While many visitors to the San Diego area are there to explore its unique Gaslamp quarter, ferry over to Coronado Island, or enjoy a day at Sea World, there is one other family-friendly destination worth visiting: the three-and-a-half-mile Mission Beach Boardwalk (also known as the Ocean Front Walk) that runs from North Pacific Beach all the way down to South Mission Beach.

See it all from top to bottom at your leisure on a bike, skateboard, rollerblades, or simply on foot!

The Beginning

people sitting along the mission beach boardwalk
Mission Beach | Photo courtesy of Kevin Harber

Mission Beach Boardwalk officially begins at the very end of Law Street in Palisades Park, a cliffside park in a residential neighborhood that overlooks North Pacific Beach some 75 feet below. Enjoy the sweeping vistas and warm up on the grassy lawn for your adventure down the coast.

From here, the walk runs a half-mile south atop the slowly descending bluff until it’s parallel to the beach and meets up with Crystal Pier.

Crystal Pier

warm sunset over the crystal pier
Photo courtesy of Jack Donahue

First opened in 1927, Crystal Pier is an 872-foot-long wooden pier located at the end of Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach. Walk out to the end where you can enjoy more spectacular views of the ocean and cast a line to fish for corbina, spotfin, and yellowfin croaker.

If you need to stop for a bite to eat, there are dozens of neighborhood cafés, restaurants, and coffee shops all within a block or two of the pier.

Beachside Shopping and Cheap Eats

beachfront view of Mission beach boardwalk
Mission Beach Boardwalk | Photo courtesy of Kit Corry

For the next half-mile, the Boardwalk runs through one of the liveliest stretches of Pacific Beach. As you make your way south, you’ll pass (and likely be drawn into) several beachside souvenir shops, as well as casual bars, burger stands, and even a few sit-down seafood restaurants. There are a number of public art installations, as well as the occasional street performer.

Santa Rita Place marks the end of Pacific Beach and the beginning of Mission Beach. While the pristine sands and rushing waters continue on your right, the eclectic selection of businesses quickly gives way to residential neighborhoods with several blocks of funky oceanfront homes and condominiums.

Belmont Park

The Belmont Park Liberty Carousel
The Belmont Park Liberty Carousel | Photo courtesy of James Arnott

A mile-and-a-half south of where Pacific Beach ends and Mission Beach begins sits the fun-filled jewel of Mission Beach Boardwalk: Belmont Park. Sure to put smiles on the faces of kids of all ages, Belmont Park is a historic amusement park that dates all the way back to 1925 when it first opened as Mission Beach Amusement Center.

Purchase an unlimited ride wristband and spend the day enjoying the many attractions:

  • The Giant Dipper (a wooden roller coaster listed on the National Register of Historic Places)
  • Beach Blaster
  • Vertical Plunge
  • Liberty Carousel
  • Escapology escape room
  • TRON-themed, three-level Lazerblast arena
  • Mini golf at Tiki Town
  • Updated arcade (with new and classic games)

You’ll also find plenty of snacking and dining options throughout the park offering everything from grab-n-go midway treats to full-course meals.

Journey’s End

ocean view of South Mission Beach
South Mission Beach | Photo courtesy of toniconn

The remaining mile from the bottom of Belmont Park to the end of South Mission Beach is secluded and peaceful, again running alongside residential neighborhoods. Here you are far more likely to run into locals out for a pleasant stroll than groups of tourists.

As you draw close to the end of the boardwalk, you’ll find yourself greeted by an expanse of sandy beach with volleyball courts, grassy picnic areas, and the jetty and cape of Point Medanos just beyond.

If you’ve timed it right, you can recline on the warm sands, watch the sunset, and celebrate your day’s journey all the way down the fabulous Mission Beach Boardwalk.

Featured photo courtesy of Matthew Hamilton

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Author: Scott Woodard

When he was 10 years old, Scott told his mother that when he grew up, he was going to move to Hollywood to become a writer. A few years later, he did just that. Scott has also penned a feature-length audio drama, co-authored a book about the history of fantasy films, and designed two tabletop roleplaying games.