Beach Safety Information
Following a few important rules will insure a safe and happy day at one of San Diego County’s world-class beaches. The rules listed below come from the San Diego Lifeguard Service and apply to San Diego city beaches; be aware that regulations may differ at beaches outside of the San Diego city limits. Please note that each local beach has its own set of rules and regulations that cover issues such as alcohol, pets, off-limit areas (because of pollution or other reasons), and other restrictions. Visit the lifeguard headquarters at each beach or ask a lifeguard if you have questions.
This information is provided as a service to visitors of the Enlightened Explorer’s San Diego Beaches website. The user assumes full responsibility for his or her own safety at any beach included in this website.
Beach Safety Guidelines
Learn to swim.
Swim near a lifeguard.
Never swim alone.
Supervise children closely, even when lifeguards are present.
Don't rely on flotation devices, such as rafts; you may lose them in the water.
If you get caught in a rip current, swim sideways until free — don’t swim against the current’s pull.
Alcohol and swimming don’t mix.
Protect your head, neck, and spine — don’t dive into unfamiliar waters. Remember, feet first, first time.
If you’re in trouble, call or wave for help.
No glass containers at the beach — broken glass and bare feet don’t mix.
No beach fires except in designated areas. Fire residue and superheated sand can severely burn bare feet. Use a barbecue that is elevated off the sand.
Stay clear of coastal bluffs; they can collapse and injure you.
Never turn your back to the ocean — you may be swept off coastal bluffs or tide pool areas and into the water by waves that can come without warning.
Partial List of Laws for City of San Diego Beach, Park, & Water Areas
This is not an exhaustive list and all laws are subject to change without notice. If you have any questions, check posted signs or ask a lifeguard. You may refer to boating regulations if you need more information on laws that pertain to boating on Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
Glass Containers. Glass containers are prohibited if used to carry liquid for drinking purposes.
Beach Fires. Fires are permitted only in fire containers provided by the City or in personal barbeques elevated off the ground. Coals must be removed or deposited in hot coal containers.
Dogs. Dogs are permitted on beaches and in adjacent parks only from 6 p.m. – 9 a.m. and must be leashed at all times. Dogs are prohibited at other hours of the day, except at Dog Beach (adjacent to Ocean Beach) and Fiesta Island (in Mission Bay), where dogs are permitted 24 hours a day unleashed. At all locations, you must clean up after your pet.
Alcohol. Alcohol is prohibited at all times at all City of San Diego beaches and beach parks as well as State Beaches.
Smoking. Smoking is prohibited at all times at all City of San Diego beaches and beach parks as well as State Beaches.
Water Use Areas. Water areas off the major beaches are divided into swimming and surfing zones to separate these users. A black and yellow checker flag will normally be posted between zones. Check signs or ask a lifeguard for the proper zone for your activity.
Unsafe Behavior. Regardless of the area, it is unlawful to use any water recreational device (surfboard, boat, etc.) in a manner that endangers others.
Overnight Camping. Overnight camping and sleeping are prohibited.
Boardwalk Speed Regulations. On the Mission Beach / Pacific Beach boardwalk, the maximum speed limit is 8 mph (13 kph).
Cliff Jumping. Jumping from cliffs or other heights higher than 5 feet into the Pacific Ocean is prohibited.
Lifeguard Directions. It is a misdemeanor to fail to follow the lawful order of a lifeguard or to provide false information to a lifeguard.
Injuring a Lifeguard. Any person who intentionally injures a lifeguard in the State of California may be convicted of felony battery.
Special Information About Rip Currents
A rip current is a seaward-moving current that circulates water back to sea after it is pushed ashore by waves. Each wave accumulates water on shore, creating seaward pressure. This pressure is released in an area with the least amount of resistance, which is usually the deepest point along the ocean floor. Rip currents also occur in areas where the strength of the waves is weakened by objects such as rock jetties, piers, natural reefs, and even large groups of bathers. Rip currents often look like muddy rivers flowing away from shore. They are sometimes mistakenly called “rip tides” or “undertows.” These are misnomers. Rip currents are not directly associated with tides and they do not pull people under. Try to avoid swimming where rip currents are present; but if you become caught in one, swim parallel to the shore until the pull stops, and then swim back to shore. If you are unable to return to the beach, tread water and wave for lifeguard assistance.
Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Rip currents often occur alongside fixed objects in the water. Be aware of ocean conditions.