Pacific Beach San Diego hotels suit travelers looking for a casual beach vacation with easy access to nightlife. Four recommendations on this are oceanfront and one is bayfront yet steps from the ocean. “PB” is a great place to be for the right type of traveler.
This lively neighborhood rests between La Jolla and Mission Beach. It’s full of flip-flop-friendly restaurants and bars that cater to the many young people who live here. Find them within walking distance along the beachfront boardwalk—a favorite spot for running, biking, skateboarding, and scootering—or on Garnet Avenue. The vast stretch of beach on both sides of the scenic Crystal Pier attracts sunbathers, surfers, and swimmers alike year-round.
And, you can stay in the thick of it.
Those who prefer boutique hotels should stay at the chic Tower23, named after the lifeguard tower 23 in front of the hotel. It’s a lifestyle property located on the Pacific Beach boardwalk near Crystal Pier with bikes and skateboards for guests to use, private yoga sessions, and in-room spa treatments to round out a perfect beach vacation (the hotel does not have a pool).
Inside the 47 rooms and suites, expect minimalist décor and modern amenities like rain showers, flat-screen televisions, and platform beds. You’ll want to opt for an oceanfront room or suite to take in the majestic sunsets over the Pacific Ocean from your terrace.
The on-site restaurant, JRDN, is also popular with locals and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The menu is California cuisine from acai bowls to a raw bar in the evenings. You won’t miss the 70-foot wave wall that reflects the ocean amid color-changing lights. A drink or dinner at sunset on the patios is also a treat.
Pacific Terrace Hotel
Recipient of the prestigious AAA Four Diamond award, Pacific Terrace Hotel is located on the northern end of the Pacific Beach boardwalk. Guests rave about the service and comfortable guestrooms which each have a patio or balcony and Tommy Bahama style décor.
The resort fee of a modest $15/night includes beach chair, umbrella, boogie board, and sand toy rentals, and two-hour beach cruiser rentals. Extras that guests can book include s’mores and in-room spa treatments. The heated outdoor pool isn’t large, but it has cabanas and a spectacular view over the boardwalk and to the ocean. Breakfast and a limited room service menu are served on-site.
Surfers tend to stick toward Crystal Pier and north at Law Street Beach so it’s easier to swim in front of the hotel here. This is also the quieter end of the boardwalk. Directly south of the hotel is where things start to get a little grittier. A few steps north of Pacific Terrace is Law Street Beach, where many La Jollans take their kids to the beach.
The Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa
The Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa boasts a prime location steps from the ocean beach but also right on a bay beach, providing guests the best of both worlds. If you’re looking for a family-friendly Pacific Beach hotel, this is the best choice as it offers the most activities of any hotel or resort in the area.
In addition to a full-service spa, fantastic on-site restaurant, and pool, guests can take advantage of the myriad water sports rentals. Take a kayak, sailboat, stand-up paddleboard or powerboat (for water skiing or wakeboarding) and more out on Mission Bay. Summer activities include luaus and beach movies. Kids will like the resident tropical birds in addition to the ducks and turtles that cruise around the property’s water features. Guests also have access to bike rentals on site and a nice grab-and-go cafe.
It’s a casual three-star property with rooms that have recently been refreshed. If at all possible book a Bay Front room for easy access to the sand. They are very popular so if you see one available, grab it.
Blue Sea Beach Hotel
Blue Sea Beach Hotel is no-frills boutique property, with 126 guestrooms and suites. It receives high praise for service and a convenient boardwalk location in the heart of the action.
In the rooms find cheery coastal décor, Keurig coffee makers, 50″ televisions, C.O. Bigelow bath amenities and furnished private patios and balconies. Guest love the complimentary flavored water and cookies in the lobby as well as direct access to the boardwalk from the pool deck. The heated pool and Jacuzzi here both boast ocean views.
There isn’t a restaurant on site or room service, but plenty of Pacific Beach restaurants await within walking distance.
Crystal Pier Hotel Cottages
Crystal Pier Hotel Cottages sit on the privately-owned Crystal Pier and are some of the unique accommodations in all of San Diego. Some cottages, depending on the tide, sit over the water.
Opt for a studio, one-bedroom or two-bedroom cottage on the pier with private patios overlooking the ocean and beach, kitchenettes and parking on the pier for one car. Hotel rooms are located in buildings on the boardwalk.
Keep in mind that light sleepers might have trouble with sounds of the ocean echoing under the pier. Crystal Pier is also open to the public and one of the best places in San Diego to watch the sunset. However, after the pier closes in the evening, only hotel guests have key access to it. Reservations open up 11 months in advance, must be made in person or by phone, and fill up quickly.
Tips for Booking Pacific Beach San Diego Hotels
I am frequently asked by families whether Pacific Beach is a good fit, and the answer depends on your tolerances. Your kids might see and smell things along the boardwalk that might make you uncomfortable, but this is less of an issue on the sand. It’s a party town, and while gentrifying due to investment and expensive real estate, it can have a spring break atmosphere during peak season. This is fun for some and disruptive for others. Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa’s location insulates families from many of these issues, however. Check my list of best San Diego family hotels to learn more.
If you are a luxury traveler, I suggest basing yourself in La Jolla or Coronado for a beach vacation. For more information see which San Diego neighborhood is right for your vacation.
Now for some critical advice for booking Pacific Beach San Diego hotels on the boardwalk. Please do try to book an oceanfront or ocean view room at hotels along the boardwalk. In addition to spectacular views, this helps avoid another problem that people face in Pacific Beach — noise. Bars stay open until 2 a.m., and there are many in this area. Rooms at the back of these hotels hear people and cars otherwise. Request a high floor as well. Put these requests in at the time of booking and follow up a week or so before check-in to reemphasize them.
Expect to pay a premium for these hotels during holidays and the summer season. Book as early in advance as possible.