15 Dog-Friendly Beaches for You and Your Fur Baby to Enjoy in Del Mar, CA

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Del Mar was established as a beach town in 1885 in Southern California. It started as a seaside resort and has grown into a good-sized city with about 4,000 residents. The name Del Mar means “Of the Sea” in Spanish, which makes a lot of sense as it is all along the oceanfront. It is the home of the Del Mar Racetrack, where the horse races are held annually, as well as the San Diego County Fair and Del Mar Antique Show. 

The city was also home to several famous people over the years, such as Desi Arnaz, Tony Hawk, and Bill Gates. Being so close to San Diego, you can find over 30 beaches in and around Del Mar, and some of them are pup-friendly. From the main beach of Del Mar down to San Diego Bay, you and your fur buddy can visit any (or all) of these 15 dog-friendly beaches. 

Cardiff State Beach

Also known as the Riviera of The West, Cardiff State Beach is a dog-friendly beach on the San Diego coastline just north of Del Mar. You and your dog can explore almost the whole beach from Lifeguard Tower 16 to the south. Just be sure to keep your canine companion on a leash the whole time you are there, and bring your own doggie poo bags to clean up after him. 

This is a popular place for locals who enjoy surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, and swimming, as well as fishing, shelling, or just hanging out on the beach. Many people come to play volleyball or toss around a frisbee, and families like to visit with their kids. The beach has restrooms, outdoor showers, and drinking water for your convenience, and it is wheelchair accessible. The water is warm year-round, and the sand is clean and soft, perfect for picnics and making sandcastles. 

North Beach

Also known as Del Mar Dog Beach, North Beach is a dog-friendly beach in the heart of Del Mar that is incredibly popular with pup parents because it is the only place your pooch can run off-leash on the beach in the city. From 29th Street to Solana Beach, your canine companion can run around and play off his leash from Labor Day until June 15th. At all other times, he is still welcome but must be on a leash. 

Part of the beach faces the ocean, while the other part is on the San Dieguito River so you and your pup can choose from any of these places. This is also a popular family beach because of the gentle waves and the shallow water in the river. The soft sand is perfect for making sandcastles, digging, and tossing a ball or frisbee. Just be sure to bring your own doggie poo bags and extra water for you both. 

San Dieguito River Park

Speaking of the San Dieguito River, you and your pooch can enjoy the whole expanse of the waterfront and into the woods and wetlands at San Dieguito River Park. It starts at the mouth of the river right where North Beach is located and goes all the way to Volcan Mountain in Julian, which is more than 50 miles. The 65 miles of trails here are well-known, and people come from all over to hike or bike along them. 

The first four miles of the park include beaches and grassy riverbanks where you and your fur baby can enjoy the water. Just make sure you keep your pooch on a leash at all times and watch out for rattlesnakes and other dangerous wildlife. You will also encounter ticks and fleas, as well as castor beans, which are toxic to animals. And please bring a good supply of puppy poo baggies to pick up anything he drops. 

Main Beach

From 29th Street to Powerhouse Park, you can find the pooch-popular Main City Beach, where dogs are allowed off the leash from dawn until 8 AM and on the leash all day from Labor Day until June 15th. But from June 16th until Labor Day, you will have to go to a different beach, like North or South Beach, because no dogs are allowed during the summer here at all. The clean sandy beach is a nice place to spend the day running and splashing in the waves.

During the off-season, the snack bar and concessions are not available, but you can find a few eateries like Jake’s Del Mar, Poseidon Restaurant, and the Liquid Bean Cafe. Please ask first before you bring your dog into any establishment. Whether you are here before or after 8 AM, please remember to bring your own poop bags to clean up after your pup.

La Jolla Shores Park Beach

Head south past Torrey Pines State Beach, and you will find the pup-popular La Jolla Shores Park Beach. Dogs are welcome anytime before 9 AM and after 6 PM from April until November and the rest of the year. You can bring him along before 9 AM and after 4 PM. You will have to keep him on a leash and bring your own doggie cleanup bags, though. This beach has a mile of golden sand with clean blue water for your pup to play in. 

