Mission Bay Park in San Diego

San Diego’s Water Wonderland, Mission Bay Park, is the world’s largest water park, covering 27 miles of shoreline and hosting an attendance of 15 million visitors annually.

Mission Bay Beach is a haven of aquatic adventure for water sports enthusiasts with activities like water skiing, windsurfing, kayaking, jet-skiing, and parasailing. Visitors can also rent a sail or motorboat at one of the Mission Bay Park boat docks and launching facilities.

Just 15 minutes from downtown San Diego, Mission Bay Park covers over 4,235 acres of land and water in equal parts and has 19 miles of sandy beaches with eight designated swimming areas.

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Synonymous with fun, Mission Bay Park has many land lover activities too that include exploring the numerous bike and walking paths, basketball and volleyball courts and playgrounds for children. There's also picnicking, sunbathing and kite flying for those who choose to stay dry—alongside beautiful ocean views – what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

Wide shot of people participating in the Sunday tide pool walk at Cardiff State Beach in San Diego, California, USA

photo credit: San Elijo & Cardiff State Beach via Facebook

Pro Tip: There are typically lifeguards on duty weekends from late spring, through summer to early fall, but still be vigilant and oversee little ones! Stay clear of boat ramps, bridges and other trafficked areas.

Mission Bay Park has virtually loads of activities such as surfing, boogie boarding, paddle boarding, wave runners, skateboarding, skating, and jogging. There's also a vast array of easily accessible shops and restaurants along the boardwalk and Mission Boulevard. Check the website for Mission Bay Park hotels close to famous attractions like the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park and SeaWorld.

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Photo Alert: The two-mile stretch of white sandy beaches, palm trees, and glorious sunsets will keep people scrolling through your Instagram-posts nonstop.

Mission Bay Park Attractions

  • Crown Point is the spot to be for volleyballers. If you're looking to play or just watch, there are always several courts in action. With over 14 miles of bike paths along Mission Bay, there's plenty to keep you active at Crown Point.
  • Ski Beach: This is the destination for family gatherings, beach parties and late-night bonfires.

Pro Tip: The Forest Service requires the use of portable gas grills instead of charcoal. This reduces the risk of fires from hot coals and helps keep the beaches clean from ashes.

  • Bahia Belle: This sternwheeler Missippi-style riverboat, docked at the Catamaran Resort on Mission Bay, provides fabulous sunset and moonlight cruises.
  • Santa Clara: This is where to meet for water sports rentals, classes and guides.
  • Sail Bay: Another excellent area for live music, running paths and the Fanuel Park Playground where your little ones can blow off some steam.
  • Quivera Basin: This is the place to go for scuba diving charters and fishing equipment rentals. There's also a pleather of waterfront shops and cafes to quench the palette.
  • East Mission Bay Park: This area has the Park's Information Center and boat launching ramps to begin your fun-filled day.

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  • Fiesta Island: This dune-covered sandy beach is for activity junkies with sports and water launchpads. Bring Coco-it's an off-leash dog beach! The beach closes at 10:00 p.m. nightly.

Pro Tip: Pay close attention to the signs regarding dogs. Some areas allow dogs to be on leashes, some are leash-free, and others completely prohibit dogs of any kind. We don't want Fifo to get into trouble!

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  • Campland on the Bay: Named the "Top 10 Urban Campgrounds on the Bay" and "Best RV Park/Campground" by San Diego Magazine, this family-friendly RV community is the perfect destination for your trip. The beautiful Mission Bay views are a nice perk!

Mission Bay Park Restaurants

With 360 degrees of gorgeous sunlit beaches and landscapes, all those activities can work up an appetite; lucky for you, there are plenty of amazing bayside restaurants, pubs, coffee shops and ice cream parlors near the Park.

Best Mission Park Bay Haunts:

  • Covewood: For delicious food beside a cozy fire, indulge your senses with this Mission Bay dining experience with ocean breezes and upscale California cuisine.
  • Plaza Del Sol: If beach ambiance, craft cocktails and delicious shared dishes are your idea of heaven, check out the Plaza!

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  • Rocky's Crown Pub: Rocky's claim is the best beach burger in town, or quite possibly anywhere. With super cold beer and a beachscape atmosphere, this is the place to cool down and refuel.

    man with excited expression holding up thumbs up sign posing in front of Rocky's Crown Pub entrance at Rocky's Crown Pub in San Diego, California, USA

    photo credit: Rocky Whatule via Facebook

  • Mission Joe: Treat yourself to a pastry or healthy acai bowl while you sip your favorite espresso at Joe's.

Mission Bay Park History

The Bay is a man-made saltwater bay created from wetlands, marsh and saltwater bay habitat. While the Park is the largest manufactured aquatic park globally and the country's ninth-largest municipally-owned park. Developers turned the Mission Bay area into Mission Bay Park during the 1940s-1960s for recreational activities such as fishing, sailing and water skiing.

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Pro Tip: Fishing is permitted in all areas of Mission Bay except designated swimming and water skiing areas or take-off landing zones. Fishing is also prohibited from all bridges.

Mission Bay Beach Parking

Fortunately, there is plenty of parking in and around the Park and surrounding beaches. Unfortunately, the lots fill up quickly during the summer especially, so come early! Street parking restrictions are strictly enforced.

Fun Fact: The name Mission Bay comes from an 1888 poem by Rose Hartwick Thorpe published in a San Francisco newspaper.


close up of Erin smiling on a sunny day

Written By Erin

Erin Poche` is a Utah-based writer and editor for Tripster and contributing writer for BeyondType1. She also writes and edits for an indie publisher of fanta ...

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