Pacific Beach San Diego Surf Guide

Pacific Beach is one of the most underrated, yet fun surf spots in San Diego. This gorgeous beach is famous for its long, wide stretch of white sand and warm waters, along with the town’s vibrant nightlife. 

Pacific Beach has two main sections of surf, one that is steeper and more fun for the shortboarders, and another with long, mellow rides that’s beyond fun for both the longboarders and beginner surfers. No matter your surfing level and what you like to ride,you’re sure to have a blast surfing in Pacific Beach. This surf guide covers the best surf spots in Pacific Beach, along with when to go, what to bring, and more! 

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Pacific Beach surf overview

Pacific Beach, or “PB” as the locals call it, is a happening surf town in San Diego with fun waves, gorgeous beaches, tons of restaurants, and an electric nightlife.

Pacific Beach is one of the less popular surf spots in San Diego, and therefore often has fewer crowds, although the waves are still pretty fun. If you’re looking to have some fun  and catch some solid waves that are good for both longboarders and shortboarders, check out the Pacific Beach surf scene. 

The different Pacific Beach surf breaks

Crystal Pier

Crystal Pier is the main surf spot in Pacific Beach. The best waves are just to the north of the pier, where you can catch a fun left. Out of all the surf in Pacific Beach, Crystal Pier generally has the steepest waves, and is best for shortboarding.

Crystal Pier rarely gets super crowded, except for when there is a SOLD swell in town. Even when it is crowded, if you get there early you can often beat the crowds. A lot of people coming to PB usually party pretty hard, which means if you can make it out there, you might have dawn patrol to yourself. You’ll also have better luck finding parking. 

Law Street

Pacific Beach surf

A bit north of Crystal Pier is the surf spot Law Street. While all these spots are technically on the same beach, they’re all fairly different so it’s worth distinguishing them. 

Law Street is a sandy beach break with peaks all over. Depending on the swell and how the sand bars are behaving, you can catch plenty of fun lefts and rights surfing this break. If Crystal Pier is too crowded for your liking, you can usually find some more space here.


Tourmaline is all the way on the north end of the beach, and it’s a fun, small, and cruisy wave for longboarders. At Tourmaline,you can catch both rights and lefts, and score some long, fun rides. 

The wave at Tourmaline breaks super slow and soft. It’s not only good for longboarders, but it’s also a fantastic beginner surf beach, since the wave is so gentle and forgiving. 

Best swell(s) for Pacific Beach:

Pacific Beach does best with a West, Northwest, and Southwest Swell. Do keep in mind though  that the break can’t really handle surf over head high, and it’ll start to close out on the bigger swells.

Where to stay for a surf trip to Pacific Beach

California Dreams Hostel– top budget pick

There aren’t a lot of hostels in the United States, and especially not surf hostels. That’s what makes California Dreams Hostel so special. It’s a great place to meet other travelers, and it’s only a 1 minute walk from the beach.

Ocean Park Inn

For a little more comfort on your surf trip to PB, check out Ocean Park Inn. This lovely hotel has a pool, hot tub, ocean views, and more.

Pacific Terrace Hotel

Pacific Terrace Hotel is a gorgeous hotel that directly overlooks Pacific Beach. The view is INSANE. The island-inspired rooms are well-equipped, and the hotel has a pool, bar, fitness room, and more.

Gear for a Pacific Beach surf trip

pacific beach surf


Either bring your own, or rent one there. The surf in Pacific Beach caters to all- beginners, intermediates, advanced, longboarders, shortboarders, you name it. Bring what you have or rent a board from one of the surf schools in Pacific Beach, and you’ll have a blast.


For most of the year, you’ll want  a wetsuit for surfing in Pacific Beach. In the summer, you can either wear a spring suit, or trunk it on particularly hot days (depending on your tolerance level for cold water, of course). The rest of the year, you’re probably going to want a 3/2mm wetsuit, MAYBE a 4/3 during the winter if you get cold easily. 


The sun in San Diego is no joke! Be sure to bring some solid, reef safe sunscreen to protect your skin. 

Surf seasons


Fall is the best season for surf in Pacific Beach. The days are long, the water is still warm, the crowds are gone, and you get some solid SW and NW swells.


The surf in the winter can be good at PB, but it often gets a little too big. On smaller swells, the winter surf in PAcific Beach is really fun.


During the summer at Pacific Beach, you get the occasional nice south swell but often, the waves are really small. Tourmaline is pretty much always fun for longboarding in the summer, although it does get crowded.


The surf in Pacific Beach is quite fun in the spring, and the temps are warmer than the winter, and the crowds are smaller than in the summer. 

Pacific Beach FAQ’s

Is Pacific Beach a good surf spot for beginners?

Yes! Tourmaline in Pacific Beach is fantastic for beginners since the wave is so mellow and forgiving. 

Is Pacific Beach good to surf?

Yes! While the surf here isn’t exactly world-class, it’s still super fun and you can score some really nice waves. 

Is Pacific Beach a party town?

Oh yes it is. On almost any given night of the week, and especially in the summers, you can  expect lines around the blog of people waiting to get into beach bars and clubs, and tons of young people roaming the streets, having a fun night out. 

Things to do in Pacific Beach besides surfing

Some of the best things to do in Pacific Beach are shopping, exploring the nightlife, biking the boardwalk, exploring the pier, and more. 


In conclusion, Pacific Beach is one of the best surf spots in San Diego- although it’s not the place to be during massive swells. 

With fewer crowds than other surf spots in the area, Pacific Beach is a great California surf spot to explore. Especially if you’re looking for nightlife. 

If you enjoyed this post, head on over to my free Facebook group, Surf Travel Tribe, where I share other free surf guides and help plan surf trips all over the world. Happy surfing! 

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