A Guide to Mission Beach

December 13, 2022
Mission Beach

Imagine sunshine, crystal clear waves lapping against the sand; a heated volleyball game playing out in the distance; children rushing in and out of the surf while their parents relax on lounge chairs, shaded by portable umbrellas. There’s bikes racing down the boardwalk, rollerbladers, couples strolling hand in hand, and surfers walking by with a board under their arms.

That’s the scene in Mission Beach, where shopping, surfing, restaurants, and the sea all combine into one panoramic view of California culture. You’ll find some of the best surf schools in the USA, theme parks, and gentle waves–sand that’s always free and rarely crowded, just waiting to host the perfect day in the sun.

Mission Beach is a small neighborhood south of La Jolla. It’s also a wide strip of sand, capable of accommodating the masses who seem to gather there every afternoon. It’s the quintessential San Diego experience, and it’s home to the county’s most popular tourist spots.

You can stay in a resort, swim through Mission Bay, take a nap on the beach, go fishing, or ride a gentle surf. There’s never any reason to leave, and you won’t want to. It’s a laid-back, cheery environment, a steep departure from the city’s localist beaches and run-down ghettos. It’s not the kind of place where you have to worry. It’s where San Diego comes to have fun.

The Beach

At the heart of Mission Beach is a two-mile strip of sand bordering a three-mile boardwalk, which stretches north to Pacific Beach. The southern portion of the beach is quieter and wider, free of the hustle and bustle to the north. It serves as a sand castle builder’s sculpting studio, a trail, and a de facto waterpark. There’s a ton of restaurants and boutiques bordering the sand. The waves are calm enough for surfers of all levels. Students from the best surf schools in the USA go there, taking advantage of the slow tide. They use it to learn how to pop up, ride the foam, and eventually paddle out before conquering the real waves.

Surfing Mission Beach

Occasionally Mission Beach does boast larger waves. When there’s a west-to-northwest swell, you’ll find a good righthand tide. You might also want to try out the winter months when the swells roll in from the north and east. The waves are most consistent near the South Mission Beach jetty, but there’s always something worth trying wherever you go. The best surf schools in the USA offer intermediate courses for those who want to try riding more difficult breaks–trainer waves, like the kind you’ll see on Mission Beach during swells. They’re great if want to move up to something like Black’s Beach or Windansea. But if an expert break is your goal, you really do have to find the best surf schools in the USA, or you might be putting yourself at risk.

Amusement Parks

San Diego is a veritable buffet for those craving a burst of adrenaline–and not just for surfers. The county is home to multiple theme parks and attractions, each filled year-round with a bevy of eager tourists and thrill seekers–all waiting in line, gawking, and screaming their hearts out on the many rides available. 

Belmont Park is a favorite for locals in the area. It’s home to the Giant Dipper, also known as the Mission Beach roller coaster. It was built in 1925 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987. It’s one of the few wooden roller coasters remaining–but don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe.

Seaworld is by far San Diego’s most well-known attraction–though they have come under fire in recent years for their practices. The park is home to more than 13,000 animals, including marine mammals, fish, reptiles, and insects. There’s a turtle reef, a shark encounter, bat ray shallows, five roller coasters, and plenty of rides for the kids.

Mission Beach School

Vlad Karpinsky / Flickr

Wreck Alley

Mission Beach might be the home of the best surf schools in the USA, but surfing isn’t the only aquatic attraction–far from it. Several miles off the coast, there’s a cluster of sunken ruins, built intentionally from shipwrecks, an old naval tower, a decrepit bridge, and oceanic platforms. They were submerged to create artificial reefs where marine life can flourish in the cold, offshore seas. It’s a major destination for scuba divers, who could easily get lost discovering the hidden treasures inside.

Mission Bay

Mission Bay From an Airplane Window, Chad McDonald / Flickr

Mission Bay

East of Mission Beach, you’ll find Mission Bay, part of Mission Bay Park–the largest man-made aquatic park in the world. The park itself is 54% water and 46% land. It’s home to historic wetlands, marsh, and calm salt waters, built specifically for recreational purposes. It’s important to note that the bay’s creation fundamentally altered the ecology of San Diego and destroyed all but 5% of the area’s wetland habitats. So do enjoy, but don’t forget.

The best surf schools in the USA will often go there to instruct their students in standup paddleboarding, which is one of the best ways to learn how to stand up and balance yourself when you’re surfing. If you can paddle board, you’re well on your way to riding.

Every single form of water recreation known to man is available at the park. There’s jetskiing, boat races, kayaking, fishing, swimming, and undersea diving. If you manage to make your way out to Fiesta Island, you can still spot some of the rare species that once thrived in the area.

The best surf schools in the USA will often utilize the swimming areas, giving students a chance to learn how to float, maneuver through the water, and eventually paddle with their board. Beginners will find that the tide is much calmer, but still significant enough to give them the boost they will need before entering the Pacific.

Efforts have been made to restore the area’s wetlands. Scientists believe they are vital for clean air, clean water, and of course the health of local wildlife. In 2018 a study was funded to estimate the feasibility of restoring and expanding wetlands in the northeastern corner of the bay. The city subsequently awarded leases to the organizations involved, and the mayor will be deciding how to move forward with the project.

The Best Surf Schools in the USA

Mission Beach is for instruction as well as recreation. Most surfers will come when the swells rise and try out better areas when the surf is low. But beginners can have a field day. They stick to shallow waters, swim out a few yards, stand up, and ride all the way toward the sand. There’s no shame in that game. It’s a ton of fun, and it will prepare you for what’s next–the real adventure.

If you want to get past that point, you have to practice, and you’re going to need up-close and personal lessons from someone who will see you through from point A to point B safely–without being critical or impatient. That’s what Mission Beach Surfing School is for. We’re one of the best surf schools in the USA. We’re lifeguard, CPR, and surf instructor certified, and we know what it takes to learn.