Last Updated on June 4, 2023
San Diego Mission Beach is a lively take on the classic Southern California boardwalk beach town – and it’s a whole lot of fun.
Sporting nearly two miles of oceanfront boardwalk, Mission Beach is also home to Belmont Park. The highlight of this boardwalk amusement park is the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster. Originally built in 1925, the restored coaster greets visitors along with miniature golf, bumper cars, and an arcade.
Mission Beach presents a host of activities for the whole family including biking, beach volleyball, boogie boarding, surfing, whale watching, sport fishing and scuba diving. So, whether you’re a 20-something or a 70-something, Mission Beach has fun in the sun.
How to Get to Mission Beach
Mission Beach is located on a narrow strip of land on the Pacific coast in San Diego, California. It’s one of the city’s many eclectic neighborhoods within the larger community of Mission Bay.
The town, just eight miles northwest of downtown San Diego, is bordered by the Pacific Beach neighborhood to the north and the Mission Bay Park to the east. Mission Bay is a man-made saltwater wonderland sitting on a sandbar that includes a 4,600-square-foot aquatic playground.
Mission Bay’s roughly 4,325 acres consist of 50 percent land and 50 percent water with 19 miles of bay beach surrounding the calm-water lagoon.
Visitors to San Diego arrive by car or if flying in, can pick up a car rental just across from the airport. If you come by train, the San Diego Transit city bus runs right through Mission Beach and yes, it’s an easy walkable town.
The Best Times to Visit
Let’s be honest. San Diego has some of the best weather in the world. It’s renowned for a Mediterranean-like climate with an average temperature of 72-degrees and 266-days of sunshine. A local surfer friend calls it “the place of the endless summer.”
It’s not hard to see why visitors flock here.
Sun worshipers however may want to avoid our “May Gray” and “June Gloom” months. These are our most overcast times of the year when warm weather from the desert meets the cool air of the Pacific Ocean resulting in a marine layer that can last into late morning or even the entire day.
Surprisingly enough, our three hottest months are August through October.
No matter when you choose to come, you can pack casual, throw in a bathing suit, flip flops, sunglasses, a sweatshirt for cool coastal evenings, and you’re ready for a memorable Southern California vacation San Diego-style.
Where to Stay in Mission Beach
There are plenty of vacation rentals to be found if you’re traveling with family or friends and want to share a beach or bay house in the area. However, high season, as with most popular destinations, may be more competitive, so we suggest booking in advance if you’re coming during spring break or the summer vacation months.
If you’re looking for more of a hotel/resort feel with amenities, these are my absolute favorites because they both provide the perfect beach vacation vibe with an ideal ambience.
Bahia Resort Hotel
The Bahia Hotel Resort in Mission Bay offers a relaxing and picturesque getaway with its waterfront location, comfortable accommodations, dining options, and access to water activities.
Situated on a scenic peninsula in Mission Bay, the resort is surrounded by water on three sides. It offers beautiful views of the bay and easy access to both Mission Beach and Pacific Beach. Bahia features lush tropical gardens, miles of sandy beaches, and varied accommodations travelers can find to fit their needs.
The resort offers a variety of amenities to enhance the guest experience. These include an outdoor heated swimming pool, fitness center, and a full-service spa. Guests can also take advantage of complimentary bicycle rentals to explore the surrounding area and the resort’s location provides easy access to various popular attractions in San Diego.
These include SeaWorld San Diego, which is within walking distance, as well as the renowned San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, and downtown San Diego, all a short drive away.
The Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa
Though the resort is ‘technically’ located in Pacific Beach, the dividing line between the two beach towns is pretty laissez-faire.
Situated on the shores of picturesque Mission Bay, the Hawaiian Islands-inspired resort offers stunning views of the bay along with a large outdoor heated swimming pool, lush tropical gardens, palm trees, tiki torches, koi ponds, waterfalls, and exotic birds that like to strike up conversations with guests via whistles and throaty “hello’s” and “you’re so pretty’s.”
The Catamaran Resort offers a range of water activities for guests including paddleboarding, kayaking, sailing, and jet skiing along with beachside rentals. They can help arrange lessons or guided tours as well.
This stunning property is also conveniently located near popular San Diego attractions such as SeaWorld San Diego, the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, and the vibrant downtown Gaslamp Quarter.
Where to Play
Mission Beach is totally about the water, so, there’s no shortage of activities available to the active outdoors enthusiast. A variety of both beach and bay rentals are available all throughout town. And guests will find plenty of places to set up their beach chairs and umbrellas for some vitamin “Sea.”
Mission Beach has a lively boardwalk known as Ocean Front Walk running parallel to the beach. The boardwalk is a popular spot for walking, jogging, biking, and rollerblading and it’s lined with shops, restaurants, and beachfront accommodations.
One of the prominent landmarks in San Diego Mission Beach is Belmont Park, an amusement park that’s been entertaining visitors since 1925. It features the historic wooden Giant Dipper roller coaster, a variety of rides, arcades, shops, and eateries.
Mission Bay Park is located adjacent to Mission Beach and the largest man-made aquatic park in the country. It offers a wide range of recreational opportunities such as sailing, fishing, jet skiing, picnicking, and birdwatching. The park also has numerous grassy areas, playgrounds, and bike paths.
Moonlight cruises around the bay on the Bahia Belle, a sternwheeler Mississippi-style riverboat docked at either the Bahia or Catamaran Resorts, are a real treat. Guests staying at either one of the two resorts previously mentioned receive a discounted price.
San Diego Mission Beach restaurants
There are many places to eat in San Diego Mission Beach and thankfully, they are fun and casual.
Dining at Oceana Coastal Kitchen, the signature restaurant of the Catamaran Resort in Pacific Beach, is a must. Oceana is a hidden treasure that doesn’t always come into mind when considering San Diego oceanfront restaurants, but this South Sea Island-themed restaurant is gorgeous.
Technically, it’s not even on the ocean as it actually overlooks Mission Bay.
Oceana’s California cuisine complements the view with a myriad of seafood, sushi, and other culinary delights. At night, tikitorches are all lit, adding to an already romantic ambience.
Who can resist a beach and surf-themed bar and restaurant owned by surfers, replete with surfboard fins decorating the wall? Add a touch of local photography and artwork, a bar top designed with natural wood gathered from southern Baja, and you have one authentic, perfectly fitting lunch spot.
If the atmosphere isn’t awesome enough at Single Fin Surf Grill, the food is unbelievably flavorful. The Sriracha Shrimp Tacos served with shredded cabbage, pico de gallo and lime crema were the best seafood tacos I’ve ever eaten-anywhere in the world and that says a lot.
The next time you’re considering a visit to San Diego, consider a stay in San Diego Mission Beach. It provides guests yet another unique view of what our authentic throwback Southern California beach towns are all about.