comScore
Mission Beach picture in San Diego
Pacific Beach picture in San Diego
Crystal Pier at Pacific Beach picture in San Diego
Mission Bay picture in San Diego
Mission Beach picture in San Diego
Pacific Beach picture in San Diego
Crystal Pier at Pacific Beach picture in San Diego
Mission Bay picture in San Diego

Key Info

Price & Hours

  • Free
  • 24/7 daily

Details

  • Beaches, Recreation, Neighborhood/Area Type
  • 2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend

Local Experts Scorecard
Based on 8 interviews

  • Must-see
  • Recommended
  • If You Have Time

Read about how we rank Things to Do.

Mission Beach and Pacific Beach are one giant, connected shoreline in San Diego. While not as pristine as Coronado Beach, the area is just as popular thanks to all the nearby attractions and amenities. This miles-long stretch of sand fits the SoCal stereotype to a T: throngs of surfers and bikini-clad sunbathers crowd the shores every summer, while the nearby boardwalk is usually packed with inline skaters and bicyclists. The beach is a popular spot in San Diego for surfing as well, offering swells both high and low, perfect for beginners and seasoned surfers (there are numerous water sports equipment rental shops strewn around the neighborhood). Belmont Park, which acts as the border between the two beaches, is a beachfront amusement park featuring arcades and numerous rides, including the Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster – a more than 100-year-old National Historic Landmark. When lunchtime rolls around, head to one of the many beachside eateries that flank the boardwalk or Mission Boulevard (the area's main thoroughfare), or have a picnic at Bonita Cove, the bayfront park located across the street from Belmont Park.

The difference between the two is discernible. While they both share the same boardwalk, sand and ocean, Pacific Beach and Mission Beach share key differences. Mission Beach, which begins at Belmont Park going south, is the calmer of the two. The boardwalk has more homes than hotels and far fewer amenities than Pacific Beach, making it good for families or those seeking a more relaxed beach experience. Pacific Beach, which starts north of Belmont Park, is much more lively. Mission Boulevard, the main thoroughfare, is lined with restaurants, surf shops, retail stores, hotels and bars. The further you go up Mission Boulevard the further you go into the belly of the beast that is Pacific Beach. Next to the Gaslamp Quarter, Pacific Beach is the best place for nightlife in San Diego, known for getting particularly rowdy. Aside from Mission Boulevard, you can find a heavy concentration of bars and nightlife options on Garnet Avenue and Grand Avenue. If you don't want to experience this side of Pacific Beach, take a walk along Crystal Pier or stick to the beach north of this pier. 

Mission Beach and Pacific Beach are open every day, and there is no entry fee. However, you will have to pay to play in Belmont Park (prices are listed on the park's website). Past visitors enjoyed the fun and relaxed atmosphere and all of the things to do at and near the beaches, especially the many water sports and bike rental places available. Despite numerous positive experiences, many complained of the lack of sufficient parking. Due to the beaches' popularity with tourists and locals, expect to drive around a little before finding a parking space, especially during the weekend. You can also find more parking around Belmont Park, Santa Clara Point and South Mission Beach Park. 

Powered by Viator See more Tours & Tickets

Hotels Nearby

  • Thing to Do
  • Hotel
See all hotels in San Diego »

More Best Things to Do in San Diego

Balboa Park picture in San Diego
Parks and Gardens, Recreation Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Welcome to the San Diego Zoo picture in San Diego
Zoos and Aquariums Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Torrey Pines Cliffs picture in San Diego
Beaches, Hiking, Parks and Gardens Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Coronado Beach picture in San Diego
Beaches Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
USS Midway Museum picture in San Diego
Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
View from the Cabrillo National Monument picture in San Diego
Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Welcome to the Gaslamp Quarter picture in San Diego
Entertainment and Nightlife, Neighborhood/Area Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Maritime Museum picture in San Diego
Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
SeaWorld picture in San Diego
Amusement Parks, Zoos and Aquariums Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Mission Beach picture in San Diego
Beaches, Recreation, Neighborhood/Area Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Sunset Cliffs picture in San Diego
Hiking, Recreation, Swimming/Pools Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
La Jolla Cove picture in San Diego
Beaches, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Swimming/Pools Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
La Jolla Shores picture in San Diego
Beaches Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
|

#1 Balboa Park Home to the renowned San Diego Zoo. this 1,200-acre park is the city's cultural hub. Located in downtown San Diego (about 2 miles north of the city center ... Read more » f11photo / Getty Images

#2 San Diego Zoo and Safari Park This 100-acre establishment is one of the most famous zoos in the country. The San Diego Zoo is not only one of the largest zoos in the USA but also ... Read more » fortherock / Flickr

#3 Torrey Pines State Reserve Want to see what San Diego looked like at its founding? It's at the Torrey Pines State Reserve. This oceanfront reserve features 1,750 acres of unspoiled land, protecting ... Read more » Lisa Field / Courtesy of SanDiego.org

#4 Coronado Beach Compared to Mission Beach, this popular shoreline boasts fewer sunbathers and calmer waves. Just across the bay from San Diego, Coronado Beach is popular with families and couples alike thanks ... Read more » slobo / Getty Images

