Mission Bay is a man-made aquatic park spread over six acres with 19 miles of beaches. That’s a lot of beach! It can seem overwhelming and confusing to know where to go for which beach activities, so it’s broken down here into East Mission Bay and West Mission Bay to help vacationers identify and locate their favorite beach spots. For the best beach weather and warmest water temperatures, visit from July to October, but nearly any time of year you’ll find good beach days in Mission Bay. The calm waters are ideal for swimming, kayaking, sailing, and daydreaming.
East Mission Bay – This is a great place to start an exploration of Mission Bay’s many beaches, because this is where you’ll find the Mission Bay Visitors Information Center. Get a map of the bay and beaches, and other helpful tourism advice here. There are five beaches along this stretch. De Anza Cove Beach is at the north end of East Mission Bay; it’s a long sandy beach that has lifeguard service and several fire rings. It also has a large grassy area, as do all of the East Bay beaches, restrooms and showers, volleyball courts, a tot lot, and picnic tables.
Following the walking path south from the parking lot is Playa Pacifica, another popular swimming beach with lifeguard services. There are basketball courts, a tot lot, and a picnic shelter near this beach. Right next to it in Leisure Lagoon, is a favorite beach for families with little ones since the waters are warm and shallow and it’s next to a tot lot. The Hilton Resort Hotel is next with two tiny beaches, one with water recreation rentals, and the other with fire rings. Tecolate Shores is the southernmost beach of the East Bay beaches. It is a long narrow sandy beach with fire rings and lifeguard service, an outdoor shower station, barbecue grills, and a children’s playground that is fun for all kids, but designed specifically for children with physical challenges.
Fiesta Island is located on the south end of East Mission Bay. Beaches here are accessed from a one-way road that circles the perimeter of the island. The beaches are tranquil and lightly populated, but have no restrooms, shower facilities, or other services. The island is used more for accessing the calm bay for recreational water sports or launching boats, although day camping on the beaches is also popular. Enchanted Cove is the only beach with lifeguard services, and Fiesta Island’s southwest side is the only place in Mission Bay where dogs can run unleashed. The interior of the island is off limits to visitors.
The easiest access to East Mission Bay is from Interstate 5 via the Clairemont Drive exit, or for Fiesta Island from Interstate 5 via Sea World Drive. The beaches are all accessible along East Mission Bay Drive. The beaches of East Mission Bay are all connected by a long walking/jogging/biking path.
West Mission Bay –Just down the road from Fiesta Island is SeaWorld, one of the largest marine parks in the world. It separates West and East Mission Bay on the southern end of the aquatic park. At the end of Mission Bay Drive, a left will take you to Bonita Cove Beach. The sandy beach runs along the calm waters of the cove and has lifeguard services, fire rings, restroom and shower facilities, and a children’s playground nearby. Large permit gatherings with inflatables are allowed at this beach.
On the other side of Mission Bay Drive is Ventura Cove Beach, which is at the southern end of Sail Bay. It also has swimming and lifeguard services, fire rings, and picnic tables. Parking fills up quickly and there is a 200 person limit at the beach. Continuing along the walking/jogging/biking path north from Ventura Cove Beach is the continuous long, sandy beach that wraps around Sail Bay. You can get water sports instruction and rentals at the Mission Bay Aquatic Center or Mission Bay Sportscenter on Santa Clara Point. The entire side of Sail Bay can be reached from several entry points on Mission Boulevard. Parking is in the Santa Clara Point lot or street parking along Mission Boulevard. As you walk farther to the northern and eastern sides of Sail Bay, the beach gets increasingly quieter and you’ll come to a big children’s playground next to the beach at the end of Fanuel Street.
Next is Crown Point Beach; it is a long sandy beach that becomes one of the widest beaches in Mission Bay when you reach the point. You’ll find lifeguards, fire rings, barbecue grills, basketball courts, and a boat launch. One of the biggest draws to this beach are the inflatable/party jumps for up to 200 to 400 guests, depending if you’re on the North, Middle, or South section of the beach. At the end of the point where the beach is the widest, you’ll get great views of Vacation Isle, SeaWorld, and even Downtown San Diego.
Right across the bridge from Crown Point is Vacation Isle. On the east side of the island, there is a long, but narrow sandy beach with fire rings called Ski Beach that is fine for sunbathing, but swimming is not allowed. There is a well-known boat launch and the water in front of the beach is popular with skiers. This is also a great spot to watch the SeaWorld fireworks any night. South Cove Beach is a sandy swim beach with fire rings; there is no lifeguard. It has a small amphitheater-style seating area with a fire ring. There are restroom, shower, and picnic facilities. Paradise Point Resort is on the island where you can rent segways, quadracycles, and beach cruisers, even if you are not a hotel guest. You are also welcome to use the beach and to stop in for a bite to eat or a beer at Barefoot Bar and Grill.
Near to the Beach
If you’re looking for a hotel near to the beaches of East Mission Bay and Fiesta Island, the Hilton Resort Hotel is the obvious choice, since its two small beaches are in the center of the action along the same shoreline as the other East Bay beaches. There are tons of fire rings, barbecue grills, and picnic tables, all along the East Bay beaches for bringing and making your own food, but there are few restaurants. You’ll find Acqua California Bistro at the Hilton Hotel, or for something even more casual Rubio’s (known for their fish tacos) is just on the other side of the Mission Bay Golf Course between Grand Avenue and Mission Bay Drive.
On West Mission Bay the places to stay and to eat increase dramatically. You might make reservations at the Bahia Resort Hotel, the Catamaran Resort Hotel, or Paradise Point Resort Hotel all on Sail Bay. The resorts welcome you in their restaurants, but Mission Boulevard has a bevy of bars and restaurants too, and Belmont Park and the Wave House are also close by. If you’re on the east side of Sail Bay, try Rocky’s Crown Pub a few blocks away from both Sail Bay and Crown Point.
Mission Bay Beaches Essentials
There is free parking throughout Mission Bay that is typically adjacent to beaches. The only exception is Sail Bay in West Mission Bay and Enchanted Cove on Fiesta Island where parking is limited to street parking or nearby lots. Beaches with lifeguard services are staffed on weekends from spring through fall, usually starting around school spring breaks, and then daily during the summer. Drop-offs in the waters of Mission Bay are frequent and parents are encouraged to watch their children carefully and swim at lifeguard protected beaches.
Keep in mind that the same set of rules govern all the beaches except for when a specific restriction may apply to a beach due to its location or purpose. Alcohol and glass bottles are not permitted on any Mission Bay beaches. There is no overnight camping on beaches and all Mission Bay beaches are closed from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. with parking lots closing at 10 p.m. Fire rings on all beaches are first-come, first-served from 5 a.m. to midnight. Leashed dogs are permitted anywhere in the park before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m.; owners are asked to clean up after their dogs.
Mission Bay Beaches – It’s a Wrap
No matter if you’re looking for a quiet beach to call your own, a popular sandy beach with plenty of action, a place to launch your boat or set sail with your windsurf board, or calm shallow waters and a playground for the kids, you will find a Mission Bay Beach that suits you. Swim beaches have restroom and shower facilities and several have lifeguard services. You will find an easier time finding local bars and restaurants that are convenient to the beaches on West Mission Bay, but the biggest and best grassy parks with picnic facilities adjacent to beaches will be in East Mission Bay. Rent a kayak or sail boat and explore the waterways throughout the six acre aquatic park to discover your own little piece of heaven on a Mission Bay Beach.