Harbor Cruise in San Diego Bay

A harbor cruise is one of the best ways to see what San Diego has to offer. From what you’ll see to our favorites & when to go, here’s how to plan yours!
Todd Sarouhan
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means if you make purchases through them, I may be compensated at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Harbor Cruise in San Diego Bay
San Diego in Style
Best Time of Year
Featured Activity
What to Expect
Best Harbor Cruises
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Where to Stay

See San Diego in Style on a Harbor Cruise

Coronado Bridge at Sunset on Harbor CruiseAdmiral Hornblower Harbor Cruise in Dock at San Diego Bay

San Diego is known for its warm weather and beautiful scenery, and there’s no better way to see it all than by taking a harbor cruise. If you’ve never been to San Diego before, a harbor cruise is a fun way to get out on the water, learn about the history and culture of the city, and of course, take in views of the skyline.

There are many different types of harbor cruises to choose from in San Diego, including dinner cruises, sightseeing tours, whale watching tours, and more. Most cruises in San Diego start from Seaport Village in the Embarcadero and will take you through the San Diego Bay around Coronado Island and Point Loma. Some cruises may also take you up to Mission Bay or even to La Jolla.

Harbor Cruise Boat in San Diego Bay
Harbor Cruise Boat in San Diego Bay

During your boat cruise, you’ll learn about the vibrant nature, history, and culture of San Diego. You’ll also get to take in the best view of the San Diego skyline and the surrounding beaches. While on board, you’ll enjoy a comfortable and luxurious experience with excellent service from a professional crew.

Best Time of Year to Take A San Diego Harbor Cruise

Harbor Cruise in San Diego Bay from Above
Harbor Cruise in San Diego Bay from Above

San Diego is known for its warm weather all year round, but when is the best time to take a harbor cruise? Generally, San Diego weather is at its best in late summer and early fall. You can expect sunny days and consistently warm temperatures, so it’s a great time to take a harbor cruise.

While summer and fall are the best times for a harbor cruise, they are enjoyable at any time of year. However, if you opt for a winter cruise, there’s a larger chance of a rainy day. The spring in San Diego is also known for its overcast weather, which is often referred to as “May Grey” and “June Gloom”.

Local Tips
The Best Way to See San Diego Bay
Seeing San Diego from the bay gives it a very unique and fun prospective to experience San Diego. You can choose from a day cruise, sunset cruise or a dinner cruise.

When selecting the date for your harbor cruise, keep in mind that temperatures are always slightly colder on the water than they are on land. Because of this, you’ll need to dress warmer for a harbor cruise than you would for a day in the city.

You’ll get great views of the San Diego skyline no matter what time of day you go for your cruise. However, for the most incredible views, consider taking a sunset dining cruise. The incredible colors of the sunset reflect off the skyline of Downtown San Diego, which makes for some truly stunning scenery.

Featured Activity

San Diego Harbor Cruise on San Diego Bay at Sunset
San Diego Harbor Cruise
Enjoy this ‘San Diego Top Pick Award’ winner as you set sail on a three level luxury ship providing 360-degree views of San Diego’s scenic beauty. Relax for a 1-2 hour narrated tour, learn about the city from the bay.
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What to Expect on a Harbor Cruise

Harbor cruises are one of the best ways to learn more about San Diego in just an hour or two. On the boat, local experts will share fascinating stories about San Diego’s maritime history, local beach culture, and so much more.

There are many different companies that operate harbor cruises in San Diego, and each has their own focus. However, here are some of the things you can expect from your harbor cruise.

San Diego Harbor Cruise with Skyline in Background

Downtown San Diego Skyline

Of course, one of the most exciting things you’ll see on your harbor tour is the Downtown San Diego skyline. The boat is one of the best vantage points to see the entire skyline as well as the mountains behind it. Be sure to bring your camera so you can capture the view!

Star of India from the San Diego Bay

Maritime Museum of San Diego

San Diego has a long history as a port and a naval base. The Maritime Museum of San Diego is located on the harbor in the Harborview district of Downtown San Diego, and is home to a large collection of restored historical ships and submarines.

One of the most notable ships at the Maritime Museum is the Star of India, which you will see as your boat passes through the harbor. This ship was originally built in 1863 and traveled all around the globe before retiring to San Diego.

The USS Midway from the San Diego Bay

USS Midway

Another historic ship you’ll pass in the harbor is the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum. This was a historic naval ship that served for almost 50 years as an aircraft carrier. It is now a naval museum and events center.

Tip of Coronado Island with the Coronado Bridge in the Background

Coronado Island

Coronado Island is not actually an island - it’s a peninsula that is connected to mainland San Diego on its southern side. Coronado is located directly across the bay from downtown San Diego, and you’ll pass it as you cruise around the harbor.

One of the biggest landmarks here is the Coronado Bridge, which connects Coronado to downtown San Diego. You’ll also see the North Island Naval Air Station. Depending on the route of your cruise, you may also see the Hotel del Coronado, which is one of San Diego’s most iconic landmarks.

Harbor Island Sign on San Diego Bay Animals

Harbor Island and Shelter Island

These are two man-made peninsulas that jut out from the Point Loma side of the San Diego Bay. Both are home to marinas and yacht clubs, and on some days, you may even catch a sailboat race in the harbor. These ‘islands’ have been an important part of San Diego’s maritime culture for decades.

