I love PB, I have lived here for a year and still think it’s the best neighborhood in San Diego. Some spots can be touristy, a little too much like college and sometimes there’s just too much bro, but luckily I’ve figured all that out for you. Use this ultimate eat, stay play guide to Pacific Beach San Diego for the top places you have to experience in this beautiful beach town.
When should you visit?
Best time to come: September and March. These are the warmest weather months with the least crowds.
Most Crowded Time – Memorial Day to Labor Day
4th of July – San Diego is insane on the fourth of July! So much traffic an so many people, but this is by far the most fun time to be here! The beaches, the bay, basically anywhere you are going to find people partying in red, white and blue.
When Not to Come: May-June. May gray and June gloom are real.
What beach to go to?
Law street north to Tourmaline Surfing Park– mostly locals and more beach space, better luck with parking because of the surrounding residential streets, surfer hot spot, also free yoga!
Law street to Diamond Street – this stretch of sand boasts smaller crowds, better parking and more of that local feel I prefer.
Crystal pier – typical tourist shops, clothing shops and quick food options. The pier is filled with rental cottages so you will get a lot of tourists here and foot traffic gets heavy which jams up the boardwalk and makes beach cruising a little tough.
Grand Avenue to Pacific Beach Drive – the beautiful beach with all the hustle and bustle of San Diego. If you want to see parrots, slow-mo rollerblades and plenty of party people his is the stretch of beach for you! The energy is alive here!
Pacific Beach Drive – small parking lot (that you will never find parking in), bathrooms, showers (that don’t works since the drought), and lots of people. Still a solid chic if your hotel room is nearby.
South of Pacific Beach Drive – this technically starts to become Mission Beach, but you have a few lifeguard towers of less-populated beach before getting into the very touristy Mission Beach hubs. Plenty of vacation homes here with good people watching!
What bars to go to?
Bar by the beach – Two favorites. The first is PB Shore Club on Grand & The Boardwalk. Get the red bull slushy and enjoy the ocean view on its new deck. The second is Baja Beach Café on Thomas & the Boardwalk (amazing 2-for happy hour), it has great mega margaritas and is the perfect spot to watch the sunset over the ocean.
Happy hour – Tavern. Half off all drafts and great prices on appetizers until 7pm!
Live music by the beach – 710 Beach Club. Close proximity to the boardwalk, yet very locals-only atmosphere. I saw Afroman here for $10 and got to talk and take pictures with him afternoon. The small venue features cool bands every week and live band karaoke on Sundays!
Club Dancing – If you really want to go clubbing, go downtown because PB doesn’t have clubs. However, nearly every bar turns into a dance floor with a DJ after 9pm I personally recommend Thrusters on Mission Blvd, by the beach. It’s fairly small, but the vibe is always great and plays awesome old school rap and mega hits all night. Plus they let you dance on furniture!
What restaurants to eat at?
Breakfast – World Famous. It is world famous. Really good potatoes and Belgian waffles. Also, amazing view of the ocean that you simply cannot beat! A lot of places will recommend The Broken Yolk, and while the rooftop dining is awesome, there’s no view and flavors of the menu aren’t impressive.
Lunch – Cheba Hut! Good sandwiches are walking distance to the beach. I dare you to try not to laugh while ordering off the menu.
Thai – Thai Village. Get the house curry - yum yum and yum!
Pizza – Hoboken Pizza! A little farther up Garnet away from the beach this pizzeria is open late and serves them by-the-slice. Sandbox pizza is equally as delicious and close to the beach.
Burger – Rocky’s Crown Pub! It’s been “the best burger in San Diego” since 1977 and was even featured on Diner, Drive-ins and Dives. This cash-only establishment is small and always crowded, but the no-fuss burger and fries only menu is well worth it!
Desert – The Baked Bear – ice cream in a donut! Or a cookie or a brownie, or both! Follow the line stretching from the front door to the beach around the block! Frosties is another good choice, a little farther up Garnet this creamery has been serving the best soft serve to beach bums since 1949. Sometimes there’s a long line, but it is worth the wait! Get the All American!
Late night – Little Orbits halfway up Garnet makes cute, mini, mouth-wateringly-delicious, fresh, made to order donuts and cronuts.
Where to stay?
Ocean Park Inn Hotel, right next to Crystal Pier. The rooms are basic, but nice. The real perk here is the view. Each ocean facing room has a furnished patio that overlooks the bustling boardwalk and beautiful ocean.
Diamondhead Inn at Ocean Blvd and Diamond Street. These cottage-like suites offer cozy rooms with extra living room space and full kitchens with a dining table. Perfect for longer stays and even better for budgeting make at home meals. A friend of mine stayed here in the off season and it was around $100 a night, can’t beat that!
Catamaran Resort Hotel on Mission Blvd and Pacific Beach Drive. This swanky stay boasts free beach chairs and towels on the bay, free rides on the Bahia Belle Ferry Cruise around Mission Bay and cool activities year round like Luas and outdoor buffets. You can also rent kayaks here!
Vacation Home Rental – if you have a large group the vacation homes on the boardwalk offer great views, central locations and come furnished with indoor and outdoor furniture and BBQs! Who doesn’t love a summer BBQ?!
What not to do?
Do not rent a Segway. Just don’t.
Don’t expect good Mexican food. I’ve searched high and low and it’s all subpar. Go to Old Town or North Park for that (and stay tuned for a guide to those neighborhoods coming soon!)
This should go without saying, but don’t do dumb drunk stuff – like drive, or anything than can get you arrested. With so many awesome opportunities to indulge in PB there are also so many policy officers waiting to give you a ride downtown.
What to do (besides eat and drink)?
Surf. Duh! Or at least try to. There are lots of surf schools in PB waiting to get you in the water for beginners training.
Not surfer? Me neither. Try boogie boarding! It’s fun and easy.
Check out the bays. Mission Bay and Sail Bay offer the beach atmosphere without the big beach crowds and the board walk is awesome. You can rent kayaks and stand up paddle boards. You can even do a stand up paddle board yoga class. Also, the sunsets over the bay are to die for!
Watch the sunset. There is no place more beautiful to watch the sunset than on a warm day on the PB boardwalk. Snag a bench or stand with everyone else who stop everything they’re doing to watch and photograph nature’s beauty.
Just enjoy the sunshine and the vibes and whatever you do while in PB I'm certain you wil have a blast.