If you take a look at San Diego’s coastline, you might be under the impression that there aren’t any accessible beaches due to its cliffs. While it’s true that many beach access sites in San Diego involve stairs, there are many excellent accessible beach options. In this post, I’ll cover nine amazing wheelchair accessible beaches in San Diego.
Note: The information here is based on my observation as a non-wheelchair user. If you have firsthand experience as a wheelchair user in San Diego, please let me know about your time there and your recommendations in the comments section. I appreciate it and know that our future readers will, too!
Beach wheelchairs in San Diego
San Diego has made impressive strides to foster a positive experience for wheelchair-using beachgoers.
Within San Diego, the following nine beaches offer manual and/or power beach wheelchairs:
- Ocean Beach
- Mission Beach
- Coronado Beach
- Silver Strand State Beach
- Imperial Beach
- La Jolla Shores Beach
- Oceanside Harbor Beach
According to SanDiego.org, you can contact the following numbers to arrange your beach wheelchair in advance or for general questions:
City of San Diego (Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, La Jolla Shores): (619) 525-8247
Coronado Beach: (619) 522-7346, ext. 3
Silver Strand State Beach: (619)-435-0126
Imperial Beach: (619) 685-7972
Oceanside Harbor Beach: (760) 435-4018
That being said, you can try renting most beach chairs on the spot. They’re free to rent, but some may have a 1 – 2 hour time limit, depending on the beach and demand.
In addition to this, Moonlight State Beach in Encinitas offers two floating wheelchairs on a first-come, first-served basis. You can pick up one of these chairs from the lifeguard station seven days a week between the hours of 8:00 am – 5:00 pm.
Tip: Find the nearest lifeguard station and ask about beach wheelchairs. Lifeguards are trained with this information, and oftentimes beach wheelchairs in San Diego are stored at lifeguard stations.
A note on beach mats
Beach mats are installed on many of San Diego’s beaches. They typically start at or near the parking lot and cover the deepest sand as you make your way to the beach.
That being said, you’ll still likely have to push through some deeper sand at the end of the mat before arriving in an area with more tightly packed sand.
It’s also important to note that most beaches only leave their beach mats up from May – September. The reason being is outside of these months, the tide and wind are stronger, making maintenance challenging and damages frequent.
Moonlight State Beach is an exception to this rule. A 150-meter beach mat by the lifeguard tower is left in place year-round.
If possible, aim to visit these wheelchair accessible beaches in San Diego around low tide. Not only will it offer you more space to explore the beach, but high tides in San Diego can get really high. In some cases, high tide comes up close to, or all the way to, the cliffs along the northern beaches.
Additionally, by visiting San Diego’s beaches around low tide, people will be more dispersed around the beach. This will give you more room to explore in your beach wheelchair.
About Sea Lions & Seals
The beaches listed here aren’t known for housing sea lions and seals. For details on spotting sea lions and seals, including details on wheelchair accessibility, check out our post on Sea Lions & Seals in San Diego.
San Diego’s Coastline Structure
The majority of wheelchair accessible beaches in San Diego are located near the city center. This area is away from the steep cliffs that characterize northern parts of the city, such as La Jolla.
That’s not to say that wheelchair users can’t enjoy beaches by cliffs, though. On the contrary, there are some fantastic accessible beaches that I’ll be talking about here where you can lounge by the ocean while enjoying views of the massive cliffs behind you.
Best wheelchair accessible beaches in San Diego
San Diego is packed with beautiful wheelchair accessible beaches. If you need any support while you’re at the beach, head to the nearest lifeguard stand, and you’ll be met with friendly, knowledgeable locals.
Now, let’s take a look at nine amazing accessible beaches in San Diego.
1. La Jolla Shores Beach
Located in San Diego’s upscale La Jolla district, La Jolla Shores Beach is my number one pick for wheelchair accessibility.
This mile-long beach offers a number of accessible parking spaces and a short, flat entrance to the beach by means of a cloth mat. The mat is located north of the lifeguard stand.
