Oftentimes when people think of San Diego, they think of a laid back city that is all about sun, sand, and surf, and there is no other beach that encompasses this idea better than Ocean Beach. If you want to experience an authentic, old school beach community and see what hippie beach life is all about, this is your beach. Ocean Beach is all about sunbathing, surfing, hanging out on the pier, eating local, patronizing independent mom and pop shops, coops, and community. You’ll catch more than your fair share of vintage VW vans cruising the streets, or surfers hopping out of them ready to hit the waves. This funky, groovy, and historic beach is nestled between the San Diego River and the sloping hills of Point Loma. Get a first-hand look at vintage SoCal beach life at Ocean Beach.
The Ocean Beach coastline is about a mile long and has two main beaches, the Ocean Beach Park and Dog Beach Park. You’ll find Dog Beach between the San Diego River estuary and the jetty. Ocean Beach runs south from the jetty to Ocean Beach Municipal Pier at the end of Newport Avenue. While these two beaches share a common shoreline, they couldn’t be more different, but laid back is something they both can’t help but share.
Dog Beach is just what the name implies; it’s a beach dedicated to dogs where they can romp around the sand and water free of the confines of their leashes. Since the free-spirited canines have to be in the company of their owners, you’ll find many people lounging around soaking up the sun or playing fetch with their four-legged best friends. This is a chill out beach where you can watch a gorgeous sunset while listening to your iPod, and let your pet blow off some steam enjoying a few hours of freedom. With so many dogs running freely, owners may get left out in the cold when their pets meet new like-minded friends. This can work to dog owners’ advantage though when their dogs unknowingly bringing their owners together for unexpected conversation.
If you don’t own a dog or aren’t comfortable with the idea of being around a bunch of unleashed dogs, just head over to Ocean Beach near the pier where humans rule the roost. You’ll find that this beach caters to surfers, swimmers, and sunbathers. It isn’t particularly good for underwater adventures such as scuba diving or snorkeling, nor is it the place for extreme water sports. It is a casual beach geared to those who appreciate the simple pleasures of beach life. Sit back and watch the waves crash against the pier’s pilings, the surfers mastering the waves with grace, or the sun dipping into the Pacific Ocean. This is where doing nothing is everything.
The Ocean Beach Pier is the farthest point south on Ocean Beach; it is one of the longest piers in SoCal, extending roughly a half mile from the beach. The Ocean Beach Pier Café, where you can get a delicious bite to eat, is perched about two-thirds of the way out to the end of the pier. This pier is also the perfect place to fish; it is one of the only places you can fish without a fishing license, although you are still expected to know the catch regulations, which are strictly enforced. Luckily, there is a bait shop on the pier where you can get your hands on some tackle for an impromptu session.
Near to the Beach
Ocean Beach and its neighborhood are small; the majority of restaurants, bars, and shops are located along Newport Avenue, which ends at the pier. Spending the day at this beach means you are conveniently located to almost everything you could want or need. For your dining pleasure be sure to hit up Hodad’s, a legendary burger joint that typically has a line out the door and around the block. These gourmet burgers will have your mouth watering and leave your stomach satisfied.
The South Beach Bar and Grill is the last stop before you hit the ocean and home of the world famous Mahi fish taco. It’s a great spot to end a beach day, sitting at the bar watching the sunset, sipping on a signature cocktail, and enjoying some shark tacos if you’re adventurous. After dinner, you can head to the Sunshine Company, a fun, local, cash only bar.
If you plan on spending the majority of your time in Ocean Beach, consider the Ocean Beach Hotel right on the beach at the corner of Newport Avenue. You’ll overlook all the action with great views of the Pacific Ocean and the pier; it’s the perfect, affordable choice. Check out the shops with amazing beach fashions. There are several surf, souvenir, and independent shops all along Newport Avenue among great restaurants and bars.
Ocean Beach Essentials
The surfing and swimming areas in Ocean Beach are lifeguard protected, they not only supervise the water, but they also offer rubberized wheelchairs and roadways to make the beach accessible. Restrooms and outdoor showers are available and are also accessible. Parking is slightly easier to find in Ocean Beach as opposed to other areas in San Diego. It’s a compact neighborhood, so even if you have to find parking farther from the ocean your walk will not be a long one. The beaches have several parking lots along the coast; a large one is located at Dog Beach, and about halfway to the pier is another medium-sized parking lot. At the very end of Newport Avenue where the pier is located is another small parking lot; there is also a ton of street parking along all of the side streets.
There is no alcohol permitted at either beach in Ocean Beach and there are separate and designated areas for swimmers and surfers. You can have beach fires at these beaches, but the containers are typically only provided in the summer months, and only wood, charcoal, and paper can be burned. They must be completely put out before you leave. There aren’t too many strictly enforced rules beyond these, as this is a laid back community where people are expected to know how to behave appropriately.
Note: Dog owners are expected to clean up after their pets, have them vaccinated, and ensure they play well with others and are generally qualified to be unleashed.
Ocean Beach – It’s a Wrap
The Ocean Beach neighborhood and its beaches are all about community and connection; it’s a “one love” kind of place where people just want to relax and enjoy the simple life. This is evident with the friendly nature of the locals who always give an upbeat hello, and also with its community events. The Ocean Beach Street Fair & Chili Cook-off Festival in late June is just one of the many events bringing people together with live entertainment and food. The weekly Farmer’s Market every Wednesday is another way this community stays close, supports locals, and generally just has a good time with live bands, good food, and artisan products. Spend time at Ocean Beach experiencing the good life.