Nestled in San Diego’s Pacific Beach neighborhood, Mission Bay is a tranquil paradise that regularly attracts visitors from all over the world. Water sports are the main attraction with surfing, jet skiing, swimming, boating, paddle boarding and fishing all being popular activities. When the sun goes down, toast marshmallows around a beachfront bonfire or spring for a moonlit cruise on the Bahia Bella, a delightful replica of a Mississippi riverboat. The San Diego area includes a wide variety of unique, exciting neighborhoods so choosing one spot to look for Mission Bay vacation rentals can be tricky. Here are 10 of the best nearby locations to stay while you’re visiting Mission Bay.

1. Pacific Beach

If you’re planning on spending a healthy amount of time on or near Mission Bay, it makes sense that you would want to stay in the Pacific Beach community. You may even be able to find waterfront vacation rentals for fast and convenient beach access. When you’re on land, you’ll find plenty to do and see. Take a stroll down the 3-mile boardwalk, exploring the many eclectic shops, cafes and entertainment venues. Waterfront Park is a great place for the kids to play and cool off, as it features spray fountains and play equipment. You can also spend the day at the country’s largest aquatic park, Mission Bay Park.

2. Ocean Beach

Commonly called “O.B.” by the locals, Ocean Beach has that vintage 60’s beach feel that vacationers of all ages are sure to love. Ocean Beach Pier is the longest standing concrete pier on the West Coast, and it’s a fantastic spot for either fishing or just relaxing and gazing at the beautiful scenery. When you’re not soaking in the sun or swimming in the crystalline waters, head to Newport Ave Shopping District or the Ocean Beach Antique District to check out the many one-of-a-kind shops. If you’re on vacation with your canine friend, be sure to stop by the leash-free Dog Beach where pups can play to their hearts’ content.

3. La Jolla

Located just a few minutes north of Mission Bay, La Jolla is the perfect location to look for luxurious vacation rentals. It’s an upscale community known for its stunning beauty and world-class shopping. Featuring a captivating European cosmopolitan aesthetic, La Jolla Downtown Village is one of the best places to go shopping in San Diego. If you feel like exploring a side of La Jolla less common, go scuba diving or snorkeling at La Jolla Underwater Park. You can also take a kayak tour of the scenic La Jolla Sea Cave, or view a wide variety of exotic marine life at the Birch Aquarium. If you’d prefer to see animals in their natural habitats be sure to visit the seals and sea lions at La Jolla Cove.

4. The Gaslamp Quarter

The Gaslamp Quarter is a lively San Diego district conveniently located roughly 15 minutes from Mission Bay. Combining Victorian charm with the hustle and bustle of city life, The Gaslamp Quarter is a fantastic area to seek vacation rentals in the heart of San Diego, while still offering quick access to the beach and nature parks. The area is a foodies’ paradise, featuring a wide variety of some of the city’s best restaurants. While this district is known for its nightlife, there are plenty of quaint boutiques and charming cafes for you to explore during the day. Take the whole family to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner and some music. If you’re visiting during baseball season, catch a Padres game at Petco Park, or just bring the kids to the park’s playground, picnic area, and miniature baseball field. Admission is free for children under 3 feet tall.

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5. Mission Beach

Mission Beach is another favorite San Diego coastal neighborhood. Its location right between the Pacific Ocean and Mission Bay make it the perfect location for those who want to have water options. Whether you’re deep-sea saltwater fishing on the ocean or kite surfing over the bay, you’re going to fall in love with the tranquil waters. While you’re at Mission Beach you must visit Belmont Park, a historic oceanfront amusement park with arcade games, rides and even a roller coaster.

6. North Park

North Park is often viewed as one of the hippest San Diego neighborhoods, but there are plenty of family-friendly homes in this thriving area. As you stroll through the eclectic neighborhood, you’ll find plenty of places to eat, drink, and shop, as well as multiple art galleries to explore. Take a walk to Balboa Park, one of San Diego’s premier attractions. In addition to being the home of the world-famous San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park boasts museums, theaters, playgrounds, walking paths, and much more. It’s the perfect place to spend a day with your family.

7. Del Mar

Del Mar is a luxurious coastal city above La Jolla. “Del Mar” means “by the sea” in Spanish, and as you might expect, the Pacific Ocean is only minutes away. If you’re looking for an upscale beachfront vacation rental, definitely look into Del Mar. If you want to explore some exceptional shops and dining establishments, head to Del Mar Plaza in Del Mar Village. The San Dieguito Lagoon offers beautiful views, excellent hiking trails and superb bird-watching during certain times of the year. Bring a picnic lunch to Seagrove Park and enjoy the shade of the trees and the ocean view.

8. Cardiff-by-the-Sea

Commonly referred to as “Cardiff” by its residents, Cardiff-by-the-Sea is a charming Encinitas neighborhood located approximately a 20-minute drive north of Mission Bay. It’s a very family-friendly area, with a community-oriented village type of feel. San Elijo State Beach is one of the area’s most popular destinations, with excellent surfing, fascinating tide pools, and long stretches of soft sand that is perfect for romantic evening walks by the ocean. If you feel like taking a hike, head to the San Elijo Lagoon, which features a wide range of flora and fauna. Don’t forget to visit the Cardiff-by-the-Sea Town Centre, a delightfully charming village area with a variety of small boutique shops.

9. Little Italy

Little Italy is a bit more fast-paced than the sleepy coastal towns near Mission Bay, but it’s still a very welcoming place with its own unique flavor. Speaking of flavor, this is one of the best neighborhoods if you enjoy dining out. Take a walk down Kettner Street, and you’ll find a huge variety of outstanding restaurants for your dining pleasure. Be sure to visit the gorgeous Amici Park where you’ll find an amphitheater, a dog park and bocce ball courts. Waterfront Park is another great family-friendly attraction in Little Italy. It has jungle gyms, themed garden rooms, sprawling grassy areas and even interactive fountains so the kids can beat the heat.

10. Point Loma, CA

Mainly a residential San Diego neighborhood, Point Loma is an excellent location for vacation rentals that are close to the city’s action while still giving you plenty of privacy and peace. The Sunset Cliffs Natural Park beaches are very secluded, hidden by the towering cliffs above. While you’re near the Sunset Cliffs, be sure to explore the largest and best tide pools in the county, the Point Loma Tide Pools. Visit the Cabrillo National Monument to enjoy some of the most breathtaking views in all of San Diego, and then stop by the Point Loma Lighthouse for a tour. Spend the day at sea whale-watching, or just enjoy a book on the beach while soaking up that sweet SoCal sunshine.

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