Basing a San Diego vacation at one of the Mission Beach hotels or Mission Bay hotels has a number of benefits but it’s important to be clear about the location you’re booking into. These adjacent neighborhoods are referred to interchangeably, despite their different beach experiences, which I’m finding tends to confuse travelers.
We’ll discuss the two different types of beaches here — bay and ocean —and go over which hotels provide access to one or both so that you are fully-informed when you book.
Where Is Mission Beach?
Mission Beach is a coastal neighborhood bordered by Pacific Beach to the north, Mission Bay to the east, Pacific Ocean to the west, and Ocean Beach to the south.
When searching for Mission Beach San Diego hotels, you may also generate results that include Pacific Beach hotels. The reason is that the dividing line between Mission Beach and Pacific Beach is not well marked on maps (nor can many San Diegans tell you exactly where it is as both neighborhoods share the same zip code).
For this reason, I did include a few south Pacific Beach hotels on this list as they are very near the action in Mission Beach or border Mission bay.
Where Is Mission Bay?
Mission Bay is a human-made saltwater bay or aquatic park that the largest of its kind in the country and bordered by the I-5 freeway to the east, Mission Beach to the west, Pacific Beach to the north and various San Diego neighborhoods to the south. Its roughly 4325 acres are half land and half water with 19 miles of bay beach surrounding the water.
West Mission Bay is mostly in Mission Beach, but east Mission Bay might be Pacific Beach, for example. (If your family is looking for hotels near SeaWorld San Diego, this famous attraction is located on Mission Bay, too.)
See also: Best Beachfront Hotels in San Diego
Reasons to Consider Mission Beach and Mission Bay Hotels
Let’s talk about why you would stay in this part of San Diego.
Most Mission Beach hotels and Mission Bay hotels are less than 5 miles from the San Diego International Airport. This means that they are fairly easy to get to and good for travelers who want to see the sand while remaining close to downtown. This area is more casual and usually prices lower than the Del Mar or La Jolla beach hotels.
This part of town offers two different beach experiences. The beaches of Mission Beach have beautiful white sand with great waves to surf and a fun boardwalk full of restaurants, shops and even a beachside amusement park (Belmont Park). The other beach surrounds waveless Mission Bay. The calm waters here are good for young kids (it can be murky in spots though) and water sports enthusiasts who want to do everything from waterski to ride aqua cycles.
Some hotels on this list are not walkable to the ocean beach while others are. Another important thing to note is that these hotels do not usually suit luxury travelers. If you are looking for a truly five-star experience, read best San Diego luxury hotels.
See also: Best Kid-Friendly San Diego Hotels
Without further ado, here are my favorite hotels.
Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina
Families love this hotel as it’s the only one in San Diego with multiple water slides. Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina is four walkable blocks to Belmont Park and Mission Beach. Rooms and common areas have just been renovated.
- No bay beach at the hotel
- Mission Bay Sports Center on-site rents jet skis, kayaks, boats, water skis and bikes
- Pillow top Hyatt Grand beds
- Flat-screen televisions and iPod docks in every room
- In-room coffee pot by request
- A full-service eco-friendly spa
- Three swimming pools
- Live music at the Red Marlin restaurant every Friday and Saturday
- Seasonal games like hula and Bingo at the pool
- An on-site market with coffee, bagels, snacks and more
- Pool bar and lounge
- Private marina
- Complimentary WiFi
Good to Know: It takes two minutes to drive over to SeaWorld. They do not have a Regency Club level. Outside guests can buy pool day passes via ResortPass.
The Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa
The Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa has the most amenities of any Mission Bay hotels (though technically located in Pacific Beach) from a fantastic spa loved by locals to a picturesque and perfect bay location. The Pacific Ocean beach is also a few minutes’ walk across the street. It’s easy to explore the area by bike which you can also rent at the resort.
The resort is tropical in style so it almost feels like stepping into Hawaii. Dining is excellent especially at the signature restaurant, Oceana, and there are a number of on-property activities to take advantage of ranging from seasonal sunset luaus to chatting with the resort’s resident macaws.
- Seasonal SUP Yoga on the bay
- Summertime luaus and beach movies
- Beachside yoga
- Surfing, sailing and SUP lessons in addition to kayaks and wakeboarding
- Beach chairs and umbrellas for guest use
- Beachfront restaurant
- Each guest room and suite has a private balcony or patio as well as water or tropical water views.
