20 Best Water Activities in San Diego, CA in 2024 | LaJolla.com

19 of the Most Fun Water Activities in San Diego for 2024

San Diego is a water wonderland replete with cozy coves, bodacious bays, and Pacific Ocean adventures.  Combine the idyllic year-round weather with sensational sea features, and you’ve got yourself a watery playground guaranteed to shower you with a wealth of fun, frivolity, or refreshing relaxation. Whether you’re a natural-born water baby or just want to twitch your toes in the tide for an afternoon – check out these water activities San Diego has to offer to maximize your marine experience.


When it comes to water activities, San Diego shines like a rock star on the surfing scene. Take the iconic La Jolla Shores. This spot is a fine choice for newbies due to its mild, rolling waves – but surf-seasoned pros and locals crave the sick swells at LJ Shores too. After slicing through the Shores, heft your surfboard over to the Windansea Surf Shack for a breather. The Shack is a historical landmark; a true testimony to the decades-old surfing history and culture in La Jolla.

Other spots to “hang ten” in San Diego include Ocean Beach (OB), which receives sweet surges, making surfing prime for any level of experience.  Or, check out Sunset Cliffs – a great place to surf in the winter due to offshore winds from the east. If you really want to submerge yourself into the surfing culture, don’t miss Encinitas, which was voted the top 3 best surf towns in the US by Surfing Magazine due to its lively boho beach vibes, surfer shops, and surf schools.

Jet Skiing

Looking for a high-adrenaline adventure on the water? Rip and ride the tide by jet skiing in Mission Bay. This is the ultimate destination for anyone craving speed and amped-up excitement on the water. Scoot around hidden coves, blaze your way through open waters, or motor alongside sandy beaches – whatever you fancy – Mission Bay will not disappoint.  

Say you don’t have a water jet ski? No problem. Mission Bay is a virtual concierge for all your ski-freak needs. Whether you need lessons, equipment, or a jetski rental in San Diego, the Mission Bay Sportcenter is the place to get your ski rush on the water. Check out their Yamaha Waverunner jet ski package – it’s a doozy of a deal and promises untold fun on the waves. Oh, we hate to be a downer here, but when you do jet ski – please do so responsibly and be aware of other people and marine life as you go zoomin’ in the Bay.

Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP)

If you’re up for something a little more sophisticated than San Diego water sports like jet skiing, Mission Bay continues to show promise for your ultimate water-centric experience. We’re talking about stand-up paddleboarding or SUP.  Due to its mostly mild, mellow waters, Mission Bay is the quintessential place to perfect your SUP skills. SUP can be a highly reflective yet physically intense activity – encouraging oneness with the mind, body, and water while also acing your balance on the board.  

You can elevate this connectivity by attending a SUP yoga class where you can do invigorating asanas in the sun while staying perfectly poised on your paddleboard.  Check out Mission Bay Sportcenter for SUP rentals. They also give SUP guided tours – including an enchanting nighttime tour where paddleboards are illuminated with LED lights.  What a phenom way to soulfully savor the brilliance of the Bay!   

Open Water Swimming

Splashing into the vastness of the mother ocean by open water swimming can be a vitalizing and exhilarating way to commune with marine life – but it’s not for the faint of heart. First, a few cautionary tips about open-water swimming.  

  • You’ve got to know what you’re doing because the ocean can be a fickle, unpredictable mistress.  
  • Additionally, be prepared to freeze your biscuits off because that water is frigid and stays super-cold most of the year. 
  • Take a buddy, as swimming alone in the leviathan depth and breadth of the ocean isn’t a great idea for obvious reasons.  
  • Also, pay close attention to weather and water conditions before you dive in. 
  • Lastly – abide by the open swimmer’s code, “When in doubt, get out.”  

Now that we’ve covered all the do’s and don’ts – where’s the best place for open water swimming in San Diego? Hands down, La Jolla Cove. This spot offers genial, placid waves that are easier to navigate than other off-shore destinations.  In fact, LJ Cove is so popular for open swimming that the town’s official swim club, The La Jolla Cove Swim Club, puts on an annual tradition known as The La Jolla Cove Swim. Every September, slews of hearty folk come out to swim in the open waters from the LJ Shores to the Cove – and back again.  It’s an epic feat but also invigorating and a fabulous way to connect to the water-loving community in San Diego.  


Kinda like canoeing but upgraded; kayaking is a low-profile way to get up close and personal with marine life and commune with the SD ways of the water. Using a double-sided paddle, you can row yourself along La Jolla Shores, where you should expect the unexpected.  We picked LJ Shores as an impeccable kayaking destination because you can get on board with guided tours (for which La Jolla is somewhat famous).  

