Pacific Beach vs Ocean Beach Neighborhoods

Compare two standout beachside neighborhoods in San Diego County, Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach, and decide where your next vacation will take place.
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.
Pacific Beach vs Ocean Beach Neighborhoods
Deciding Between PB & OB
Best Attractions
Go City Pass & Save
Eat & Shop in PB & OB
Recreation Options
Community Events
Getting Around PB & OB
Overall Winner

Highlights

Attractions & Landmarks
Dining & Shopping
Leisure & Recreation
Final Verdict
Attractions & Landmarks
Dining & Shopping
Leisure & Recreation
Final Verdict

Deciding Between the Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach Neighborhoods in San Diego

Amazing Sunset at Palisades Park at Law Street in Pacific BeachSurfboards Are Plentyful in Pacific Beach

There’s nothing quite like spending the day on one of San Diego’s beaches, then exploring the surrounding neighborhood. Two of the best spots to do so are Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach, called PB and OB respectively by the locals.

These two beachfront neighborhoods are similar in many ways, and not just because they’re both famous for their sun and surf. They also tend to have a livelier vibe, with many young San Diegan residents and tourists alike out and about, compared to neighborhoods that draw older crowds.

Differences

Of course, they have their differences, too! Ocean Beach often has a more “hippie” or bohemian vibe. It’s mostly filled with locals, and it doesn’t draw the same amount of attention from tourists as Pacific Beach.

Meanwhile, Pacific Beach is the quintessential San Diego experience, embodying many of the Southern California stereotypes that San Diego has become synonymous with, from surf shops to boardwalks. Even as a loyal Pacific Beach resident myself, I’ll still pop over to Ocean Beach to visit the restaurants, bars, and beaches too!

If you only have time to visit one of these neighborhoods, use our comparison guide to help make your decision.

Boardwalk in Front of The Wayfarer San Diego
Boardwalk in Front of The Wayfarer San Diego

Stay at a Beachfront Resort

Our team has collected a list of the Best Hotels on the Beach in San Diego, some of which are in PB and OB.

In particular, one of my favorite waterfront resorts is The Wayfarer San Diego, a hotel that provides the ultimate Pacific Beach experience with Pacific Ocean views, a pool, and great access to the neighborhood’s attractions and best activities.

Local Tips
Self-guided Walking Tours
Ocean Beach has a self-guided walking tour around the Newport Avenue and Sunset Cliffs Boulevard area. Historic sites along these roads are marked with informative plaques.

Pacific Beach embodies the quintessential San Diego experience. From Go City San Diego pass activities like surfing & snorkeling to its bars, boardwalk & restaurants, Todd tours his hometown neighborhood's top spots.

Purchase a Go City San Diego pass to save $$$.

Buy a Go City San Diego Pass

The Best Attractions and Notable Landmarks

OB Pier Looking Towards Ocean Beach
OB Pier Looking Towards Ocean Beach

When visiting either Pacific Beach or Ocean Beach, be sure to pre-purchase a Go City San Diego pass! Use our discount code GVSD5OFF to save on beach gear rentals, attraction admission, and other fun activities in both neighborhoods.

The main draw in both neighborhoods is their beaches, but that’s far from all they have to offer!

Busy Boardwalk next to Woodies in Pacific Beach
Busy Boardwalk next to Woodies in Pacific Beach

The Attractions of Pacific Beach

Alongside the beaches, Pacific Beach and Mission Beach share a boardwalk that stretches to La Jolla. It’s a popular spot to ride a bike, shop, and grab a bite to eat.

The neighborhood also includes Palisades Park, a grassy area that overlooks the ocean, where you can almost always find people enjoying San Diego’s year-round sunny weather by walking and picnicking.

Pacific Beach is also right next to SeaWorld San Diego in Mission Bay Park, which makes it an excellent choice for families. There are also a few murals along Garnet street that have become local landmarks.

Longboarder Surfer Going out for a Surf
Longboarder Surfer Going out for a Surf

Landmarks in Ocean Beach

In Ocean Beach, you’ll often see fishermen casting off the Ocean Beach Pier. As one of the world’s longest concrete piers, Ocean Beach Municipal Pier has become a local landmark. I’ve spotted sea lions around the pier a few times, plus a few species of seabirds.

Ocean Beach is also well-known for having many murals, which makes enjoying the scenery as you walk around town an activity on its own.

