Blacks Beach Tips

The purpose of this web page is to help you prepare for a day at the beach, without unpleasant surprises.

alcohol chairs exits parking snorkeling tides
applying sunblock choosing a spot  fires removing sand squirrels trails
bathrooms cliffs flies rip currents sting rays trash collection
bees coolers jellyfish routes sunburn umbrellas
bottles crime June gloom scuba diving surfing vending
boundaries directions landslides seagulls swimming water temperature
cameras dogs lost and found sharks  tar wind
camping dry sand May grey smoking tarps winter


Black's Beach has some of the biggest and best surf in California.  Surfers usually go south onto the city beach.  Nudity is prohibited there.

Removing Sand

When the fine sand of Black's Beach sticks to your skin, there are few ways to remove it.  You can try water or brushing it off with a towel, but the most effective way is baby powder.  Apply a little baby powder and the sand falls off.


Please don't bring styrofoam coolers.  People usually break those on the trail.


Thefts on the beach and in the parking lot happen, but are uncommon.  People walk away from their belongings on the beach, for hours, and usually return to find them untouched by human hands.  If you prefer, look for trustworthy people to sit near and make your own decision.

I once overheard a story that a woman spotted a man trying to open a car door with a coat hanger.  She asked him what he was doing and he answered that he locked his keys inside.  The woman asked how he managed to lock his keys in her car.  The man ran away.

Nobody seems to be able to stop a determined crook.  The best we can do is make it difficult enough that he will choose a different target.  Leave nothing in sight within your vehicle.  Thieves believe that purses and clothes probably have wallets inside.

Lost and Found

The most commonly lost things on the beach are keys.  Look for somebody with a rake to turn them up.  When keys are found it is probably months after they were lost, based on the amount of rust.  People who find keys often hang them on a sign.  There is also a lost and found at the glider port.


Tar washes up on the beach from some natural source offshore, especially during the months of March, April and May.  It will stain towels and sheets.  Pick it up and put it in your litterbag to save people the inconvenience of getting it stuck to their feet.  When it's warm and soft, avoid touching it.  Use any oil product, like suntan oil, baby oil or lip balm to remove it from fingers or feet.  This small bottle is enough to clean off both feet, even if completely covered in tar.  Work it into the affected area with your hands, until you can see the skin.  Then wash it off in the ocean


Because voyeurs sometimes try to use pictures of us as pornography, we are very sensitive about cameras around us.  Sneaking pictures of nudists will make your day very stressful.  I recommend you be very conspicuous when you take pictures of your own friends and try to keep strangers out of the shot.  People on the beach are often very accommodating to take a picture of you with a friend, when asked.  You may also find many people willing to pose with you, but ask first.


There are boundary markers, but they don't say what sort of a boundary it is.  Local officials have erected clear markers in the past.  There are two reasons why they don't do it anymore.  1) Their lawyers warn them that any signs could constitute officially designating a nude beach.  2) Vandals destroy boundary markers.

The southern boundary is where Salk Institute Road would reach the beach, if it was to be extended.

The post says, "BOUNDARY", but it doesn't say what boundary.

The sign says nothing about a boundary.
It's also marked by a few orange cones.

They are placed daily by users, not officials.
Walking south, you will see the cones marked with an ambiguous label. 
This means you should dress before going further.
Walking north, you will see the label that says you have arrived, and you may now undress 
Sometimes other users move the cones to misleading locations. They can't move this rock.  It's located about twenty yards into the nude area. New markers were added August 4, 2006.  Check the alerts page for more information.

The northern boundary is under dispute.

Stay south of this steel buoy and you will avoid becoming a casualty in the dispute.

The disputed area is from that steel buoy for about 100 yards to Mussel Rocks.

Enter the disputed area, called Mussel Mesa, without covering the usual body parts and you risk a citation.

You will know you've gone too far when you see this sign against the cliff.  On the other hand, if you're heading south from Torrey Pines, you're almost there.

Beyond that is Flatrock.


