Looking for a dreamy California beach break? Head to San Diego and explore the lively neighborhood of Mission Beach. This laidback area is famous for its lovely beaches, huge amusement parks, and incredible water sports.
On your Mission Beach visit, you can ride jaw-clenching rides at Belmont Park, cruise on a kayak from Mission Point Park, and relax under a palm tree at Bonita Cove. When you’ve had your fill of vitamin D, head to a beach bar for sunset seafood and margaritas.
Ready to craft the perfect coastal vacation to this San Diego hot spot? Get the low down on what to see & do, where to eat and drink, and where to stay with this complete guide to Mission Beach, 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 Mission Beach
Get your San Diego trip started with some thrill-seeking at Belmont Park. This historic amusement park has been pumping adrenaline to tourists since 1925. Right on the sand of Mission Beach, Belmont Park offers everything from outdoor fun to tasty food.
The main draw of Belmont Park is its fantastic choice of rides. Race down the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, spin through the air on the Beach Blaster, and feel your stomach drop on Zero Gravity. You can also stay in the air with sky ropes, a zipline, and climbing walls.
If you’d rather stay on the ground, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to spend time together with the whole family. The laser tag and laser maze will have you bonded forever as teammates. Get competitive tiki-style on the tropical mini golf course or enter a new universe at the 7D theatre.
Afterward, head to the Beachfront Boardwalk for great restaurants, California shops, and bike rentals.
Mission Beach Park
At the end of the Beachfront Boardwalk, you’ll reach Mission Beach Park. This grassy area offers palm tree-framed ocean views. It’s a great spot for an afternoon rest or to sit and relax at sunset.
Mission Beach Park has pathways where you can bike and roller-skate through the area. Many people choose to come here for their morning workouts. It’s also one of the most popular places to park to explore Mission Beach, so it’s always a hive of activity. Perch a shady bench and spend some time people-watching.
If you want to enjoy a beachside picnic without getting sand in your food, Mission Beach Park is the ideal spot. Pack a feast and savor the views of the waves rolling in.
Mission Point Park
For a calmer green space, head to Mission Point Park. This grassy peninsula curves into Mariners Cove with easy access to Mission Point Beach. It’s quieter compared to the rest of Mission Beach and is surrounded by calm protected waters.
Curl up under some shade and embrace solitude to the sound of lapping waters. From here, you’ll get great views of Mariners Point Park, the surrounding beaches, and the Entrance Channel between Mission Beach and Ocean Beach. The jetty side also offers a tranquil place to fish.
Many of Mission Beach’s best watersports depart from Mission Point Park. Get out on the water or see the action shoreside. Watch as people hop onto gorgeous sailing boats or clamber into their kayaks. Soak up the sun, then wander over to the beach and cool off in the water.
In the evenings, you can add some ambiance to your sunsets by using the firepits to create your own bonfires.
Get the ultimate beach day at Bonita Cove. This sheltered inlet is one of the most beautiful San Diego beaches and a serene place to soak up the California sunshine. Grassy areas and flat sandy beaches are sprinkled with Mexican fan palm trees, delivering the ultimate tropical vibe.
Take a dip in the sparkling blue waters. The calm seas and regular lifeguard cover make this a safe place to swim for the whole family. Wildlife lovers can enjoy an afternoon of fishing and birdwatching. With a bike path and spaces to play volleyball, Bonita Cove offers lots of opportunities for outdoor fun in the sun, too.
On the east of Bonita Cove, you’ll find restrooms and an outdoor shower to wash the salt off. Afterward, head west for a beach BBQ on one of the grills. Have dinner around the picnic tables while the kids run around the playground. Light a fire on one of the rings and see out the evening with smores and sunsets.
Mission Bay Bike Path
With 4,200 acres and 27 miles of shoreline, exploring all of Mission Bay in one trip is a mammoth task. Cover more ground by taking the Mission Bay Bike Path. If you didn’t bring your bike, you can rent one from one of the shops in Mission Bay or along Mission Boulevard.
The 12 miles of cycle lanes are almost completely vehicle free, meaning you can spend more time taking in the scenery and less time worrying about the traffic. There’s also an eight miles per hour speed limit keeping the journey mellow.
The Mission Bay Bike Path loops around the interior of Mission Bay, taking you over impressive bridges and past top sights like Belmont Park and Fiesta Island.
On your journey, you’ll go through ten public parks and two wildlife reserves. Pack a picnic and stop for lunch at one of the beaches or head into a reserve and begin your search for stunning shorebirds.
Escapology San Diego
Give your brain a workout at Escapology San Diego. This immersive escape room experience is a great way to escape the heat on your San Diego trip itinerary if you’ve overdone it on the sun lounger. Choose from five different games and work together to solve the puzzles in 60 minutes.
A trip to Escapology San Diego will engage all of your senses. An immersive selection of riddles, codes, and challenges forces you to think in new, creative ways. You’ll need to collaborate and combine your strengths to escape before the clock runs out.
Relive your childhood with a Scooby Doo adventure, where you head into the dungeon of the haunted castle and use your detective skills to find the missing baroness. Budding scientists will love searching for the cure to a deadly virus in the Antidote game. Or channel your inner archaeologist while searching a temple for hidden treasure.
Ventura Cove Park
Enjoy the peaceful atmosphere at Ventura Cove Park. This small, secluded beach is an intimate way to enjoy the sun, sea, and sand. Its great position on Misson Bay allows you to spend the whole day watching the boats go by.
