Coastal Access: Why is it important?

Every beach in California is open to the public to the mean high tide level. If you can get there from the water, tidelands, or an adjacent beach, you are legally allowed to be there as long as you don’t venture onto the land above where high tide would be. But getting there in the first place can be tricky. Private housing developments, or even a single landowner owning a large swathe of land, can block the public from accessing some of California’s beaches.

The opportunity to directly experience our beautiful natural resources is an important part of being a San Diegan and a present or future steward of those resources; That’s why the Environmental Center of San Diego is committed to supporting appropriate public access to our beaches, coastlines, and open spaces.

How the Environmental Center of San Diego Helps with Coastal Access

The Environmental Center of San Diego advocates for mandated public coastal access and easements

Current Coastal Access Project: The Princess Street Coastal Access Trail

The Environmental Center is the sponsor of a long-awaited public access trail promised several years ago on Princess Street in La Jolla. The Princess Street Coastal Access Trail is one way we are working to restore and ensure public access to the coast in La Jolla, San Diego.

The trail has been the subject of a 40-year long effort by the community and California Coastal Commission to protect and restore the trail that had been used by fishermen, skin divers, and surfers since the early 1900s. On September 6, 2018, the California Coastal Conservancy awarded the Environmental Center of San Diego a grant of $38,860 to support the restoration of the historic Princess Street Coastal Access Trail in La Jolla. Once completed, the trail will restore public access to a stretch of the shoreline isolated by development over the years. The Conservancy’s grant funds support the first phase of the project, including pre-construction assessment and preparation of the site and a master plan design of the trail.

The planned trail will descend 50 feet from the public street at the bluff top to the beach and State Marine Reserve and La Jolla Underwater Park. We intend for the trail to be open between sunrise and sunset. The Environmental Center, in partnership with the San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, will maintain and monitor the trail and landscaping upon completion.

coastal access

Image Source: CA Coastal Commission

Current Coastal Access in San Diego County

  • Beach Access Stairway: 2601 Ocean Street, Carlsbad
  • Beach Access Stairway: 2701 Ocean Street, Carlsbad
  • Beach Access Stairway: 2775 Ocean Street, Carlsbad
  • Beach Access Stairway: 3037 Ocean Street, Carlsbad
  • Stairway to Lagoon: Cove Drive, Carlsbad
  • Viewpoint and Trails: Hillside Drive, Carlsbad
  • Lagoon Access Pathways: Bayshore and Marina Drives, Carlsbad
  • Lagoon Access Pathways: Park Drive, Carlsbad
  • Lagoon Viewpoint, Park and Trails: Windrose Circle, Carlsbad
  • Trail to Viewpoint, Windrose Circle, Carlsbad

~10 add’l sites available on north shore of Agua Hediona Lagoon. View the map.


  • Beach Access Stairway: 2100 North Hwy 101, Encinitas
  • Blufftop Viewpoint and Park: H Street, Encinitas
  • Blufftop Viewpoints and Plufftop Trail: I Street to J Street, Encinitas

Del Mar

  • Beach Accessway: 17th Street, Del Mar

San Diego

  • Beach Access Pathway: 274 South Coast Blvd, San Diego
  • Beach Access Stairway: 100 South Coast Blvd, San Diego
  • Beach Access Stairway: 3862 Riviera Drive, San Diego
  • Bay Viewpoint and Dock Accessway: 2515 Shelter Island Drive, San Diego

Add’l access along Riviera Shores area of Mission Bay: View the map


  • Bayfront Park and Promenade: Orange Avenue, Coronado

Imperial Beach

  • Beach Access Pathway: 1500 Seacoast Drive, Imperial Beach