Along with its northern neighbor, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach is the most happening oceanfront area in central San Diego. Minutes from downtown and the airport, this area can get very crowded. However, when we want an active beach day we will usually come to Mission Beach before Pacific Beach.
Location: From Pacific Beach Drive to the end of Mission Blvd at Mission Point Park
Beach Type: Party beach scene with boardwalk
Access: flat beach next to boardwalk
Parking: Several large free parking lots by Belmont Park
Facilities: Restrooms/changing facilities
Good For: Swimming, Surfing, Family Day at the Beach, Boardwalk, Amusement Rides, Nearby Restaurants and Bars
Not Good For: Crowds, Parking
Mission Beach starts where Pacific Beach ends at Pacific Beach Dr and the Catamaran Resort. It runs about 2-miles until it ends at the entrance of the San Diego River into the Pacific Ocean. The actual land area is a small sandbar with Mission Bay on the east side. In most places there are only 3 or 4 blocks from the ocean to the bay.
Unlike Pacific Beach, Mission Beach is not a major residential area. The density is extremely high, but most of the places are beach rentals. Almost any place in Mission Beach is within a block of either the ocean or bay.
Mission Beach and Pacific Beach share a 2.5 mile boardwalk. When combined with the 12-mile bike trail around Mission Bay, this is one of our favorite places for bike riding. In this post we focus only on the beach side area of Mission Beach. Just note there is plenty of additional activity on the bayside area.
When we go to the beach in this area we usually hit either the area around Belmont Park or head down to South Mission Beach. There are large parking areas by Belmont Park and combining a day at the beach with the rides at Belmont can be great fun. See our complete guide to Belmont Park.
South Mission Beach, at the end of Mission Boulevard is not quite as hectic, but the parking lot is smaller. There are also not really any restaurants or bars in South Mission Beach.
We rarely go to the beach area north of Belmont Park. Parking is extremely hard to find so you might as well go to the south section of Pacific Beach. This area is also crowded, but there is slightly more parking and facilities.
When it comes to bars and restaurants, Pacific Beach has more options. Mission Beach has some bars and restaurants on the beach by Belmont Park. However, most of the happening Mission Beach places are along Mission Blvd and do not have a oceanfront view.
In 2018 and 2019, there is a bit of construction going on around the beachfront area of Belmont Park. This includes redoing the historic Plunge swimming pool. The popular FlowRider attraction has been removed and it is uncertain if it will come back.
One major advantage of going to South Mission Beach is you can walk across the street to Mission Point Park on Mission Bay. This gentle cove area is one of the best places to learn to snorkel. If you have a family that wants to hit the ocean AND try snorkeling this is the spot.