Clean green spaces and sandy areas between the palm trees are the perfect places for relaxing or working on your tan. If you’re feeling active, the gentle waters at Ventura Cove Park are ideal for timid swimmers, stand-up paddleboarding, and kayaking. Remember that you can only go in the water in the summer when there’s a lifeguard on duty.
When you get hungry, sit at one of the tables and get out the picnic or fire up the BBQ. As the sun goes down, bring marshmallows and hot dogs and get toasty by one of the fire rings along the shoreline.
Seaworld San Diego
Submerge yourself in underwater worlds at Seaworld San Diego, one of San Diego’s most popular things to do. The San Diego branch of this famous marine park will inspire nature lovers and aspiring marine biologists. Packed full of rides, shows, and chances to get close and personal with your favorite underwater friends, a trip here is a memorable experience for kids and adults of all ages.
On your visit to Seaworld San Diego, you’ll get to see adorable creatures like penguins, seals, and flamingos. Marvel at turtles gliding past shoals of colorful fish and watch walruses laze by the water. An exhilarating choice of aquatic-themed rides includes the Arctic Rescue Rollercoaster and the spinning Riptide Rescue.
It’s worth noting that thanks to activism and increased awareness of animal cruelty, Seaworld has ended all orca breeding programs and is in a phased ending to their live orca shows.
Moving forward, they plan to focus less on animal entertainment and more on theme park rides and experiences. But you should do your own research before visiting to see if this attraction aligns with your ethics.
Where to eat & drink
Nothing beats the feeling of a fantastic meal and a cold drink after a day of sun, sea, and sand. Mission Beach’s waterside location naturally attracts tasty seafood and vibrant beach bars with plenty of California flair. From elegant cocktails to cozy pubs to authentic food, you’ll find something to suit every taste and budget.
For healthy food with a vibrant presentation, check out The Mission. Head to this urban bistro for simple and fresh ingredients in a hipster setting. The stylish Cannonball serves fresh Japanese seafood with a Cali twist. Sit on the largest oceanfront rooftop in San Diego while grazing on inventive sushi rolls and crispy salmon tacos.
World Famous is a dreamy place for a sunset dinner. Perched on the Pacific Beach Drive Boardwalk, a simple wooden exterior hides some of the best patio seating in Mission Beach. Their surf and turf menu features coastal favorites like lobster bisque and crab cake sliders. Luigi’s At the Beach is family owned and also has great patio seating. The star of their Italian menu is the tasty pizza made from scratch and stone baked in the oven.
Embrace the beach vibes at Guava Beach Bar & Grill. As the bar combines a tiki theme with a classic brewpub, you can enjoy hand-crafted cocktails or a choice of rotating draft beers.
Enjoy classic Texas-style BBQ food on the beach at Coaster Saloon. This funky sports bar is the perfect place to catch the game, play foosball, or enjoy happy hour on the beach.
The stunning Beach House Tequila + Taqueria will transport you to the beaches of Mexico. Spend the day lazing in the cabanas, sip margaritas at sunset, or listen to live music under the stars.
Miss B’s Coconut Club has a Caribbean-inspired food and cocktail menu and décor celebrating Mission Beach’s nautical heritage. If you’re not into punchy tropical drinks, there are 20 local and national microbrews on tap.
Where to stay
Although there’s a ton to see & do here, the accommodation selection in Mission Beach is minimal compared to other top-rated areas to stay in San Diego. Nonetheless, you should be able to find a good hotel or vacation rental in the neighborhood if you’ve got your mind set on staying here.
If you get stuck on your lodgings search, neighborhoods like Downtown San Diego, the Gaslamp Quarter, the Embarcadero, and Old Town San Diego will offer more options.
The Wayfarer San Diego
Embrace ultimate surf chic at this beachfront hotel. Step out of the hotel and straight onto dreamy white sands. Bright and airy rooms offer floor-to-ceiling pool or oceanfront views. After a day of exploring everything Mission Beach has to offer, quench your thirst with a cocktail from the bar or soothe tired muscles with a spa treatment.
Bahia Resort Hotel
On this secluded 14-acre peninsula, lose yourself in tropical gardens and sandy beaches. With onsite watersports and cruises, you can make the most of your time on the California coastline. Take part in fun activities like tennis and beach bonfires, dine at the stunning dockside restaurant, and while away your days at the beach club and whirlpool.
Paradise Point Resort & Spa
These charming bungalow-style guestrooms are perched around tropical gardens, lagoons, and sandy beach. Make a splash in one of five pools, take a jet ski from the marina, or take a waterside painting class. The spa, nestled in the gardens, features innovative treatments using ingredients like marine algae and CBD.
Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina
Whether you want to float in the pool, race down the waterslides, or get out to sea, this elegant hotel is a dream for water babies. Jet skis, kayaking, whale watching, and sunset cruises are just some of the activities you can take from the onsite marina. When you’re not making a splash, enjoy sustainable seafood on the garden terrace and colorful cocktails from the pool bar and grill.
This modern home in the heart of Mission Beach offers ultimate privacy. Three large bedrooms, stylish living areas, and a spacious kitchen give you lots of opportunities to spend time together. Dine al fresco on the balcony while taking in gorgeous ocean views. Just steps away from the beach, it’s a comfortable and convenient option for your stay in Mission Beach.