Ocean Beach – The Local’s Guide

OB Gate

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Ocean Beach California is a beach city just outside of San Diego that is home to golden sunsets and hippie culture. Think of it as the Haight-Ashbury of Southern California. If you want some good vibes and fun in the sun, then check out our guide to Ocean Beach.

We say that the beaches North to South in San Diego are similar to Los Angeles with La Jolla being akin to Malibu. Pacific Beach, with Crystal Pier and Belmont Park, are the southern mirror of Santa Monica and its namesake pier. Then, there are Venice and Ocean Beaches. Both beautiful and just a little weird. Ironically, Ocean Beach was originally named Mussel Beach when it was first established. That’s mussels, a mollusk, and not the beefcakes pumping iron in off the Venice boardwalk.

Festivals and Music of Ocean Beach

If you want to see San Diego’s Grateful Dead cover band, just come to Winston’s every Monday night to check out the Electric Waste Band. Every Wednesday, there is the Farmer’s Market on the main drag off Newport Avenue between Cable and Bacon streets. O.B. also puts on the OB Street Fair & Chili Cook-Off in the summer, Fourth of July Fireworks over the pier, and Oktoberfest in the fall (all of these usually include more chances to see the Electric Waste Band live). April 20th is usually special in OB too, but the Ocean Beach Main Street Association doesn’t promote that. This was the town that played Rocky Horror Picture Show in San Diego every Friday and Saturday at midnight until the 1980s. It’s that kind of place.

See also
Seven Reasons to Visit Dark Harbor, Besides Being Scary AF
Ocean Beach Street Fair is just on of the best festivals in town. - photo credit -> oceanbeach
Come to the Ocean Beach Street Fair for the food, stay for awesome live music - photo credit -> oceanbeach
Drone footage of the OB Street Fair -->photo credit ->oceanbeach
The Ocean Beach Farmer's Market is a great place for fresh California produce: photo credit -> oceanbeach
Fourth of July fireworks off the OB pier : photo credit -> oceanbeach

Beaches of Ocean Beach and Ocean Beach Pier

Ocean Beach starts just south of the San Diego River. Along the river runs the San Diego River bike path. 100 years ago, this was the site of the Wonderland Amusement Park, but now it’s just a local playground.

The river hits the ocean at Dog Beach, where your pups can play in the sand off leash. South of Dog Beach is the Ocean Beach Pier, where you can fish without a license or watch the surfers. There is also a claim that the first surfing in San Diego was done in Ocean Beach in 1916 when a lifeguard borrowed a surfboard from Duke Kahanamoku himself.

Rob Field Skate Park in Ocean Beach - photo credit -> oceanbeach
Dog Beach is on the North end of Ocean Beach - photo credit -> oceanbeach
Ocean Beach Pier is a great place to catch the sunset
Our shot of Ocean Beach Pier pilings at sunset
The OB Pier is a great place to watch surfers too
The OB Pier is a great place to watch surfers too

Photography at Sunset Cliffs

South of the OB Pier is Sunset Cliffs, one of the most photogenic sunset spots in all of San Diego and the perfect way to end the day on a romantic getaway. Between the cliffs, surf and sun, the photo opportunities are only limited by your imagination. In the photos, you’ll see our photo tour of a fabulous sunset on a high wave/ high tide day.

The daytime blue fade to an orangey red sunset, and then the purples return once the sun drops over the horizon. Long story short, red is a short wavelength and purple is a long wavelength of light. The short wavelengths of light get scattered by the clouds and haze at sunset which creates which causes the orange, and red pallet. Once the sun sets over the horizon, only the longer purple wavelengths are able to bend around the curvature of the Earth.

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That day, we followed the Sunset Cliff Trail down the coast until it ended at Point Loma and the Nazarene College. We annotated our journey in the hover text of the photos if you want to follow along. We promise there is more guide coming after the sunset photography.

Our photo tour of Sunset Cliffs begins with blue skies and a chance of birds
I came back with the DSLR but I couldn't make the birds take flight
Our photo shoot took place on the spring high tides with a surf advisory in place which caused the massive spray.
We were not the only photographers out that day. BTW, can you see how tall the cliffs are here and how high that splash really is?
Here is a perspective shot.... Can you see how tall those splashes are now?
Over time, the heavy surf carved these sea caves into Sunset Cliffs
Jenn is contemplating her shots at Sunset Cliffs
We hiked around along Sunset Cliffs to where the trial ended at Point Loma. Here is the view looking towards Point Loma
Near Point Loma is a staircase to a surf break called Garbage. This was as close as we dared get to the water.
We continued hiking back to the Ocean Beach end of Sunset Cliffs
You can see the pinks starting in the sky and the crowds of spectators waiting for sunset.
Golden Hour has arrived at Sunset Cliffs
Some couples just snuggled under a blanket to catch the sunset
Jenn was shooting the sunset. I was shooting Jenn shooting the sunset.
We kept hoping for a big splash to cover the setting sun
Sunset at Sunset Cliffs
The sun escaped and only the purple light can reach us. This is the Purple Hour.
the 30 second exposure turned the rough seas into cotton candy and captured all the purple rays
Night is when there is no more purple sun, only the orange glow of city lights.

Ocean Beach Eats

The foodie scene is alive and well in Ocean Beach. Locals rave about the OB Noodle House (which might just have the most beers on tap in OB). You can’t forget the iconic Hodad’s for burgers and amazing french fries. Get a sticker to show your friends back home, and try if you can to sit in the VW Bus booth. It should come as no surprise that there are good vegan and vegetarian food options at Hugo’s Cocina, Ocean Beach People’s Organic Food Market, or Plant Power Fast Food.

You can grab an ice cream at Lighthouse Ice Cream & Yogurt or a beer and many of the brewpubs in town. You can even catch a show at Winston’s, The Holding Company or Wonderland (there’s that name again).

The VW bus table at Hodads

Closing Out Ocean Beach

What you will not find in Ocean Beach is a swath of chain restaurants and hotels. There is a distinct lack of commercialization in this city and here’s why.  In 1915, Ocean Beach was connected to San Diego by light rail and a bridge to Mission Beach. In 1951, the bridge was demolished, which logistically isolated Ocean Beach from the city. OB remained isolated until1967 when I-8 construction was completed. Ocean Beach “rejoined” San Diego in the Summer of Love but the hippie culture that grew up during its isolated period still remains today. It’s still not the easiest beach to reach or park at, but it has a charm and character that makes it unique and worth visiting.

See also
Taking the Plunge- Our First Solo Dive at Catalina Island

Local's Guide to Ocean Beach California

Guide to San Diego, California

Guide To Ocean Beach California

Co-Founders and Content Creators at | Website
Hi! We are Jenn and Ed Coleman aka Coleman Concierge. In a nutshell, we are a Huntsville-based Gen X couple sharing our stories of amazing adventures through activity-driven transformational and experiential travel.



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Meet Ed & Jenn

Hi! We are Jenn and Ed Coleman, and together we are Coleman Concierge. It is our goal to inspire you to get out, expand your world, and to seek adventure, even in your own backyard.

We deeply believe in the transformational power of travel. Our tagline is amazing adventures for ordinary people because we believe that you don’t have to be super rich, super fit or super anything to have an amazing adventure. Expanding your comfort zone and trying new things will pay huge dividends in both health and happiness.

We advocate for sustainable and ethical travel and truly believe in the power of travel to transform both ourselves as well as the world around us.


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