The small community of Cardiff-by-the-Sea is one of our favorite areas to hit the beach. When we go to this area, 90% of the time we hit Seaside Beach on the south end of Cardiff-by-the-Sea. This is a wondeful family beach with everything from great scenery, swimming, surfing and tide pool exploring.
Beach Type: Large state beach
Access: Directly from parking lot
Parking: Cardiff State Beach, $10-20 per vehicle
Facilities: Full restrooms in the parking lot
Good For: Laying out in the Sun, tide pools, scenery, swimming, surfing, family day at the beach
Not Good For: Lack of crowds
Seaside Beach is crowded, but manageable. This is because you have to pay for parking, which significantly lowers the crowds. Seaside Beach is on the southern end of Cardiff State Beach, right where you enter the town of Solana Beach (2526 S. Coast Highway 101). It is a separate area from the Cardiff Reef section of the state beach, about a mile to the north.
We go to Seaside Beach (along with Torrey Pines State Beach) so much that we invest in an annual California State Park pass. At around $200 a year it is not for the casual visitor. I will say that before we bought the pass we would often pay the $15 to $20 daily parking fee for Seaside Beach.
Seaside Beach is right on the edge of Table Top Reef in Solana Beach. Much of this reef is far out in the ocean, but there is a section of rocks, exposed at low tide. Kids love seeing the many creatures that appear here. Expert reef explorers go out diving a short distance south at Tide Beach Park.
The heart of Seaside beach is a great place for swimming and body surfing. To the south, you can find more seclusion along the bluffs of Solana Beach. This is also a prime surfing spot. However, the rocky reef area makes it more for experts.
The area to the north up to Cardiff Reef and Restaurant Row is a secluded beach section. This area, known as George’s is the same beach you find at the rest of Cardiff State Beach. However, it does not have easy access to the parking lots so crowds are sparse. If you are lucky you may be able to find free parking along the southbound Highway 101 near Restaurant Row.
For our complete guide to this area see our overview of Cardiff-by-the-Sea. There are quite a few restaurants good for take-out nearby. This includes Seaside Market with its legendary sandwiches. I was always confused because Seaside Market is actually across the street from San Elijo State Beach and Cardiff Reef, not Seaside Beach.
Overall, Seaside Beach is a classic Southern California beach experience. It is popular and near many places to eat and drink. However, when you are on the beach you actually feel fairly isolated. Across the street is the non-developed San Elijo Lagoon and you actually get a little feel for the shore before the massive population explosion hit the area.