What to See & Do in Pacific Beach
When it comes to things to do in Pacific Beach, there is no shortage of activities, both indoors and out. Some of PB’s most popular travel destinations, however — and the main reasons families from across the globe visit the bay — is to hit the beach.
The Beaches of Pacific Beach
PB’s name is deceiving, as there is not one, not two, but three main beaches in this community: North Pacific Beach, Tourmaline Surf Park and, of course, Pacific Beach. The beaches of California are not created equal, so it’s important that you understand the purpose of each.
North Pacific Beach is your typical, family-friendly stretch of sand. It features lifeguard-supervised swimming areas and clean restrooms. This beach is a great place to lay out your blankets, throw up your umbrellas and bust out the sand toys. There are sections of North Pacific Beach that are surf zones and ones that are swim zones.
At Tourmaline Surf Park you’ll find waves that are slow and slopey, perfect for novice and beginner surfers alike. You can find longboarders, windsurfers and kiteboarders here as well.
Finally, the beach of Pacific Beach starts at Crystal Pier and runs south to Pacific Beach Drive, the border of Mission Beach. This section of the beach is great for surfing but there is also a swim zone for the non-surfers. The boardwalk is just next to the beach here with shops, bars, restaurants & hotels with spectacular ocean views.
The neighborhood of Pacific Beach begins toward the east at Garnet Avenue and ends after the three-mile stretch that is Crystal Pier. This is the heart of the community and where you’ll find everything from authentic Mexican food to Sushi to patio bar & grills and nightclubs.
Just north of Crystal Pier, you’ll find walkable cliffs that border the immediate beach. If you have it in you to climb to the top via stairs, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the ocean and breathtaking sunsets.
The most popular activity at Pacific Beach is, hands down, surfing. Depending on which spot you hit up, there’s surf for every stage of surfer, from the newbie to the novice. You’ll find a variety of breaks at PB, including Tourmaline, Crystal Pier, PB Drive and Law Street. The breaks vary at each and are suited to various types of boards. If you’re not sure where to go, don’t be afraid to ask a local, as they’re a rare breed of surfer in that they’re unpretentious and willing to share.
Other Outdoor Activities
You don’t have to surf to partake in outdoor activities in Pacific Beach. Do like you did in the 80s and put on a pair of rollerblades to coast along Ocean Front Walk, a 2.3 mile stretch of concrete that the locals endearingly refer to as “the boardwalk.” The boardwalk is not just a bike path but popular with runners, walkers and skateboarders alike.
Try your hand at paddle boarding, or take your fishing pole to the end of Crystal Pier. There you’ll find a bait and tackle shop that also sells snacks and non-alcoholic beverages. Though you don’t need a license to fish from the end of the pier, you should be aware of the strict catch laws.
Yes Taco Tuesday is a real thing here. Tuesdays are a great day to explore deals on delicious tacos. There are many restaurants where you will find deals on tacos.
During the day, most of PB’s eating establishments are family-friendly. In fact, the community is well-known for its terrific breakfasts, breakfast burritos, bloody Mary bars and all-you-can-drink mimosa hours.
Like much of California, the food options in PB are diverse. Whether you’re feeling a tapa or seafood paella, want a taste of Hawaii or prefer some Asian fusion, you can find it all along in Pacific Beach
Though many of the restaurants in Pacific Beach are worth trying, there are two notable mentions. The first is Rocky’s Crown Pub, which is home to the best burger in San Diego. The pub has been serving up delicious beef patties and other goods for over 40 years, note that it is in a bar so it is strictly 21 and over.
The second notable mention is Mr. Frostie. Mr. Frostie has been around since 1949, and while the times have changed, peoples’ desire for a creamy soft serve and traditional sundae have not. Neither has Mr. Frosties simple walk-up establishment — at least, not much. It still features the same-old walk-up windows of yore, serves classic shakes and dipped cones and treats customers with the good-ole’-days hospitality.
The shopping in PB San Diego reflects the eclectic personality of the neighborhood itself. Though you’ll find your standard beach shops selling trinkets and souvenirs, you’re more likely to get the real PB experience if you explore the thrift shops, art studios and boutiques.
A handful of chain stores such as Urban Outfitters and Vans made their way into the mix, but the local favorites can be found in the Pangaea Outpost, where 70 different local artists mingle under one roof.
Where to Stay
As Pacific Beach has evolved into a family-friendly travel destination, so too has its choice of hotels. Mission Bay Park and Pacific Beach have a variety of hotels for all preferences and price ranges. Pacific Terrace Hotel, which is situated overlooking the beach, is in the heart of North PB and less than two miles from Mission Bay. It’s within walking distance of the shops, restaurants and pier. Though the accommodations are upscale, the rates are affordable.
Tower 23 is just a few minutes’ walk from the pier and on the boardwalk overlooking the beach and offers a modern beach vibe. Pacific Shores Inn and Beach Haven feature more of a beach cottage vibe, but both are just a few blocks away from the surf, sands and sunsets of the beach, and the shops, restaurants and bars of the main strip.