San Diego Water Activities: Where to Splash, Ride and Play

Ranked among California’s most popular beach destinations, San Diego provides a vast playground for water lovers. It’s easy to customize the adventure, too. Whether relaxing in sandy nooks or competing in world-famous sports, San Diego lets travelers do it all. For some ideas, here are the top San Diego water activities.

Popular San Diego Water Activities in Sunny California

san diego water fun beaches

Live the Beach Life

San Diego offers 70 miles of coastline and several beaches. During summer, many have permanent lifeguards on duty, so everyone can play and stay safe.

Families enjoy Children’s Pool, where visitors swim and scuba dive. La Jolla Shores measures 1 mile and offers gentle waves in the summer. Pacific Beach – located south of Crystal Pier – draws big crowds but has plenty of space to accommodate big crowds. Other San Diego beaches include Mission Beach, Ocean Beach and Black’s Beach, formerly Torrey Pines.

Explore Boat Tours

Those who want to experience open water and see marine life should book a San Diego boat tour. Several companies offer different excursions, so visitors create a trip that suits their needs and interests. Group and private tours are available, as well as party trips.

One popular tour is Sail San Diego, a sailing charter that hosts sailing trips, sunset sails and whale-watching. For time with loved ones, book a boat with Duffy of San Diego. Or take it up a notch with high-speed Speed Boat Adventures and cover San Diego’s iconic sites.

san diego fishing family vacation

Choose a Fishing Charter

Fishing ranks among the top San Diego water activities, and it’s easy to see why. The city provides access to Mission Bay, San Diego Bay and Pacific Ocean. Local guides can’t wait to take anglers on open waters where they cast lines and interact with giant marine life.

Boundless Boat Charters and Coletta Sportfishing rank among the top fishing charters in San Diego. Boundless Boat Charters offers fishing trips from a half-day to 12-hours. Coletta Sportfishing also offers half- and full-day fishing trips. Possible catches include halibut, barracuda, tuna species and marlin.

Go Dolphin and Whale-watching

Dolphin and whale-watching also top the San Diego water activities list, as the area is located near annual whale migrations. Mid-December through April marks whale-watching season in San Diego, and several companies have flexible trips available.

However, San Diego Whale Watch hosts whale-watching trips year-round. On the trip, marine biologists educate guests about marine life and help everyone see dolphins and whales. While gray and blue whales migrate during certain times of year, fin whales, humpbacks and minke may be seen anytime. Find the best San Diego boat tours.

san diego water activities scuba snorkel

Scuba and Snorkel

Adventurous souls should plan a scuba or snorkel trip with local guides. These activities allow visitors to venture into shallow and deep waters full of fish, coral reefs, and hidden gems.

San Diego Snorkel Adventure hosts two-hour snorkeling and scuba diving tours at La Jolla Cove Underwater Park, one of the top spots in the area. Divers will join others at La Jolla Canyon, which reaches depths of 60 to 80 feet. For a different experience, book a diving trip with Islander Charters. This charter lets guests cage dive to see great white sharks and other marine life.

Fun fact: Island has even been featured during Discovery Channel’s Shark Week!

san diego water activities surf

Learn to Surf

Most know California ranks among the best surfing spots in the world. In fact, the city hosts some of the largest surf competitions and events. However, many may not know how to surf.

If new to the sport, start with Pacific Surf School. This top-rated option has programs for all ages with private, semi private and group lessons available. Those comfortable surfing have no shortage of spots. For example, Trestles welcomes experts after a long hike. Or head to Del Mar, one of the most reliable surfing locations in San Diego.

Those who just want to watch can easily do so. The area hosts World Bodysurfing Championships, World Surf League contests, and the family-friendly Imperial Beach Surf Dog Competition.

Try SUP in San Diego

Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) has become one of the top San Diego water activities. SUP doesn’t require experience and offers a more relaxed adventure compared to surfing. Morro Bay Stand Up Paddleboarding rents boards and offers lessons, so guests can explore Morro Bay. Or visit the popular Mission Bay Aquatic Center, which offers lessons and tours for all ages and abilities.