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In search of the perfect San Diego beach

Living in San Diego doesn’t automatically make anyone a beach expert.

It takes weeks, even years, of fine-tuning — figuring out which spot has the cleanest sand, the closest parking, the best people-watching. It takes even longer to find some of the more obscure, surfer-beloved spots like Windansea or Tourmaline or Pipes.

But summer officially starts this week, along with prime beach season. So if you’re still searching for your perfect spot, here’s a beginner’s guide to San Diego beaches:

Mission Beach

This centrally located spot is the epitome of a Southern California beach, thanks to its busy boardwalk and iconic wooden Giant Dipper roller coaster.

Main entrance: Ocean Front Walk and Ventura Place, though there’s access off the many streets and alleys along Mission Boulevard.

The scene: Mission Beach is busy, loud and a total scene, bustling with in-line skaters, bikers, boogie boarders, college students, “The Jersey Shore” wannabes and multiple summer playlists blaring at once.

Parking: There are two giant lots on each side of the roller coaster, but arrive early or be prepared to circle around for a while.

Facilities: Restrooms and showers are by the main lifeguard station, though cleaner facilities can be found at Belmont Park. You can rent boards, bikes and accessories at Hamel’s along the boardwalk.

Sand quality: The sand is soft but is often littered with cigarette butts and candy wrappers.

Watch out for: People zipping by on the boardwalk.

Food: Belmont Park has restaurants and food stands. You’ll also find a popular dive, The Coaster Saloon, for cocktails. More restaurants and fast food are available along Mission Boulevard.

Claim to fame: Mission Beach was the site for MTV’s summer Beach House in 2000.

Nearby spots: South Mission Beach if you like basketball, volleyball or Over-the-Line; Mission Bay if you don’t like waves.

Read UT San Diego's full list of "perfect" San Diego beaches HERE.