With more than 260 days of sunshine and 70 miles of sparkling coastline, San Diego definitely lives up to its reputation as California’s beach city. Tucked along this impressive stretch of sand are several vibrant beach communities with a style and personality of their own, where visitors can explore, let loose or just relax and experience the area like a local.
The following are five favorite and distinct beach neighborhoods for visitors to discover this summer, offering something for every type of visitor.
Get Groovy in Ocean Beach
Located north of Point Loma, the eclectic vintage beach town of Ocean Beach (OB), which still retains its 1960s feel, welcomes everyone with its friendly and laid-back vintage vibe. Popular activities include sunbathing, surfing, skateboarding at Robb Field Skate Park and strolling numerous surf stores, taco shops, thrift boutiques and the largest concentration of antique shops in San Diego along Newport Ave. and Voltaire St.
- Must-sees: OB Pier, the longest concrete pier on the west coast, stretches a half mile out to sea and is a favorite fishing spot. At popular Dog Beach, visitors watch tail-wagging dogs of all kinds frolic in the surf off-leash.
- Can’t-Miss Event: The 38th Annual Ocean Beach Street Fair & Chili Cook-Off Festival on June 24, 2017 features zesty chili tasting, art, beachfront entertainment, shopping and more from sunup to sundown.
- Best Bites: An OB institution for almost 50 years, Hodad’s serves up one of San Diego’s most mouthwatering hamburgers with a side of crunchy “frings” (onion rings and French fries).
- Top Sunset Spot: Nearby Sunset Cliffs, with its sculpted sandstone bluffs, transforms into a palette of vibrant oranges and reds as the sun dips into the Pacific Ocean.
Make a Splash in Mission Bay
Located just minutes from downtown, the 4,600-acre Mission Bay is the largest manmade aquatic park in the world and home to SeaWorld San Diego, 27 miles of tranquil shoreline, soft sand beaches, bicycling paths, grassy parks for picnicking and barbequing, and endless water activities from standup paddle boarding and kayaking to sailing and jet skiing.
- Must-sees: Guests can cruise Mission Bay aboard the Bahia Belle, a historic sternwheeler that by night becomes San Diego’s only floating nightclub. Opening in May 2017, the new Ocean Explorer land at SeaWorld will feature exciting marine life encounters and a Submarine Quest ride.
- Can’t-Miss Event: Closer than a trip to the tropics, the Catamaran Resort offers Polynesian food and culture during the annual Sunset Luaus, June 30–Sept. 1, 2017.
- Best Bites: The first Rubio’s restaurant opened in 1983 in Mission Bay and introduced the world to “the original fish taco,” a tasty Baja food staple that is synonymous with San Diego beach culture. Taking seafood to another level, the Seafood Tower at Oceana Coastal Kitchen brims with the freshest, most delicious bounty of the sea.
- Top Sunset Spot: Fine dining and boutique wines pair perfectly with stunning sunsets along the bayside patio deck of Tidal restaurant at the Paradise Point Resort.
Bustling Mission Beach
Located adjacent to Mission Bay, San Diego’s classic boardwalk beach town of Mission Beach resonates with a lively, youthful energy along nearly two miles of oceanfront paths and a multitude of shops, restaurants and bars along Mission Blvd. The bustling boardwalk is perfect for inline skating, beach cruiser cycling or people watching. Anchored by Belmont Park amusement park, there’s plenty of beachfront fun in addition to soaking up the sun.
- Must-sees: The Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster at Belmont Park, one of the top 12 historic roller coasters in the U.S. (USA Today), is as thrilling today as it was when it opened in 1925.
- Best Bites (and Brews): Sandbar Sports Bar & Grill is famous for winning “best fish tacos” at the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival. Tapping into San Diego’s celebrated craft beer scene, Draft serves dozens of local beers on tap and is a hot spot for a beachside brunch.
- Top Sunset Spot: The pool-themed decor of Cannonball, the largest oceanfront rooftop restaurant in San Diego, provides prime sunset viewing while enjoying delicious and inventive sushi and more.
- Insider Tip: For a respite from the bustling boardwalk, head to the wider South Mission Beach, which offers lots of room to spread out on the sand or join in some beach volleyball.
Surf-centric Imperial Beach
The southernmost beach town in California, located five miles north of the U.S./Mexico border, Imperial Beach (IB) features a 4-mile stretch of beach offering gnarly surfing, sport fishing, beach volleyball and horseback riding — the only beach in San Diego where visitors can ride a horse. IB is also a bicyclist’s dream; the new Bikeway Village offers a shopping and dining pit stop along the Bayshore Bikeway, which winds around San Diego Bay.
- Must-sees: IB Pier provides panoramic views of downtown San Diego to the north and Los Coronados Islands off the coast. Nearby Tijuana River National Estuary,the largest salt water marsh in Southern California, is a top birding spot with scenic nature trails for wildlife viewing.
- Can’t-Miss Event: On July 29, 2017, dozens of dogs take to the waves of IB during the annual Surf Dog Competition, America’s premier dog surfing event attracting thousands of spectators.
- Best Bites: The Tin Fish on the IB Pier serves up sweeping views, as well as tasty fish and chips. For fine dining, the new SEA180 Coastal Tavern makes a splash with Baja-Mediterranean fare.
- Top Sunset Spot: Paying homage to IB’s proud surfing heritage, the landmark “Surfhenge” surfboard sculpture at the pier entrance is a great vantage point to watch the sun create a kaleidoscope of color. Visitors can relax on one of the 10 surfboard benches situated about the plaza.
Picture-perfect La Jolla
La Jolla, the multifaceted “Jewel of San Diego,” shines with a variety of beaches ranging from expansive shorelines to scenic coves and sea bluffs. La Jolla features three distinct areas to explore: La Jolla Village, featuring boutique shopping and fine dining along Prospect St. and a pristine cove for swimming, snorkeling and tidepooling; mile-long La Jolla Shores, with its surf shops, kayak tours and iconic oceanfront dining, and the Torrey Pines mesa, home of the world-renowned Torrey Pines Golf Course, award-winning spas, Torrey Pines Gliderport(North America’s largest tandem paragliding/hang gliding site), Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, Birch Aquarium at Scripps and the Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse.
- Must-sees: Sunny Jim Cave, the only known land access sea cave on the California coast, offers a mini adventure in the heart of La Jolla Village, which can be accessed through the Cave Store. The Children’s Pool, a sandy, crescent-shaped cove south of La Jolla Cove, is home to dozens of seals, offering fantastic photo ops from the seawall.
- Can’t-Miss Event: Green Flash Concert Series on Tide Pool Plaza at the Birch Aquarium, June 21–Sept. 20, 2017, features live music, savory bites, craft beers and wine. (At sunset, be on the lookout for a real “green flash,” a rare optical phenomenon when the sun glows green for a couple of seconds just before dipping into the sea.)
- Best Bites: The landmark Marine Room with its dramatic on-the-sand location and exquisite global-inspired menu has wowed diners for more than 75 years. For casual al fresco fare and craft cocktails with amazing views, head to the rooftop Ocean Terrace at George’s at the Cove.
- Top Sunset Spot: The historic, Instagram-worthy thatched-roof surf shack at La Jolla’s Windansea Beach frames the sunset perfectly as ocean waves crash against the rocky reefs.
Happiness is calling in San Diego. For more information on beachy good times in San Diego, including exciting vacation packages and valuable deals and offers for attractions, activities and accommodations, visit the San Diego Tourism Authority’s website at www.sandiego.org.
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