21 Rooftop Bars in San Diego with Breathtaking Views

Drinks just taste better with a view.

Drinking on rooftops is a beloved activity in San Diego—and with COVID-19 shutting down bars, tasting rooms, and indoor dining for the better part of 2020, a breezy deck well above street level was our go-to alternative. But just because we’re able to dine indoors again, doesn’t mean we’re ready to abandon our favorite spots for day drinking and sunset peeping.

Our year-round perfect weather and generally relaxed attitude towards things like “dress codes” and “appropriate drinking hours,” make America’s Finest City the perfect place to enjoy an adult beverage or two at altitude. Here are the best rooftop bars to suit everything from casual day drinking to intimate date nights.

Upper East Bar

Gaslamp Quarter

A rooftop pool bar in the middle of Gaslamp is great, but a rooftop pool bar in Gaslamp without a cover is an absolute dream come true. A companion (and temporary home) to Jsix, the hotel restaurant downstairs, this spot might not be cheap, but the bartenders here pour strong drinks -- and isn’t that what really matters? If you’re looking to save a couple bucks, visit during happy hour Monday through Thursday from 5–7 pm when they offer $8 cocktails, $6 draft beers and house wines, and $5 canned beers. On Wednesdays, they do $5 aperol spritzes at 5 pm, $6 spritzes at 6 pm, and $7 spritzes at 7 pm, plus trivia with prizes from 6:30–8:30 pm. 
How to book: Rooftop seats are available on a first-come basis. Poolside loungers and private cabanas can be booked through the Chief Concierge at 619-819-9583 for a daily fee (includes pool access and amenities).

Ska Bar
Photo courtesy of SKA Bar

Ska Bar

Normal Heights

Take the smooth, silent elevator up to the rooftop deck of SKA Bar for Asian-inspired, spirit-forward cocktails like the purple-hued Dark Magician, made with white rum, taro, Singani, rhubarb liqueur, Indian yogurt, vanilla, lemon, and plum bitters, or Professor Oak, an intriguing play on a classic Manhattan, using nori-infused rye, Amaro Nonino, and sweet vermouth. Snacks and shareable plates include four kinds of bao buns, drunken noodles, Japanese curry fries, and a SKA Bar Double-Double.
How to book: Rooftop seats are available on a first-come basis.

George's at The Cove
Photo courtesy of George’s at the Cove

George’s at the Cove’s Ocean Terrace has stunning panoramic views of La Jolla Cove from nearly every seat in the house. The upscale cocktail menu by Trey Foshee features all the summery drinks you’d imagine, from margs and martinis to mojitos and micheladas. Stop by at lunchtime for yellowtail tacos on heirloom corn tortillas or George’s famous black bean, broccoli, and smoked chicken soup, or at dinner for steak frites and Indian red lentil dal. 
How to book: Reserve your table online. Prepaid, premium seating is also available for groups of one to four. Walk-ins are accepted if available.

Garibaldi
Photo courtesy of Garibaldi

Garibaldi

Downtown

Perched atop the luxurious InterContinental San Diego, Garibaldi’s speakeasy-style rooftop bar and restaurant feature Sardinian fare and feels like the perfect Mediterranean escape. Think handmade pastas, local seafood, and wild game; vibrant cocktails like the Sardinian Old Fashioned made with Mirto liqueur; and curated selections of Italian beer and regional wines. 
How to book: Reserve your table online via Resy. Walk-ins are accepted if available.

Kairoa Brewing Co

University Heights

If drinking outdoors is a San Diego tradition, then drinking outdoors at a brewery must be a local rite of passage. Forgetting semantics, Kairoa pays homage to the owner’s New Zealand heritage with a menu replete with Kiwi-inspired food and brews. That means hearty dishes like sausage rolls and meat pies, and beers that utilize the country’s crown jewel hop varietal (Nelson hops), like the Kairoa Sunny Nelson. You’ll be hard pressed to find a joy more simple than digging into a sausage roll and chasing it down with a New Zealand IPA on a sunny, modernistic rooftop.