Sting Rays

Sting rays do not attack people, but their defense mechanism is very painful.  If you are unfortunate enough to step on one, their reflex is to sting you with their tail, usually in the ankle.  Within minutes it becomes very painful.  The best treatment is to apply as much heat as possible.  Burying your foot in the hot sand is the most available way to do this.  The pain will pass after an hour or two.
bat ray

sting ray

The sting rays have sharp barbs along their back and a spear hidden inside the tail.

Choosing a Spot

Some people seem unaware that where they choose to sit may offend people around them, or make themselves uncomfortable.  I will recommend a way for a gentleman to choose his spot, another way for women and couples, and yet another way for families to choose.

Sometimes women and couples choose their spot far away from everyone.  The problem is that rude people often move to surround them and make them uncomfortable.  Women and couples should sit near other women and couples.   If there aren't any, then sit near established gentlemen.

The established gentlemen sit together in the same spot every week.  You probably won't know who the gentlemen are.  Sit down far from everyone.  The gentlemen will stay put.  The rude people will surround you.

If you are a family with kids, you probably want to sit with other families.  If you sit far from the other kids, you will have to entertain your kids by yourself.  If you sit near other kids, you can just watch them play with the other kids.

If you are a gentleman by yourself, you probably want to make friends.  If it's a wide open beach and you sit very close to others, their guard will be up and you probably won't make friends.  Sit at a distance and try to make conversation periodically through the day.  The welcome mat will likely be extended to you.  If they seem like they're just being polite, take a hint and leave them alone.  If you can't take a hint, you will be regarded with suspicion.


Sometimes the tide can be an obstacle to access, if you're trying to reach the beach by way of La Jolla Shores or Torrey Pines State Beach.  More often the problem with the tide is that people set up their stuff too close to the rising tide.  When the moon is new or full, there is the greatest difference between high and low, called spring tide.  When there is a half moon, there is little difference, called neap tide.  So, if you visit the beach during spring tide, and the tide is way out, you might set up your stuff, and the rising tide will soak everything.

Dry Sand    Tarps    Chairs    Winter

During the winter there is little dry sand.  You may want to bring a chair or tarp to keep dry.  Sometimes reflectors and windbreaks help keep you warm too.  During the winter it is often warm only from about 10am-4pm.


There is no trash collection at Black's Beach.  Don't bring anything down, unless you're willing to take it back up.  Abandoned chairs and umbrellas are not donations; they are litter. Widgets


Parking is free at the gliderport, and has little restriction. Parking on La Jolla Farms Road has tight restrictions.

Camping    Fires    Alcohol    Bottles    Dogs

There is a ban on alcohol.

Dogs are not allowed on the state beach, where clothing is optional.  Dogs are allowed evening, all night and early morning on the city beach.  There are conflicting signs about dogs on the trail.  I guess the only way to get dogs to the city beach is by access through Salk Canyon Road.

Glass beverage containers are illegal at Black's Beach.

Fires are illegal.

Camping is illegal.


Smoking is illegal on city beaches, but the nude portion is a state beach.


There are several routes to the beach.  None of them are truly safe.  Three routes are covered by this website.  People will discover others once they visit.  Those other routes are far more dangerous and those users sometimes make it into the news under the heading, "daring cliff rescue".

Cliffs    Landslides

The sandstone cliffs are unstable.  Small landslides occur a few times a year and big landslides occur rarely.  The more time you spend near the cliffs, the more likely you are to get buried by a slide.  Visitors should try to keep a distance from the cliff, especially if there are new rocks on the beach.  Rocks don't last long on the beach.  They sink into the sand and dissolve when waves reach them.


Vending on the state beach is illegal.  Citations have been issued and an arrest has been made.  Bring all the drinks you need.  Otherwise, refreshments are available at the gliderport.


The nearest bathrooms are port-a-potties at the gliderport, 300 feet up.  Regular users pee on the cliffs, bushes, or they pee in the surf, just like the dolphins.  Be advised that a ranger recently issued a citation to a man for urinating on the hillside.


Bees sometimes get in the water, then their wings pin them to the sand.  Watch your step.


