Pacific Beach, San Diego: What to See & Do + Where to Eat, Drink & Stay

Want a stylish California vacation? Spend time along the beautiful SoCal coastline in San Diego’s Pacific Beach. Located between La Jolla and Mission Beach, this laid-back area is full of surfers, friendly bars, and lush green spaces.

In Pacific Beach, you’ll have endless options for hitting the sand. Catch waves at Tourmaline Surf Park and Palisades Park, or play beach volleyball at Crown Point Park and De Anza Cove Park. After you’ve sampled delicious coastal cuisine at The Fishery, spend the evening hanging out at PB Shore Club.

Ready to find San Diego coastal paradise? To get the lowdown on what to do, where to eat and drink, and where to stay, read this complete guide to Pacific Beach!

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What to see & do

Pacific Beach

This wide stretch of sand attracts a young and active crowd. If you’re looking for a place to run around on the shore, try different watersports, or get everyone involved in a game of volleyball, Pacific Beach is the place to be. With a fabulous choice of shops, bars, and restaurants on the boardwalk, you can easily spend a whole day and evening here.

Pacific Beach

Whether you want to surf or swim, Pacific Beach is a fantastic spot for getting in the water. There’ll be flags up telling you which areas are good for each activity. If you’ve never surfed before or didn’t bring your own board, there are schools and rental shops right on the beachfront.

Separating North Pacific Beach and Pacific Beach is the Crystal Pier. You’ll have lovely views from here and can spot surfers catching the waves. Sometimes it’s possible to see whales from the end of the pier. Crystal Pier is also the only public fishing pier in Pacific Beach. Bring your rod and tackle, and test your luck by casting out a line!

Tourmaline Surf Park

Tourmaline Surf Park is a surf-only spot where you can concentrate on nailing your technique. It’s one of the most popular beaches around San Diego for beginners, with slow-rolling waves and a friendly environment. Soak in the serene atmosphere and idyllic cliffsides while you perfect your stand-up.

If you don’t surf but have been dragged along to Tourmaline Surf Park, you’ll still find enough to keep you entertained. Watch the kite surfers, runners, and dog walkers pass by or make new friends around the picnic tables.

Tourmaline Surf Park

On the north side, you’ll find a large scattering of tide pools. Have fun looking for hermit crabs and sea snails among the rocks.

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Many people come to Tourmaline Surf Park to sunbathe, but you aren’t allowed to swim here, so you’re better off visiting in the cooler parts of the day. The park is a pretty spot to watch the sunset, with the silhouettes of surfers catching their last waves of the day. As one of the few beaches in Pacific Beach with firepits, it’s a social and atmospheric way to start the evening, too.

Crown Point Park

Steps away from the sandy beach is the lush green space of Crown Point Park. This is a family-friendly area with lots of shady parts, a separate bike path, and picnic areas. Enjoy an al fresco lunch on the grass or get competitive on the basketball court.

The beach views from Crown Point Park stretch across Fiesta Bay, with Fiesta Island and the Downtown San Diego skyline in the background. Challenge yourself on the volleyball court or gather around one of the firepits.

The sheltered waters of Crown Point Park make it an easy place to have a go at different activities like paddleboarding and kayaking. Race across the waves on a jet ski or try out a water-skiing session. It’s also a calm spot for children and timid swimmers to take a dip in the water.

Kate Sessions Park

For an aerial view of Pacific Beach, spend some time in Kate Sessions Park, a 79-acre park sprawled across Mount Soledad. Named after the famous San Diego botanist Kate Sessions, the greenery and surrounding vistas are a fitting tribute. The park was named after Sessions in 1957 for what would have been her 100th birthday.

Kate Sessions Park

Pack a picnic, head to the top of the hill, and gaze at the city below, merging into the surrounding seas. You’ll spot lots of locals up here working out, walking their dogs, and coming together for barbecues. Its height attracts a breeze, so it’s a good place to spend an afternoon if you’re struggling with the heat of the city.

If you want to escape further into nature, there are various short hiking trails in Kate Sessions Park that are the perfect place for a relaxing San Diego hiking adventure. Wander through pretty pathways decorated with greenery and wildflowers. In the summer, you’ll find a small creek trickling near the bottom of the hill.

