Stretching along San Diego Bay, Downtown San Diego’s scenic Embarcadero is the perfect place to shop, dine, and enjoy the great outdoors. Boasting a rich maritime history, the expansive waterfront area is a busy cruise ship hub and home to eye-catching public art, charming boutiques, and excellent restaurants.
From exploring popular maritime sites and shopping in beautiful bayfront stores to touring the San Diego Bay or flying kites in one of the picturesque parks, the Embarcadero has something for everyone. Climb aboard historic ships at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Stroll around The Headquarters and Seaport Village, looking for unique gifts. Picnic in Tuna Harbor Park against a backdrop of gorgeous bay vistas. Feast on fresh seafood and fantastic waterfront views.
Not sure where to begin your San Diego Bay adventure? Plan it all out with this complete guide for what to see & do, where to eat & drink, and where to stay on the Embarcadero, San Diego!
Looking for more ideas for your trip? Check out our California Travel Guide for more tips & recommendations on when to visit, where to go & what to do on your vacation!
What to see & do in the Embarcadero
Resembling a quaint 19th-century harbor town, Seaport Village is one of the top spots for some retail therapy on the Embarcadero. Spread over four miles, Seaport Village features meandering cobblestone pathways and a quarter-mile slate boardwalk along the San Diego Bay.
Spend a few hours browsing over 50 diverse stores selling everything from designer clothing to handcrafted jewelry. Beautiful, landscaped gardens dotted with tranquil ponds and ornate fountains offer a quiet place to take a break from shopping.
When you’ve worked up an appetite, head to one of the restaurants around Seaport Village to enjoy a variety of cuisine, from fresh seafood to authentic Mexican food.
Seaport Village has plenty of family-friendly entertainment when the kids get bored, from a vintage carousel offering rides to themed events and performances throughout the year.
Another go-to spot for shopping at the Embarcadero is The Headquarters. Situated right next door to Seaport Village, The Headquarters is a trendy, open-air lifestyle center with several fantastic restaurants and specialty shops.
Housed in what was once the San Diego Police Station, dating back to 1939, The Headquarters still features the old eight-cell jail block, now restored and home to historic photos and police memorabilia.
Centered around a charming open-air courtyard, the bayfront mall features over 20 unique boutique stores, art galleries, and gourmet wine shops.
Several restaurants offer an excellent choice of cuisine, from a high-end steakhouse to a casual Mexican cantina. You can also enjoy various events around the year at The Headquarters, from live music gigs to family-friendly festivals.
USS Midway Museum
Taking center stage of the Embarcadero in San Diego Bay and the USS Midway Museum is the mighty USS Midway. A can’t-miss activity is to climb aboard the celebrated aircraft carrier and explore its fascinating 47-year legacy.
Once home to more than 200,000 servicemen, the battleship now stands sentry over the harbor and Downtown San Diego with its flight deck full of retired bombers, fighters, and helicopters. Explore the USS Midway Museum’s incredible collection that took naval aviation into the jet age.
Watch a riveting multimedia movie narrated by the heroes that bravely took part in one of the most important naval battles of World War Two. Chat with volunteers who served aboard the carrier and hear their stories of life on the high seas.
Try your hand at landing an aircraft on the ship! Adrenaline junkies or budding pilots can brave the skies in one of two flight simulators on board. Don’t forget to visit the museum shop for unique souvenirs!
Tuna Harbor Park
Looking for a peaceful escape from the crowds on the Embarcadero? Head to the Tuna Harbor Park next to the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market. Named for San Diego’s commercial fishing industry and the historic tuna port, the park is a wonderful spot to relax and watch the boat activity in the bay.
Tuna Harbor Park has a scenic promenade for walking or jogging, winding pathways for cycling, and lovely shaded areas for relaxing. Benches and picnic tables are dotted about the park offering comfortable places to picnic with beautiful views of the San Diego Bay.
An amazing feature of Tuna Harbor Park is the vibrant murals adorning the walls around the grounds. Admire the colorful scenes of fishing and marine life that celebrate San Diego’s bustling fishing industry. Four-legged friends are welcome in the park but need to be on a leash.
Embarcadero Marina Park South
Another fantastic spot to grab a moment of peace is Embarcadero Marina Park South. Set on Marina South Way, the dog-friendly park has beautiful views over the bay and offers a host of outdoor activities, from biking to basketball.
Enjoy some exercise in the sun on the Embarcadero Marina Park South parcourse, where you’ll find several stations for box jumps, dips, push-ups, and pull-ups. Rent a bicycle and cycle around the park on one of the scenic trails.
Enjoy fishing off the pier, relax on the grassy lawns, and fly kites. You’ll also find several gazebos and picnic tables for impromptu lunches and several concessions selling drinks, snacks, and souvenirs.
