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2023 Best Surf Spots in San Diego

a man riding a wave on a surfboard in the ocean

Surfing is to San Diego, like boutiques are to Seaport Village, a significant reason for visiting. The long, sandy shoreline beneath a temperate sky and the waves that constantly roll in make it a haven for surfers. Indeed, San Diego is recognized as one of the world’s best surf cities; folks come from all over to experience some of California’s most excellent waves. The best surf spots in San Diego are not all totally busy all the time. Some are off the beaten path, and there are still a few places the locals like to keep under their proverbial hats. If you are visiting San Diego for surfing, you have many options. 


Trestles is an example of a surf spot off the beaten path. Located at the border of San Diego and Orange Counties and known for its world-famous river-mouth point break, it’s a hike from the parking lot. Here you’ll find a strong south-to-southwest swell when the water is pumping.


Consistently ranked among the best surf spots in San Diego, Cardiff By the Sea offers surfers excellent breaks and a variety of fun waves to ride. It is a gorgeous stretch of Beach with reefs at either end, fronted by bluffs at its northern expanse. Both professional and novice surfers can enjoy these right and left breaks year-round.

animal on the water

Black’s Beach

Many surfers consider Black’s Beach to be San Diego’s best wave. Because of the submarine trench offshore, the raw ocean swells come in fast, creating big hollow peaks. These waves arrive in long, organized breaks that can hold a rideable surf into the 10 to 12-foot realm.

Black’s Beach is known among surfers for its big winter swells and for being one of the country’s most famous and largest nude beaches. It’s not considered a soft spot; conditions can turn on a dime, causing intense rides and long, harsh wipeouts.


Underwater reefs and the steep ocean floor cause the consistent surf breaks at Windansea. The waves here fluctuate between two and ten feet, and surfers consider the breaks at Windansea Beach the closest thing California has to Hawaiian surf breaks. It’s also recognized as San Diego’s most surfable break, and consequently, it is often crowded and has long been a localized surf spot. 

PB, OB, & Mission Beach

Another of the best San Diego surf spots, the long expanse of sand that comprises these beaches is hugely popular with all sorts of beachgoers. Though it isn’t known for its consistently dynamic swells, its accessibility is a significant draw. 

The west and northwest swells can hold pretty good-sized waves with the right tide, wind, and swell. The most consistent surf can often be found at the South Mission Beach jetty, though big waves have been known to pop up in other spots. 

Ocean Beach is recognized as a proving ground for intermediate, advanced, and professional surfers. The surf north of Ocean Beach Pier is gentler and better for beginners. It’s a less intense scene because the more experienced wave-riders will be where the more giant waves are, which is to the south of the pier.

Surfing is a sport that merges joy and nature. When you’re under a sunny blue sky, sitting atop powerful swells, the accompanying inner peace makes the rest of the world feel far away. San Diego is a surfer’s paradise with plenty of waves. Don’t forget about the other ways to enjoy the Pacific, though. Visit a sailing charter company to book a whale-watching tour, sunset cruise, or other fun excursion today.