Pacific Beach Attractions
Pacific Beach (or as the locals call it, PB) is a San Diego neighborhood that has become a hotspot for surfers, young professionals, and college students with young families and empty nesters sprinkled in.
There’s always something going on, and the vibe here is casual yet energetic. Pacific Beach attractions are a lot less touristy than in some parts of San Diego because PB is basically a California beach town.
On this page, I’ve collected all my best advice about how to enjoy Pacific Beach attractions, where to go in Pacific Beach, and where to stay in Pacific Beach during your San Diego visit, whether you’re traveling alone or with kids.
Visiting Pacific Beach with Kids
Great family days out in Pacific Beach are possible with a few caveats. We spend a lot of time here because PB is adjacent to La Jolla. My daughter and her friends like going to the (usually) quieter section of beach at Law Street in residential North PB.
Teens and tweens like the Urban Outfitters and Brandy Melville duo a block off the beach. In this complex is a make-your-own ice cream sandwich shop called Baked Bear and one of my favorite sandwich shops, Board and Brew.
All ages can learn how to surf at Law Street Beach through summer camps and lessons provided by San Diego Surf School. You can use a kids’ scooter, rollerskate, and bike on the boardwalk, too.
The Catamaran is a great three-star resort with lots of on-property activities and a bay beach that is a block from the ocean beach.
That being said, unless you’re used to the eclectic vibe of Pacific Beach, it may not be right for visiting families. Some love it and some stay clear (keep reading).
Pacific Beach Attractions
When you’re looking for things to do during your Pacific Beach visit in San Diego, look no further than the shoreline.
Surf shops rent out stand up paddleboards if you’d rather do that than ride a wave.
When you want to stay dry, you can stroll along the Ocean Front Walk boardwalk and people watch, listen to the live musicians, catch a volleyball game, and watch the occasional busker (like the bubble man).
Off the beach, there are truly great flip-flop friendly restaurants in Pacific Beach (we really like the Pacific Beach Fish Shop, Oscar’s Fish Tacos, and The Fishery). Breakfast burritos at Kono’s near Crystal Pier are cheap, delicious, and nap-inducing (worth it).
On Garnet Avenue, the main street, you’ll find vintage stores mixed in with smoke shops, nail salons, bars, and restaurants. (Speaking of smoke shops, marijuana is legal in California and you will likely smell it at times in PB near the beaches, on the boardwalk, and in various other spots.)
Mission Bay borders Pacific Beach so you can rent a bike and hit one of PB’s bicycle paths, which are part of the 2-mile Mission Bay bike path. And, take advantage of the bay’s water sports.
Where to Stay in Pacific Beach, San Diego
By now, you’ve probably guessed that Pacific Beach isn’t the best home base for luxury travelers. It is great for people who want to stay in a neighborhood with an excellent beach, beach bars and an array of wallet-friendly eats.
Bottom line: there aren’t any high-end luxury resorts here. The hotels in PB tend to be more casual.
When you’re thinking about where to stay in Pacific Beach, San Diego, the best Pacific Beach hotels are usually the ones closest to the boardwalk. The nicest option for couples and singles is chic Tower23 boutique hotel. Families should choose either Pacific Terrace or The Catamaran.
Where to Go in Pacific Beach
When it comes to Pacific Beach attractions, you can’t beat the beaches.
That said, different areas of PB have different amenities. North Pacific Beach has lifeguards, bathroom facilities, and much calmer waters than you’ll find in other parts of San Diego, whereas Tourmaline Surfing Park is a great option for experienced surfers. Not experienced? Check out San Diego Surf School in North PB, as mentioned previously.
You should also make a point of visiting Crystal Pier — there are tackle shops that will rent you everything you need to catch a fish. Bring your camera to catch the sunset at the end of the pier.