Fish Decorations at Seaworld San Diego
Fish Decorations at Seaworld San Diego

Our Favorite Attraction Scene: Pacific Beach

Since both neighborhoods have beaches, the deciding factor here is SeaWorld San Diego. Pacific Beach is our team’s choice for vacationers who want to keep busy.

FUN with Go Pass!
Belmont Park Ride and Play Pass
Belmont Park Ride and Play Pass
Enjoy a day of FUN with your All-Inclusive Go City Pass San Diego! Belmont Park is a beachfront amusement park with thrilling roller coasters, games and activities! You can also jump on the zip line or play mini-golf. Don't forget to peep the view!
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Local Tips
Who can use a Go City San Diego pass?

Adults and children (ages 3 to 12) can use the Go City San Diego pass – All-Inclusive or Explorer pass – to visit the area’s top attractions and activities.

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

Where to Eat and Shop in Ocean Beach and Pacific Beach

Let’s compare popular eateries and hangout spots between PB and OB.

Carne Asada Tacos at Fat Fish Restaurant
Carne Asada Tacos at Fat Fish Restaurant

Grab a Bite in PB

Like many San Diego neighborhoods along the Pacific Ocean, Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach have lots of seafood restaurants featuring fresh-caught fish and shellfish. Many restaurants and cafes in pacific Beach have outdoor seating so you can enjoy the ocean breeze while you dine.

You can also find some unique spots, like The Grass Skirt in Pacific Beach, a tiki bar themed after a 1920s speakeasy.

Pacific Beach has quite a few surf shops, plus plenty of places to grab a souvenir. There are more “touristy” stores which are fun to browse for unique items.

Both Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach hold regular farmers markets weekly throughout the year, as mentioned in our article about the best farmers markets in San Diego. I love to purchase fresh, locally-grown produce and support small businesses.

The Famous Hodads Burger Joint in Ob
The Famous Hodads Burger Joint in Ob

Dine and Shop in OB

Just like in Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach has plenty of fresh seafood restaurants. The restaurants here have a bit more variety, with many different types of cuisine to choose from around the neighborhood.

Shops also tend to be locally-owned or boutique, with more unique stores.

Ocean Beach is a more residential area, and its stores reflect this. You’ll still find some surfing gear shops, but there are also spots like wellness centers, gyms, and bookstores.

For drinking options in Ocean Beach, waterfront brewpubs offer great views and great seasonal beers.

Bars in Ocean Beach
Bars in Ocean Beach

The Winning Neighborhood: Ocean Beach

Personally, I think Ocean Beach has a better selection of restaurants. Combined with its unique shopping scene, it’s my pick for the winner here.

PB and OB Recreation Options

It’s easy to enjoy the outdoors and plan fun activities around these San Diego beach towns.

The Perfect Wave in Pacific Beach
The Perfect Wave in Pacific Beach

Have a Ball at Pacific Beach

PB beaches are generally known for being great spots for surfing and sunbathing.

Some of my favorites in PB include Pacific Beach and North Pacific Beach, both of which are typical wide, sandy beaches with space for tanning and swimming. Watching the sunset there is one of our team’s favorite Free Things to Do in San Diego.

You can also rent a surfboard with a Go City San Diego pass and ride the waves at Tourmaline Surf Park and PB Point / False Point.

Pacific Beach also borders the bay. In Mission Bay Park, you can try your hand at sportfishing, jet skiing, sailing, and stand-up paddleboarding, to name a few.

Some popular parks in Pacific Beach include Palisades South Park, the dog-friendly Kate Sessions Memorial Park, and Pacific Beach Park, which doubles as a rec center.

Beachgoers at Ocean Beach City Beach
Beachgoers at Ocean Beach City Beach

Splash Around in Ocean Beach

OB beaches include a few surf spots as well as a dog beach.

Some standouts are the pet-friendly Ocean Beach Dog Beach and the more surfing-oriented Ocean Beach Pier & City Beach.

Ocean Beach also has a few parks with walking trails, including Saratoga Park and the Robb Athletic Field by the San Diego River.

Lots of Surfers at Tourmaline Surf Park
Lots of Surfers at Tourmaline Surf Park

Spend More Time Outdoors With Our Pick: Pacific Beach

OB mainly has the beach, while PB has both the beach and bay access. That’s why we suggest Pacific Beach, as it’s got more to do.

