Oceanside__Glenn Beltz__flickr

Oceanside CA: Best Surf Beaches for Beginners

When you look at the waves rolling in from the ocean do you think, I need to get out there? Maybe you're a little more cautious like me  and need to slowly wet my toes before jumping right in, but either way something about surfing and experiencing being out in the waves pulls at all of us.  The beach is one of my favorite places in the world. Its one of the places I find both peace and excitement.

Oceanside Beach and Harbor Beach are the two best beaches to learn how to surf. The waves here tend to be more gentle and the ocean floor is sandy. Other beaches in the nearby area that I tried such as Old Mans Beach had long rolling waves, but had rocky bottoms which can be really intimating for a beginner.

While surfing is great for beginners in Oceanside, make sure to enjoy  the many other fun activities, listed below, on your visit.

Oceanside Surfing

A bit about Oceanside Beach

Southern California is blanketed with beautiful beaches, ranging from calm inlets and refuges to action-packed tourist destinations. Oceanside Harbor Beach rests on the western side of a small peninsula, situated between the Pacific Ocean and a sliver of saltwater known as South Harbor. This area provides a wonderful place to play in the sand and learn how to surf the waves!

Even though surfing, or wave riding, is an ancient activity, it has grown in popularity all over the world. It’s become an excellent way to enjoy nature while exercising, using lots of different muscle groups. Lots of small waves closest to the beach are the best place to practice and learn body boarding or surfing. Wind is the major force that pushes ocean water into a circular orbit, forming the crest of waves that you’re used to seeing at the beach.

At Oceanside Harbor Beach and Oceanside Beach, visitors can find numerous sea shells and may even catch a glimpse of seals or sea lions basking in the sunshine. The soft sand of California’s beaches is most often made up of silicon dioxide in the form of quartz mixed in with some feldspar. While quartz is usually white or clear, feldspar is a pale brownish colored mineral. This combination of minerals gives Southern California its beautiful light brown sand. Whichever beach you decide to visit, there are so many activities to enjoy and nature to experience.

Where to surf and what you can do at Oceanside

Harbor Beach

Oceanside Harbor Beach is a fun and easy surf spot. Surf lessons are offered here if you are interested. If you want to teach yourself this is still a fun spot, but can get crowded with other beginners as lessons are taking place. 

Parking- The parking lots here are paid parking. So plan on it.

Surf Lessons Harbor Beach:

Learn to Rip

North County Surf Academy

San Diego Surf

Waves  4 All (Will work with special needs)

Oceanside Harbor Beach
Oceanside Harbor Beach__Boogie Boarding Oceanside__flickr

Oceanside Pier and Beach

Oceanside Pier and Beach  is the main and most popular beach in Oceanside. Near the Pier is the best area for surfing, but as a beginner look for the smaller waves which can be found just about anywhere along the beach. Wave sizes at all beaches vary on any given day so check out the local surf report for wave conditions.

This is a large sandy beach so if the area near the pier is crowded there is plenty of room to spread out

Parking is metered along the nearby streets. If you are ok walking a few blocks there is free parking along the streets.

Surf Lessons Oceanside Beach South of Pier:

Wave Huggers

Oceanside Surf School

Learn to surf

Marks Surf Instruction

Willis Brothers Surfing

Oceanside Beach and Pier
Oceanside Beach__cultivar413__flickr

What else can you do at a Beach!

While learning to surf may be your first reason to go Oceanside, plan ahead with other activities and food. Surfing is so much fun, but as a beginner it is also exhausting. Just getting past the breaking waves will wear you down fast, so be ready to also relax, picnic and  also do some of the following activities:


  1. Boogie Board- a boogie board is smaller than a surfboard, and is a great way to play in the white water of a fallen wave. This activity is easy and can be doe by all ages.

  2. Run in and out of the waves- Let yourself be a kid again. Oceanside Beaches is a great place to let loose and leave your cares behind. Set yourself free and just play.

  3. Picnic- Pack plenty of food for the day. Don't let your time at the beach get cut short because of hunger. Also bring water. You will need to leave Oceanside Beach if you plan to eat out, and since parking is not located along the beach, make sure you plan accordingly with snacks.  Word of caution, cover your food with a towel shirt or whatever you have when you are not eating. Seagulls will steal your food. I have seen them take sandwiches out of peoples hands while the person was actively eating.