Palisades Park

Palisades Park is Pacific Beach’s favorite spot for quiet conversations and intimate sunsets. The grassy lawn is full of seabirds and tropical plants. Take the sandy path down to the calm sands below. With rugged cliffs on one side and Crystal Pier on the other, the surroundings create a feeling of being cut off from the rest of the city.

Palisades Park

The raised grassy area at Palisades Park has beautiful views of the beach and rolling waves below. It’s a great vantage point for watching joggers and surfers. The beach break at Palisades Park is great for beginners and intermediates, with some good surf schools nearby if you want to take extra lessons.

Palisades Park’s serene location makes it a popular destination for yoga, too. Early morning classes see the sun creating a golden glow over the cliff and casting shadows onto the sands. Head over and enquire about taking a class to kickstart your day.

De Anza Cove Park

Escape to the seclusion of De Anza Cove Park. This stretch of shore curves into the land, giving you sheltered waters and pretty views of palm trees across the cove. With a large stretch of sand and a vast green area, there’s lots of space to do all your favorite beachside activities.

De Anza Cove Park

Even on busy days, De Anza Cove Park has a relaxed and spread-out feel. The bikeway cutting through the park is a nice place to watch runners, bikers, and rollerbladers racing by. With a launch in the cove, you’ll also see pretty boats drifting by.

Catch the games on the soccer, basketball, and volleyball courts. Or rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboards to glide across the water. It’s a lovely place for a swim, with seasonal lifeguards to keep an eye on you. When you’ve had your salty sea fix, head to the picnic area for snacks over the bonfire.

Where to eat & drink

The trendy Pacific Beach area is known for its vibrant nightlife, open-air restaurants, and stylish take on seafood. Once a playground for drunk twenty-somethings, the neighborhood has diversified and now offers a trendy but casual atmosphere for every type of traveler.

Despite the unassuming wooden exterior of World Famous, it hides an exquisite beachfront patio. Come here for sunset and work your way through their tasty surf and turf menu.

Feast on the freshest fish in a jolly nautical setting at Pacific Beach Fish Shop. Their sauces and seasonings are made from scratch, and they hand-cut their fries and famous onion rings daily.

The Fishery is in a converted warehouse which the owners transformed into a restaurant and seafood market. Enjoy an elegant menu with flawless presentation delivered straight from the fishermen’s boat to your plate.

A cozy pub right on the beach, Pacific Beach Alehouse has a sunny terrace and a varied choice of cocktails and craft beers. A friendly atmosphere and sporty interior make this a casual way to wrap up your day.

As the sun sets, the party vibe ramps up at PB Shore Club. The beachfront terrace and sports bar is a buzzing place to meet new friends while enjoying cocktails and Mexican seafood.

The Grass Skirt might not be on the beach, but it’ll make you feel like you are. This tiki speakeasy has funky décor and over-the-top rum cocktails to get you in the tropical mood.

Where to stay

If you can score accommodation in Pacific Beach, it’s one of the coolest neighborhoods to stay in San Diego. Options are limited, though, with only a small smattering of hotels, inns, and vacation rentals.

Beach Haven

Beach Haven

Beach Haven offers a laid-back beachside experience, using coastal décor with a modern twist. Just one block away from Pacific Beach, you can enjoy breezy mornings on the sand or spend the day lazing by the outdoor pool. Rooms with kitchens and separate living areas give you privacy and a place to enjoy a relaxing break.

Tower 23 Hotel

Tower 23 Hotel

Enjoy coastal luxury at this lifestyle hotel. Spacious and airy rooms offer ultimate tranquility to the sound of waves lapping outside your window. Relaxed blue and grey tones set the mood for the stunning ocean views. Grab some sushi and a chili mango margarita and relax on the sun terrace with views stretching over Pacific Beach and Pacific Beach Pier.

Ocean Park Inn

Ocean Park Inn

This whimsical hotel has minimal design and fun splashes of color. Start your day by sipping your coffee while gazing out at the ocean from your balcony. Spend the morning relaxing by the outdoor pool or step out of the door and straight onto the beach.

Treksplorer

Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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