Mission Beach and Mission Bay

The boardwalk, water sports, SeaWorld San Diego, and a casual vibe

The Mission Beach area of San Diego is a two-mile peninsula with the Pacific on one side and Mission Bay on the other. These adjacent neighborhoods are worth mentioning together because people who stay here tend to bounce between them.

People who choose this area for their vacations are looking for more reasonably-priced resorts — and there are several of these along Mission Bay — or vacation rental homes that line the boardwalk in South Mission Beach. Or, they’re simply taking the kids to SeaWorld, located on the bay. Below, I’ve listed popular places to stay and things to do.

Mission Beach & Mission Bay Hotels

Rest assured that there are many good reasons to make Mission Beach or Mission Bay your home base when you visit San Diego. You’ll be less than five miles away from the airport and close to Downtown San Diego attractions.

Plus, you’ll be able to take advantage of the area’s two beach areas: the boardwalk side ocean beach with its great surf and Belmont Park, plus the beaches and water sports of Mission Bay, the largest human-made aquatic recreational area in the U.S.

Things to Do in Mission Beach & Mission Bay

There are basically five things the Mission Bay / Mission Beach area is famous for: two types of beaches (bay and ocean), water sports, Belmont Park, SeaWorld San Diego, and a beach boardwalk. Across the recommended articles, I’ve covered all in detail.

Where and What to Eat

Like other beach neighborhoods, Mission Beach has mostly casual dining and bar eats. You’ll find everything from Dole Whip and hot dogs to barbecue or a steak at Mission Beach’s iconic-yet-laid-back steakhouse, Saska’s.

If you’re looking for the best restaurants in Mission Beach, it all depends on what you’re craving. One of my favorite spots is Miss B’s Coconut Club, which has soft shell crab sliders and bacon-wrapped shrimp corn dogs that will knock your socks off. The tiki cocktails are a fun throwback, and a lot of the drinks are sized to serve three or four people. Mission Bay restaurants are inside of the hotels like Red Marlin in the Hyatt or Tidal inside of Paradise Point.

More About Mission Beach & Mission Bay

The ocean beach here is awesome, casual and bordered by a boardwalk that extends all the way to North Pacific Beach. Water sports are a focus, be it SUP or kayaking on the bay or experienced surfing near the jetty. Volleyball is also huge on the ocean beach here and kids love our Mission Beach seaside amusement park, Belmont Park.

Top Hotels in the Area

When you’re looking at Mission Beach hotels online, you may be surprised to find that you get Pacific Beach hotels in your search results. The most important thing to consider when booking Mission Bay hotels is how long it takes to get to the ocean beach. Many tourists mistake bay beaches for ocean beaches in this neighborhood or think the ocean beaches are within walking distance when they are not. Make sure that the hotels you’re looking at are actually in the location you prefer before booking. 

So, which hotels in Mission Beach are the best? If you’re looking for hotels near SeaWorld San Diego, try the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina or Paradise Point Resort & Spa — both of which are about a mile and a half from the park. The Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina also has super fun kids’ rooms available and a pool with two water slides. It’s walkable to Mission Beach in about 20 minutes whereas Paradise Point is not.

Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa has a tropical feel, great dining, a fantastic spa, lots of activities, and resident macaws. It also has the Bahia Belle Sternwheeler boat, which takes guests on family happy hour and cocktail cruises. It boasts a lovely Mission Bay beach with easy access to water sports rentals but is also a few short blocks to the beach in Pacific Beach.

The Best Things to Do at Belmont Park

This iconic and historic attraction is really worth a visit even if you’re not a big fan of amusement park rides. The Giant Dipper Roller Coaster (a half-mile wooden track roller coaster built in 1925) the most famous ride on the boardwalk, but there are also bumper cars and a small carousel, and plenty of other things to do at Belmont Park. There is mini golf, zip lining, lots of arcade and carnival games, laser tag, and great things to eat beyond a hot dog on a stick (though you can have that, too).

You can sip an upscale draft coffee or beer, dig into some of the best tacos around, grab a quick burger, or kick back on San Diego’s largest oceanfront rooftop with a plate of sushi.

SeaWorld San Diego

Believe it or not, people come to San Diego just to visit SeaWorld San Diego with its famous animal shows, rides, occasional evening fireworks, and restaurants. These families tend to stay in the Mission Bay resorts.

A lot of people ask me how to buy discounted tickets to SeaWorld San Diego, and it is possible to visit the park for less than gate pricing. The most important thing you can do to save money when you’re visiting SeaWorld or any other San Diego attractions is to buy tickets online in advance; there’s usually no chance of getting a discount when you buy at the gate.

The Best Places to Swim or Surf in Mission Beach and Mission Bay

One thing to consider when you’re looking at Mission Beach beaches is that there are designated swimming and surfing areas on the beachside while the bay allows for full access.

The mile-long Mission Beach ocean beach is staffed by lifeguards year round and has multiple designated areas for both swimming and surfing that are marked by yellow and black checkered flags. If you like being social, this is the beach for you.

If you’d like to set out your towel on a quieter, less crowded stretch of beach, head down to South Mission Beach. It’s a lot more peaceful, and locals flock to this beach for water sports, sun, fishing, volleyball and relaxation. Even less experienced swimmers can have fun here — though it’s advised that they swim close to the shore because there area experiences occasional rip currents. Like Mission Beach to the north, this beach is popular with volleyball players, and you’ll see people playing over-the-line. As for surfing, that’s best left to experienced surfers. It’s a prime spot, but the jetty makes this break tricky.

When it comes to Mission Bay, people do go for a swim in designated areas. There will be boats, some pulling waterskiers, so one must pay attention to boundaries when in the water. You should know that the Mission Bay water can be murky in some spots where the water is stagnant. But, parents of young kids like these waveless beaches for younger kids who want to build sandcastles and play at the water’s edge. Plan to enjoy the bay and the ocean beach for the best of both worlds.

Mission Beach & Mission Bay