Available for Reservations
Blade 1936

Blade 1936

Oceanside

Blade 1936 is a welcome addition to Oceanside’s rapidly emerging dining scene. Located in the same building that housed the former Oceanside Blade-Tribune and News newsroom, Blade 1936 pays homage to the heritage of America’s Finest City (with authentic retro newsprint covering the walls) while offering a modern take on Neapolitan-style Italian cuisine just a few blocks from the pier. Wood-fired pizza with rooftop ocean views will never not be good.

Available for Reservations

Firehouse has become a Pacific Beach institution by focusing on two things: offering an excellent boozy brunch during the daytime (churro French toast!), and really leaning into the dance lounge vibes at night, all with an ocean view. And while we’re not packing the dance floors these days, the chill atmosphere and gorgeous views keep us coming back. 
How to book: Reserve a table online via Tock. Walk-ins are accepted if available.

Born And Raised
Photo by Zack Benson

Born And Raised

Little Italy

Spend any amount of time at Born & Raised, and the adjective “elevated” will likely come to mind. The entire experience is opulent yet eccentric; the decor is ornate and seemingly inspired by the roaring ‘20s (think marble bar tops and waiters in white dinner coats), but sprinkled with recent pop culture references, including gangster rap (think framed photos of Eazy-E on the walls and those same waiters wearing Chuck Taylors with their dinner jackets). The menu reflects that eccentricity as well: there’s a $120 21-day dry-aged duck that you can order and then follow up with an over-the-top dessert like a giant chocolate macaron emblazoned with the Wu-Tang logo. Come prepared to spend a pretty penny in exchange for one of the best food and beverage experiences of your life.

Available for Reservations

Altitude Sky Lounge

Gaslamp Quarter

At 22 stories, ALTITUDE is the highest open-air rooftop bar in the area, which means you’ll have better views of the city here than anywhere else. In addition to the bird's eye view of the city, ALTITUDE’s location next to Petco Park also means you can catch a free ball game, as well as views of the Coronado Bridge and Point Loma. The bar rarely has a cover, but it does have a dress code, so don’t show up dressed like you just rolled out of bed and you should be good.
How to book: Rooftop seats are available on a first-come basis.

Amplified Ale Works

Multiple locations

Whether you choose Pacific Beach’s panoramic ocean vistas or the East Village’s bird’s eye view into Petco Park, head brewer Cy Henley’s musically inspired tap list and celebrated collection of music memorabilia make Amplified Ale works a must-visit on any beer lover’s best brewery list. The kitchen creates some of the tastiest kebabs in San Diego, too, so it’s the perfect stop if you’re craving lunch or dinner. 
How to book: Reserve a table at your preferred location online. Walk-ins are accepted if available.

Cannonball

Mission Beach

Apart from the scores of tourists that are sure to be at Cannonball on any given day, the bar has an unabated view of the beach and the best people watching in San Diego with the crowds that populate Ocean Front Walk. Seafood dominates the food menu, with sushi rolls, sashimi, oysters, and crab legs, plus a Cannonball Burrito in a sesame soy wrap with shrimp tempura, crab, tuna, avocado, cream cheese, cucumber, cilantro, green onions, and spicy mayo. The beverage menu features a handful of classic cocktails with beach-inspired ingredients (like the Mission Beach Mai Tai with white rum, pineapple, orange juice, and dark rum), local draft beers, seltzers, plenty of wine by the glass or bottle, as well as sake and Japanese whisky. 
How to book: Rooftop seats are available on a first-come basis.

An excellent date spot, Catania serves up some of the best coastal Italian food in San Diego in a relaxed environment with a view of La Jolla’s picturesque downtown. Try the duck sugo orecchiette, or go with a classic and order the pizza margherita. Weekend brunch is also back from 10:30 am to 2:30 pm, featuring a house made seasonal pop tart (currently strawberry and cream), a Nashville hot chicken parm over creamy polenta, and a breakfast pizza with salami, sausage, fennel, tomato, pickled peppers, fontina cheese, and an egg.

