There is more to do than just sunbathing, swimming, and making sandcastles when visiting Mission Beach, one of the premier beaches in San Diego. This city has over a dozen sandy beaches and each one caters to a certain demographic, with its own preferred activities and events. One of the city’s favorites is Mission Beach, which has a good mix of young locals, college students, and families soaking up the sun. It is bordered by Mission Bay Park on the east and the San Diego River estuary on the south. Pacific Beach is to the north, and the two beaches are connected by Ocean Walk, a long boardwalk. The south end of Mission Beach has a jetty that extends into the ocean and marks the end of the beach.
Mission Beach is perfect for those who like to have a healthy mix of sand and water activities with plenty of opportunities to just simply relax. Those who prefer to stay on the sand and only hit the water for a cool down can enjoy sunbathing in calm surroundings, playing a game of horseshoes, or tossing around a Frisbee. If being in the sand is off the agenda, visitors can enjoy bicycling, skateboarding, rollerblading, or strolling along the boardwalk. There is also a grassy area between the Belmont Park lot and the beach for lounging, picnicking, or people-watching.
Beach volleyball and basketball are popular at the south end of Mission Beach where the nets and courts are located. Are you the type of person who would rather be in the water until you look like a prune? No problem! Grab or rent your surfboard or boogie board and hit the waves. Depending on where you settle, on the sand, in the water, or along the boardwalk, you’ll quickly see where you fit in just scanning the scene. Find your tribe and join in the summertime fun!
Near to the Beach
One of the biggest perks of Mission Beach is the wide array of bars, restaurants, and activities just steps from the sand along the boardwalk. Belmont Park is the main attraction aside from the beach itself. This small beachside amusement park has the famous and historic Giant Dipper roller coaster and a few other small rides, an arcade, laser tag, souvenir stands, and more. Another top attraction is the Wave House, a beachside bar and grill equipped with an 8-foot artificial wave known as the FlowBarrel where you can practice or show off your surf skills.
Attached to the Wave House is Plunge, a massive indoor pool, and the Wave House Athletic Club, a full-service fitness center. Aside from these main attractions you will find a wide array of bars and nightlife along this two-mile stretch of beach. Some of the local favorites are The Sandbar Sports Grill, Guava Beach, The Pennant, The Coaster Saloon, and The Beachcomber. If you prefer to stay near Mission Beach, rather than make the commute from another neighborhood, The Bahia Resort Hotel offers a prime location across from Belmont Park on West Mission Bay Drive. It sits on a 14-acre peninsula in Mission Bay providing both privacy and location, location, location.
Mission Beach Essentials
It can be tricky to find parking at any of the beaches in San Diego however, Mission Beach has four large parking lots. The main one is on the south end of the Belmont Park and Wave House complex, another is located across the street, a third one can be found at the front entrance to the Wave House, the last one is located at the end of Mission Boulevard by the levy. There is also street parking available along Mission Boulevard, but during the summer months – and especially the holidays, it can be difficult to find parking, so be sure to plan ahead. (On the three big holiday weekends – Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day, some locals may rent parking spaces in their small yards.)
Mission Beach has quite a few rules and regulations with a strong police and lifeguard presence to enforce them. You cannot drink or have alcohol on the beach, no dogs are allowed, no beach fires, no glass containers, and no sleeping overnight. Mission Beach does not allow nudity or sunbathing topless; thong bikinis are technically not allowed though the rule is often overlooked and not strictly enforced. Some areas of the beach are swim only and some are surf only, so check the flags and signs before you pick your spot on the beach.
Tip: Mission Beach is known for its rip currents. If you are unfamiliar with how to recognize or get out of a rip current, directions are posted on lifeguard towers. Expert lifeguards may also rescue you before you realize you’re in trouble.
Mission Beach – It’s a Wrap
Mission Beach is everyone’s ideal beach experience. Belmont Park attracts families with children high on cotton candy and life who enjoy running, splashing, squealing with delight, and generally having fun. The Wave House and other beachside bars attract the bikini crowds; the young adults throwing Frisbees, tossing a football, playing horseshoes, and roughhousing in the water. Amid the action you’ll find sunbathers asleep on beach towels, couples chatting under umbrellas, and others quietly reading, people watching, or strolling the shoreline. For a generally calmer and more laid-back experience, or an organized game of basketball or volleyball, move farther down the beach toward the jetty. The great thing about this long, wide beach is there is enough space for everyone to enjoy their version of a perfect day at the beach.