S an Diego was built for surfing, and vice versa. Year-round gentle weather, consistent waves, warm water, beautiful people -- if you're not a surfer when you get here, you should be by the time you leave. Whether you're Laird Hamilton or a pasty Midwesterner swinging through for Comic-Con, you have to get onto a board while in town.
From the forgiving waves of Pacific Beach to the board-breaking La Jolla reefs, this area has produced some of surfing's most storied legends. La Jolla local Butch Van Artsdalen was the first master of Hawaii's famous Pipeline. His buddy Mike Hynson, a member of the world-famous Windansea Surf Club, was featured in the cult classic The Endless Summer. We've given the world design breakthroughs like the "Fish"-style surfboard first shaped by Point Loma resident Steve Lis and christened in the waters at Sunset Cliffs in 1967.
La Jolla/Windansea Beach | Flickr/Michael Foley
Oceanside Beach | Jon Bilous/Shutterstock
Pacific Beach | Flickr/Nathan Rupert
Black's Beach | Flickr/Tony Webster
Lower Trestles | Joe Scarnici/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
The Shores | Flickr/SLV Native
Sunset Cliffs | Flickr/Tours Departing Daily
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1. El Pescador Fish Market 634 Pearl St, La Jolla, CA 92037 (La Jolla)

Dress in your finest beach-casual attire and head to El Pescador Fish Market, a local La Jolla seafood market and restaurant that's been around since 1974. El Pescador is known for its fish sandwiches, made with your choice of fresh seafood (options include local swordfish, calamari, and sea bass) and served on a toasted torta roll. Its seafood "burros" -- aka burritos -- are also noteworthy, especially when filled with yellowtail & squid. Whole fish is also available to-go, as are seafood cocktails, oyster platters, and sashimi plates.

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2. Verdes El Ranchero 7404 La Jolla Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037 (La Jolla)

Originally opened in 1945, this cheery La Jolla spot offers authentic and traditional Mexican specialties drawn from family recipes. On offer are chile rellenos, carnitas, enchiladas, burritos, and tamales, whose bright and spicy flavors are matched by the restaurant’s vibrant color scheme and energetic atmosphere. The Ranch -- as it’s referred to colloquially -- has a can’t-miss selection of margaritas, like the Horni-Rita with Sauza Hornitos Reposado, Patron Citronage, and lime juice and the Cadillac Margarita with Patron Silver, lime juice, and Grand Marnier.

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3. Captain's Grounds Coffee , Oceanside, CA (Oceanside)

Attached to vintage resale shop Captain's Helm, this stand is the perfect pit stop for coffee and a pastry. Morning brings out a host of regulars on their way to or from surfing, and though the cart's convenient sidewalk location makes it conducive for take-away, there are a few seats to sit and stay. Aside from fresh-brewed coffee, Captain's Grounds has an impressive chai selection, a few smoothies, and morning staples like bagels, muffins, and doughnuts.

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4. Kono's Cafe 704 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109 (Pacific Beach)

This beloved Pacific Beach staple serves up hot coffee and the best breakfast on the boardwalk that won’t break the bank. Starting at 7am, seven days a week, you can get a hearty breakfast plate piled with enough food to feed a small village. Kono's is open for lunch until 3 or 4pm everyday, too, serving American classics like burgers and grilled cheeses with steak fries. Get your food at the cafe and take it down to the beach, or walk across the boardwalk to check out the ocean view from its hidden outdoor seating area overlooking Crystal Pier.

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5. Riders Club Cafe 1701 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672

The Riders Club Café prides itself on serving “slow fast food,” otherwise known as quality meats and produce that make their way from the grill to your table as expeditiously as possible. The menu is small but mighty featuring a burger, carnitas sandwich, hot dog, and a club salad. Though homemade veggie patties and portobello mushrooms make viable meat substitutes here, the naturally juicy beef burger, made with house-ground beef and placed atop a pillowy challah bun, is a crowd favorite. Complete your meal with a couple of pours of the eight beers on draft.

