Fiesta Island Park is the largest island on Mission Bay – a manufactured recreational waterway with 27 miles of coastline and 4,235 acres.
The island comprises 463 acres of undeveloped public park and recreational land. Known for its vast open spaces, both large grassy areas and sandy beaches, it’s an outdoor wonderland that welcomes activity. Open to humans, horses, and dogs, there is much to do and explore.
Fiesta Island Park: Breakdown of Where to Go
Fiesta Island Park resulted from dredged sand resulting from expanding Mission Bay. It has since been untouched and remains an undeveloped peninsular island that attracts over five million visitors annually.
You enter the island from the east and exit the island to the west. I’ll show you what to expect as you travel along this loop.
Fiesta Island Park: East Side
The entrance is on the east side of the island. This part is known for having beaches with calm waters that are great for families with small children.
Tecolote Cove is the first beach you’ll come across. Enchanted Cove is a little further up in the island’s southeast corner. Both are great spots for water activities like fishing, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), rowing, and slow-moving watercraft. The maximum speed limit at these beaches is 5 mph.
Fiesta Island Youth Camp and Youth Aquatic Center is also located in a protected cove on the island’s east side. Sandy bayfront beaches and access to the Pacific Ocean border the popular facility.
However, it is only available for use by San Diego youth groups such as Seascouts, Boys & Girls Club, and YMCA Indian Guides. Children can learn to canoe, sail, kayak, row, SUP, swim, and windsurf.
The Fiesta Island Youth Camp is adjacent to the Aquatic Center, providing 25 campsites to accommodate up to 250 campers. Each campsite has a firepit, barbecue, and picnic table. The campsite has rinsing showers, drinking water, and a centrally placed restroom. There is also a bonfire ring and amphitheater ideal for large campfire gatherings. Again, this is only available to youth groups. Other visitors cannot launch, anchor, or use the beach here.
Once you pass the aquatic center and campgrounds, you can launch your small personal watercraft into Fiesta Bay. The speed limit remains 5 mph on the East side of Fiesta Island Park.
Fiesta Island Park: Center
Once you reach the center of Fiesta Island Park, you’ll find the San Diego famous Over-The-Line (OTL) fields. This is also where the iconic Over-The-Line Tournament is hosted each year.
The esteemed Old Mission Bay Athletic Club has hosted the legendary event since the mid-1950s. If you’re unfamiliar with OTL, it’s a bat-and-ball sport played in teams of three in the sand.
The Over-The-Line fields can also be used to launch model rockets. However, you must obtain a permit from the city beforehand.
The great thing about central Fiesta Island is that there are fewer crowds since people prefer to be shoreside. We like to explore the sand dunes taking in the beautiful native and non-native flora. Some native plants you’ll come across are big saltbush, pickleweed, coastal goldenbush, and beach evening primrose. You may even stumble upon people riding horseback along the way.
Fiesta Island Park: West Side
The west side of Fiesta Island Park is for the high-energy, adventurous, thrill-seeking watercraft and watersport enthusiasts. On the west side, you’re not limited to the 5 mph limit in the water. Watercraft can go faster (within reason) from morning to night in this area of Fiesta Island.
The laxer rules of these beaches make them a hot spot for motor and sailboats. Waterskiing and kitesurfing are among the most popular watersports on the west side. However, to waterski, you must first obtain a permit that requires you to be a member of a waterskiing club. You’ll often find watercraft speed competitions here.
Local Tip: There is an isolated cove in the southeastern tip of the west side called Hidden Anchorage. It’s a premier waterski place, so ensure you get that permit.
After passing the beaches on Fiesta Island’s west side, you’ll come upon Stoney Point, adjacent to the dog park.
Stoney Point is the California Least Tern Nesting Area and is gated off with a no trespassing/do not enter sign. Due to the area’s isolation, it provides a good food source and protection for this endangered bird species. Additional signage asks pet owners to keep their dogs from entering the site or barking at the gate to avoid disturbing the birds.
In 2021, the City Council approved a plan to expand and renovate the island. Fiesta Island Park will be expanded from 463 acres to 470 acres. After renovations are completed, Fiesta Island will include an off-leash park, several restroom areas, several dedicated wildlife areas, a campground, and a concession stand.
How to Get to Find Fiesta Island
Situated on Mission Bay, in the seaside neighborhood of Mission Beach, Fiesta Island is easy to find.
You’ll take Interstate 5 and exit Sea World Drive. After exiting, head southwest to make a right on East Mission Bay Drive before finally making a left at Fiesta Island. This is a one-way road that loops around the island. The speed limit on this road is 25 mph.
Where to Park at Fiesta Island Park
There is free parking throughout Fiesta Island Park. You can park anywhere along the road as you drive along the one-way loop.
There are no parking lots currently on the island. You can park directly on the beach if you can’t find parking along the road. No parking is allowed on the island from 10 p.m. – 4 a.m.
Things to Do at Fiesta Island Park
Fiesta Island Park is a tranquil area of uninhabited land and peaceful natural surroundings amid an otherwise urban landscape. With plans to expand and revitalize Fiesta Island, it’s only destined to appeal to a wider variety of tourists and locals.
