5 San Diego Neighborhoods to Explore

By Vanessa Howard

Between the beautiful coastline, charming historical districts, and ample green spaces, there’s a lot to love about San Diego. This Southern California paradise has its own distinct personality, laid back vibes, and near-perfect weather year-round. And who wouldn’t want to spend time in a place where craft beer and Mexican food are woven into the local culture?

Mission Beach is a great place to use as a home base on your next trip to San Diego, but there are other neighborhoods worth exploring! So if you’re planning on spending a few days in the area, use this list as your guide.

Where To Stay In Mission Beach

Makai Mission Beach

A fantastic option in Mission Beach is Makai, the Hawaiian word for “towards the sea.” You’ll love the 2nd floor patio and ocean view from this beachy duplex home. With it’s laid-back charm, thoughtful amenities, and an absolutely unbeatable location, you’ll love staying at Makai. Makai North is a spacious one bedroom, and Makai South is a two bedroom. The home comfortably sleeps 8 if you rent the entire duplex. Makai offers garage parking and all of your beach essentials – towels, an umbrella, chairs, and sand toys. We look forward to hosting you soon at Makai!

The Rockaway House

This Mission Beach duplex can be rented as individual units (Rockaway North with 1 bedroom/1 bathroom and Rockaway South with 2 bedrooms/1 bathroom) or in combination to sleep up to 8 guests. Staying at The Rockaway House, you’ll be just steps away from the Mission Beach boardwalk. Rockaway South – a 1930s beach cottage – is full of charm and is perfect for your next beach getaway. Upstairs, Rockaway North is thoughtfully designed and inviting. Whichever space you choose, you’ll love the bright interior and the coastal boho vibes that Rockaway offers.

Did you know that The Rockaway House and Makai are next-door neighbors? So groups traveling with up to 16 guests can rent out both duplexes – perfect for multiple groups or families traveling together as you’ll be close by but everyone still has their own space to relax and unwind at the end of the day.

After You’ve Explored Mission Beach, Check Out These Other San Diego Neighborhoods

1. Families Should Head to La Jolla

La Jolla is a great neighborhood for families to explore. Stroller-friendly pathways and parks wind along the top of the rugged cliffs overlooking the wide sandy beaches below. La Jolla Cove is a hot spot for visitors thanks to the Children’s Pool and the resident seals at the sea lion colonies. This neighborhood also features designer boutiques, local art shops, and delicious dining options including the upscale George’s at the Cove. The sunsets here are the stuff of legends so make sure to take in a beautiful sunset in La Jolla during your visit. 

2. Foodies Should Head to Little Italy

If you’re looking to explore a foodie paradise in San Diego look no further than Little Italy. In fact, it is considered one of the best restaurant scenes in the state! This easily walkable neighborhood has many fantastic dining options. The laid back spot, close to San Diego’s city center, is perfect for grabbing a bite to eat on a patio, or check out some urban breweries and wineries. The authentic Italian food found in Little Italy, such as Filippi’s Pizza Grotto, will make you feel like you’ve landed in Rome. Don’t forget to check out the largest farmers market in San Diego, the beautiful Waterfront Park, or the area’s landmark illumination sign. 

3. Wanderers Should Head to Balboa Park

San Diego residents are proud of their massive green space in the center of the city, Balboa Park. This 1,200 acre park includes an incredible amount of things to do. Visit one of the 17 museums such as the San Diego Art Museum or the San Diego Natural History Museum. A can’t miss in the Balboa Park neighborhood is the famous San Diego Zoo, home to an impressive 3,700 animals including elephants, pandas, and polar bears. Exploring the park can easily take a few days. You’ll discover Colonial Revival architecture, summer concert series, as well as 350 species of flora around the park. Highlights include cherry blossom trees, bonsai, and magnolias. 

4. Hippies-at-Heart Should Head to Ocean Beach

Just 10 minutes south of Rockaway and Makai is the eclectic neighborhood of Ocean Beach. This is a great place to explore if you’re looking for a slower, more laid-back pace. Known for its eclectic artist, yogi, and craft beer loving residents, Ocean Beach is filled to the brim with antique shops, organic cafes, and the interesting architecture that lines Newport Ave.

If you’re looking for something a bit different in San Diego, head to Ocean Beach where you can spend a few hours at a second-hand record store or find collectors’ comic books. Entertainment comes in the form of dive bars and microbreweries. Delicious dining includes lowkey classics like Hodads burger place or South Beach Bar & Grille for amazing tacos. Highlights of exploring include Sunset Cliff Natural Park, fishing off Ocean Beach Pier, and the leash-free Dog Beach to the north. 

5. Bar-Hoppers Should Head to the Gaslamp Quarter

For a night out on the town, head to the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego. Filled with flashy bars, delicious dining, and amazing architecture, this neighborhood is a nod to the city’s interesting past. The area is the oldest in San Diego, was originally developed in the 1860s and still features the original gas lamps, as well as the intricately designed Victorian buildings. Some Victorian favorites include the Louis Bank Building, The Yuma Building, and the Gaslamp Museum. You’ll love the vibrant collection of shops, restaurants, clubs, and theaters in this 16-block neighborhood. Check out restaurants like The Rooftop by STK, Werewolf and The Shout! House

Bonus: East Village

Just a few minutes walk away from the Gaslamp Quarter is San Diego’s East Village. The restaurants here will blow you away! The most interesting is the hidden speakeasy Noble Experiment, that’s decorated with golden skulls. 

If you’re looking for even more options for your next trip to San Diego, check out 5 Can’t Miss San Diego Activities and our Mission Beach Dining Guide.

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