San Diego's Best Bars for Boozing by the Beach
Cocktails just taste better at the beach.
If drinking at the beach was a competitive sport, San Diego would be the equivalent of Super Bowl Champions. Not only do we have over 70 miles of stunning coastline, and famously perfect weather, but the sheer number of SD bars a stone’s throw from the ocean is practically endless. From Mission Beach to Oceanside, we’ve checked out the best of the best and gathered our 15 favorite beach bars into this handy guide, so all you have to do is relax and enjoy the sunset.
The Holding Company
The cocktail menu here includes all the requisite beach bar choices, including vibrant, 90-ounce cocktail towers filled with mimosas, mules, and margaritas, but you can also get a $300 shot of Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year, or one of more than 60 other choices, including four private barrels. Not to worry, though, it's also got a wallet-friendly weekday happy hour with $4 wells and $15 off towers, and live music almost every evening.
Sandbar embraces all the reasons we love San Diego—sun, sand, and endless ocean vistas. Cocktails run from fresh and fruity margs and agua frescas to its slap-you-awake Big Ass Bloody Marys and the ubiquitous Red Bull Slushie. Foodwise, the award-winning TKO fried fish tacos are the correct choice.
JRDN’s boardwalk location makes it the perfect venue for sipping build-your-own mimosas or spicy, jalapeno- and cilantro-infused Bloody Marys while you watch the parade of locals and tourists strolling by. It’s pricier than some of the other spots we’ve listed, but the craft cocktails are definitely a step up, and besides, sometimes you just want to feel fancy.
Pacific Beach Shore Club
No bar in Pacific Beach draws big crowds more consistently than PB Shore Club, which, given that it’s PB we’re talking about, is a testament to Shore Club. The deck at this day drinking staple is jumping basically every sunny day (read: every day). It also hosts Goldfish Race Wednesdays, which is exactly what it sounds like, and pours those famously high octane Red Bull vodka slushies, which pack a hell of a punch. Don’t believe us? Ask Miles Teller.
The Beachcomber has been around since the 1940s, and it’s easy to see the lasting appeal once you step inside. Drink specials, Bingo Mondays, and a crowd that ranges from retirees to college grads are just part of the charm here, and if you spend an extended period of time in San Diego without visiting The Comber, you’ve failed.
Located maybe 100 yards down the road from Tower 13, The Kraken is a far different scene. This is a dive bar in every sense of the word, but there’s live music almost every day, cheap drinks, a massive pool area, and a crowd that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Let your hair down, throw back a few drinks, and dance to the tunes of a middle-aged cover band.
This locals-friendly beach bar is a restaurant, sports pub, and nightclub all rolled into one, in addition to being one of your best bets for late-night fun in Del Mar. Go Thursday through Saturday nights for live DJs and dancing, visit on Tuesday for karaoke night, or head there on game day to yell at the screens.
Wonderland Ocean Pub
People treat weekend brunches at Wonderland like church, and the $15 bottles of house bubbly until 1 pm help make for a pretty loose crowd by mid-afternoon. They’re equally famous for their happy hour specials and epic sunset views, but get in early or you may never get a table.
Hello Betty Fish House
This surf-inspired haunt is located one block from the beach in Oceanside, has a great view of the Oceanside Pier, and the bartenders pour drinks like the world is ending. Strong drinks, beautiful sunsets, and a menu that includes treats like Bomb Fries and delicious Beef Barbacoa Tacos make for a great time.
Baja Beach Cafe
Sitting on beachfront property, Baja Beach offers two big benefits. The first, of course, is its location: you can’t get closer to the water at any bar in the city. The second is its killer happy hour: Baja Beach pours two-for-one drinks every day from 4-7 pm, and every night from 10:30 pm-12:30 am.
El Prez Beach Bar & Cocina
El Prez really feels like two separate bars. The downstairs can be a bit clubby, and during football season it gets packed with people watching games while drinking aggressively. The three-story rooftop bar, however, is a completely different story and vibe—it has a laid-back energy with immaculate vistas and a carefree atmosphere. It’s basically impossible to have a bad time on the roof while the sun is up.
North County’s dirty little secret when it comes to beach bars is that there aren’t a whole lot that have actual views of, well, the beach. The hilly topography has a lot to do with that, and while Tower 13 might not be the most rollicking spot for late at night, it does have flawless real estate. The huge windows that line its walls offer great views from inside the bar, but the real key with Tower 13 is to snag one of the picnic tables outside around sunset. It has cheap drinks, half-price tequila shots all day Wednesday, and live music multiple nights each week.
There might be nowhere better to people-watch in San Diego than on Cannonball’s rooftop. Located right behind Belmont Park, Cannonball is on Ocean Front Walk, allowing you to scan the hordes of tourists that crowd Mission Beach on any given weekend. Weekday happy hour starts at a reasonable 2 pm, plus, it serves up some delicious sushi. And who doesn’t love crushing beachside sushi?