San Diego is one of the country’s top vacation destinations. Learn more about its top beach attractions for your vacation.
About Pacific Beach
While Pacific Beach is a popular hangout for college students and surfers, the population is becoming more mixed. Due to rising property and rental costs, more professional, mature and affluent people are not only visiting Pacific Beach but many are calling it home. “P.B.”, as it is known by locals is well known for its abundant nightlife with a variety of bars welcoming to both locals and visitors and its many unique eateries. There is also no shortage of shopping in the many boardwalk boutiques as well as the vast array of clothing stores and beach and souvenir shops.
The boardwalk in Pacific Beach runs 3.2 miles along the beach. It is an intriguing exhibition of contemporary style and beach culture. This pedestrian walkway is typically crowded with tattooed skateboarders, shopper and cyclists. There are many local shops, bars and restaurants along the boardwalk. On the boardwalk there are all types of people from the very young riding with their parents on bicycles to college kids walking to a favorite hangout, to bronzed beauties on roller blades to the more mature just enjoying the view of the ocean, the beautiful weather and the activity all around. There is always a mixture of locals and visitors on the boardwalk which gives it a very welcoming vibe.
Tourmaline Surfing Park is a perfect place to try your hand at surfing. It is a surf only beach with slow, slopey waves for longboarders, beginners and when the wind is up, windsurfers and kiteboarders. This area offers a small picnic area as well as restrooms. There is plenty of parking further making this a popular destination for surfers of all levels.
North Pacific Beach runs from Crystal Pier to Tourmaline and is considered a calm, family friendly stretch of beach. There are lifeguard stations and restrooms nearby.
Pacific Beach offers various dedicated parking and restrooms. You can find almost anything from bicycle rentals to souvenir shops, to clothing stores to street entertainers to bars and restaurants along the coast. Swimming and surfing are both allowed but always in separate areas throughout Pacific Beach. You can always find a party or gathering of people both on the beach and along the boardwalk, especially on weekends.
From INTERSTATE 5 take Garnet Avenue west all the way to Mission Blvd.
Parking can be difficult during the summer and on weekends. The best bets for parking besides arriving early are the lot at Tourmaline Street and side streets on the north side of Crystal Pier. The boardwalk is a non-stop show of activity and entertainment. When on the boardwalk pay attention to the many cyclists, people rollerblading and skateboarders. Always walk to the right and keep your eyes open. If you are cycling, the speed limit is 8mph. To make your stay the best it can be follow all posted regulations and parking signs. They are strictly and frequently enforced. Also, this is an alcohol free beach at all times.
About Mission Beach
Much like Pacific Beach, Mission Beach is always hustling and bustling with activity. It most closely resembles East Coast beaches such as Coney Island and Atlantic City. It’s once circus like atmosphere has since morphed into a larger than life playground for people of all ages. You can expect to find all kinds of free-spirited people at Mission Beach including those sporting dread locks, many tattoos and participating in all types of activities including skateboarding, bicycle tricks, surfing and cycling. But this is only one side of Mission Beach. On the Mission Bay side you will find the middle-age professionals out for a run, kids learning to sail at the Aquatic Center and families picnicking on the grass.
North Mission Beach is mostly residential from Pacific Beach Drive to the Belmont roller coaster with unique apartments along the beach. On the main street you will find funky clothing and souvenir stores, smoothie bars and head shops. Many locals just enjoy the opportunity to live at the beach and be carefree. When you see thrift shop furniture on someone’s patio do not think of it as an eyesore but rather a beach revelers declaration of independence.
If you are looking for action and fun for all ages then Belmont Park is the place to go. You can ride the historic Giant Dipper roller coaster, one of the few remaining wooden roller coasters or rent rollerblades or just hang out and people watch which there is no shortage of. Belmont Park is fun for all ages including small children with the many carnival type rides.
South Mission Beach offers the same scene as North Mission Beach but the pace slows the further south you go. When you reach the south end of the boardwalk you will find fishermen casting their lines off the jetty and you can watch boats as they pass in and out through the Harbor Channel. About a half mile off the coast there is a series of shipwrecks placed here to create an artificial reef and a diver’s playground.
From Interstate 5 take Garnet Avenue west to Mission Blvd south. Or take Sea World Drive exit to West Mission Bay Drive to the roller coaster. Also, the city bus runs through Mission Beach. You can reach San Diego transit at 619-233-3004 for routes and schedules.
On the beachfront side you will find miles of larger than life boardwalks with lifeguard stations and restroom facilities. Or head to the Bayside for quiet coves and pedestrian paths. In the middle you will find takeout food and liquor stores, carnival rides, surf shops and beach bars. For more information call 619-221-8899.
There is virtually no parking on the residential streets. If you find parking please look for any no parking signs or parking limitations. You will have a better chance at the public parking lots at Belmont Park, Santa Clara Point and South Mission Beach Park. Remember, the earlier you head to the beach the better your chances for parking nearby. You might also consider arriving by bicycle or bus. Alcohol is never permitted on the beach, boardwalk or in parking lots or at Santa Clara Point.