Main Lighthouse at Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument

Many harbor cruises will take you all the way out to Point Loma, another peninsula that juts out from mainland San Diego. At the end of the peninsula is the Cabrillo National Monument, which you can see from the water. This monument commemorates Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s first landing in the San Diego Bay in 1542.

San Diego was one of the first parts of California to be settled, and this monument is representative of the rich history of the area. San Diego was under Spanish and later Mexican rule before becoming part of the United States.

Sea Lion Next to Sea Bird in San Diego Bay

Marine Wildlife

San Diego is known for its unique marine wildlife, and a harbor cruise can be a great way to see this wildlife up close. In particular, San Diego is known for its group of charming and charismatic sea lions. During your tour, your guide may also discuss the importance of marine conservation efforts.

San Diego is also an excellent place to go whale watching, but you won’t see any whales on your harbor cruise. This is because the whales live outside of the harbor in the open ocean. To see the whales, you’ll need to take a specific whale watching cruise.

Food and Drink

Many of San Diego’s harbor cruises offer food and drinks onboard. These can range from simple snacks to a full dinner with cocktails. Expect plenty of seafood and other fresh local ingredients.

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Best Harbor Cruises in San Diego

Sunset Harbor Cruise in San Diego
Sunset Harbor Cruise in San Diego

There are many harbor cruise operators in San Diego. Hornblower Cruises and Flagship Cruise are two of the most popular cruise companies.

Both providers offer a range of different types of cruises, including sightseeing tours, dinner cruises, wildlife tours, jet boats, and more. They also offer private events.

Hornblower Cruises

Hornblower Cruises is known for their 90-minute San Diego harbor tours, where you’ll see the best that San Diego has to offer. They offer both north bay and south bay routes. Additionally, they offer a wide range of dining cruises, including champagne brunches, seafood dinners, themed holiday celebrations, and much more.

For those interested in whale watching and wildlife tours, Hornblower also has those options available.

Flagship Cruises

Flagship Cruises also offers guided harbor tours as well as themed dining cruises, such as their craft beer cruise, prime rib dinner, and champagne brunch. They are also known for operating the Coronado Ferry, which runs back and forth between Downtown San Diego and Coronado.

For those looking for a thrill, they operate the Patriot Jet cruise, where you’ll zip all around the San Diego Bay.

Save on a Harbor Cruise with the Go San Diego Card

The Go San Diego Card is a great way to save money on Hornblower Cruises as well as many other great attractions in San Diego. The All-inclusive Go San Diego Card gets you admission to dozens of top attractions in San Diego, including harbor cruises, the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld San Diego.

You can also build your own pass to get discounts on your favorite attractions. We offer an additional discount on the Go San Diego Card, so be sure to pick one up before your trip!

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USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum
USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum
Explore the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum with your All-Inclusive Go City pass! Check out the hangar deck and flight deck, plus over 60 exhibits, displays and interactive experiences. Enjoy an authentic tour narrated by Midway sailors!
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Local Tips
What attractions are included with a Go City San Diego pass?

Attractions that you can visit with a Go City San Diego pass include:

The San Diego Zoo, Birch Aquarium, SeaWorld, Safari Park, LEGOLAND, Harbor Cruise, USS Midway Museum, the NAT Museum, Whaley House, PETCO Park Tour, iFLY San Diego and many, many more!

Want to save more? Use our exclusive discount code GVSD5OFF to save an extra 5%!

Make the Most of Your San Diego Harbor Cruise with These Tips

A harbor cruise is one of the most exciting ways to enjoy San Diego. To make the most of your trip, you’ll want to be prepared - here are some tips to help you have the best day possible out on the water.

Dress for Your Cruise

Dress accordingly for your cruise. It’s important to remember that it’s always cooler out on the water than it is on land, so you’ll need to bring a jacket. If you’re going to be on an open deck, you’ll also want to wear long pants and closed-toed shoes in case of any splashes.

Many dinner cruises have indoor areas, so you won’t have to worry as much about the weather. However, some of these cruises do have a dress code, so be sure to check with your operator before selecting your outfit for the evening.

If you’re going to be on an outdoor deck, you’ll also want to make sure you’re protected from the sun. Wear sunscreen and bring sunglasses to protect your eyes.

Getting to the Dock & Parking

Most cruises start from Seaport Village in the Embarcadero of Downtown San Diego. Parking in this area is expensive and can often be difficult to find, so consider taking an alternate mode of transportation.

The San Diego Trolley and the Coaster commuter train both have stops in downtown San Diego, and connect to many other key points in San Diego. You can also get to Seaport Village using the San Diego bus system.

Another convenient way and affordable way to get there is by using a rideshare service, such as Uber or Lyft.

Bring Water and Snacks

Find out what food and drinks are going to be available beforehand, if any, and plan appropriately. You may want to bring a bottle of water with you to ensure you stay hydrated. If food isn’t provided, consider bringing snacks for you and your family as well.

If you have dietary restrictions, talk to the cruise operator ahead of time to see what options will be available for you.

Bring Your Camera

Harbor cruises have some of the best views in all of San Diego, so be sure to bring your camera to snap some pictures! If you’re bringing electronics like a camera or smartphone on the boat, make sure you have a secure bag to store them in when not in use. When you’re outside on the deck, you may experience some spray from the boat.

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