Despite having no marine facilities of its own, Pacific Beach is worth a day trip.
NESTLED BETWEEN ICONIC MISSION BAY and upscale La Jolla is the community of Pacific Beach. Hemmed in by the eternal Pacific to the west and the infernal Interstate 5 to the east, Pacific Beach has lately become a nightlife hub in the San Diego area, but its history stretches back to the 1880s (when, we’re assuming, nightlife was a little more sedate). For boaters, PB, as it’s known by locals, offers a chance to stretch their sea legs, enjoy some good food on the beach and satisfy any shopping or beverage urges.
MOOR YOUR VESSEL
While Pacific Beach itself doesn’t offer any boat moorage, Mission Bay isn’t far — walking distance for the adventurous and a short cab or Uber ride for the rest — and visitors can look for a slip at Driscoll Mission Bay Marina, Marina Village Marina, or the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina. Alternatively, Mariner’s Basin offers 72-hour anchorage. Even Shelter and Harbor islands aren’t that far.
One could pass the entire day in Pacific Beach without leaving the waterfront, though a jaunt up Garnet or Grand Avenue is advisable. A paved Ocean Walk runs the length of the town and actually down to Mission Bay. Heck, it’s only a couple of miles from Crystal Pier to Belmont Park. Crystal Pier (1) itself is a gathering spot. At the end of the pier, the view of the coast stretches out in both directions, and the sunset is shown on the largest and highest definition flat-screen available.
The surf show is fun to watch and can be enjoyed from above on the pier or at eye level on the beach to either side of the pier. And on the pier are about 25 cottages for rent, part of The Crystal Pier Hotel, if you feel inclined to leave the boat where it is and stay right over the water. Plan ahead, though, because the cottages are reserved months in advance — many, many months during the busy summer season.
GRAB A BITE
Dining choices in Pacific Beach abound. From what I could tell, Kono’s Surf Club (2) is the breakfast hotspot. The place is small, but it was the first place I passed that had a line, so the food must be good. Its location right at the end of Garnet Avenue — the town’s main drag — and the start of Crystal Pier doesn’t hurt.
A walk south on the boardwalk took me past colorful souvenir shops, bars, beachside cottages and condos. I saw another place with a line — Woody’s (3), definitely a beach spot — so I figured I’d give it a try. I was there a little early for lunch, as it turned out, and I was told I couldn’t get a regular burger. “But,” the nice employee said, “you can get a breakfast burger.” OK. The difference? The Morning Woody includes a fried egg and rosemary potatoes instead of fries. Yeah, it was good. And the surfers were out, so there was a bit of a show.
Nicer dining choices are close by,including Fat Fish Cantina Grill (4) and Firehouse American Eatery (5), which practically touches Fire Station #21 next door.
DROP SOME CASH
If there’s room on the boat for more stuff, Pacific Beach has what it takes to scratch the shopping itch. South Coast Wahines Surf Shop is practically on the sand at the foot of the pier. A four- or five-block walk up Garnet Avenue should sate most shopping pangs. National brands are represented, but the local places, such as the Fabulous Rag Boutique (6) and Closet Signature (7) for women’s styles and Dziner Eyez (8) for sunglasses, are most abundant. For a really local experience, check out Pangaea Outpost (9) , a shopping center with more than 70 local merchants and artists under one roof.
If shopping is too much for one or more members of the party, they can hunker down for drinks or bar hop to places such as Cabo Cantina, Avenue, Society, Backyard Kitchen & Tap or Pacific Beach Ale House.
As close as Pacific Beach is to the rest of the action, visitors could spend the morning and afternoon enjoying its small-scale feel before hitting the Gaslamp Quarter for dinner and nightlife — or vice-versa.
TO THE WEB
• SouthCoast.com (Wahines Surf Shop)