On Saturdays and Sundays, Embarcadero Marina Park South hosts a popular artisanal street food market.
Maritime Museum of San Diego
If you’re a fan of maritime history and beautiful old ships, the Maritime Museum of San Diego will leave you wanting more. Located in San Diego Bay, the floating museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in San Diego, featuring one of the world’s finest collections of historic ships.
Enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience and explore several historic sailing vessels, including the world’s oldest active ship, an 1863 iron bark called the Star of India. The shining star of the Maritime Museum of San Diego’s collection is the replica of the 92-foot galleon, San Salvador. Discover the history of this prize ship that was sailed into San Diego harbor by Spanish explorer Juan Rodríquez Cabrillo in 1542.
Browse exhibits that focus on different ages of sailing, maritime art (both British and 17th-century Dutch), charting the sea and cartography, and scientific and navigational instruments. Learn about the history of the United States Navy and its presence in San Diego.
Make your last stop at the Maritime Museum of San Diego the famous vessel featured in the award-winning motion picture Master and Commander and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
When you’re done exploring the museum, walk west, crossing Waterfront Park, to explore San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood. With plenty of superb restaurants and nightlife options, it’s one of the liveliest corners of the downtown area.
Where to eat & drink
For the best pork sandwiches, tacos, and craft beer, Carnitas’ Snack Shack is the place to go on the Embarcadero. Boasting panoramic views of San Diego Bay, the casual counter-serve spot serves a pork-centric menu with weekly specials.
Order the Carnitas Tacos piled high with fire-roasted and seared shredded pork and cool guacamole. Sit back with a cold craft brew and soak up the views.
Freshly shucked oysters, mouthwatering fish tacos, and swordfish grilled to perfection sound good? A favorite with locals, Brigantine Seafood & Oyster Bar is the go-to spot for superb seasonal seafood, traditional New England Clam Chowder, and out-of-this-world salads.
Prefer your meat red? You’ll find a fantastic selection of steaks – think bacon-wrapped filet mignon drizzled with whisky-peppercorn sauce. Grab an outside table for dinner with beautiful bay views.
Another hot spot for sea-smackingly fresh fish is The Fish Market. Enjoy bubbles and fresh oysters at the cocktail bar before tucking into heaving platters of grilled crab, catch-of-the-day fish, spiny lobster, and huge langoustines at the casual restaurant on the ground floor. Head to Top of the Market on the second floor for a fine dining experience that is second to none.
If you’ve always dreamed of following in Goose’s footsteps by playing ‘Great Balls of Fire’ on the piano in the Top Gun Bar, you’ll need to think again. The bar featured in the movie doesn’t actually exist – it was built from scratch on Breakers Beach in Coronado, but a close second is the I-Bar on Naval Station North Island. Sip a stein and soak up the ambiance at the bar that was the inspiration for The Hard Deck bar in the film.
Home to the world’s largest collection of commercially available whiskeys, The Whiskey House promises a one-of-a-kind evening if you’re a fan of the smooth, golden tipple. Located in the nearby Gaslamp Quarter, the elegant, laid-back bar is cozy and warm. Sip one of the 4,500 whiskeys on offer and snack on artisanal cheeses, charcuterie boards, and handmade sausage.
Sleek and stylish, the Harbor & Sky Rooftop Bar and Lounge is the perfect spot for unwinding over cocktails as the sun sinks below the sea. Relax on the terrace against a backdrop of sweeping views of San Diego Bay and keep the frozen margaritas coming.
Where to stay
From its seaside perch, the Embarcadero is one of the most popular choices for where to stay in San Diego, hosting some of the city’s top-rated hotels. Check out some of these top picks…
Embassy Suites by Hilton San Diego Bay Downtown
A stylish all-suite hotel with an indoor swimming pool and fitness center, the Embassy Suites by Hilton San Diego Bay Downtown is perfectly located for exploring the Embarcadero. A short walk from the popular USS Midway Museum, the hotel has comfortable rooms with modern amenities and wet bars. Enjoy a made-to-order breakfast and evening appetizers and drinks.
Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego
Elegant and grand, the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego is a luxurious treat. Relax in a deluxe spa, two outdoor swimming pools, and a chic rooftop lounge. Soak up beautiful bay views from the floor-to-ceiling windows in your stylish room. Upgrade to a club room to enjoy complimentary breakfast in a private lounge.
San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina
Boasting breathtaking views over San Diego Bay, San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina is a modern hotel with all the bells and whistles. Lounge by the outdoor pool, relax in the luxury spa, or work out in the fitness room. Three restaurants serve a variety of global cuisine. Dock your boat at the hotel marina.