Best Waterfront Dining in San Diego

You Must Dine on the Waterfront in San Diego

Imagine sipping a specialty cocktail at sunset amid cool ocean breezes after a lovely day of sightseeing in San Diego. Whether it's breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a few drinks, waterfront dining is a part of life here that visitors must put on their to-do list. San Diego's best waterfront restaurants are all family-friendly but some are particularly great for a special date night.

The most unique waterfront dining experience is at The Marine Room restaurant in La Jolla. Built in 1941 to withstand high tides and waves crashing against the windows, this building is literally on the sand. During high tide dinner season, guests are only separated from dramatic surf by custom-built, sturdy glass.

North county residents flock to Jake's Del Mar especially in good weather. Located on the beach, this family-friendly restaurant has an extensive gluten-free menu along with, salads, seafood, Jake's Bistro Burger and more casual favorites.

Island Prime / C Level Lounge rest on stilts that hold the restaurant above the San Diego Bay which provides diners with a dramatic San Diego skyline view. Dine casually on C Level's heated patio or more formally at Island Prime. The choice is yours.

It's easy to forget about stresses of the day, when you're gazing out over the water at any of these 10 best waterfront restaurants in San Diego.


Located steps away from the ocean, The Shores Restaurant has one of the best views in all of San Diego. It is almost as if you can reach out the window and touch the sand. Sunday brunch is a la carte and features favorites such as huevos rancheros, brioche french toast, chilaquiles and more. Renowned chef and award-winning cookbook author, Bernard Guillas, changes the menu based on what is in season. The Shores Restaurant is a part of the La Jolla Shores Hotel and provides room service to the lucky guests. Happy hour in the bar is also an awesome place to enjoy the sunset over the ocean.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: This restaurant is on La Jolla Shores beach with a level view of the sand and ocean as far as the eye can see.

Katie's expert tip: Walk off your brunch along the La Jolla Shores boardwalk or better yet, bring your beach gear in the car. This is one of the most family-friendly beaches in San Diego.

Read more about The Shores Restaurant - La Jolla Shores Hotel →

Pacific Beach

Though casual in nature, you may be faced with a wait on the weekends if you don't plan accordingly. World Famous is popular with locals for good reason. Patio seating is adjacent to the beach boardwalk where not only are the ocean views relaxing, the people-watching is entertaining. All-day dining is on offer with the kitchen closing at 11:00pm. There's a light bar menu and the restaurant menu both featuring California cuisine such as a variety of salads and seafood entrees. They're known for some of the best fish tacos in town. Happy hour in the bar runs Monday - Thursday with the special varying by the day. As beach parking can be tough, World Famous offers valet on the weekends.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Casual dining in Pacific Beach located on the boardwalk with awesome food at prices that won't break the bank makes this a solid choice.

Katie's expert tip: Breakfast here is particularly good. Pair a lobster Benedict with a Bloody Mary and you won't be sorry. If dining late in the day, the fish taco is the way to go. It's beer-battered but totally worth the calories.

Read more about World Famous →

Located upstairs from the more casual Fish Market, this refined venue offers views from Point Loma to the Coronado Bridge, along with cuisine that is nothing short of spectacular. An incredibly broad offering of seafood might include Scottish Isles salmon, South American lobster tail, Oregon dungeness crab, or Chilean sea bass that is all flown in daily. The romantic setting features crisp linens, flickering candlelight, impeccable service, and exhibition-style cooking. Salads and land-based dishes are also served, along with an expanded wine list. The restaurant is considered one of the best in Southern California and has an exhibition-style kitchen. The dress code is smart casual and it's an excellent date night spot.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Views over the Bay span from Coronado to Point Loma. This is a good choice for waterfront dining if in downtown.

Katie's expert tip: Social hour (happy hour) is Monday through Friday from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm and includes $2 oysters.

Read more about Top of the Market →

Pacific Beach

JRDN is beachfront Tower 23 Hotel's 10,000 square foot contemporary oceanfront steak and seafood restaurant, featuring casually sophisticated cuisine. If you need a hip and trendy place that's less hectic than Gaslamp options, this is also your place to grab a drink. Lounge with your companions, listen to live music and enjoy a specialty cocktail along with ocean breezes. JRDN has indoor/outdoor seating right on the Pacific Beach boardwalk which makes for excellent views and people watching. The clean, simple but modern decor includes color-changing lights and a giant water wall. It's certainly more upscale than neighboring bars but maintains a fun and casual atmosphere.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: JRDN makes the list as the best option in the bar-heavy Pacific Beach area. It's located right on the boardwalk.

Katie's expert tip: It's probably the most upscale place to have a meal or a cocktail in Pacific Beach and draws a more sophisticated crowd than others.

Read more about Jordan (JRDN) →

It's hard not to relax over breakfast, brunch or lunch at Brockton Villa, while gazing out over gorgeous La Jolla Cove. This historic building maintains a casual, cottage feel reminiscent of dining at a friend's beach house. Go for the Coast Toast, Brockton Villa's proprietary french toast recipe (french bread soaked in whipping cream), or pulled pork chilaquiles. The Crab Ipanema (crab benedict) is also famous. Indulge in a fresh orange juice mimosa or two. Kids have their own reasonably priced breakfast menu featuring pint-sized portions of popular dishes. Service is friendly, too. Then, go walk off your meal at La Jolla Cove.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Brockton Villa is restaurant inside a historic cottage overlooking La Jolla Cove that is popular for breakfast and brunch.

