups who love to run. But most of the action takes place at the shore, where owners chat on the bank while dogs splash around in the shallow water.
Getting there: A free parking lot is available adjacent to Dog Beach, but it can fill up quick. You can also try the two other parking lots near the lifeguard station or look for spots along Newport Avenue.
Beware of: Dog poop and trash. Though it’s gotten better over the years — partly due to community cleanups— don’t be surprised if this dog beach has some litter and not-the-best sand.
Bonus points: While most dog beaches have rules citing specific hours your pup is allowed, this one is open and off-leash 24 hours a day. Enjoy it whenever, whether you and your pup are early risers or night owls.
After drying off: There are many dog-friendly restaurants in Ocean Beach, so grab a coffee, beer or bite to eat after a visit to the shore. And if you go on a Wednesday afternoon, take your pup for a walk while you cruise the weekly outdoor farmers market.
Del Mar Dog Beach
3200 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar
The scoop: North County pups can find their friends at Del Mar’s North Beach. Located at the river mouth, the waterway conveniently divides the beach into two sections with two separate entrances. The north side is more bustling, with lots of families, umbrellas and even a volleyball court. If your pup is a little shy, the south end boasts a quieter, low-key vibe.
Getting there: There is a strip of paid parking on Camino Del Mar by the north entrance. If those spots are taken, or you want to save money, drive over the bridge for free parallel parking in the residential area. Just be careful as you walk to either entrance — cars and bikes tend to zoom by quickly on the single-lane street.
Beware of: Peak season. Between June 16 to Labor Day, dogs are only allowed unleashed from dawn to 8 a.m. You can still bring your pup after 8 a.m. in the summer, but they must be leashed.
Bonus points: This beach is home to the annual Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon, hosted by Helen Woodward Animal Center and SoCal Surf Dogs. Sign your adventurous pup up for surfing lessons and enter him or her into the competition. (Details at animalcenter.org/surf-dog-surf-a-thon.)
After drying off: Drive to the nearby One Paseo shopping center for a meal at International Smoke, where your pup can try the restaurant’s specialty dog menu: Fido’s Feast (which was featured in our January 2020 issue).
Coronado Dog Beach
311 Ocean Blvd., Coronado
The scoop: This dog beach is definitely the most aesthetic, as the area offers Insta-worthy views of both the Hotel del Coronado and the Point Loma skyline. Its views are matched with super soft and clean sand. There’s also wheelchair accessibility mats leading all the way to the shore which are temperature controlled, allowing your pup’s feet to stay cool in the hot sun.
Getting there: The entrance is at the very end of Ocean Boulevard (next to the Naval Base) so try parking along that street first. Try the residential areas next. Though it’s a bit of a trek, the walk is a scenic route of luxurious houses and mansions.
Beware of: Ticketing. There’s a grass area near the entrance that’s perfect for your dog to wipe leftover sand off of his or her paws — but if you forget to leash up your pup, you’ll run the risk of getting a steep fine. While you can get a violation ticket at any beach, this area is rumored to be well-patrolled.
Bonus points: In addition to having a dog-accessible water fountain, this beach offers hoses to wash any salt, seaweed or slobber on your pup’s fur. (Just make sure to leash up during the rinse off, as this amenity is located at the grass section.)
After drying off: Try a dog-friendly happy hour in the area, like “Yappy Hour” at McP’s Irish Pub. Every month, McP’s donates 10 percent of the happy hour bar and restaurant tabs to PAWS, a nonprofit dedicated to finding homes for abandoned animals. (Details at pawsofcoronado.org/events/yappy-hour.)
1750 Fiesta Island Road, San Diego
The scoop: Fiesta Island, a peninsula of Mission Bay, is a popular place for sports events and parties — but it’s also the perfect place for pups. Your dog is allowed off leash almost anywhere on the peninsula, but there is a fenced-off section specifically designed with canines in mind. The beach doubles as a dog park, with grassy terrain for runners and adventure seekers, while a long strip of beach below the bluff offers calm bay waters for more timid dogs.
Getting there: Once you enter Fiesta Island, you’ll need to drive around the peninsula to reach the dog area. Parking is rarely a problem. Cars are welcome to park in the large dirt lot with unmarked stalls directly outside of the fence, as well as along the road throughout the entire peninsula.
Beware of: Event closures. Check the city’s website (sandiego.gov) before heading out, as the island is sometimes closed to the public due to marathons, races and other athletic events. Also, while dog bags are provided for your pup, there are no human restrooms on Fiesta Island.
Bonus points: In addition to the fence, there is a small gated portion where you can take your dog’s leash on and off — ideal for pups who have a tendency to get a little too excited when he or she first arrives and sees other pups to play with.
After drying off: Stick around the peninsula for a bonfire. Fiesta Island is one of the few places in the city where there are fire pits on the beach. So gather some human and canine friends for an outdoor gathering any time of year to enjoy the great weather San Diego is all about.