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6. Rimel's Rotisserie 1030 Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037 (La Jolla)

In La Jolla since the early 90s, Rimel's is a cozy family restaurant known for its Mexican-meets-Asian menu of rice bowls, tacos & burritos, and rotisserie chicken plates. The interior is dim and homey, while the outdoor patio is sunny and comfortable. Though poultry is the founding signature here, don't forgo the oak-fired freshly caught fish.

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7. Harry's Coffee Shop 7545 Girard Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037 (La Jolla)

This New York-style diner in the heart of California surfer territory ditches the NYC attitude, while serving up 12 styles of omelets and creative coffee options, like a mocha with Mexican chocolate and espresso. What’s more, Harry’s Coffee Shop is the genius force behind the B.W. Benny, a nationally acclaimed recipe that takes a golden brown waffle stuffed and topped with bacon, adds grilled ham and poached eggs, and drowns it in hollandaise.

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8. Point Loma Seafoods 2805 Emerson St, San Diego, CA 92106 (Point Loma)

Point Loma Seafoods is ubiquitous in San Diego for its fresh seafood and smoked fish. Part-lunch spot, part-seafood market, Point Loma buys fish directly from local fisherman and either sells it by the pound or prepares it in simple but satisfying ways. The fried fish sandwiches here are a standout, comprised of fresh shellfish (get the clam strips) and fresh-baked sourdough bread. If you aren't one for fried food, sushi rolls, oysters on the half-shell, and seafood cocktails are also available. Point Loma smokes its fish with real hickory wood, and if you're feeling ambitious, you can bring in your own catch and the market will fillet and smoke it for you.

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9. Black's Beach Torrey Pines Scenic Dr, La Jolla, CA 92037 (La Jolla)

Black’s Beach is known best as San Diego’s gay and nude-friendly beach, but you'll also find many families with young children here enjoying some of the most stunning beach scenery in the county. Nestled under the bluffs at Torrey Pines State Reserve, Black’s Beach offers views of La Jolla to the south and San Diego’s coastal towns to the north. The best parking is by the Torrey Pines Gliderport, where gliders soar off cliffs while beachgoers start the steep, heart-pumping hike down the cliffs and onto the sand. A favorite path down is the harrowing Ho Chi Minh Trail, named in the ’60s by a group of surfers.

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10. Pacific Beach Boardwalk , San Diego, CA 92109 (Pacific Beach)

PB is the spot for beachside bars and casual fun, fueled mostly by college students and energetic twenty-somethings. Surfers flock here, too, as the neighborhood’s Tourmaline Surf Park has a break that’s accessible for all levels. If you’re not the type to paddle out, post up and watch surfers from the sand instead.

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11. Coronado State Beach , Coronado, CA (Coronado)

Coronado Beach is home to the iconic Hotel Del Coronado -- that beautiful red-roofed, Victorian-style hotel that dates back to the late 1800s. The beach on Coronado Island is long and wide, with street parking easy to find if you’re willing to walk a few blocks. While lounging on the beach, visitors are treated to views of Point Loma, Mexico, and Naval ships and aircraft carriers coming in and out of the base, which also sits on the island.

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12. Windansea Beach 6800 Neptune Pl, La Jolla, CA 92037 (La Jolla)

Tucked away in a La Jolla cove just south of town, this beach is marked by boulder outcroppings and stretches of wide sandy beaches. With cliffside mansions and palm trees popping up all around the beach, you'll feel as though you're in an island paradise... until you remember that you’re still actually in a city. Note the retired 40-year-olds with a lot of plastic surgery living their best lives alongside long-time surfers and Instagram-focused tourists.

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13. Ocean Beach 5091 Niagara Ave, San Diego, CA 92107 (Ocean Beach)

Just north of Downtown is San Diego’s home for all things hippie. Ocean Beach is the classic, old-school California beach neighborhood: much of the architecture hasn’t been updated since the 70s, VW vans dot the sidewalks, stores selling crystals line the main drag of Newport Avenue, barefoot surfers troll the streets looking for the next best wave, and there’s always a rogue guitarist -- or five -- setting up shop along the beachfront.

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