- Studios have kitchenettes
- The resort’s Bahia Belle Stearnwheeler boat takes guests on family hour and cocktail cruises
- A really fantastic spa based on Polynesian, Thai and a variety of other South Pacific traditions
- Bicycle and Segway rentals onsite
- Complimentary arcade
- Tropical bird show with resident birds
- Turtles and ducks to look at in the various tropical water features
Good to Know: This is a very popular choice for families. It’s an awesome location for taking advantage of both bay and ocean beaches while also being within walking distance of Pacific Beach restaurants. It is not fancy accommodations by any means. The buildings look a bit run down on the exterior but rooms have recently been refreshed with new Keurigs, beds, and decor.
Awards: TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence
Bahia Resort Hotel
Bahia Resort Hotel was the very first Mission Bay hotel. The Mediterranean-themed resort is located on a secluded 14-acre peninsula that juts out into the bay and has its own private bay beach.
To get to the ocean at Mission Beach, guests need to walk an easy 10 minutes. The walk passes Belmont Park, San Diego’s beachfront theme park, and drops you at the beach and boardwalk. It’s a sister property to The Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa which means there is transportation between the two properties.
- Private bay beach
- Rentals of wetsuits, boogie boards, and rafts, paddle boats, kayaks, powerboats, wave runners/sea-dos
- Seasonal summer beach concerts and clam bakes
- Complimentary cabanas
- Seasonal kids’ beach activities
- 314-rooms which include beach-front cottages, studios with panoramic views, and spacious bayside suites
- Bayfront suites have direct beach access and Studios offer full kitchens and dining areas
- Driver service to The Catamaran Spa
- Two complimentary lighted tennis courts
- Heated swimming pool with Jacuzzi
- The Bahia Belle Sternwheeler boat which takes guests on family hour and cocktail cruises
- Pond with ducks and two rescued seals (kids will love them)
- No resort fees and complimentary parking
- A Moroccan-inspired lounge with live music
- Fitness center
Good to Know: The hotel has a reputation for fantastic service and is popular for those looking for a more wallet-friendly choice with good beach access. Guests here use the spa at The Catamaran.
Awards: TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence
Surfer Beach Hotel
Surfer Beach Hotel is in Pacific Beach, steps from the border of Mission Beach. The no-frills hotel sits beachfront on the boardwalk, which means that views are spectacular and ocean breezes are guaranteed. Rooms are comfortable and clean. World Famous restaurant is next door which equals easy access to great fish tacos and casual beachfront dining. The building is older but this is certainly one of the most affordable beachfront hotels in the area.
- Family rooms can sleep up to 6 people
- Suites with kitchens and separate living areas are available
- In-room coffee and microwaves are available in some rooms
- Complimentary wireless internet
- Complimentary hot beverages in the lobby
- In-room mini refrigerator
- Ironing boards and hair dryers on request in standard rooms
- Parking is $25
- Heated ocean view swimming pool
- Pets less than 50 lbs are welcome
- Coin-operated laundry
- An activity desk
Good to Know: There are incentives for booking directly through the hotel but you can also save if you bundle theme park tickets with your booking.
The Dana on Mission Bay
The Dana on Mission Bay is a casual, low-key hotel that also welcomes guests with a tropical atmosphere. It is actually the closest hotel to SeaWorld San Diego and about a mile to the heart of the action in Mission Beach. The 10-acre resort has two main buildings: Marina Cove and Water’s Edge.
- Adventure Watersports rentals which include jet ski’s, powerboats, paddle boats, bicycles (single and tandems), water-skiing, wakeboarding, motorboat rides, wave runners, aqua cycles, paddleboards, kayaks.
- Seasonal youth classes where kids can learn water sports
- Flat-screen HDTVs, refrigerators, microwaves, single cup coffee and tea makers in all rooms
- Wet bar, hand-crafted furniture, balconies and patios, water views in Water’s Edge section
- Pets up to 80 lbs are welcome (maximum 2 per room)
- Firefly restaurant is also pet-friendly
- Bayview infinity pool and spa; tropical pool and spa
- Onsite restaurant and seasonal pool bar
- Private marina with boat slips for hotel guests (reservations necessary)
- Laundry facilities
- Seasonal dive-in movies
- Lawn games
Good to Know: As mentioned above, the ocean beach at Mission Beach is about a mile away but you can walk or ride a bike there. It is an older property but also can be great value for money.