La Jolla Shores Beach is one of the most popular beaches in San Diego thanks to its long stretch of soft white sand and its proximity to seals and sea lions. Note: Check out our post on San Diego Sea Lions for details on wheelchair accessible areas for sea lion and seal sightings.
Another advantage of La Jolla Shores Beach is that, according to San Diego’s Lifeguard Services, La Jolla Shores has among the calmest of all the waves in San Diego during the summer months.
A beautiful cement boardwalk lines La Jolla Shores Beach, so if you’d prefer not to dip your wheels in the sand, this is a great alternative.
There are two accessible restrooms at La Jolla Shores Beach. One is located 200 meters north of the overhanging lifeguard stand. The other is located in the southernmost part of the beach, near La Jolla Shores Hotel.
Travel Tip: After you soak in the sun on La Jolla Shores Beach, spend time exploring the restaurants and residential streets behind it. This is one of the few coastal areas in San Diego that’s flat for wheelchair users.
2. Mission Beach
Mission Beach is an ultra-popular beach that’s about three miles long. It sits in the heart of San Diego by Mission Bay and SeaWorld.
Like La Jolla Shores Beach, a paved boardwalk runs behind Mission Beach, making it a great option for wheelchair users who want to enjoy beach views without transferring to a beach chair.
However, if you would like to transfer to a beach chair, free manual and motorized wheelchairs are offered for one-hour periods. You can pick up your beach chair at the lifeguard tower by Ventura Street.
There are accessible parking spaces at San Fernando Place, Belmont Park, and Pacific Beach Drive. Keep in mind that because this is such a popular beach, parking spaces tend to fill up early in the day.
There’s an accessible restroom by the lifeguard station on Ventura Street.
3. Coronado Beach
Coronado is a stunning area on a peninsula of San Diego Bay. It’s famous for its historical, Victorian-style Coronado Hotel, which you’ll be able to get views of when you’re on the beach.
Two accessible parking spaces and a beach mat are located at the main lifeguard tower on Central Beach (920 Ocean Boulevard). You’ll be able to pick up a beach wheelchair at this lifeguard tower, which is available on a first-come, first-served basis during daylight hours.
Coronado Beach is enormous. Therefore, regardless of how many people are there, you’ll have plenty of space for you and your beach chair to wander around.
4. Ocean Beach
It wouldn’t be right to leave Ocean Beach off this list of wheelchair accessible beaches in San Diego. This beach is located just south of Mission Beach, on the opposite side of the San Diego River Channel.
Ocean Beach is smaller than Mission Beach at about one mile long. However, it’s a beach geared towards locals, so it’s an excellent option for escaping some of the bigger tourist crowds.
One manual wheelchair is provided on a first-come, first-served basis at the lifeguard tower. A rubber mat laid out during the summer months makes it easy to roll across the flat terrain to get to the shoreline.
You can find accessible parking spaces in a parking lot at the corner of Abbott Street and Newport Avenue.
Travel Tip: Head inland to downtown Ocean Beach. Here, you’ll find lots of surf and souvenir shops, restaurants, and bars.
5. Imperial Beach
The stunning Imperial Beach is the southernmost beach we’ll be covering on this list. It’s located by the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge and, as a result, you can oftentimes spot an array of bird species.
Two power beach chairs are offered at Imperial Beach- one left-handed and one right-handed. The chairs are rented for free on a two-hour basis and can be picked up on the spot at the Dempsey Holder Safety Center.
Important items to note when using these chairs are that they have a 250-pound weight limit, and you must bring your own back and bottom cushions.
Imperial Beach is one of the best wheelchair accessible beaches in San Diego for those looking for a quieter beach experience, relatively speaking.
6. Moonlight State Beach
Beautiful Moonlight Beach is located north of San Diego in the cute town of Encinitas.
Moonlight Beach stands out as a great option for wheelchair users for two reasons. First, its beach mat is in place year-round. This makes it an ideal beach if you’ll be traveling from October – April.