Katie's expert tip: Plan a little extra time for parking on peak days, like weekends and in the summer time. The famous Coast Toast, made with french bread soaked in whipping cream, is worth a little extra time on the treadmill.

Read more about Brockton Villa →


Jake's Del Mar has been popular with residents and visitors for many years. The restaurant is located right on the sand and open daily for lunch, happy hour, and dinner as well as Sunday brunch. Jake's also has a very large selection of gluten-free menu options (though thte kitchen itself is not gluten-free) available at all times. Choose from seafood dishes such as Peruvian shrimp ceviche, curry and cumin crusted ahi or mixed seafood pot. Rest assured land-based dishes also delight with burgers and filet mignon. The gigantic macadamia nut ice cream, chocolate cookie crust Hula pie is worth saving some extra room for. Jake's has also been recognized for their recycling and other green efforts.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Jake's is located on the beach in Del Mar and has floodlights to spotlight the ocean for somewhat of a night view.

Katie's expert tip: Jake's is a great place to bring the kids. The service is notably good and there's plenty of buzz around to hide an occasional squeal.

Read more about Jake's Del Mar →

Pacific Coast Grill's new beachfront location makes it one of the most scenic spots in North County to eat or grab a drink. The festive, al fresco patio wall borders the sand and the ocean breezes are as relaxing as you might imagine. The California cuisine menu is made with fresh, local and free range ingredients. Popular items include seafood mains like porcini crusted scallops, lobster tacos, sushi rolls and Hawaiian style baby back ribs. Gluten free and plenty of vegetarian options are available. PCG is can also host your next private party between the indoor Reef Room and a patio buyout. Reservations are accepted and highly encouraged, especially during peak times.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: It's a casual, cool option in North County San Diego for beachfront dining.

Katie's expert tip: Pair a lobster taco with a margarita. You won't be sorry.

Read more about Pacific Coast Grill →

A fashionable destination for dinner or drinks, Island Prime boasts enchanting skyline views, a wealth of trendy cocktails, and flawless service. The restaurant is sitting on stilts, resting over the San Diego Bay. Local celebrity chef Debra Scott's deft touch is evident with creations like macadamia crusted mahi mahi with seabeans, roasted pineapple salsa, yuzu beurre blanc. Island Prime's Filet Trio topped with Alaskan king crab, wild mushrooms and blue cheese served with sea salt mashed potatoes is a meat lovers dream. Perfectly grilled steaks are always a fine choice as well. C Level Lounge is more casual, but has a similar menu. Both restaurants have an excellent gluten-free menu.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: The restaurant sits on stilts above the water of the San Diego Bay. The views are stunning.

Katie's expert tip: If you'd like to sit on the family-friendly patio at C Level, make sure to get there early as it fills up quickly. Try the ahi tuna stack with fresh crab, avocado, papaya-mango salsa and caviar.

Read more about Island Prime / C Level Lounge →

Dramatically situated on Prospect Street in La Jolla overlooking the blue Pacific, George's at the Cove combines exceptional cuisine and service with spectacular views from every level of the multi-tiered restaurant. Dine in the contemporary restaurant and bar indoors, dubbed California Modern; choose the Ocean Terrace, a great rooftop dining spot; or settle in at Level2, a casual dining and bar destination. The menu, which specializes in California cuisine, reflects the use of fresh local ingredients and unique combinations of flavors to create a memorable dining experience. The restaurant also offers a creative, delectable dessert menu as well as TBL3, a unique opportunity to put your meal into the capable hands of Executive Chef and Owner, Trey Foshee, throughout 12-14 amazing courses.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: Ask a local where they take visitors and this is likely to be the most popular answer for the view, ambiance, great service and menu.

Katie's expert tip: San Diego is known for its fish tacos, but if you are a lover of this California staple, you must try the ones at George's. Recently lauded by a Food Network star as "The Best Thing I Ever Ate," George's non-traditional fish tacos feature fresh tuna, battered and fried avocado, and a list of other ingredients.

Read more about George's at the Cove →

The Marine Room
Photo courtesy of The Marine Room

Perhaps best known for its setting right on the beach, so close to the water that at particularly high tides the waves crash on the windows, The Marine Room serves fine, globally-influenced cuisine. The menu is seasonal but one favorite that is always available is the signature lobster bisque (order it). Main course highlights have included sea salt crispy skin branzino, absinthe butter basted lobster tail, and kalbi shiso lacquered organic tofu. Impeccable service, attention to detail, and an award-winning wine list round out the experience. Check the special event calendar for high tide happy hours and dinners as well as other not-to-be-missed experiences. Happy hour at the bar is also a fantastic way to experience this waterfront restaurant.

Recommended for Waterfront Dining because: The restaurant offers elegant dining literally on the sand of gorgeous La Jolla Shores Beach.

Katie's expert tip: The Marine Room holds special events such as high tide dinners and Monday night lobster. A great opportunity to watch the sunset and sample dishes is at Sunday-Friday happy hour.

Read more about The Marine Room →


Meet Katie Dillon

Katie Dillon originally moved to the seaside community of La Jolla to attend UC San Diego. When the opportunity presented itself, she and her husband set off for a 7 year stint overseas as...  More About Katie