The small town of Del Mar sits on 3 miles of Pacific Beach shoreline. There are 3 distinct beach areas in Del Mar. The most popular beach is Del Mar City Beach in the heart of town.
Beach Type: Long sandy beach
Access: Directly from parking lot/street
Parking: Free street parking/some paid parking
Facilities: Full restrooms by lifeguard tower
Good For: Laying out in the Sun, younger children, scenery, swimming, surfing, family day at the beach
Not Good For: Lack of crowds, parking
Del Mar City Beach starts at 15th Street by two grassy park areas, Powerhouse Park and Seagrove Park. These parks provide grassy areas with picnic tables and children’s playgrounds. This makes it a perfect spot for families with small children.
As you face the ocean from Powerhouse Park, the beach area heads north to your right. If you turn left you will be on Del Mar South beach. Del Mar South backs up against bluffs and is usually not crowded. You can see our guide to Del Mar South beach here. Del Mar City Beach starts where the bluffs level out. The ease of access means larger crowds.
Parking at Del Mar City Beach can be tricky. There are many side streets with free parking. There are also some metered spaces and a paid parking lot on Coast Blvd near Jake’s and the Poseidon restaurants.
The City of Del Mar website describes it best:
On busy summer days, almost all parking spaces are full by noon. This includes “secret spots” or those a few blocks from the beach. So, even by arriving two hours before noon, free parking is still available along the northerly end of Santa Fe (which runs parallel to Coast Blvd. one block to the east) and on 19th and 20th Streets east of Coast Boulevard. Some other spots may still be open on Camino Del Mar (Highway 101) and along the cross streets of 22nd through 28th streets. To the south, there is plenty of open free parking in the residential area along Stratford Court, especially, south of 9th Street; however, these spaces require a long hike back to 15th Street for safe beach access.
Del Mar City Beach runs almost a mile to the lagoon area by the fairgrounds. Across the lagoon is Del Mar North Beach. Most of the beach is in a residential area with nice beachfront houses. The main area around 15th St has access to the parks and restaurants of Del Mar.
Two of the most popular beachfront restaurants in San Diego, Jake’s and the Poseidon are right next to each other between Powerhouse Park and the 17th St lifeguard tower. There is a small beach café right behind in front of the Poseidon (on the parking lot side). Across the street is the paid parking lot and a small beach rental store.
Del Mar City Beach has pretty much all you need for a day at the beach. When our children were younger we came here quite a bit because the grassy area and playground provided a nice extra. In addition, Del Mar is a nice little town with many restaurants and shops blocks from the beach.
We do not come here as much in recent years because we no invest in a state beach parking pass. This gives us free parking a few miles up the road in Cardiff-by-the-Sea.
A couple of things that were a bonus for us at Del Mar City Beach were the trains and the free summer concerts. The train tracks run right by the beach and our kids loved watching them go by. Several times in the summer they hold evening concerts in Powerhouse Park. These are great for a late day at the beach, followed by a concert and a picnic dinner.