Secondly, Moonlight Beach offers two floating wheelchairs. You can pick up these wheelchairs on the spot, availability permitting, at the lifeguard stand. While you’re there, make sure to ask the lifeguard about weather conditions, for rip tides are common along San Diego’s coast.
There’s a gentle incline that leads from Moonlight State Beach’s parking lot down to the beach.
Travel Tip: Once you’ve enjoyed the beach, make sure to drive inland and explore Encinitas’ adorable downtown area. Shops and restaurants offer good accessibility, and the main street is flat.
7. Silver Strand State Beach
If you can’t find accessible parking at Coronado Beach, try Silver Strand. This state beach is located about 4.5 miles south of Coronado. Just make sure you do a drive-by of the Coronado Hotel; it’s a must-see while in San Diego!
Beach wheelchairs are available at the entrance station of the park. During the summer, a beach mat leads out to the beach.
As is the case at many state beaches in San Diego, you’ll encounter many campers on the beach. You’ll also get some nice views of San Diego in the distance when looking across San Diego Bay.
8. Solana Beach
Seated north of downtown San Diego and south of Moonlight Beach, a trip to Solana Beach has two advantages; you’ll get to enjoy coastal views along the way and a gorgeous wheelchair accessible beach.
Solana Beach would have taken our top spot for wheelchair accessible beaches in San Diego if it weren’t for the large incline required to get down to the water. The incline sits between two sides of a cliff. So, manual wheelchair users will need a long, steady push to climb back up. Additionally, you’ll need to bring your own beach wheelchair.
The incline aside, there are numerous advantages to visiting Solana Beach. For starters, it’s located in a more residential area and therefore tends to have fewer tourists, relatively speaking, compared to the beaches to the south.
It’s also home to the beautiful Fletcher Cove Park. Fletcher Cove Park offers two beautiful lookout points over Solana Beach. There are also two accessible parking spaces at the highest viewing area that are almost always vacant.
While we’re on the viewpoint theme, when you’re heading down the steep ramp to the beach, there’s a smaller outlook that hovers over the sand. It’s a perfect place to watch the sunset.
Solana Beach is an exceptionally good place to visit during low tide since the sand becomes a wide space of firmly packed land for exploring and admiring beautiful houses on the edge of the cliff.
An accessible restroom at Solana Beach is located near the outdoor shower.
9. Del Mar Beach
Located a couple of miles south of Solana Beach, Del Mar is an adorable small town with flat access to its over two-mile beach.
Accessible parking is located near Poseidon Restaurant. From there, you’ll get to roll out to the beach via a beach mat.
If you’re not feeling up to dipping your wheels in the sand, visiting Del Mar Beach is still worth your time. The beautiful Powerhouse and Seagrove Parks offer stunning ocean views in a lush flora setting.
Both parks have accessible paths that loop around and are on a gradual incline.
I also recommend exploring downtown Del Mar, which is a few blocks uphill from the beach. There are countless restaurants and boutique shops lining Camino Del Mar. Once you arrive at Camino Del Mar, you’ll be greeted with flat terrain and wide sidewalks.
The City of San Diego offers excellent information and maps on wheelchair accessible beaches in San Diego. Their resources are geared towards beaches around downtown San Diego and as far north as La Jolla.
For details on other wheelchair accessible things to do in San Diego, check out our YouTube video below on accessibility at San Diego Old Town.
Which beach will it be?
I hope this article has inspired you to visit the many wheelchair accessible beaches in San Diego. If you have questions about beach accessibility or would like to share your own experience at San Diego’s beaches, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!
P.S.- Don’t forget to head over to our post on accessible places to watch Sea Lions & Seals in San Diego.
P.P.S.- Check out our posts on 18 Wheelchair Accessible Things to do in San Diego and Torrey Pines Hiking Trails for details on wheelchair accessible hikes.
Laura has been wandering the globe for over a decade. She’s an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she’s befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister. You can learn about their accessibility endeavors here.