Casual, relatively cheap, and right on the boardwalk, the Surfer Beach Hotel is a boon for budget travelers. You’ll get the real-deal SoCal beach experience in Pacific Beach, a laid-back neighborhood with a happening boardwalk and lots of restaurants and bars. The hotel is on the barebones side, but the rooms are comfortable and some have ocean views. Plus there’s a heated pool and the awesome Woody’s Breakfast and Burgers is right out front.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Parking is $17 a day, but it beats trying to find parking in PB.
Rooms are simple, with velour headboards, wood nightstands and dressers, and contemporary accents. If you can, spring for one of the ocean view rooms or suites, which feature private balconies.
Bathrooms are simple and functional, with tile floors, granite counters, and a shower-bathtub combo.
The hotel has a reception office.
A gated, heated saltwater pool in the courtyard is next to a spacious outdoor terrace with seating, a fire pit, and boardwalk and beach views.
About 10 minutes south in Mission Beach, Belmont Park is a small amusement park with an old wooden roller-coaster, an arcade hall, and a historic swimming pool, the Plunge, that is currently undergoing a major renovation and will reopen in 2019.
Right on the boardwalk, the mellow, surfer-frequented Woody’s Breakfast and Burgers is a local favorite. Soak up the sun on the outdoor patio, where the people watching is as good as Woody’s breakfast dishes (burritos, acai bowls, etc.) and signature burgers.
If you’re planning to do a lot of exploring beyond Pacific Beach, getting around is most convenient by car. To get out of PB, follow Mission Boulevard north and turn right on Grand Avenue; follow it to the on-ramp for Interstate 5, which runs north-south and offers easy access to San Diego’s attractions, including the Gaslamp Quarter to the south and coastal communities to the north.
Adjacent to the hotel, the beachfront World Famous (1-minute walk) is a bit classier than the other nearby spots and it’s popular -- weekend waits can take a couple of hours. With a focus on coastal fare, the menu changes with whatever’s fresh, and includes creative comfort food like cioppino, potato-wrapped sea bass, and salmon truffle mac and cheese, along with a few meat dishes. The tiny La Playa Tacos (2-minute walk) serves authentic Mexican food, including tasty fish tacos. And what’s a beach day without ice cream? Good thing Big Kahuna’s (1-minute walk) is right by the hotel to meet your frosty treat needs.
Amplified Ale House Kitchen and Beer Garden (1-minute walk) is a great place to kick back and drink craft beers under the sun (you can also get crowlers or growlers to go). Evenings pick up inside, as well. Amplified’s Middle Eastern food is noteworthy too. At the nearby Catamaran Resort (3-minute walk), which is set on Mission Bay, Moray’s Lounge makes a tiki-inspired statement with a saltwater aquarium teeming with exotic fish. The casual tropical bar makes a mean signature Moray’s Mai Tai. Palm trees and tiki torches line the bar’s outdoor seating areas.