  4. Build Sand Castles or Creatures- buckets and shovels are a must at Oceanside Beach. Build your favorite sea animal out of sand. Have a contest with you friends and family, or make them a mermaid tail!

  5. Throw a frisbee or ball back and forth in the shallow water- If your into a sport play it at the beach! 

  6. Lay out , relax,  and read a book-just enjoy yourself!
Boogie Boarding Oceanside
Boogie Boarding Oceanside

Oceanside Beach Pro Planning Tips

  • Season: Year round in SoCal. 
  • Time Needed: Day trip
  • Cost: Beach parking lots have fees, street parking is usually metered or free as you get farther from the beach.
  • Oceanside Strand Beach and City Beach have free street parking two streets away from the beach. You can also drop your family at the beach then go park the car. There is a small drop off loop at the intersection of Surfrider Way and The Strand N.
  • Oceanside Harbor Beach has a paid parking lot, and is where you can take surf lessons.
  • Watch out for seagulls, they are not shy and will take your food, even out of your hands.
  • Use lots of sunblock, you can burn even on a cloudy day
  • Good beginner surfing beaches in SoCal; Silverstrand-Oxnard, Mondos Beach- Ventura, Bolsa Chica- Huntington Beach, Harbor Beach and The Strand- Oceanside, Doheny State Beach- Dana Point, Dogpatch- San Onofre.
  • If you are at a beach near an estuary, shuffle your feet when you’re in the water to scare off rays. FYI: At Bolsa Chica near Huntington Beach the lifeguards have a sting treatment area at the main lifeguard building.
  • If you are stung by a ray, soak your sting in hot water (As hot as you can handle) for 1 hour or until the pain stops. Some stings require a Dr. visit for antibiotics.

Dig Deeper with a Learning Adventure

If your planning a trip to Oceanside with your kids and want an easy way to learn about why beaches are so unique then check out The California Adventure Activity Book. This is a great resource for your family. It includes our Top 10 CA Desert destinations (Including Oceanside) with activities for each location and fun earth science lessons. It's like your own Junior Ranger program for each location. Here are some of the things included:

  • 10 adventures in the CA Desert
  • 10 Earth Science Lessons
  • 10 Hands-On Science Activities
  • 10 Coloring Pages
  • 1 Sticker Map
  • Reward Tickets
  • 10 Scavenger Hunts
  • Journal Pages

More Oceanside Favorites, Can you Spot it?

Oceanside bonus! If you keep your eyes alert you will see some of the  unique and incredible things that make Oceanside so incredible.


Seagulls are white seabirds with dark wingtips, a strong body, and webbed feet. They are intelligent animals that can steal food from other birds, animals and from humans (like a sandwich straight out of kids' unsuspecting hands). They can also drink seawater.


Pacific Sand Crabs

These small Pacific sand crabs are great at burrowing into the sand to escape predators, which are a variety of seabirds. At the beach as the waves retreat out to sea, look for “V” shapes left in the sand. This just might be a sand crab filter-feeding on plankton and detritus. 

pacific sand crabs
Pacific sand crabs_Don Henise_Flickr

California Mussel

The California mussel will shut its shell tightly when it is exposed to air. When it is underwater it cracks its shell open and releases little cilia (hairs) that will bring in water and food. California mussels glue themselves to rocks by secreting byssal fluid that gets hard in sea water.

California Mussel
California mussel__Tristan Ferne__flickr

Gould Bean Clam

The gould bean clam is a marine mollusk, part of the family of soft-bodied aquatic organisms that includes snails, slugs, mussels, and octopuses. It can grow up to one-inch in length. A hidden muscular foot keeps the clam rooted amongst the waves.

Gould bean clam
Gould bean clam__Gustavo Verissimo__flickr

California Brown Pelicans

California Brown Pelicans have good eyesight and can spot fish as they fly over the water. They dive into the water head first to catch their food! They breed on islands without mammals to protect their eggs. The parents take turns sitting on eggs and feeding chicks!

brown pelican
brown pelican_Brett Morrison_flickr

The Oceanside Beaches are an incredible destination for beginner suffers and beach lovers alike. Surfing is an fun way to experience the beach and the life and energy of the ocean.  Weather you are an experienced surfer of a beginner you are going to love Oceanside.

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