One of the most popular places for locals and tourists alike is the San Diego harbor. You can take a harbor cruise during the day, have a breakfast or lunch cruise, rent a sailboat, go whale watching, or even just take the ferry from downtown San Diego to Coronado Island.
The San Diego Harbor Excursion dinner or breakfast cruise is a nice way to enjoy a meal right on the water. The captain gives a great tour and you can learn some fascinating things about San Diego.
I've done several of these cruises with out of town guests. If you are planning to try it out during the Christmas and New Year's holidays, schedule it in advance, as they fill up quickly.
A less expensive version is the ferry, which you can take to Coronado Island. The ferry dock is right in front of a little boutique shopping district on Coronado Island. You can do some shopping and also eat at one of the many restaurants there.
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View San Diego Harbor from a Ferry
The ferry from San Diego to Coronado is less than $10 for a round-trip ticket. The ferry landing on the San Diego side is downtown near Sea Port Village. So you can walk around the Village and then take a ferry ride across the water.
This is the least expensive way to enjoy fabulous views of downtown San Diego from the water. Not only will you see our skyline, but also a look at the Coronado Bridge and see the Navy shipyards.
If you're lucky, the ferry will have to stop for a pickup at the Navy base. Although you aren't allowed to take any photographs (for security reasons)—they will take your camera if you have it out—it's a thrill to see the Navy ships and property up close.
At Coronado, the ferry landing is surrounded by shops, restaurants and a beautiful park.
I recommend doing both a nighttime, and a daytime crossing if you have the time. In the evening, the city lights make for a romantic sight over the water.