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Community Events in Both Neighborhoods

You don’t have to walk around long to get a feel for the atmosphere and culture of these neighborhoods. They have very different vibes, but both PB and OB are filled with expressions of culture.

Locals and tourists alike are also invited to attend fun annual events.

Pacific Beach Christmas Parade
Pacific Beach Christmas Parade

Special Events in PB

In Pacific Beach, the annual Concerts on the Green (CotG) event is held on Sundays in the summer, from July to August. The concert series highlights artists from San Diego and is open to all.

Pacific Beach also has murals scattered around the neighborhood, mainly between Turquoise Street and Crown Point Beach. Many murals are influenced by the Mexican cultural backgrounds of their artists, while others range in subjects from animals, to food, to nature.

Ocean Beach Peoples Market
Ocean Beach Peoples Market

OB’s Community Events and Culture

Ocean Beach has a number of annual community events. These include the Kite Festival in May, an Oktoberfest street fair, and the Sunset Cliffs Auto Show in September.

Ocean Beach also holds a combination Street Fair & Chili Cook-Off in June. Though PB used to have an annual street fair, it is no longer running.

The OB Playhouse & Theatre Company puts on rotating live shows throughout the year.

Ocean Beach’s community mural program dates back to 1999, and a new mural has been created every year since at the annual street fair. These murals are on display between Niagara Ave and Santa Monica Ave, close to the start of the pier.

OB Peoples Market Sign
OB Peoples Market Sign

Our Pick for the Best Culture and Community: Ocean Beach

The vibrant murals and great community events of Ocean Beach make it our team’s choice for the neighborhood with the best sense of community.

Getting Around Town at OB and PB

Public transit is widely available in San Diego. In addition to rideshares, there are bus and trolley lines that will bring you to and from different points of interest.

Pacific Beach, Beach Bug Electric Shuttle
Pacific Beach, Beach Bug Electric Shuttle

Transportation in Pacific Beach

While travel is convenient in both areas, PB boasts a unique electric shuttle service. The Beach Bug will take you anywhere you need to go in Pacific Beach San Diego, and you can hail a ride from anywhere in the neighborhood through the free app.

There’s also a trolley station right as you enter PB, making it easy to travel between other neighborhoods like Downtown San Diego and Old Town San Diego.

Pacific Beach’s previously mentioned murals are a great spot to take a self-guided tour. With over 50 murals on display, the PB Mural Walk is a must-see attraction.

Uber Dropping off Passenger at the Santa Fe Train Depot
Uber Dropping off Passenger at the Santa Fe Train Depot

Navigating Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach doesn’t have as many neighborhood-centric ways to get around. However, it’s a walkable neighborhood, and rideshares are always an option if you’re looking to go elsewhere in San Diego.

Ocean Beach has a self-guided walking tour around the Newport Avenue and Sunset Cliffs Boulevard area. Historic sites along these roads are marked with informative plaques.

Back of the Electric Shuttle - PB Beach Bug
Back of the Electric Shuttle - PB Beach Bug

Our Getting Around Winner

Since PB has transportation options like the trolley stop and the Beach Bug, neither of which are available in OB, it’s the easier neighborhood to navigate between the two.

Handy Tips for Deciding Between Ocean Beach vs Pacific Beach

Here are some final considerations and things to know about each neighborhood.

The Boardwalk in Pacific Beach
The Boardwalk in Pacific Beach

Tips for Pacific Beach

  • Pacific Beach’s busiest season is in the summer, though surfing conditions peak in the cooler months.
  • Some San Diego businesses are seasonal and may not be open in the winter.
  • Generally, there is more to do in Pacific Beach for people who like to stay active on vacations.

Friends Playing Beach Volleyball at Ocean Beach City Beach
Friends Playing Beach Volleyball at Ocean Beach City Beach

What to Know about Ocean Beach

  • In Ocean Beach, fewer tourists means the beaches are less crowded, though there are still rushes during summer vacation.
  • More businesses are open in the off-season compared to Pacific Beach.
  • If you’re looking to lounge at the beach for most of your vacation, the thinner crowds of Ocean Beach may be more appealing.

Who Wins Overall, According to Our Team?

Fun Wave Breaking in Pacific Beach
Fun Wave Breaking in Pacific Beach

With some of our favorite beaches, more attraction variety, and convenient services like the Beach Bug, our team thinks that Pacific Beach is the stand-out winner between these two neighborhoods, though Ocean Beach has a lot to offer beach lovers too!

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