#BeachLifeGoals: San Diego activities to help you live that beach life

San Diego

When you visit San Diego, having fun in the warm California sun is synonymous with heading for the beach. While letting the waves lap at your sand-crusted toes is a noteworthy endeavor, you can get even more out of beach life with these must-do activities.

An aerial view of Torrey Pines State Park, the cliffs, and the beach associated with the park. This stretch offers coastal hiking trails, and a forest of Torrey Pines which can only be found in this region. I shot this image from an elevation of about 300 feet during a chartered helicopter photo flight after a storm near dusk.
An aerial view of Torrey Pines State Park in San Diego.

Walk on the wild side
Head to Torrey Pines State Reserve to hike through rare pines on scenic wildflower-strewn cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. A ¾-mile trail leads down to Torrey Pines State Beach where you can bask in the sunshine while watching hang gliders soar overhead. If you want to ditch your tan lines and get an all-over sunglow, head to Black’s Beach, San Diego’s unofficial clothing-optional beach. The secluded 2-mile beach lies just south of Torrey Pines.

Watch the wildlife
It may startle you to discover that the crowd of lounging bodies at Children’s Pool Beach aren’t necessarily human. Dozens of seals and sea lions bask on the sand in the protected cove once designed as a children’s swimming area. Walk along the seawall path for a close-up look from a safe distance. Bring your telephoto camera lens to get close-ups of the cute faces. You’ll also capture memorable shots of cormorants and pelicans dotting the rocky shoreline.

Go surfin’ USA
Riding the waves in San Diego is a must-do activity to live like a local. Head to Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, one of San Diego’s best kept secrets. If you’re a seasoned surfer, rent a board from Concept Surf Shop and tackle fast waves south of D Street. If you’re new to the sport, book a public or private lesson from the shop. Besides the two-hour lesson, you get free parking for the day, along with complimentary all-day board and wet suit rental.

Watch the sunset
There’s no more memorable way to top off a day in the warm California sun than watching the fiery red globe sink slowly into the Pacific. While any of the west-facing beaches offer a prime view of the sunset, you’ll find the event to be especially dramatic at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. Hike a 1.5-mile trail to discover tide pools, sea caves, Cormorant Rock and viewpoints perfect for watching day’s end.

Build a beach bonfire
After the sunset fades, there’s no need to ditch the beach. A few of San Diego’s beaches include fire rings where you can cuddle, sing or gaze into the flames until midnight. You’ll find them at Mission BeachLa Jolla Shores or Ocean Beach. The rings are first-come, first-serve and fill up quickly on summer weekends. Plan to arrive before dark to stake your claim, then fill a ring with wood and set up your beach chairs.