Two women chatting whilst stand up paddleboarding in Mission Bay.

©Corey Jenkins/Getty Images

Mission Bay

San Diego

Just east of Mission and Pacific Beaches is this 7-sq-mile playground, with 27 miles of shoreline and 90 acres of parks on islands, coves and peninsulas. Sailing, windsurfing and kayaking dominate northwest Mission Bay, while waterskiers zip around Fiesta Island. Kite flying is popular in Mission Bay Park, beach volleyball is big on Fiesta Island, and there’s delightful cycling and inline skating on the miles of bike paths.

Although hotels, boat yards and other businesses dot about one-quarter of the land, it feels wide open. Fun fact: Spanish explorers called this expanse at the mouth of the San Diego River 'False Bay' – it formed a shallow bay when the river flowed and a marshy swamp when it didn’t. After WWII, a combination of civic vision and coastal engineering turned it into a recreational area.

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