A Complete Guide to Ocean Beach in San Diego
Ocean Beach in San Diego is a bohemian beachfront escape popular with locals looking for a neighborhood with a strong community spirit. While it’s more casual than nearby Pacific Beach, it’s still a hub for dining and nightlife, on top of its proximity to some of San Diego’s best beaches.
Living in Ocean Beach, San Diego
Ocean Beach, or O.B., started out as Mussel Beach, thanks to all of the mussels available there at that time. Developers looking to turn the area into a resort community didn’t like that very much, so they renamed Mussel Beach Ocean Beach in 1887.
Ocean Beach has gone through quite a few changes since then. It was once home to the Wonderland Amusement Park at the height of its status as a San Diego resort destination. A period of isolation followed during the development of Mission Bay as the next big thing, and O.B. lost many of its tourists. The population that lived there at that time didn’t mind much, and that rogue spirit attracted a hippie element that has remained since the 1960s.
Today, the architecture remains a mix of beach bungalows, apartments, cottages, and single family homes with a view. While much of the real estate here has become vacation rentals, particularly the closer you get to the water, many residents here have been living in Ocean Beach for decades. It makes for an interesting mix of young people, middle-class professionals, and older residents who appreciate that O.B. has kept its identity alive for so many years.
Things to Do in Ocean Beach
It’s easy to spend a full day just lounging by the water at Ocean Beach, but there’s plenty more to do in this vibrant San Diego community.
Visit San Diego’s best dog beach.
If you have a dog, Ocean Beach is home to the Original Dog Beach, one of the first dog beaches in the country. (People in O.B. will tell you the Ocean Beach dog beach was officially the first!) Whether your pup enjoys frolicking in the waves or rolling around the sand, they can do it here completely off-leash.
Watch a sunset on the pier or Sunset Cliffs.
The Ocean Beach Pier is a popular gathering and fishing spot for residents, not really there for the catch but for the ambiance. It’s also one of the best places in Ocean Beach to watch a sunset. While the city is talking about replacing the weathered pier in the coming months, vocal residents have been involved in that process every step of the way.
Sunset Cliffs is another excellent sunset spot just south of the Ocean Beach Pier. It’s also popular with surfers and anyone looking for one of the best walking paths for panoramic views of the waves and cliffs below. Access Sunset Cliffs Natural Park along Sunset Cliffs Boulevard.
Spend the tide pools at low tide.
At low tide, you may find people gathering underneath Ocean Beach Pier. They’re here to explore the tide pools, a popular San Diego activity for kids and adults. This is one of the city’s most accessible tide pool spots, as it requires little effort beyond timing your visit around low tide. Check tide charts online before you head out!
Window shop at the unique boutiques.
Ocean Beach has maintained a focus on small, independent businesses over the years. It’s a reason why the neighborhood is popular with both locals and tourists looking for that special item they didn’t know they needed. Newport Avenue and Voltaire Street are both great places to start if you’re just here to window shop. Need a little more guidance? Vignettes is great for home decor, and Sunshine Daydreams embraces OB’s boho vibe.
Best Restaurants in Ocean Beach
Ocean Beach is home to some of San Diego’s best casual dining. Let’s take a look at a few of the top Ocean Beach restaurants:
- Hodad’s: It’s hard to mention casual dining in O.B. without mentioning Hodad’s. There is a location in downtown San Diego, but this is the one most locals flock to for what Hodad’s calls the world’s best burgers.
- The Joint: This inventive eatery has fun with its menu. You can order both sushi and tapas here, so it’s a fun place to go with friends who like to share bites of all different kinds of things.
- Little Lion Cafe: Locally-sourced ingredients and brunch classics with a twist are the focus at this cozy cafe. If you’re feeling indulgent, start your morning with one of their Belgian waffles, a local favorite.
- OB Noodle House: This Asian fusion restaurant is known for its dumplings, pho, Vietnamese BBQ, and sake. Bar 1502, their second location on Niagara Street nearby, has a smaller food menu but similar cocktail offerings.
- O.B People’s Organic Market: My absolute favorite, this is more of a plant-based food market with a deli on the upper level that serves “amazing” Vegan home-cooked meals.
Ocean Beach & Beyond
It’s easy to spend most of your time in Ocean Beach, and you won’t want for much while you’re here. It’s also easy enough to get to nearby neighborhoods with Ocean Beach as your base:
- Pacific Beach: Pacific Beach trends younger, but it’s always been a popular spot for surf shops, breakfast burritos, and beach bar culture. It’s just north of Ocean Beach, so it’s an easy drive from there to a fun afternoon in P.B.
- Point Loma: This peninsula is just south of Ocean Beach and Sunset Cliffs. It’s known for Cabrillo National Monument, a park popular for whale-spotting, its own tide pools, and panoramic ocean views.
- La Jolla: The aesthetic in La Jolla is much different, but that’s what makes it a popular escape just 20 minutes north of Ocean Beach. Visit the sea lions at La Jolla Cove, do some shopping at posh boutiques, or hike at the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
Are you interested in taking a closer look at the possibilities in Ocean Beach? The McT Real Estate Group can help you find a beach bungalow of your own to call home.