One such guided tour takes you from La Jolla Shores, where you can kayak over to La Jolla Cove. This excursion will unveil remarkable views like sea lion sightings, swirling leopard sharks, beautiful bat rays, and so much more.  If you don’t own your own kayak, that’s okay.  Simply check out different kayak rentals or tours, such as La Jolla Kayak – the OG of guided LJ cave tours in the area.

You can also get your paddle fix at San Diego Bay, where you can gawp at the spectacular downtown San Diego skyline or float under the iconic Coronado Bridge.  Mission Bay also has kayak rentals and guided tours where you can launch your ‘yak easily and begin to explore its 27 miles of spectacular shorelines. Because these areas are keenly attuned to water activities in San Diego, you’ll have no problem finding kayak rental services in Mission Bay or San Diego Bay to meet all of your needs.   


La Jolla Shores brings a whole new meaning to the dubious turn of phrase, “Swimming with the fishes.”  Snorkeling here is an uplifting, life-affirming way to have face-to-face encounters with magnificent marine life.  

When you snorkel at La Jolla Shores, you’re guaranteed to see dazzling orange-colored fish known as Garibaldi, California’s state marine fish and an inspiration for La Jolla’s resident Dr. Seuss. Other awe-inspiring snorkel sightings at the Shores include sea turtles, abalone, lobster, leopard sharks (don’t freak out – they’re harmless), underwater sea caves – and Neptune knows what else you’ll encounter!

Another marvy place to snorkel is at the La Jolla Ecological Reserve and Underwater Park. It’s not a theme park, but it’s definitely an aquatic odyssey that is best enjoyed by snorkeling.  The Reserve & Park covers over 6000 acres of ocean floor and tidelands, revealing jaw-dropping sights such as octopus, urchins, bedazzling starfish, and more. This unique area is somewhat protected from the ocean waves, making an afternoon snorkel game of eye-spy marine life a jolly good treat. 

Oh, and don’t let a lack of gear stop you from witnessing stunning underwater beauties and bounty.  There are loads of gear rental shops nearby, like Everyday California, a much-lauded retail spot that will hook you up with snorkels, fins, flippers, accessories, and apparel you need to get your snork on and dive in. 

Speedboat Rentals

Image courtesy of AquataCharters.com

Feed your need for speed while taking in the invigorating sunshine and balmy breezes by speed boating in Mission Bay and San Diego Bay.  Imagine a day of torquing through mind blowing views in the area with friends and family. There’s nothing so electrifying as ripping through virtually endless blue waters sparkling like marine sapphires in Mission Bay.  

If you don’t have a speedboat, no worries. We recommend Aquata Charters for superior speedboat rentals in San Diego. Start making unforgettable memories pronto with the newest, best-maintained high horsepower speedboats that top over 55 MPH.  Check out their “Thrill Package,” which includes access to ultra-fast speed zones through SD or Mission Bay.

Just be safe out there.  Abide by speedboat laws (there are quite a few, and your speedboat rental rep should inform you about them), be respectful of others in the water, and please keep San Diego beautiful by not littering.

Boat Rentals

Image courtesy of BoatRentalSanDiego.com

Picture it: You and your best buds lazily lounging on a super-slick boat, soaking up the SoCal sunshine, sipping sangria, and catching all the smashing views San Diego has to offer.  

Or, imagine catching fresh yellowtail, halibut, or sea bass and drooling over a feast of flavor-packed seafood after a rewarding day of fishing while floating on a boat in San Diego Bay. Is it a dream? Should you pinch yourself? 

All this can be a straight-up reality with the help of Boat Rental San Diego. This one-stop rental spot will equip you with the finest watercraft so you can enjoy all the splendor of the Pacific. They have a plethora of different rental options and enticing rental packages.  

  • Need a party boat for up to 400 guests? Boat Rental San Diego has you covered. 
  • What about a 90 ft ticketed fishing charter? They have that too. 
  • No license needed, no memberships required, and you can rent hourly, half days, or full days. 

This rental service is your solution to sensational sea-faring times in San Diego Bay or Mission Bay.  What are you waiting for?  Anchors aweigh!

Luxury Yacht Charters

When it comes to water activities, San Diego can roll out the red carpet like no other seaside city.  Luxury yacht charters are the ultimate way to celebrate special occasions with personalized experiences.  Celebrate in style with a fully equipped yacht rental in San Diego from Triton Charters. This top-tier rental company takes all the guesswork out of your ocean-faring extravaganzas.  Indulge in lavish accommodations on an open-air, spacious 75-ft deluxe yacht fully equipped with a captain, an attentive crew, and did we mention it has a stocked bar with a bartender? 

