Exploring San Diego’s Beach Communities

California, Extras — By on December 15, 2011 at 9:55 pm
By Gina Douglas
Special to Lost Girls

San Diego San Diego has no shortage of beaches, however for a Lost Girl looking for some fun and a taste of the laid-back San Diego beach-town lifestyle, head north of downtown San Diego and its surrounding harbor to a beach mecca – a trio of beach communities that epitomizes the San Diego surfer, beach, and party life: OB, Mission Beach, and PB. Situated one after the other, each offers a unique beach community.

Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach – known to everyone in San Diego as OB – is the bohemian community of the trio. OB has a smaller stretch of beach than Mission Beach and PB, however it makes up for it with the beautiful Sunset Cliffs. Just past OB’s understated pier, the coastline stretches up into auburn brown cliffs. Heading to the peak of the cliffs and then braving the worn in steep paths and nature-made steps down the cliff’s side will result in the reward of lounging on a secluded beach amidst the cliff’s coves.


For a place to eat in OB that is popular with locals and argued to have the best fish tacos in all of San Diego, head to South Beach Bar and Grille, located at the west end of Newport Avenue. Except for the ocean view, it’s just a typical dive bar until that first bite of mahi fish taco and then, if you’re like most people who visit South Beach, you understand what the hype is all about. Just a few blocks east on Newport is Hodad’s, as famous for its burgers as South Beach is for its tacos. Be prepared for a line and once you’re inside, enjoy the funky auto-infused decorations while you’re waiting for your burger. For some locally brewed beer, Pizza Port off of Bacon Street is an award-winning brewery. The OB Chronic is a great choice if you like Amber beer. An added plus about this place: the pizza is just as good as the beer.

For some extra pampering, in case the sand between your toes isn’t enough, head to the Hidden Spa, just a block away from Pizza Port on Santa Monica Avenue. A surprisingly peaceful oasis in the middle of OB, it offers affordable rates on massages compared to other spas in San Diego.

Mission Beach

Mission Beach is sandwiched in between OB and PB and is San Diego’s laidback answer to L.A.’s Santa Monica pier. You’ll know you’re in Mission Beach when you spot the rickety, white roller coaster, located just off of the beach in the admission-free Belmont Park, looming up from Mission Boulevard as an invitation to stop and enjoy the fun Mission Beach has to offer. If roller coasters aren’t your thing, Belmont Park offers several other rides as well as tourist shops. Belmont Park is also home to the Wave House, an outdoor beach bar and restaurant with a sand floor and FlowRider machine – try it if you dare or just enjoy watching the experts ride the machine-made wave with ease and the novices attempt to stay on the board before inevitably wiping out.

The actual beach area of Mission Beach is framed by a busy boardwalk full of bikers, walkers, skateboarders, and even a few rollerbladers. The south end of the beach has several volleyball nets set up, but you’ll generally need to get there early in the day to claim one. With the abundance of nearby shops and eateries catering to tourists, the sand of Mission Beach is a convenient place to park your towel for the day and let the rhythmic sounds of the waves ease you into beach bum bliss.

If you’re looking for more active ways to spend your time, head across Mission Boulevard to Mission Bay. With various places to rent water skis, kayaks, and more, the bay’s calmer waters are a great place for water sports.

After the sun sets, Sand Bar is a chill two-story bar across the street from the roller coaster. The next morning, recover from the night with a hefty weekend breakfast from Guava Beach Bar and Restaurant.

Pacific Beach

Similar to OB, PB is short for this beach community’s name: Pacific Beach. PB could just as well be the acronym for “Party Base”. PB lures San Diego’s post-college and well-past-college 20- and 30-somethings to its jewel-named streets, with one in particular being the most alluring – Garnet Street. Bars line both sides of Garnet with trendy and cheap fashion stores interspersed throughout. Clubs and dive bars vie for the attention of residents and visitors. Looking for a club-like atmosphere? Visit Johnny V’s or Typhoon Saloon once the sun sets. And unlike downtown clubs, it’s perfectly acceptable to show up in flip-flops. More of a beach vibe type? Longboard Grill often has live music along with tropical and surfboard decorations. A dive bar more your style? The aptly named Bub’s Dive Bar is a popular choice to hang out. It’s also known for its wings and tater tots.

The beach in this community is divided by PB’s long and scenic pier. Surfers migrate more to the north of the pier while swimmers and boogie boarders are more apt to stay south of the pier. And sunbathers are everywhere.

PB is also known for its eclectic mix of restaurants to suit every taste. Mama Mia’s on Grand Avenue has gnocchi prepared to such perfection it’s hard to believe you’re not in Italy. PB Sushi has creative rolls, many with avocado and other California twists and are so huge they seem daunting to eat at first. Costa Brava serves up amazing tapas in a sophisticated, Spanish-inspired dining room – ask the server about the bacon wrapped dates. For a quick late night snack, there are dozens of Mexican or burger joints to choose from.

Where to Stay

Tower 23 – Oceanview rooms in PB. Trendy, hip, with a popular beachfront lounge attached.

Bahia Hotel – Large resort located on Mission Bay.

Ocean Beach Hotel – A boutique hotel located in the heart of the action in OB with ocean views.

Getting There

From the San Diego airport, it costs between $20-$40 to get to these beach communities, depending which one you’re heading to. With a car rental, follow signs to the 5 north. From there, veer onto the 8 west and exit at Sunset Cliffs for OB and exit Mission Bay Drive for Mission Beach. To get to PB, stay on the 5 north and exit at Garnet / Grand Ave. For all three once you exit, head west until you hit the beach.


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