Just north of the pier, near the end of Newport Ave, is the beach scene’s epicenter, with volleyball courts and sunset barbecues. Further north on Dog Beach pups chase birds around the marshy area where the San Diego River meets the sea. Head a few blocks south of the pier to Sunset Cliffs Park, where surfing and sunsets are the main attractions.
There are good surf breaks at the cliffs and, to the south, off Point Loma. Under the pier, skilful surfers slalom the pilings, but the rips and currents can be hazardous unless you know what you’re doing.