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Mission Bay Beaches

Photo of Mission Bay Beaches

Mission Bay Park consists of 4,235.6 acres, approximately 46% land and 54% water. There are 27 miles of shoreline, 19 of which are sandy beaches. Mission Bay was originally named False Bay by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who came upon it in 1542. In those days, it was a vast tidal marsh that could confuse mariners into believing it was the larger bay just to the south, San Diego Bay. In 1944, civic leaders began a series of steps to dredge the marsh and create an aquatic recreation facility. Today, you will find that Mission Bay is used by motorboaters, sailboaters, rowers, waterskiers, picnickers, joggers, and swimmers. It is also home to many species of birds, fish, and other animals and has a nature reserve at it's northern end near Crown Point.

Lifeguard Protection

Lifeguard staffing on Mission Bay beaches is primarily seasonal, usually beginning with school spring break, continuing with spring weekends, becoming daily during summer, and reduced to weekends after summer through October. Between November and spring break, there are no lifeguarded beaches on Mission Bay.

The primary Mission Bay beaches where staffing is provided most consistently are:

  • Bonita Cove
    1000 West Mission Bay Drive at Mariners Way (signalized intersection)
  • Leisure Lagoon
    1900 East Mission Bay Drive
  • De Anza Cove
    3000 East Mission Bay Drive

Additional Mission Bay beaches are usually guarded daily during summer.

  • Sail Bay
    4000 Fanuel Street
  • Crown Point
    3700 Crown Point Drive
  • Ventura Cove
    1000 West Mission Bay Drive at Gleason Road (signalized intersection)
  • Tecolote Shores
    1600 East Mission Bay Drive
  • Enchanted Cove
    Located on Fiesta Island 1/3 mile from the entrance to the island

Drop Off

There are no significant currents on Mission Bay, nor is there any surf; but there is a hazard posed by the drop-off. It can be a particular problem for small children. The steepness of the beach can be such that a child who is waist deep, for example, may take one step and be in water that is over their head. For this reason, parents are strongly urged to watch their children closely and to allow swimming only in areas supervised by a lifeguard. It is also strongly recommended that those who are weak swimmers or non-swimmers not be permitted to use floating objects that might allow them to access water over their head. If they lose the floating object they can quickly submerge and drown. More information on water safety can be found on the safety tips page.

Restrooms and Showers

Restrooms with showers are located at all of the above listed swimming beaches on Mission Bay, except at Enchanted Cove. At some beaches there are two restroom buildings available.

Disabled Accessibility

There are very few stairs in Mission Bay Park. Instead, the park is composed primarily of abundant grassy park areas with extensive cement walkways. Of particular note is the playground at Tecolote Shores which was designed for use by physically challenged children, and is very popular with all children. It is located at approximately 1500 East Mission Bay Drive, very near the swimming area.

Beach Fires

Containers for beach fires are available at many beaches and available on a first come, first served basis. Fires are permitted between 5 a.m. and 12 a.m. midnight. The burning of rubbish is prohibited. Only wood, charcoal, or paper products may be used as fuel. Fuel for the fire may not exceed a height of more than twelve inches above the upper edge of the fire container. The fire must be extinguished before leaving the beach. Open beach fires outside containers are prohibited at all San Diego beaches.

Regulations

Standard San Diego beach regulations apply, with the following modifications:

  • The consumption of alcohol at this beach and park area is prohibited at all times. Includes the boardwalk, on or against the seawall, or parking lots. City Attorney's Fact Sheet (PDF: 30K)
  • Overnight camping is prohibited and it is unlawful to park a vehicle in Mission Bay Park between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. daily.
  • Glass containers of any kind are not allowed in the park.
  • Dogs are allowed on Fiesta Island off leash at any time. In the summer, access to Fiesta Island after 10:00 PM is limited to pedestrians because the gate at the entrance to Fiesta Island is closed overnight. Dogs are allowed in the park on leash anywhere in Mission Bay Park before 9:00AM and after 6:00PM. Dogs are prohibited from being in the park between the hours of 9:00AM and 6:00PM. Park Rangers and park users ask that dog owners pick up after their dogs, and "leave only paw prints behind."

Directions

Mission Bay spans 4,600 acres. It is bordered by East Mission Bay Drive to the east (which parallels Interstate 5), Sea World Drive to the south (which intersects with Interstate 5), and Mission Boulevard to the west. To the north, Grand Avenue is the closest major street, but it is not directly adjacent to Mission Bay.

To reach Mission Bay from the north or south, take Interstate 5 to the exit for East Mission Bay Drive, Grand Avenue, Clairemont Drive, or Sea World Drive.

Parking

Mission Bay has extensive, free parking lots, particularly adjacent to most of the swimming beaches. Exceptions are Enchanted Cove and Sail Bay, where parking lots are not available, but parking is available nearby. All parking lots fill on popular days, particularly summer weekends. Overnight camping is prohibited and it is unlawful to park a vehicle in Mission Bay Park between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. daily.

Large Groups

The basic rule of thumb is that any gathering of over 50 people requires a permit from the Park and Recreation Department. A permit is also required for a wedding, water event, athletic event, voice and/or music amplification, or use of special setup equipment (such as an inflatable party jump, dunk tank, canopy, etc.) For permit information call Regional Parks at (619) 235-1169.