Paradise Point Resort and Spa
This secluded tropical resort experience is great for families. Paradise Point Resort and Spa is a 462-room bungalow-style resort set on Mission Bay that was established in 1962 by famous Hollywood Director Jack Skirball. The 44-acre resort actually feels like a secluded tropical island. Over one mile of beach circles the resort with its five swimming pools, tranquil lagoons, and lush gardens.
The bay beach here is a fun San Diego beach for kids and they do swim here (water can be murky). The ocean beach at Mission Beach requires a 2-mile drive around the bay to get there.
- Bonfire pits
- Beach games like volleyball, bocce ball, and horseshoes
- Beach toys and accessories available for purchase at the Island Market
- Paradise Surf Academy
- Five swimming pools including an adults-only pool
- 462 Balinese-inspired bungalow rooms including 73 suites with private patios, mini-refrigerators, and in-room coffee (suites have wet bars and microwaves)
- A full-service marina with sailboats and ski boats
- Wakeboarding, waterskiing, kayaks, paddleboats and fishing
- 18-hole putting golf course
- Five dining venues including two waterfront restaurants
- Award-winning, island-themed spa with kids’ treatments
- Pet-friendly to 15 lbs or less
- Seasonal kids’ club
Good to Know: This hotel is also transitioning to a Margaritaville property at some point in 2020 (date and further details are TBD). The resort is quite large so there can be a decent amount of walking, though golf cart rides are available.
Blue Sea Beach Hotel
Blue Sea Beach Hotel is a good choice for people who want to be on the beach, in the middle of the action and in a moderately-priced (for beachfront) boutique hotel. Simply step over the boardwalk and you’ll be on the sand. It’s not the fanciest Mission Beach hotel but it’s comfortable, cute and considered good value for its location and amenities.
- 126 rooms and suites
- In-room coffee, mini refrigerators, 37″ TVs, free local calls, free WiFi
- Most rooms have ocean views
- Year-round heated pool and spa
- Fresh afternoon cookies and water
- Bike rentals
Good to Know: The beach is busy here and tends to skew a bit younger but guests report that noise is low in rooms that are away from the street.
Awards: TripAdvisor Hall of Fame
San Diego Mission Bay Resort
The new San Diego Mission Bay Resort was recently renovated and entered into the Noble House Hotels and Resorts portfolio. It was formerly the Hilton San Diego Resort. I have high hopes for an elevated experience and am a fan of the new, lighter coastal room decor.
It’s a great option for families who intend to explore Mission Beach and other parts of San Diego as the resort is next to the freeway. The Mission Bay boardwalk is right in front of the hotel as is a nice sandy bay beach. Some rooms have outdoor fire pits for cozy nights and s’mores (I’d recommend these).
- The Sandbox rents bikes (surreys, beach cruisers, kids bikes and trailers) to ride on the boardwalk and sand toys for use on the beach
- Action Sports Rental at the resort marina rents aqua cycles, Segways, stand-up paddleboards, pontoons and more
- There is a beach volleyball net (balls are available from the front desk)
- Choose between guest rooms, studios and suites (some have bay views) all with luxury bedding, small refrigerators and private balconies or patios
- Waterfront pool and wading pool for young kids
- Poolside cabana rentals and menu service
- Two dogs up to 75 lbs are welcome (additional fees apply)
- A nice market and boutique with plenty of grab-and-go food and wine for the room
- Fire pits in some rooms (s’mores kits are available in the market)
- Waterfront dining at Acqua California Bistro
- Full-service spa
- Championship tennis courts
- Seasonal kids’ club
- Seasonal dive-in movies
- Game check-out at the front desk
Good to Know: Like Paradise Point, the San Diego Mission Bay Resort is on the opposite side of Mission Bay from the sand at Mission Beach. It is about a 4-mile scenic car ride around the bay. The upshot is freeway access is easy here. You may also buy a pool day pass through ResortPass.
Awards: TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence and GreenLeaders Silver Level (for eco-friendly practices)