A harbor cruise tour is one of the best things you can do in San Diego. You can get away from the hustle and bustle of all those tourist spots you've been going to. You can rest your feet and get some great views of ships docked beneath San Diego's modern skyline, or you may get to watch sea lions lounging on a buoy.
Another reason to take a harbor cruise is so you can see how closely the city is tied to its maritime heritage.
How to Take a San Diego Harbor Cruise
One- and two-hour San Diego harbor cruises leave from the waterfront near the cruise ship terminal on Harbor Blvd. If you take a one-hour tour, you have to choose whether to go out toward Point Loma or travel past the Coronado Bridge, the Navy Seals Training Base and ships of the Pacific Fleet.
It's hard to say which of those options is more interesting. A two-hour tour costs only a bit more than a one-hour one, so I recommend the two-hour tour if you have time.
You'll find two companies offering San Diego harbor cruises. A family-owned company that also operates the Coronado Ferry and water taxi, Flagship Cruises partners with the Birch Aquarium to offer whale-watching tours, and provides a dedicated narrator on every trip. They also offer the Patriot Jet Boat, that takes you on a high-speed, 30-minute ride in an open air speed boat. Hornblower boats offer more comfortable seating and more room to sit inside out of the wind.
If you're in San Diego on Sunday, opt for a brunch cruise. You can see the sights and get a meal all at the same times.
Wednesday afternoons are also particularly good for a San Diego harbor cruise, when lots of local sailboats may be out for the weekly "beer can" races. The local yacht club's "opening day" also brings out the boats for a big race.
Take layered clothing along on your harbor cruise. It's always colder on the water than on land, and even when the weather is warm, fog comes in quickly, and the temperature drops with it. Don't forget sunscreen and water, and something to tether your hat so the strong breezes don't rip it off your head.
To avoid traffic and parking hassles, take the San Diego Trolley to Santa Fe Depot and walk to the bay cruise dock.
Harbor Cruise Tickets
You can usually buy tickets at the dock until a few minutes before the boats leave, but that approach might leave you disappointed. Big group tours can sometimes fill up an entire boat.
The Go San Diego Card may also save you money on your harbor cruise. It offers a lot of attractions — including a harbor cruise — for one discounted price. Use this handy guide to find out all you need to know about it.
One of the cheapest ways to get a harbor cruise is through Goldstar. Find out what Goldstar is and how to use it.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary tickets for the purpose of reviewing Flagship Cruises and Hornblower harbor cruise.