Charters at Triton will accommodate anywhere from 40 to 100 passengers, and every detail is deftly managed so you and your guests can have a cruise of a lifetime in San Diego. Each charter can be completely customized. You can point and go wherever you like or soak in SD’s stunning sights around San Diego Bay, Coronado, or Point Loma.  If you want to crush it for your next birthday, wedding, anniversary, reunion – or whatever – a luxury yacht charter with Triton Charters is the only way to go.  

Catamaran Charters

If you’re prone to getting a little woozy on the high seas, this next option might be more your flow.  A catamaran is a big, stable watercraft that has two hefty hulls that minimize the impact of rocky waters, rolling waves, and potential overturns.  The result is a feeling of smooth safety as you enjoy the views of San Diego.  

When you look to Malarky Charters for a catamaran rental, you’re in for a real treat. Their spacious catamarans are state-of-the-art and equipped with every imaginable luxury you might need to make your day out at sea an epic experience.  Their watercraft can accommodate up to 11 people easily, and everyone can enjoy roomy cabins, lavish lounge areas, and bow-to-stern seating so you and your guests can savor the SoCal water scene in style.  

Oh, and if you have more adventurous guests who want to rip the waves with more fervor – Malarky also has exciting ad-ons like jet skis, waterslides, and e-surfboards that can be used right off the catamaran. So, whether you need low-key and stable cruising or heart-racing add-ons, Malarky delivers San Diego water activities to the max.

Party Boats

Looking for a lively, social atmosphere while cruising through the Pacific? Look no further than a party boat rental from Alana Yacht Rental.  Perfect for anniversaries, birthdays, or any group celebration, a party boat rental is precisely what you need to make any splashingly divine event into an unforgettable occasion.  

Alana Yacht Rental has several party boat packages that can accommodate your guest list and budget.  Each party boat rental comes with a captain, a 2-3-person crew, and a bartender.  Their party watercraft has two decks and two modern heads (that’s sea talk for bathrooms) and can accommodate up to 40 of your favorite peeps. Choose from two to eight-hour rentals to get your party on, and leave all the rest in Alana’s capable sea hands while you celebrate to the soundtrack of lapping waves and a backdrop of glorious Mission Bay. 


If the aforementioned water activities in San Diego don’t float your boat (pardon the pun – but you knew we were going to slide one in at some point) – then going space-age might be your scene.  Jetpacking, flyboarding, and hoverboarding are ultra-modern methods to enjoy the SoCal sun and waves in a new-fangled, super-slick way. These remarkable contraptions give you the ultimate adrenaline rush as you jet above the open waters of the Pacific while looking slightly like an alien or freaky water astronaut.

Just so you know – there are a few learning curves involved with jetting, flying, and hovering over SD waters in these James Bond types of devices.  

  • You must be 13 years or older.  
  • You should understand that you’re not going to be an ace at it on your first outing.
  • Maintaining balance requires some coordination.
  • Physical strength is a plus as you go jet-propelling above the water.  

Will you look cool? Absolutely.  Will you have fun? Most definitely.  

Just know these forms of aquatic adventure aren’t for everyone so do your research before you try any of these water activities out.  Check out Aquatic Aviation in San Diego for more information.  

San Diego Bay Jet Boat Ride

High-speed thrills and daring splashes – a San Diego Bay jet boat ride is perfect for anyone seeking an adrenaline-pumping adventure. Imagine Top Gun on the water, and that’s what you get with a jet boat thrill ride in the SD Bay.  

Flagship SD is a great place to start your electrifying water-slashing adventure.  They’ll give you a crash course (not literally – but you know what we mean), and they can also set you up with a hair-raising tour of the Bay that you won’t soon forget.  If speed is your poison, you’ll get a double dose screaming through the Bay on a super-charged jet boat.


Okay, so this is a water-adjacent activity in that you’re not really fully submerged in the deep blue sea while parasailing.  However, you’re going to love the stunning aerial views of San Diego’s coastline and the peaceful yet thrilling sensation of this water activity. 

Parasailing (also known as paraskiing, parakiting, or parascending) is a bliss-packed adventure where you’re being propelled by a motorboat or vehicle while attached to a parachute-like device.  The end result is that you’re launched into the air above the bays, beaches, and Pacific staring into an abyss of the most gobsmacking views you can imagine.  

