5 of San Diego’s Best Scenic Waterfront Walks

Mission Beach Sunset - Scenic Waterfront Walks

Whether it’s sunrise, sunset or high noon, there is nothing like a leisurely stroll along one of these scenic waterfront walks in San Diego.

Each of these treks can be as easy as you want it to be, modified to a distance that works for you. Wear the right shoes, carry plenty of drinking water, use sunscreen and wear sunglasses. Take along a camera and enjoy the outdoors while being good to your body.

1. Mission Bay Park

Mission Bay Waterfront Walk

Take a stroll around the largest aquatic park in the US, Mission Bay

There’s always plenty of parking at Rose Marie Starns South Shores park, so start there and head east. Along the way, you’ll see jet skiers whizzing around the bay, have the chance to watch dancers on roller skates, and will inhale whiffs of dozens of tantalizing ethnic family picnics. Make it all the way to the end of the walkway at De Anza Cove and back and you’ll have racked up about seven miles.

2. Mission Beach/PB Oceanfront

Mission Beach Sunset - Scenic Waterfront Walks

Enjoy the sunset with a scenic waterfront walk along Mission Beach

Park at the South Mission Beach jetty and head out on the paved walkway known to locals as the Mission Beach Boardwalk – or, at low tide, walk the beach. Either way, drink in great gulps of salty sea air – and savor the eye-candy. Continue past Belmont Park and its historic roller coaster, past luxury condos, aging beach cottages, funky shops, crowded beach bars and restaurants. Make it to the small park beyond Crystal Pier and back and you’ll have logged close to six miles.

3. Torrey Pines State Reserve

Torrey Pines - La Jolla - Scenic Waterfront Walks

Walk among the famous Torrey Pines with the Pacific Ocean as your backdrop

The reserve spans 2,000 acres with eight miles of trails overlooking the Pacific. Pick up a trail map at the visitors center – or even better, join one of the free docent-led nature walks at 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM on weekends. Trekkers can count on seeing lots of the nation’s rarest pine tree, plus native chaparral, wildflowers, extraordinary sandstone formations, dozens of bird species, squirrels, cottontails, skittering lizards and butterflies. Keen observers may spot gray fox, mule deer or even bobcat tracks. On clear winter days, there’s even a chance you’ll catch a glimpse of migrating California Gray Whales.

Tip: Grab a parking space along the beach and walk up the hill to the reserve to add yardage to your walk – and save the $12-$15 it costs to park at the reserve.

4. Liberty Station/Harbor Island

Sunset on Harbor Island

Take time during an evening jaunt to sit down and enjoy the sunset

Park in the free public lot near Liberty Station’s Corvette Diner and head south along the bayside trail. For a better look at this ever-changing new neighborhood, meander up and down Liberty Station blocks. Or stick to the bayside trail, past Homewood Suites to the Halsey Road pedestrian bridge over the bay. On the other side, take a right on to a dirt trail that links with the Spanish Landing walkway. As you continue walking, check out the Maritime Museum’s ongoing efforts to build a replica of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s flagship, San Salvador. Then view modern-day adventure craft docked in the sheltered bay of Harbor Island. Walk past the Sheraton, cross Harbor Island Drive at the signal, then walk all along the pathway fronting San Diego Bay. If you make it a roundtrip back to Liberty Station, you’ve logged at least seven miles. (Or make it a one-way trip by walking with a friend who parks on Harbor Island.)

5. Shelter Island

Shelter Island - Scenic San Diego Walks

Enjoy the calm waters and gorgeous views on Shelter Island

Park in the free public lot in front of the Bali Hai and start your walk on the northeast quadrant of the island at Shelter Cove Marina, part of America’s Cup Harbor, named for the international yacht races staged off our coast in 1988, 1992 and 1995. Walk the bayfront path that rounds the tip of Shelter Island, and leads past the concrete gazebo designed by James Hubbell. Continue past a sandy beach that has been a favorite of local toddlers since the man-made island (actually it’s more a peninsula) was built-in the 1950s. Walk out on the Shelter Island Fishing Pier to oogle the catch of the day. Back on the path, continue past the bronze Tunaman’s Memorial, a tribute to local commercial fishermen who lost their lives at sea. On the southwest tip of the island, find a mosaic fountain designed by Hubbell – and in the center of a roundabout, the Japanese Friendship Bell, a gift from San Diego’s sister city, Yokohama, in 1960. For a reminder that San Diego is an international yacht Mecca, continue walking the pathway that leads past hotels on the sheltered side of the bay. When the path ends, make a u-turn – or shorten your walk by cutting across a hotel parking lot to the path fronting San Diego Bay. The complete roundtrip stretches at least three miles.

Know of another great place not included in this list? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Alison

I’m a junkie. Addicted to travel. Logged 15 years as Travel Editor at the San Diego Union-Tribune – a labor of love. But always appreciate coming home to my favorite city: San Diego. My newest labor of love is an app – San Diego Essential Guide – a tool that lets me share with other travelers what I love most about my hometown.

How would you describe your ideal San Diego Day?

I’d meet girlfriends at South Mission for a low-tide walk along the ocean front to Pacific Beach. Before heading back, we’d hit a boardwalk restaurant for an eggs Benedict breakfast.  We’d spend the afternoon at La Jolla Shores with our boogie boards – sun and fun in 72-degree-plus waves.  I’d meet my husband for a sunset picnic on a grassy oceanfront bluff at Coast Boulevard Park. We’d end up at Humphreys Backstage Live on Shelter Island, dancing the night away.

If you were invisible, where would you go?

Can’t think of anyplace I wouldn’t want to be seen in San Diego – except maybe Lindbergh Field, if it would help me speed through security and avoid the body scanner.

Do you prefer burgers and beer or linguini and red wine?

Dad was a commercial fisherman, so I’m spoiled. Give me barely seared ahi, fresh crab or a fish taco.

What’s your favorite San Diego outdoor activity?

Fishing – it’s in my blood. But I’m happy doing anything where I can smell saltwater: paragliding from Torrey Pines, kayaking the La Jolla Ecological Reserve, riding my boogie board, picnicking on the beach, chillin’ at a Summer Pops concert.

Latest music purchases for my iPod/MP3 player?

I’m downloading more apps than music these days. My iPod is full of funky Old School stuff – the best of MJ, Gap Band, Gnarls Barkley, Cameo, Hammer and lots of old Motown sounds: Temptations, Four Tops, The Miracles.

3 thoughts on “5 of San Diego’s Best Scenic Waterfront Walks

  1. Pingback: Planning Your San Diego Trip

  2. North County was left out. Carsbad has a long walk right above the ocean. Dogs on leashes welcome. Cardiff beach in Encinitas is great to walk right on the
    beach and leashed dogs welcome there too!

  3. Not a lot of people know about Pepper Park in National City! It’s located at the new marina. It’s one of my favorite places to enjoy the beauty of the San Diego Bay. Plus, there’s plenty of grassy area for the dogs to play, a fishing dock and boating amenities!

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