Drinking is a great time. The ocean is a great time. Drinking the ocean? Not such a great time. But drinking NEAR the ocean is quite possibly the absolute best of all the times, which is why we've helpfully assembled this lineup of San Diego's best spots to enjoy a few rounds within stumbling distance of a sun-soaked beach.
San Diego's best beachfront bars
A mixture of college coeds and 60-year old adolescents, the Beachcomber is a Mission Beach staple. It no longer serves up 32oz, $1 beers, but $.75 will get you a 12-ouncer after 8pm every Friday. Of course, killer drink specials do have their drawbacks, and the ‘comber’s been known to draw a crowd, so you may find yourself waiting a few minutes to get in. But c’mon, $.75 beers? You can catch up quickly AND cheaply.
PB Shore Club
“Where Grand (Ave) meets the Sand,” PB Shore Club draws plenty of daytime drinkers on account of its beachfront location and $4 goblets of Pacifico. But the real fun kicks off in the evening, particularly on Taco Tuesdays and Wednesdays' goldfish races, which aren't called "Goldfish Race Wednesdays" because of alliteration.
1st Street Bar
Reasonably priced drinks, an 8x12 stage for live music, and one long, unassuming bar cloak a pretty badass history. Charlie Chaplin’s big bro owned the building back when your grandparents were dancing the Charleston, and biker gangs used to drive their hogs right through the front door and out the back. Today, it’s hard to imagine 1st Street as anything other than the local surf bar it has become. Think Pacific Beach on Quaaludes; the guys all wear shorts and flip flops and the girls… well, who are we kidding, the girls still look hot.
If you’re from North County, Jimmy O’s can feel a bit like a high school reunion. It’s a favorite among locals struggling to break free – not that we blame them – of Del Mar’s cushy lifestyle. Unsurprisingly it's particularly buzzing during horse racing season. The prices are a bit higher than some of your other beach-adjacent joints, but the potent combo of tourists and locales makes for some outstanding people watching.
Situated within earshot of Cardiff’s lapping waves and famed surfer Rob Machado’s house, some of The Kraken’s patrons tilt closer to 50 than 21. Live music, a sizeable dance floor, and a three-sided bar dominate the front room, while the back room is reserved for pool tables and foosball. Warning: As in the wild, it’s best to travel in packs. At the Kraken, cougars prey on the stragglers.
Dini's by the Sea
What looks like an apple pie-serving Marie Callender’s on the outside is actually one of San Diego’s hardest-charging libation locales. Buttoned down beach goers and buttoned up military personnel from nearby Camp Pendleton mix to produce an interesting social cocktail. And when Dini’s does finally give you the boot, you and your new friends can crash some partygoers’ bonfire at the beach nearby.
Wonderland Ocean Pub
Formerly “Nick’s”, Wonderland’s renovation has created a stylish but laid-back bar experience in keeping with OB’s counter-cultural persona. Wall-to-wall windows offer panoramic ocean views, and happy hours provide $1 beers, $1 tacos, and some spectacular sunsets. Oh, and once it's dark, you can get intimate with a massive, cheese-stuffed burger. Just don't go swimming too soon after.
1. Dini's by the Sea3290 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad
2. Beachcomber2901 Mission Blvd, San Diego
3. PB Shore Club4315 Ocean Blvd, San Diego
4. 1st Street Bar656 S Coast Hwy101, Encinitas
5. Jimmy O's225 15th St, Del Mar
6. The Kraken2531 S Hwy 101, Cardiff
7. Wonderland Ocean Pub5083 Santa Monica Ave , San Diego
Dini's by the Sea has a sweet roof deck with a great view of the ocean -- the restaurant has some high quality cuisine and Dini's bar's got a great laid-back vibe, and both of them have some pretty solid happy hour specials.
This Mission Beach staple is known for a mix of customers ranging from college kids to the simply young at heart. Beachcomber's secret? After 8pm Friday you can get $0.75 beers -- that's something every generation can agree is pretty awesome.
Right on the Pacific Ocean, Shore Club's got great bar fare as well as boozy slushies sure to cool you down on any summer (or any other season) day. There's an open air rooftop patio, and the kitchen is open late night, slinging greasy yet elevated eats (think in terms of sauteed lobster tacos) from 9pm until close. It’s a good thing, too, because you can work up quite the appetite during those Wednesday night goldfish races, which don’t start until 10pm.
A great beachfront dive, 1st Street Bar had a stage for live music, cheap drinks, and was once owned by Charlie Chaplin's comedian older brother -- what more could you ask for?
Jimmy O's is a quality sports bar by day and a dj-fueled dance party by night. The food is no joke either -- check out their carne asada nachos or any of their sandwiches and you won't be disappointed.
Just across 101 from the ocean, The Kraken holds a big dance floor so you can groove along to the ever-present live music, a big bar with cheap drinks, and a back yard where you can fill up on delicious BBQ and burgers.