#5 USS Midway Museum San Diego is a big military town. You'll likely see bases scattered about while exploring the city, especially around parts of the San Diego Bay. The USS Midway is ... Read more » ATOMIC Hot Links / Flickr

#6 Cabrillo National Monument The southernmost tip of Point Loma is where you'll find the Cabrillo National Monument. The statue depicts Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who, in 1542, was the first European explorer to ... Read more » russellstreet / Flickr

#7 Gaslamp Quarter The Gaslamp Quarter's 16 blocks are peppered with Victorian-style buildings that now house a variety of shops, art galleries, theatres and trendy restaurants, not to mention plenty of bars ... Read more » John Bahu / Courtesy of San Diego Tourism Authority

#8 Maritime Museum of San Diego The Maritime Museum offers a hands-on look at San Diego's days as a bustling seaport. You can tour all types of historic vessels, from sailing ships to submarines, including ... Read more » Stacy / Flickr

#9 SeaWorld San Diego Though you may spot wildlife at any one of San Diego's beaches (especially Pacific and Mission Beach) none put on quite as good a show as the performers at ... Read more » Radius Images / Getty Images

#10 Mission Beach and Pacific Beach Mission Beach and Pacific Beach are one giant, connected shoreline in San Diego. While not as pristine as Coronado Beach, the area is just as popular thanks to all the ... Read more » John Bahu / Courtesy of SanDiego.org

#11 Sunset Cliffs Next to the Cabrillo Monument, travelers say this is the next best place for ocean views in Point Loma. Situated a little more than 9 miles due west of downtown ... Read more » Zlatko Unger / Flickr

# La Jolla Cove La Jolla Cove is the jewel of La Jolla. Located across the water from La Jolla Shores, La Jolla Cove may not be much in terms of a beach, but ... Read more » pilgrims49 / Getty Images

# La Jolla Shores Known for its gentle waves and active beachgoers, La Jolla Shores is an ideal place to relax for a few hours. Locals and tourists hit this beach to surf, see ... Read more » Courtesy SanDiego.org

Balboa Park picture in San Diego
Welcome to the San Diego Zoo picture in San Diego
Torrey Pines Cliffs picture in San Diego
Coronado Beach picture in San Diego
USS Midway Museum picture in San Diego
View from the Cabrillo National Monument picture in San Diego
Welcome to the Gaslamp Quarter picture in San Diego
Maritime Museum picture in San Diego
SeaWorld picture in San Diego
Mission Beach picture in San Diego
Sunset Cliffs picture in San Diego
La Jolla Cove picture in San Diego
La Jolla Shores picture in San Diego
Balboa Park picture in San Diego
Welcome to the San Diego Zoo picture in San Diego
Torrey Pines Cliffs picture in San Diego
Coronado Beach picture in San Diego
USS Midway Museum picture in San Diego
View from the Cabrillo National Monument picture in San Diego
Welcome to the Gaslamp Quarter picture in San Diego
Maritime Museum picture in San Diego
SeaWorld picture in San Diego
Mission Beach picture in San Diego
Sunset Cliffs picture in San Diego
La Jolla Cove picture in San Diego
La Jolla Shores picture in San Diego

Balboa Park is home to numerous gardens and museums, not to mention one of San Diego's biggest attractions, the San Diego Zoo. f11photo / Getty Images

The San Diego Zoo is not only one of the largest zoos in the USA but also houses one of the largest collections of rare and endangered animals in the world (3,500 to be exact). fortherock / Flickr

The detailed cliffs and rock formations that permeate the Torrey Pines are one of the most striking geological features of the state reserve.  Lisa Field / Courtesy of SanDiego.org

Coronado is considered one of the best beaches in California for its calm waters, wide sands and incredible sunsets.  slobo / Getty Images

The USS Midway is the longest-serving Navy aircraft carrier of the 20th century. The museum features 60 exhibits and 29 aircraft. ATOMIC Hot Links / Flickr

This monument is dedicated to Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, the first European explorer to navigate the Californian coast. russellstreet / Flickr

This 16-block neighborhood in downtown San Diego earned its nickname from the numerous gas lamps that were installed here in the late 19th century. John Bahu / Courtesy of San Diego Tourism Authority

At the Maritime Museum you can step aboard the world's oldest active sailing ship, the Star of India (pictured here). The Star of India first set sail in 1863 and has since been around the world 21 times. Stacy / Flickr

In addition to its popular animal shows, SeaWorld has many exhibits that offer the opportunity to interact with the animals it calls home, including dolphins and stingrays. Radius Images / Getty Images

Mission Beach and Pacific Beach are great beaches to soak up some rays or test your surfing skills. You'll also find a bustling boardwalk with bars, restaurants and shops. John Bahu / Courtesy of SanDiego.org

A beloved spot among locals and travelers alike, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is often considered one of the most beautiful places in San Diego to catch a sunset. Zlatko Unger / Flickr

Located across La Jolla Shores, La Jolla Cove is beloved by locals and visitors for its postcard-worthy scenery.  pilgrims49 / Getty Images

La Jolla Shores is popular for water sports enthusiasts and sunbathers. Courtesy SanDiego.org

×

See full list of Best Things to Do in San Diego »

Explore More of San Diego

Find the Best Price

Enter your check in and check out dates to find the best price

PriceFinder powered by TripAdvisor Primary Logo