The most scenic beaches in San Diego are generally found at the state parks. Arguably the most scenic beach is Torrey Pines State Beach which runs about 3 miles miles from La Jolla to Del Mar. The beach can be divided into several areas. This covers what we call Torrey Pines State Beach North. While this is not quite as scenic as the more southern sections it is probably the beach we go to more than any other in San Diego.
Beach Type: Large state beach
Access: Directly from parking lot
Parking: Torrey Pines State Beach north parking lot at 2009 Carmel Valley Rd, $10-20 per vehicle
Facilities: Full restrooms in the parking lot
Good For: Laying out in the Sun, scenery, bird-watching swimming, surfing, family day at the beach, lagoon exploring
Not Good For: Lack of crowds
Torrey Pines State Beach North is the closest beach to our home in Rancho Penasquitos. It sits on a low-lying area between two bluffs, at the entrance to Los Penasquitos Lagoon. Right from the parking lot you can get great views of the lagoons and the many birds in the area. The lagoon runs right into Penasquitos Canyon, a popular hiking area near our home.
The entrance to Torrey Pines State Beach North lies right off the Carmel Valley Rd exit of the Interstate 5. There are several nearby restaurants, most notably Roberto’s Mexican, and right next door, a newer location of famed Bird Rock Coffee Roasters.
You need to pay for parking ($10 to $20 depending on season), but if you are willing to walk a few hundred yards there is usually free parking along Carmel Valley Rd. Overall, we come here more often than the south parking lot because it is more convenient.
One thing the north side does not have is the towering bluffs that lead to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. This is a favorite hiking area and we often go to the more crowded souith parking lot when we want to combine hiking with a beach day. That being said, across the street from the parking lot, there is a nice hiking trail in Torrey Pines Extension.
With its combination of ease of access, scenery, the ability to explore lagoons, Torrey Pines State Beach North is one of the best beaches in Southern California. The one downside is that depending on time of year and conditions the beach can get rocky and the surf can be rough. Many times we enjoy rougher surf, but if it is too strong we will generally head to the south parking lot or a calmer beach like La Jolla Shores.