San Diego Travel Guide
San Diego Beaches
With miles of shoreline, you can reach nearly any beach within 15-20 min drive from the city. Check out the list below for review and helpful tips.
It is technically an island that you can reach via a land bridge. The major point of attraction is Hotel Del Coronado, in front of which is an expansive sandy shoreline. This is the beach that most people will spend a day in because you can also check out the cute village around the hotel for food and shops. Also, it is a family friendly place, so it is a great option if you have mixed age groups. The best place to park is along Ocean Blvd. There are several entry points to the beach and it's a short walk to the hotel. It can get challenging to find a spot on the weekend (and during summer months), in which case, you can find street parking within 2-3 blocks from this area.
This southern-most beach in San Diego is so close to Mexico, you can see it in distance. It is an underrated beach that not many visitors know about but the locals favor. The drive to IB is also pretty unique - you drive through a narrow strip of land called the Silver Strand, and I've always enjoyed the drive at sunset. The IB pier is the focal point of this beach so be sure to check that out. There is usually plenty of parking near the beach - the best bet is to park a couple of blocks out and bring your beach gear from there. Check out the Happy Hour at SEA 180 restaurant (inside of Pier South Resort), they have a wonderful waterfront patio.
Mission Beach / Mission Bay
This is our go-to beach for several reasons: clean sand, boardwalk along the shoreline, and the relaxing vibes. Sandwiched between Pacific Beach to the north and Ocean Beach to the south, it's the perfect beach to come to if you want to lie on the sand and soak up the sun and jump in the water (when the water is warm). It's also a great place to take a surf lesson, and on the other side, you can go for paddle-boarding and kayaking at Mission Bay. You can also walk down the beach to reach Belmont Park, which has an old-timey vibes with a few rides. It's good to walk around here. One thing to note is that parking is definitely challenging. You are constantly competing with locals who need to park on the streets and a big influx of people. The best place to park is along Mission Blvd., but be prepared to quickly spot a space and parallel park. Also, getting in and out during rush hour is challenging, so to avoid the hassle, take Uber/Lyft and come before lunch time and leave before dinner time. Our go-to joint for fish tacos is La Playa Taco Shop. The wait can be long during lunch time, so you can call ahead and order for pick up and eat on the beach, or if you have time to hangout, you can sit on their patio.
PB has a "young-vibe" to it and really comes alive in the evening for its night life. There are definitely a number of great restaurants / bars to check out after spending the day at the beach. Similar to MB and OB, it is also challenging to find parking here, so if you drive, be quick about finding a spot, otherwise it might be a good idea to take Lyft/Uber. If you want a more mellow experience, head up a bit more north and you will reach Bird Rock. It's an established community with a cute village vibe to it. Calumet Park can be a great place to watch the sunset as it is situated above a cliff and has grassy area with benches to sit at. When we are in PB, one of our favorite places to check out is Barrel Republic, which is a pour-your-own taproom with a huge selection of local and out of town beers (and some wine) - they also have a free popcorn machine!
Keep it weird, OB! OB has a strong personality compared to other beaches. It is known for being hippie and "weird", but it is friendly enough of a place with a beautiful pier and sunsets. The original Hodad's burger place is here, which is a must despite the long line. It's also a good place to bring your dogs, as there is a dog beach as well. Another place to check out for dinner is Pizza Port - they have their own brewery as well and have a solid selection of beer. Unlike MB and PB, there are parking lots (public) that are right next to the beach, so if you can manage to snag a spot, it is very easy to transport your beach gears.