What stands out for tourists about Pacific Beach is its compact and intimate feel. Restaurants are just a few yards from the beach itself so the scents of food such as fresh fish and hamburgers waft onto the beach path where you can buy colorful souvenirs in a mini-Tijuana atmosphere. Mexico is a short drive away, and the casual beach lifestyle and things that attract people to it are offered on a smaller scale to some extent in Pacific Beach. The difference is that PB is safer for tourists, and for Americans, its the preferred choice for beach vacations. Water quality and a variety of issues make it the reason San Diego greets over 30 million visitors each year.
Pacific Beach's highlight is the beach itself. That's what people love most, and have celebrated for over 100 years as a tourist attraction. The boardwalk lines the beach and provides the thoroughfare for accessing the excitement this beach provides. Little lean-to kiosk businesses sell colorful souvenirs and beach clothes, bars overlook the sand, and bicyclists, walkers, and joggers use the paved three mile path to get around. The strand runs from Pacific Beach to Mission Bay harbor area.
Pacific Beach used to be wilder than it is now, but the alcoholic beverage laws were changed to slow down the pace several years ago and create a more family atmosphere. The parties and annual beach fest celebration brought so many to the beach that traffic was at a standstill and lifeguards and other public safety people claimed it was an overload situation taxing their services. Today, you will have to drink your cocktails in the bars overlooking the beach instead and things are slightly tamer.
Want to sleep? Pacific Beach offers the most, best hotels on sand beaches to enjoy. Surfer's Hotel is an on the beach favorite, but we prefer Catamaran Resort across the street from the beach. Just steps from the beach, you also get amazing amenities and bay views, too. There's also a hostel on the beach that's grungy, but cheap!
What to see? Beach culture--look for surfers, tourists, students, skateboarders, and trophy babes, the locals say, at this blazing cool megopolis of "hot". Among the subcultures and sub-beaches of "PB" is a local hangout for surfers, Tourmaline Park. They park there, chat about the waves, then head out for some surfing sessions.
Want to rent a bike? You can do that.
Need a bathroom? Free public restrooms line the beach's three mile distance so you don't have to worry about visiting, drinking beverages and eating food. Crystal Pier to Pacific Beach Drive offers bathrooms and pockets of dedicated parking at Grand Avenue and PB Drive.
Where to go? Exit 1-5 Freeway at Garnet Avenue. Head west to Mission Blvd. It is about a 15 minute drive on an easy day. There are stoplights along the way--and watch for pedestrians crossing the road!