Available for Reservations

Too often, lists like these neglect North County, which is outright silly. Just one block off the beach, Hello Betty presents stunning views of the Oceanside Pier. It can get busy up there with people throwing back oyster shooters and ceviche and beers, but the unparalleled surf and sunset views make it worth the wait.
How to book: Rooftop seats are available on a first-come basis.

Kettner Exchange

Little Italy

There might not be a more “hip” (whatever the hell that means) neighborhood right now than Little Italy. Between spots like Ironside Fish & Oyster, Juniper & Ivy, and Crack Shack opening in the past few years, Little Italy has become THE place for daring new restaurant ventures, and Kettner Exchange is here to make sure libations are taken care of in a gorgeous, two-story rooftop setting. For a truly one-of-a-kind experience, book a cabana and enjoy craft cocktail decanters and private, self-serve beer taps, plus unique chef creations. 
How to book: Reserve a table online via Tock. Walk-ins are accepted if available.

The Nolen

Gaslamp Quarter

A 14-story jewel in the Gaslamp, The Nolen features both a patio and a rooftop, because why not? Its beautiful setting—which features a communal fire pit—underlies an immersive cocktail menu—the barrel-aged and classic menus feature can't-miss drinks like Manhattans and new-age cocktails like a Nolen Front Porch Tea.

Available for Reservations

Mister A's

Banker’s Hill

Straight up, the best view in San Diego might be from Mister A’s. Its location just outside the heart of downtown in Banker’s Hill gives you a view of the entire city in all its splendor, from the airport to the bay. The kitchen makes incredible mac and cheese with black truffle and pancetta that we won’t judge you for ordering as your main. Sip on a signature Burnt Orange Old Fashioned, then order a large-format to-go because you’ll definitely want to keep the vibes going after you get home.

Available for Reservations

Rustic Root

Gaslamp Quarter

When Gaslamp is a complete shitshow and you want a bit of a reprieve from insane lines and fighting for first-come table space, head to Rustic Root. The super-relaxed atmosphere pairs really well with the rooftop view for watching the masses as they roll down Sixth Ave. 
How to book: Reserve a table online via SevenRooms. Walk-ins are accepted if available.

Another Downtown rooftop bar located in the shadow of Petco Park, Level 9 has one advantage over all the other rooftop bars: It’s dog friendly, even during COVID-19. Located atop the Hotel Indigo, Level 9 lets you have a beer or three with your canine pal at elevation, and you’ve never experienced a conversation like having a boozy heart-to-heart with your dog about how much you love him/her while standing nine floors up.
How to book: Rooftop seats are available on a first-come basis.

El Prez

Pacific Beach

Sometimes, the designers of rooftop spaces will sacrifice atmosphere in order to make a location look chic. Far too often a rooftop will look awesome, but be filled with stuffy people. That’s definitely not the case at El Prez. If you’re looking to let your hair down and have a good time, this is the spot.
How to book: Rooftop seats are available on a first-come basis.

Fairweather

East Village

Much like Altitude and Level 9, Fairweather offers a great view of Petco, but unlike the former two options, Fairweather is a bit more intimate and laidback. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in killer cocktails; the bartenders here are some of the best in San Diego, and their gin drinks (particularly the Singapore Sling) are all to die for.
How to book: Rooftop seats are available on a first-come basis.

This fine dining Italian restaurant isn’t exactly the “sandals and tequila shots” rooftop joint you might be looking for, but if you're after great food for a decent price that comes with a stunning view, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better location. Get the antipasto della casa, a sampler that includes prosciutto di Parma, caprese, bruschetta, and grilled artichoke—it's what Enoteca is known for.

Available for Reservations
Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer by way of Chicago and Los Angeles. Her hobbies include yoga, pickling and fermenting stuff, reading cookbooks and drinking fabulous gin. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.