Bring a kayak and paddle out to the cave to see some amazing rock formations. But bring (and wear) life jackets for you and your dog. The cave is also popular with young adults, so during the summer, it can be crowded and noisy. The beach is a nice place to take a walk, too but when you get to Black’s Beach, clothing is optional, so be aware of that. 

La Jolla Cove Beach

Following the same hours as La Jolla Shores Beach, La Jolla Cove Beach allows pups with the same rules. So, between October and March, you and Fido can hang out here before 9 AM and after 4 PM. The rest of the time, you have to wait until after 6 PM. This is really a good thing because the tourists typically head off to dinner or other attractions after that time so you will have more space to enjoy. 

La Jolla Cove is one of the most photographed beaches in the state, posted all over Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. Take note of the zones as they are split into swimming and surfing zones. The beach also has lifeguards on duty year-round from dawn until dusk. Swimming at night is discouraged. However, you can hang around to have a picnic, barbecue, or just sit back and relax with your furry family member. 

Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach stretches from the Crystal Pier to Pacific Beach Drive, and you can find tons of space to relax with your fur baby here. However, like many of the San Diego beaches, no dogs are allowed on the beaches, parks, or boardwalks between 9 AM and 4 PM from November through March and from 9 AM to 6 PM the rest of the year. Your canine companion does need to be on a leash at all times while you are here too.

Lay a blanket on the sand and spend the morning or evening with your pup, splashing in the waves and playing on the beach. Bring along your own snacks and water, or you can visit one of the local eateries like Kono’s Cafe, PB Shore Club, or Baja Beach Cafe. Whatever kind of cuisine you like, you should be able to find it somewhere along this part of the beach. 

Mission Beach

A little further south, Mission Beach, is a popular tourist attraction featuring a boardwalk lined with shops, restaurants, and bars, as well as a large amusement park called Belmont Park. Although your dog cannot visit between 9 AM and 6 PM during the busy season and from 9 AM to 4 PM the rest of the year, you can bring him along any other time. You can even play a few games and enjoy some carnival food at the park, but you will not be able to bring your pup on the rides. 

Keep your pooch on a leash at all times, or you will end up with a ticket that includes a hefty fine of $500! But being on a leash is not so bad since you can still swim together, play in the sand, and even go fishing. Or spread out a towel and watch the boats in the channel. The beach is a fun place to enjoy an early morning or evening walk too. 

Bonita Cove Park

To get to Bonita Cove Park, just cross Mission Boulevard. The park is both grassy and sandy, with lifeguards year-round because it is so popular. Even though you will have to follow the hourly restrictions of before 9 AM and after 4 or 6 PM, it is a fantastic place to enjoy Mariner’s Basin and Bonita Cove. The waters are warm and calm, so it is a fun spot for families as well as pup parents. 

There are a few playgrounds for the kids and walking paths lined with palm trees and wildflowers. You will also find volleyball nets, picnic areas with barbecue grills, and some awesome fishing spots, according to the locals. Like other parks in the city, your dog will need to stay on his leash and not go into the least tern bird nesting area. There are no Mutt Mitt dispensers, so bring your own dog poo bags to pick up after your pup.

Vacation Isle Park

Between Mission Beach and Fiesta Island Vacation Isle Park is another pup-positive place with the same hours. So, he can join you before 9 AM or after 4 or 6 PM at the park, beach, and natural pools. Just be sure to keep his leash on the whole time you are there, whether you are swimming, digging in the sand, or having a picnic. Do not forget to bring pup cleanup baggies to pick up anything your doggie drops. 

One of the best beaches here is Ski Beach Park, with a stunning white sand beach, boat launch, and a large grassy area for playing fetch. Other beaches on Vacation Isle include Paradise Cove, North Cove, and the beach at Fisherman’s Channel. The large pond in the middle is not for swimming, but you and your canine companion can watch folks race their model sailboats and yachts. There are also a lot of eateries and shops but ask permission before entering with your pooch.

Fiesta Island Park Beach

Head south past Pacific Beach, and you will find an island that is almost completely designated a leash-free area for pups. Fiesta Island Off-Leash Dog Park has no specific dog seasons. Your pooch is welcome all year long. With so much sand and dunes to play in along the shores of Fiesta Bay and Enchanted Cove, you and your canine companion can spend the whole day and night here. 

