Imagine my excitement upon finding out I’d be venturing down to sunny San Diego, California last month. With temperatures in the 90s every day, escaping south—and, more specifically, spending time in the water—was definitely appealing.
Though it’s only about an hour from my house, I haven’t spent much time exploring San Diego. California has some of the best beaches, but I tend to explore closer to home. To be honest, I’d never even heard of Mission Bay before this trip.
But what I discovered was a private coastal paradise filled with plenty of water fun, theme parks and beautiful scenery.
A Stay in Paradise
I arrived at Paradise Point Resort with few expectations. I figured it was a high-end resort, but what I found instead was a classy, laidback community. After checking in at the tropical-themed lobby, I made my way past the suites and guest rooms to one of the corners of the property.
Set on 44 acres of land, Paradise Point has many different areas. In addition to the communities lining the water’s edge, there are others surrounding various swimming pools and picturesque streams throughout. My cottage was situated on the banks of Paradise Cove. One of the Bayside bungalows, it was decorated in deep blues, crisp whites and coastal beiges. Complete with a kitchen, an extended bathroom, a living room and a bedroom, it’s perfect for big groups. You can keep some food on hand in the refrigerator for snacks or order from the on-site Caveman Pizza. There is plenty of space for your whole crew to remain comfortable indoors.
But the main appeal overall is the porch. The front door is mere steps from the sand, making it a quick jaunt over to the water for a swim. With the warm weather, the Pacific was oddly warm as well. And the sunsets here were absolutely unrivaled, creating the perfect setting for your whole group—whether you want to play and swim or just relax in the summer sun.
In addition to the private coastlines and five swimming pools, this San Diego, California resort offered plenty of recreational activities. A full-service marina sits next to the resort’s grill so visitors can bring their boats along. Enjoy surf or sailing lessons on the bay, or rent a speedboat or a jet ski to up the adrenaline. For more laidback on-the-water options, guests can take advantage of kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals as well.
The Mission Bay area is not very big yet it’s home to two different theme parks. One, called Belmont Park, embodies everything that a California summer should. And it just so happens that it’s perfect for groups.
The boardwalk-themed amusement park faces Mission Beach, offering views of the rolling waves from the top of the Giant Dipper roller coaster. Other rides include the Krazy Kars bumper cars, the colorful Tilt-A-Whirl, the Vertical Plunge drop ride and the Liberty Carousel. But the entertainment doesn’t end there, as groups can also play laser tag, try their hand at a tiki-themed mini golf course or climb a rock wall. There is also a laser maze and an escape room at the park.
Another more controversial theme park at Mission Bay is SeaWorld San Diego. After backlash over the treatment of their animals, specifically the orcas, the organization revamped their orca program. Having stopped breeding all together, the orcas are now showcased in Orca Encounter, a more realistic show with less tricks that educates visitors on what the orcas do in the wild and their natural behaviors.
They have other shows featuring dolphins, fin whales, sea lions and otters as well, but the park has been adding thrills as of late too. The most recent is Electric Eel, a multi-launch coaster with loops, twists and turns to simulate the movement of an eel. Water ride Journey to Atlantis is great for hot days while Manta offers a quick thrill above a manta ray viewing pool. Those interested in arctic animals can go for a ride in a wild helicopter simulator called Wild Arctic, where guests travel “over the arctic” during the ride. Afterward, walk-through exhibits feature walruses, polar bears, harbor seals and beluga whales.
Journey to La Jolla
While your whole group could probably enjoy Mission Bay exclusively during your time in San Diego, California, there’s more to see. To get out on the water in a different place, head to La Jolla. Here, along the shore, you’ll find Bike and Kayak Tours. Sign up for their combination kayak and snorkel tour and prepare for an exhilarating experience.
After checking in, toss your stuff in a locker and put on your life vest before gathering your group and walking down to the beach. Chat with one another or watch the other groups preparing to head out while you wait for your instructor. When it’s time, he or she will grab you and head to the sand for orientation. They’ll discuss some brief rules then you can determine whether you’ll ride in a single or a double kayak.
You’ll hop in the boat in the water as staff members push you over the waves then paddle out to meet the rest of your group. Venture about a mile along the coastline, learning about the cliffs, water, plants and marine life as you go. Upon arriving, your group will get out and enjoy the cool water. We were lucky enough to spot tons of orange garibaldi fish, sea lions, a turtle and even a horn shark.
In addition to the snorkeling, we swam into one of the nearby caves to explore. The waves were a little rougher here, swirling the water in and out, so be sure to keep little ones or amateur swimmers away. But if you get the chance, it’s definitely fun to explore.
Paddling is a little tougher on the way back, but luckily, there’s a convenience store next to the shop serving Thrifty ice cream so enjoy a cold treat when your group returns.