This is a great place to explore quieter beaches, take advantage of a massive dog park, and enjoy the island’s unique charms. Fiesta Island provides the freedom and space to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities both on land and in the water. It’s also home to several one-of-a-kind and recurring events.
Fiesta Island Dog Beach
Fiesta Island Dog Beach is by far the most popular and notable aspect of Fiesta Island and one of the best things to do with dogs in San Diego.
It’s such a prominent fixture that Fiesta Island’s original expansion and redesign plans were denied because they would reduce the size and accessibility of the dog park. Instead, the new plan will honor the pup-friendly history by upgrading the off-leash area.
Open daily, 24 hours a day (the island is closed to vehicles between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.), the expansive park has plenty of sand dunes your dog will love to romp around in. Play catch and frisbee with your playful pooch across the 90 acres. This includes a calm water beach so your pup can splash around with reckless abandon or just cool off.
To fully appreciate its significance to dog lovers, you should know that the park was voted the number one dog park in the nation by USA Today readers.
SeaWorld San Diego is located nearby, so if your dog is especially sensitive to noise, I recommend checking their evening fireworks schedule. Additionally, there are no clean water sources yet, so be sure to bring water for your dog with you.
Tip: Make sure you bring waste bags with you. Respect the park, and pick up after your pup (or horse). There is also a dog bag station at the park entrance if you forget to bring your own. Make sure to grab some when you enter, as the park is quite large.
Watercraft at Fiesta Island Park
Though Fiesta Island Dog Park may be the most notable feature on the island, the beaches on the island’s west side are the most popular.
Personal watercraft owners flock here. You’ll often see motorboats, sailboats, and jet skis launching into and cruising around the water.
Watersports At Fiesta Island Park
There are so many water and land activities to get into at Fiesta Island Park. Fun things to do in Mission Bay like swimming, sunbathing, fishing, SUP, kayaking, and canoeing are popular on the island’s east side.
This is because the water is much calmer and watercraft are not allowed to go above 5 mph near these beaches. This also makes them the ideal beaches for families with children. You can play in the water during the day and have a bonfire to roast s’mores while you watch the sunset.
The west side beaches allow watercraft to go at higher speeds making jet skiing, waterskiing, and sailing popular activities. The higher winds and more intense waves make it a hot spot for kiteboarding and windsurfing.
Kayakers, canoers, and paddleboarders can also use these beaches, but the intense waves make it more challenging, and, frankly, not as fun.
Run, Walk, Or Bike the Loop
The Fiesta Island Park loop is two miles of mostly flat land, making it a great route to run, walk, or bike. Since the entire park is dog-friendly, they can exercise alongside you if they’re on a leash.
If you have a horse, bring it along and explore the park via horseback. You can also play beach volleyball, Over-The-Line, corn-hole, frisbee, and other common beach-friendly games.
Bird Watching at Fiesta Island Park
Fiesta Island is a popular location for novice and avid bird watchers alike. There is an abundance of untouched land and water sources. This provides a healthy food supply that draws in both native and non-native bird species.
The most common bird varieties include the Lapland Longspur, Eared Grebe, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Semipalmated Plover, Black Turnstone, and Horned Lark. And, of course, there’s the Least Terns mentioned above.
Picnics at Fiesta Island Park
Picnics are a fun and enjoyable experience at Fiesta Island. I encourage you to plan and pack a meal when you visit. For example, you can have lunch seaside after spending the morning on the water.
Watching the Sunset at Fiesta Island Park
Though there are a lot of incredible places to watch the sunset in San Diego, Fiesta Island is a hidden gem. You’ll have your choice of vantage points, from the tranquil beaches on the east to the lively beaches on the west. Some of my favorite sunset snaps have been from this unassuming island.
Fiesta Island Park Events
A popular spot for tournaments and events, Fiesta Island Park hosts charity walks, bicycle races, marathons, and time trials.
The biggest event the island hosts is the annual Over-The-Line Tournament which brings in scores of players and spectators. Recently, “fun runs” have exploded on Fiesta Island with events like the annual Resolution and Mermaid runs.
What to Know Before You Go
Fiesta Island Park is open daily between 4 a.m. – 10 p.m., and the Fiesta Island Dog Park is open 24 hours a day.
There are no public restrooms available on the island yet. However, portable toilets may be available during special events. Glass containers, possession and consumption of alcohol, and smoking are strictly prohibited, like at all San Diego parks.
Please use trash cans to dispose of unwanted waste. Large group gatherings require permits from the city and require portable toilets to be provided by the host. To learn more about how you can host an event and/or pay the permit fee, call 619-235-1169.
You are only allowed to use the firepits provided on the island, and they are on a first-come, first-served basis. No fires or portable fire containers are allowed directly on the sand.
Campsites and the Youth Camp Aquatic Center are not open to the public. Camping outside of the Youth Center is not permitted on the island.
The entire island is dog and horse friendly. You can bring your horses to the island, but you must pick up after them.
What are your favorite things to do at Fiesta Island in San Diego?
Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).
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