What is your ideal 48-hour staycation? Is it to relax and do as little as possible? Stroll, take in the sights, leisurely meals and some shops? Throw yourself into biking, surfing or paddle boarding? Bar hop and dance the night away?
However you define vacation, you’ll find it in Pacific Beach – a community with a young vibe. Some might say rowdy, since with close to 160 bars and restaurants, PB draws crowds of college kids and other 20-somethings, especially on weekends. But there are signs PB is growing up.
“There’s something for everyone, including families,” explained Sara Berns, executive director of Discover Pacific Beach. With about 1,600 members, Discover PB is the largest business improvement district in San Diego.
Sam Zak, owner of Mileage Clothing, who recently moved back to PB, agrees and is excited about the changes he sees. He thinks the community is becoming more sophisticated and family-oriented, with upscale restaurants like Pueblo, JRDN, The Patio and businesses like the gym for children near his store (G3Kids) in the 900 block of Garnet.
For those who want to chill out completely, consider staying at the Catamaran on the north side of Mission Bay. The Polynesian-styled hotel with 310 rooms includes a complete spa, a swimming pool, two restaurants (Oceana and Moray’s) and a luau in summer months.
Sit on the sand under one of the umbrellas and enjoy beachside service. Or on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights hop aboard the Bahia Belle for dinner, dancing and a trip around the bay. Children are also welcome on the ship between 6:30 and 9:30 p.m.
For a little more action, stay in one of the many hotels on the oceanfront or along Mission Boulevard, such as Tower 23, Ocean Park Inn or Pacific Terrace. Many are pet-friendly and have swimming pools.
Enjoy an early morning walk onto the Crystal Pier, where you can rent fishing gear, or north along the boardwalk to Law Street Park. You’ll find plenty of benches, viewing platforms, bike parking and restrooms along the way.
Head east two blocks to Cass Street and walk either north or south where you can sit outside one of several coffee shops or enjoy an early lunch at The Fishery, Fig Tree Café, Lelani’s, Isabel’s Cantina, or Café 976 Felspar (a converted 1920s house). Join the locals at Cass Street Bar & Grill for friendly conversation and people watching.
For a mellow evening, stop in for a meal and toast the sunset in an oceanfront venue such as JRDN, World Famous, PB Shore Club, The Firehouse, and Green Flash. These range from upscale to right-off-the beach casual. The Patio on Lamont and new Pueblo at Bayard and Hornblend also offer outdoor patios.
For music lovers, Café Bar Europa on Turquoise includes nightly jazz and folk music, Costa Brava on Garnet Spanish guitar and flamenco, Moonshine Beach on Garnet country music and the Promiscuous Fork on Ingraham Hawaiian and classic rock music on Friday nights.
Nothing is more atop the action than the cottages on Crystal Pier. They are booked months in advance, so plan ahead. Locals and visitors alike also love the cheap and hearty breakfasts at the Kono’s Surf Club Café, just across from the pier. (An offshoot, Konitos, recently opened in Pacific Plaza next to Vons.)
During the day, take a Segway tour, rent a bike or a surf or paddleboard or check out the many shops, including Fabulous Rag, Urban Outfitters, Pangaea Outpost (more than 70 vendors), Skechers Factory Outlet, Mission Surf and in north PB, Green Gardens Nursery (with a gift shop), Land’s End Galley at Cass and Loring, Hydrangea Cove and Luella Boutique on Turquoise. If a picnic is on your agenda, stop in at Gelson’s or the French Gourmet on Turquoise or one of the two farmers markets, Tuesdays from 2 to 7 p.m. at Bayard and Cass and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to Noon at the Promenade on Mission Boulevard.
Later in the day, take advantage of a Happy Hour at just about all the major restaurants and bars.
At night, blend in with the friendly parade up and down Garnet and along Mission Boulevard. Popular bars/restaurants include Backyard Kitchen & Tap, Barrel Republic, Crushed, Duck Dive, Iron Pig Alehouse, Moonshine Beach, PB Bar and Grill, PB Cantina. A few are now featuring trivia or painting nights and many offer local craft beer and wine tastings.
Dessert shops are a new trend springing up, according to Berns. These include Cream, Baked Bear, Hammond’s Ice Cream, Pure Cupcakes as well as the iconic Mr. Frosty, a popular ice cream shack since 1949. Many allow you to sample with flight trays, like the bars do with beer and wine.
PB’s early founders envisioned a “monster pleasure resort,” according to John Fry’s “A Short History of Pacific Beach.”
“Today’s Pacific Beach has more than realized the dream of the folks who built the Hotel del Pacific on almost the same site in 1888,” said Fry, who founded the Pacific Beach Historical Society. “People continue to move to Pacific Beach for ‘Gold in the Sun,’ which was the title of one of Richard Pourade’s books on San Diego history. It’s a great place for young people to enjoy the outdoors in the daytime, and wine and dine after the sun sets.”
For a helpful map of PB’s main attractions, stop in at the Discover PB office at 1503 Garnet Ave. You’ll also find the map at most hotels and motels. According to Executive Director Berns, PB is always re-inventing itself and is not just for the young, but also for the young at heart.
Want to Know More?
Discover Pacific Beach
1503 Garnet Avenue, San Diego, CA 92109
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday
Pacific Beach Historical Society
John Fry, President
Catamaran Hotel Resort and Spa
3999 Mission Blvd., San Diego, CA 92109
Crystal Pier Hotel & Cottages
4500 Ocean Blvd., San Diego, CA 92109
Segway of Pacific Beach
Promenade at Pacific Beach Shopping Center
4150 Mission Blvd. #141, San Diego, CA 92109