Not to mention – this must-do experience of being lifted into the ethers and feeling the rushing wind moving you through unparalleled views is simply intoxicating.  Check out Go Parasailing in San Diego.  These experts have been in business since 1989 and know all the ins and outs of parasailing skills.  They’ll also keep you safe while you experience the lofty experience of a lifetime in San Diego.


Just when you thought you’d seen everything, along comes something like hydrobiking.  This is an ultra-fun and environmentally friendly way to explore the waterways and get some exercise while also communing with the water, waves, and marine life in San Diego.  

Check out Cycle On The Water for hydrobike rentals.  They have two different locations in the San Diego area.  Their knowledgeable attendants will walk you through the process of using a hydrobike, and give you all the safety tips you need to keep upright.  

To be sure, hydrobiking is an unconventional way to enjoy and explore Mission & San Diego Bay at your own pace without compromising the environment.  So peddle on and enjoy!

Learn to Sail

Image courtesy of LearntoSailSanDiego.com

Convert your love for the ocean into a passion for sailing!  There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as cruising through the Pacific than feeling the control and power of the wind in your sails.  Say you don’t know the difference between a jib and a jibe?  No problem. San Diego is home to several places where you can learn everything you need to unleash your sails and set out on the open sea in grand fashion.  

For instance, take Learn to Sail San Diego. They offer students a boutique experience with multiple different types of lessons. Learn to Sail San Diego classes are taught by award-winning instructors who are certified by the ASA (American Sailing Association), and each course takes place in the sparkling waters of San Diego Bay.  Once coursework is successfully completed, you’ll get an ASA certificate – a tribute to your efforts in mastering the rewarding art of sailing. 

Whale Watching Tours

Fin whales, minkes, grays, humpbacks, blues, dolphins – holy whale-watching, Batman! You never know what you’re going to encounter when you set out on the high seas while going on a whale-watching tour.  These majestic beasts of the deep are waiting for you to explore and experience their magnificent presence.  Moreover, you can see different marine life depending on the time of day or season you go out.  

There are several different whale-watching tours from which to choose. We like San Diego Whale Watch because you get an experienced naturalist with each tour who has intimate knowledge of the water and a passion for educating tour guests about each creature encounter.  SD Whale Watch also has a variety of different types of tours.  From private tours to sunset excursions, you’re certain to make lifelong memories (and friends of the sea) when you go out to commune with these amazing beasties in their natural habitat.

Scuba Diving

Bewitching kelp forests, exotic eels, and mesmerizing nudibranchs are just a few underwater wonders in store for you when you scuba dive in San Diego.  You’ll feel like an explorer in a new and fascinating world when you dive into hot spots like Point Loma, La Jolla Cove, or Scripps Canyon.  And you won’t want to miss the fascinating relics submerged in Wreck Alley just off the coast of Mission Bay.  Surreal and spectacular – scuba diving is one of the most exhilarating (and educational) water activities in San Diego you can try.

But what if you don’t know a thing about scuba?  No worries there, because SD has plenty of diving schools where you can get trained and earn a certification.  We like Scuba San Diego for its seasoned, experienced divers.  They’ll show you all the ropes so you can dive with confidence. They’ll also give you inside tips on the best diving spots in the area.   

Fishing Excursions

Dreaming of catching a 500-pound bluefin tuna? Do you fantasize about pulling a 5-foot white seabass out of the Pacific?  Make those dreams a reality by going out on a fishing excursion.  Vermillion rockfish, yellowtail, halibut, bass, and sheephead are just a few common fish awaiting you when you cast your line on a perfect day fishing on the water.  

Luckily, San Diego is home to several expert fishing boat companies.  We like Fisherman’s Landing for its excellent reputation.  Their veteran sea hands and exceptional fishermen know all the prime watering holes, and they will coach you about the art of fishing in SD.  Fisherman’s Landing has several different excursions from which to choose – including private charters, half-day outings, full-day trips, and more.

Splash Into Your San Diego Water Adventure Today

From whale watching to jetpacking, sailing to surfing – there is no end to water and beach activities San Diego has to offer.  We hope these 19 ideas on how to squeeze the very best out of the natural aquatic beauty SD presents inspire you to don your flippers, slip into your wetties (wetsuits), and dive into untold fun in sunny San Diego!

About the author: Avia is an avid nature-lover, published author, and owner of several websites she’s developed over the last 20 years.  Her love and knowledge of Southern California blossom from a decades-long tradition of visiting the area with her family during winter vacations. When she’s not writing, Avia can be found kanoodling with her crushingly cute canines.

Media credits: Unless otherwise noted, the conceptual images of the best water activities in San Diego in this article are copyright of LaJolla.com.