Spending two days in Pacific Beach, San Diego

Looking for a low-key beach getaway? Don’t laugh when I tell you we tried Pacific Beach. I know, I know, I’ve heard that this San Diego neighborhood is a college party town, too, but I’m fine with being high-energy adjacent. It makes for great people watching. And if – like me – you’re also  interested in an eclectic vibe, good food and gorgeous beaches, this place also has those in abundance.

A view from the deck at Tower23 Photo credit: Tower23 Hotel

Recently, my partner and I were desperate for a few days with no plans and no reservations. We wanted to pack light and to park the car and forget about it. A friend suggested Tower23 Hotel in Pacific Beach. Sandwiched between La Jolla and Mission Beach, Pacific Beach – P.B. to the locals – is a straight shot down the 5 Freeway. Just take Exit 23, hook a right on Garnet Avenue and drive until you reach the water.

Steps from the end of Garnet Avenue and the historic Crystal Pier, Tower23 touts itself as “San Diego’s only luxury, lifestyle hotel on the beach.” This felt like a lofty claim in such a laid back place, but I was more than willing to let them prove it to me. I consider myself down to earth, but I am also a sucker for a good boutique hotel. 

It ended up being exactly what we needed.

Ocean View room photo credit: Tower23 Hotel

We went during the week, checking in on a Wednesday afternoon and immediately opening our balcony doors to admire the ocean below. We listened to the waves while we slathered on sunscreen. “Beach or boardwalk?” I asked. “Both,” my partner said. We took a short walk down to the water to stake out our spot in the sand for the next day before borrowing a couple of beach cruisers from the hotel.

We cruised the three mile boardwalk connecting Pacific and Mission Beaches, rolling past bars, restaurants and souvenir shops and trying not to hit any pedestrians. This is definitely a touristy spot, but in the best, “it’s summer break and we’re headed to the shore” kind of way. I see burgers in baskets in our future and I am only slightly sad about it.

Strolling the local farmer’s market. Photo credit: Amanda Fletcher

This makes our sunset dinner at JRDN, the high-end seafood restaurant taking up most of Tower23’s main floor even more of a revelation. There’s a sleek raw bar along the back, a wall of windows facing the ocean, and a wrap-around bar separating the indoor and outdoor seating. This is not your typical tourist fare. Executive Chef Stephen Gage graduated from the San Diego Culinary Institute and it shows. While we’re waiting for our cocktails, I watch the man sitting behind us ecstatically sopping up sauce with a slice of grilled bread. “I’ll have what he’s having” turns out to be the best bowl of steamed mussels I’ve had since who knows when. Chunks of chorizo swim in the broth, a creamy combination of chardonnay, garlic and tomato-fennel that I pledge to pour on everything else I ever eat. We watch locals getting in a run before it gets too dark, then we order three deserts, pretend we’re just going to take a bite, eat them all and go to bed early. We make plans to ride bikes along Garnet Avenue tomorrow so we can check out all of those bars, restaurants, coffee spots, surf shops and fitness studios we passed on the way down here. My partner says, “We have to hit that ice cream stand.” 

Maybe we’ll go to the farmer’s market or take a surf lesson. The soft breaks at Tourmaline Surf Park are great for beginners. 

Obviously, there’s a lot going on in Pacific Beach.

And I am proud to say: we did hardly any of it.

A view of the beach boardwalk in front of the hotel in Pacific Beach photo credit: Tower23 Hotel

We stuck close to the hotel, taking early morning runs and ordering room service – I can’t stop thinking about those to-die-for pancakes (seriously) – before plopping down in the sand for the day, stumbling back to JRDN for dinner. We ate sushi and ahi nachos there. We devoured multiple scoops of Handel’s Homemade ice cream strolling through the farmer’s market. We did not take a fitness class. We did not surf.

Still, we were sandy and sunburned, totally satiated and completely satisfied. 

For more info on how to book your next trip, check out https://www.t23hotel.com/.