Although most of the island is leash-free, it is not fenced anywhere except for the specific dog beach on the bay side. It is just across the water from Sea World so you may want to find out when the fireworks start if your dog is afraid of them. You will find another dog park in the middle of the island called Sneaky Fiesta Island Dog Park. But most people consider the whole island a dog park because it really is. 

The Original Dog Beach

Across the San Diego River from Mission Beach, The Original Dog Beach is located at the northern end of Ocean Beach. Here, dogs can roam off-leash at any time of the day all year long. It is often crowded, though, since it is the only off-leash dog park in San Diego. But you will also see a lot of surfing, swimming, and sunbathing humans as well. Nobody minds your dog digging, scratching, and playing in the sand but do make sure to pick up after your pup. There is a Mutt Mitt station, but it pays to bring your own pickup baggies. 

Bring along some tug toys, tennis balls, and frisbee, as well as snacks and water. Although you can find lots of eateries nearby, some do not allow dogs. It is always best to ask first. There are restrooms and showers, but pups are not allowed in the shower. Luckily, the Dog Beach Dog Wash is only a few minutes away and you can give him a bath or let someone else do it. 

Ocean Beach

Since you are so close, why not visit one of the most popular beaches in San Diego? Ocean Beach is pup-friendly before 9 AM and after 6 PM from April through October and after 4 PM the rest of the year. He will need to be on his leash here, though and you have to bring your own doggie bags. If you want to fish but do not have a fishing license, head out on the pier where you do not need one It is the longest concrete pier on the west coast.  

While you are there, check out the tide pools. They are filled with interesting and unique marine life, such as anemones, sea stars, and small fish. But please do not let your pup get too close. These are live creatures that can be injured or killed easily by a curious dog. There are plenty of eateries along the beach but make sure you ask permission before bringing your pooch inside. 

Liberty Station Park Beach

A few blocks inland, you and Fido can play at Liberty Station Park any time of the year as long as he is on a leash. The large park is located on the harbor and is so dog-friendly that they even have a Puppy Picnic Company. They offer pop-up picnics for pooches and their pet parents, also known as Pupnics. You can book a pooch picnic for two online, and it includes all sorts of things, from food to dog beer. 

Besides the picnics and water access, the park also boasts several playgrounds, basketball, ball fields, and several comfort station. They often hold events here, like concerts and festivals, so be sure to check the schedule online about the rules for pup parents during any event. Take your canine companion on a walk along any of the trails where you can explore the waterfront, see the 52 Boats Memorial, and watch the boats at the landing.

Coronado Dog Beach

Last but definitely not least, Coronado Dog Beach is the only other place where your dog can run around and play on the beach all year long without a leash besides The Original Dog Beach. This one is located on the North Island peninsula and is sandwiched between San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean. It is right across from Sunset Park to the southeast of North Coronado Beach and has restrooms, fire rings, and picnic tables. 

Along the beach, you will also find several eateries to choose from, but you have to ask before going inside anywhere. The whole Coronado North Beach is dog-friendly, but he has to be on a leash anywhere south of the main lifeguard tower. It is one of the most popular beaches around with both locals and tourists, so do not expect too much privacy. Especially since it is the only dog beach in Coronado. 

The Final Woof

If you want to take your pup out on a stand-up paddleboard or kayak, you can rent one from Aqua Adventures or one of the other rental shops. Aqua Adventures is in Mission Bay and offers a bit of training if you are new to the sport. Or go sailing on a historic schooner at Next Level Sailing. Want to do something fun on land? Balboa Park is also dog-friendly, with more than 1,000 acres of space, including gardens, walking paths, and two off-leash dog parks. Or you can go shopping at Seaport Village on Harbor Drive, where there are 14 acres of waterfront shopping. 

Photo of author
Patty Oelze is a freelance writer who is also in the process of getting her PhD in Psychology. She has been writing about dogs and other critters for about 10 years and has a plethora of animals at her home including several cats, some chipmunks, a dozen raccoons, two foxes, one coyote, and herds of deer. She and her husband have been living in the Missouri Ozarks for years where she enjoys taking care of wildlife, fishing, photography, boating, and of course, writing.

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