Top Tips for a Perfect San Diego Beach Day

One of the best things about living in San Diego is our close proximity to terrific beaches. We can go to the coast and soak up the majestic ocean view any time we want! What’s even better is that because we have so many beaches in San Diego County, anyone can find their perfect spot on the sand.

Families flock to the area of North Pacific Beach by Crystal Pier, while 20-somethings looking for day-to-night revelry can hang out just south of PB in Mission Beach. Imperial Beach is great for activities such as pier fishing, beach volleyball, and even horseback riding. Looking for something more contemplative? There’s nothing like Torrey Pines State Park near La Jolla for breathtaking beauty. Prime surf spots dot the entire stretch of San Diego coastline, with surfers making the trip up to Pipes in Cardiff or Tamarack in Carlsbad to catch fantastic waves. You can even bring your dog with you if you go to North Beach on Coronado Island or Dog Beach in Del Mar!

No matter which beach is your favorite, a day at the shore calls for preparation. Use our handy checklist of tips to make sure you have everything you need to really enjoy your beach trip—if you’re missing anything, just go to Grossmont Center, where you can stock up on summer supplies.  

Pack Your Beach Bag

Do this the night before, not the morning of, your beach day, so you don’t forget anything. You can find a lot of beach-bag basics—heck, you can even get a beach bag itself if you need one—at Target or Walmart at Grossmont Center. Here’s what you should pack:

  • Sunscreen. The one thing you absolutely must have so you don’t come home with a souvenir in the form of a nasty sunburn. The SPF should be at least 30; the sunscreen should offer broad-spectrum coverage and be waterproof if you’ll be swimming; and you can purchase it in lotion, stick, or spray form, depending on your preference. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to all exposed skin at least 15 minutes before leaving for the beach, and reapply after swimming or on a regular schedule as indicated on the sunscreen’s label. At Grossmont Center, you can find a selection of sunscreen at CVS Pharmacy as well as Walmart and Target.
  • Headgear. A hat keeps the sun from frying your hair and scalp, and anything works from a baseball cap to a wide-brimmed straw hat. People with long hair will also want to grab some hair elastics to help tame wet hair in a ponytail or braid. You can find hair ties at Empire Beauty Salon; while you’re there, pick up a spray-on, leave-in conditioner so that your locks don’t feel overly dry from the saltwater and sand.
  • A portable phone charger. Meeting friends at the beach? Make sure they can text or call you by keeping your cell phone battery charged. TouchTel Wireless at Grossmont Center offers several types of portable chargers. Remember: If your beach bag doesn’t have an interior pocket for your phone, pack it in a reusable waterproof pouch to keep it from getting wet and sandy.
  • Sunglasses. You can go fashionable or functional, but just make sure your shades have UV-protective lenses to keep your eyes shielded from the sun’s rays.
  • Cash. Always have a few dollars on hand in case you need to pay for parking or food from the snack bar.
  • A beach read. While you’re basking in the sun, stay engrossed in the hot summer page-turner. You can find all the best-sellers at Barnes & Noble—and you can often find them at a discount!

Pack Your Car

Odds are, you’ll want to take along a few things that don’t fit in the beach bag. Don’t forget to take these items with you:

  • Towels. A good beach towel of plush terry helps you dry off quickly or stay warm if there’s a bit of June gloom still in the air.
  • Beach chair. Luxuriate with a chair that reclines for comfort; a cup holder built into the armrest is a bonus!
  • Beach blanket. This is different from a towel—it’s usually much bigger and doesn’t have to be made of terry cloth. Beach blankets are especially good if you have a big group or kids in your party because you can use it as a space for eating.
  • Shade structure. When the sun hits the midday peak, you’ll want to take a break from the heat. Stay cool with a shade structure that’s part of your beach gear. It can be anything from a simple umbrella to a pop-up to a tent-style cover.
  • Beach gear. Anything goes here! You may have a bag of plastic pails and shovels for kids to make sandcastles (check Dollar Tree for inexpensive beach toys), a football or Frisbee for games, or wetsuits and surfboards for the ocean.

Pack Your Cooler

Not all beaches have snack bars, and you probably don’t want to leave your stuff on the shore while you order takeout at a nearby restaurant. Plus, it’s cheaper to pack your own beach treats. A soft-sided, insulated cooler may be easier to carry and pack, but hard-sided coolers work well when you’re toting a lot of food. At Grossmont Center, Trader Joe’s is the place to stock up on yummy food.

  • Fruit. Grapes or mini oranges are perfect for snacking. For a true summer experience, cut up a watermelon and pack the juicy wedges in a container.
  • Chips. Trader Joe’s has a delicious selection of snacks, with everything from potato chips and tortilla chips to peanut butter-filled pretzels and quinoa chips.
  • Granola bars. Another easy grab-and-go snack between swimming and surfing sessions, bars are a nice way to fill your belly, especially if you opt for wholesome protein bars. Try to avoid bars with lots of meltable chocolate.
  • Skewers. Cubes of cut-up fruit are simple and sweet, or you can opt for cherry tomatoes and mini mozzarella balls. Using the skewer makes food easier to eat with sandy hands.
  • Water. Skip sugary sodas and go for the pure hydration of water. Instead of using wasteful, one-use plastic bottles, put water in reusable containers, which have the added benefit of keeping liquids nicely chilled. (Any water left over can wash off your feet in the parking lot before you get back in your car.)

As you’re packing for your beach day, take the time to do a little research. Figure out the best options for parking, prime locations (such as those near restrooms or lifeguard towers), and be sure to check the calendar–during the summer, many beaches are the site of summer camps or outdoor concerts. Certain spots may be more crowded than usual. Now you’re ready to hit the beach, with the help of Grossmont Center!  

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