Paw Friendly & Off-Leash Beaches – San Diego, CA

Polly makes a new friend at Del Mar Dog beach

Having bombarded you with a couple of pretty geek-intensive posts I figured I would get back to something cute and fluffy. In my mind, nothing is cuter than our furry family (that would be the pets, not Paul), and nothing is more fluffy than a wind-dried beach dog, and these past few weeks we’ve been doing our best to show off both at all the paw-friendly spots around town.

The perfect lead-in to a blog post!

Map of Dog-Friendly beaches in San Diego. CLICK IT!

Now, the locals here loooove their dogs and this city is one of the dog-friendlier in the state, in my opinion, with lots of spots to take pooch on the beach both on and off-leash.  They’re so beach-dog crazy here they even hold annual dog surfing competitions (check out the 2011 winners) and you can take honest-to-goodness doggie surf lessons. How cool is that?

Given we used to live in the area I’ve got a pretty good idea of where to go w/ pooch, but when I looked around on the net I realized it can be tough for new-comers to figure it all out. Lots and lots of info out there, but nothing in terms of actual maps so you can see where everything is. So, I decided to change all that with both a map AND a summary of my favorite spots…with a few local secrets thrown in.

Off-Leash Beach Havens

For leash-free lovers from North to South, here’s our favorite spots:

Your truly poses w/ Polly by the gorgeous Solana cliffs

1/ Del Mar/Solana Dog Beach – A wonderful and spacious dog-friendly beach right on the border between Del Mar & Solana that allows off-leash access from Sept thro’ June. Lovely back-drop of cliffs here too. MAP IT!
Secret Tips: If you park right by the northern end (Solana side) you’ll have to pay for parking, but there’s free parking right across the bridge (Del Mar side) just 100 yards south. You can also hike for miles along the southern end of Del Mar with pooch on leash, both up on the cliffs and on the beach below. For a lovely pet store, stop by Dexter’s Deli in Del Mar too.

Polly leads a friends’ puppy on a hike on Fiesta Island. San Diego in the background and beach on the right.

2/ Fiesta Island – This island sheltered in Mission Bay is doggie HEAVEN! The entire Island is off-leash friendly, plus there is a huge (enormous, gigantic, humungous) fenced-in dog area where you can hike/run w/ pooch both on land and by the water. MAP IT!
Secret Tips: If you’ve got a smaller rig (class C), you can park all day right on the sand at Fiesta Island. Park closes at 10PM.

Going for a splash at Ocean Beach Dog Beach

3/ Ocean Beach – This is the original off-leash doggie beach in San Diego. It’s a nice stretch of beach silhouetted by the pier and popular with surfers too. MAP IT!
Secret Tips: OB has a very cool, relaxed late-hippy vibe and several of the restaurants around town ( for example O’Bistro and OB Noodle House) are pooch-friendly too.

4/ Coronado Beach – The very northern end of Coronado beach (near Sunset Park, by the naval station) is off-leash dog friendly. To avoid (big) fines keep doggie on leash until you’re right AT the beach. MAP IT!
Secret Tips: You can see the majestic and historic Hotel Del Coronado in the distance from here. Hop along w/ pooch to the Wine Styles Bar or McP’s Irish Pub after your romp for a dog-friendly glass.

On-Leash Beach Playgrounds

Outside of the “big 4” there are a bunch of other beaches that allow on-leash access on the coast. Most of them specify an 8-foot leash and a few have specific hours. Once again our top pics North to South:

Polly digs for treasure in the sand

1/ Cardiff State Beach – The only state beach that allows dogs in San Diego. This is a lovely stretch of sand that runs south from Cardiff (just south of the watchtower at San Elijo State Park) to Solana. Dogs are allowed on-leash all along this area. Since it’s right next to San Elijo State Park this is also the only spot I know in San Diego where you can camp, surf (sweeeet long-boarding break) and enjoy the beach w/pooch right next door. We haven’t stayed at San Elijo (it’s $35/night for dry-camping and it’s rated for 35′-max) but we could probably squeeze into a few spots. MAP IT!

2/ La Jolla Shores – A cute little stretch of beach right in upscale La Jolla. Doggies allowed on-leash on the beach (and next-door Kellogg Park) before 9AM and after 6PM (in summer Apr-Oct) or after 4PM (in winter Nov-Mar). MAP IT!

Wonderful Mission Bay. Fiesta Island is in the middle.

3/ Mission Bay Park – Mission Bay Park has ~27 miles of shoreline all secluded inside this lovely bay. In addition to fully-off-leash Fiesta Island, the park allows leashed dogs pretty much everywhere else as long as it’s before 9AM and after 6PM (in summer Apr-Oct) or after 4PM (in winter Nov-Mar). There are tons of spots to take pooch here incl. De Anza Cove, Ventura Cove, Mission Point….you name it. If you want to camp in the area Mission Bay RV Resort (accepts Passport America mid-week) is a private park right on the bay beachline. MAP IT!

4/ Imperial Beach – A lovely beach with a superb pier right at the southern end of San Diego, you can take pooch on leash anywhere outside of the swimming area (north of Palm Blvd or south of Imperial Beach Blvd). MAP IT!

Some good links:
Dog-friendly restaurants in San Diego – from
Dog-friendly parks & beaches in San Diego  – From San Diego Travels
San Diego dog beaches and parks – From

And with that I think doggie and us will go get wet and sandy (with a little post-fluffing-up) before the sun sets.

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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

  1. says

    We are loving your blog. My husband and I will be at San Elijo State Beach for our first workamping gig beginning Feb 1st. We are looking forward to staying put in San Diego for 3 months. Enjoy your time there.

    • libertatemamo says

      Oh how fun!! We love that area. Gorgeous beach and a really cute town too. We’ll still be in San Diego in Feb so if you’ve got time we’d love to meet!

  2. says

    We should have some time once we get settled and go through our training. I will let you know. We would love to meet the two of you. We are so impressed with what the two of you can do – great writing, photography, very handy and your financial blog is very impressive.

    • libertatemamo says

      Thanks :) She’s a lovely campanion and we’re just giving back a little bit of all the love we get from her.

  3. C Condit says

    So lucky to have a dog-friendly of my dogs was attacked from behind (on leash) by a free-running dog and is now dog-aggressive. Really a PITA to camp with now.

    • libertatemamo says

      I’m sorry to hear that. I’d really recommend a good dog trainer. I used to train aggressive/abused dogs for a dog rescue (before I went on the road) and there is LOTS you can do to improve their behavior and rehabilitate them. Your dog may never become super dog-friendly, but with good training he/she can become dog-tolerant. My own dog had lots of issues (including people/dog aggression) when I got her, but with training she’s come a long way.


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