Jellyfish don't attack you, but if they get caught in currents, they may wash toward shore.  If you even brush against one, you will get stung.  The most common jellyfish at Black's are the purple jellyfish.  They only cause an itch, much like poison ivy.  Scratching spreads it.  Avoid scratching and it goes away in less than an hour.

Sunburn    Sunblock    Shade

People often get sunburned when they try to get their tan in one day; big mistake.  I have a good base tan, but I still get sunburned.  If you get sunburned in the morning, you will not enjoy the afternoon.

Doctors warn people to stay out of the mid-day sun.  At mid-day the sun is highest in the sky and sunlight has to pass through the least amount of Earth's atmosphere, called airmass.  It is also a seasonal issue.

During the winter, the airmass that sunlight must pass through is never very low, so sunburn risk is lower.  During summer months, the airmass is lowest about 12:50pm.

Sunburn is more likely during the months of April, May, June, July, August and September.  June and July are the worst months.

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If you plan to spend a whole summer day at the beach, you should stay in the shade until about 2:30pm.  Use sunblock before and after, but try and stay in the shade from about 11:30am-2:30pm.  Nylon umbrellas give shade but generally don't block the rays that burn.
There is no shade at Black's Beach, unless you bring it yourself.  Costco sells a lightweight umbrella that blocks UV. They have a screw tip to get it into the sand and a good carrying bag.  The downside is that the radial supports are made of plastic and they break while the fabric is still good.

Umbrellas usually come in two sections, the post and the umbrella.  It is most effective to first put the post in as deep as possible, then attach the umbrella.  Now that you know where the shade is, set your towel according to your preference.  As the sun moves west, your shade will move toward the cliff.  Plan accordingly.

Applying Sunblock

You should apply sunblock to your entire body, before coming to the beach.  However, most people wait until they're already at the beach, and in the sun.  Find somebody to help you apply sunblock to areas you can't reach, your back.   If you have somebody apply sunblock to your genitals or breasts, you both risk arrest.


The most common shark at Black's is a shovel-nosed shark, also known as a guitar fish.  They are harmless.  There are also leopard sharks, small and harmless.

Squirrels    Seagulls

There are plenty of squirrels, and some of them are very bold.  Be aware of this before you walk away from your food.  They can chew through many barriers, given enough time.  You will not satisfy their hunger by feeding them.  They hoard food, so they will keep coming back for more.  Elevating your food, by hanging it from an umbrella, is pretty effective.  Sometimes we set up obstacles for entertainment and to keep them busy.

The seagulls will swoop in on any food you leave out.  Hanging your food in an umbrella is an effective way to keep it safe from them too.

Rip Currents

Black's Beach is an area known for strong rip currents.  They focus and form on narrow parts of the beach.  Most people cannot swim against a rip current.  If a rip current carries you too far from shore, the way out is to swim parallel to shore.  Once out of the current, swim to shore.

Alternate Exits

The main gate to the gliderport is usually locked promptly at 8pm.  However, there is another exit that is rarely locked.  You pass it on your right side as you approach the main gate.

This exit is guarded in the day.  It's reserved for Salk employees.  This exit is easy to find by simply turning left at the main gate and keeping Torrey Pines Scenic Drive to your right until you come to the gate.


When there is no wind, flies are annoying.  They feed on seaweed and swarm every time somebody passes near.

This problem is best handled by choosing a spot far from seaweed and pedestrian traffic.  Move seaweed far away if necessary.  Flies sometimes hide on dark things.  If this is the case, move your dark things away.

All that will reduce the fly problem, but you will probably want a repellent too.

The flies are the worst January through May, and hardly a problem otherwise.

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Swimming and Snorkeling

There are few fish to see in the surf, mostly bat rays.  Beyond the surf there is plenty to see, but it's far and deep.        

Water Temperature

Winter water temperatures are down to the mid-fifties.  Summer and fall temperatures are as high as mid-seventies.  Check a few trip reports for a more complete history.


This page last updated June 10, 2009 by Lloyd Johnson.
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