San Diego’s biggest attraction is the harbor itself, known as The Big Bay. You could design a pre- and post-cruise vacation around the Big Bay itself and have a perfectly satisfying experience — with no need to rent a car. If you’re staying a few days or more, you’ll have a good choice of hotels: No fewer than 13 line the Big Bay’s 34 miles of waterfront.
Disembarking cruise passengers can easily explore much of The Big Bay on foot or by using a variety of transportation options. Begin by walking south from the B Street Cruise Terminal toward Seaport Village where you will find four miles of meandering pathways and 14 acres of waterfront shopping and dining. Seaport Village is home to 57 Victorian-style shops and galleries, four award-winning restaurants, and 13 sidewalk eateries, including two — count ‘em, two — Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shops — each within 100 yards of one another! Go figure. Be sure to take a spin on Seaport Village’s historic Loof Carousel (circa 1890).
If you’re not prepared to walk the 10 minutes from the terminal to the entrance of Seaport Village, hire a pedicab and allow your guide to pedal you along the harbor. Be sure to stop along the way to tour the USS Midway Museum, which was the longest- serving carrier in the U.S. Navy’s history until it was retired after serving as the Persian Gulf flagship in Desert Storm.
Heading north from the cruise ship terminal takes you to one of San Diego’s 90 museums, the Maritime Museum of San Diego. This fascinating museum boasts one of the world’s finest collections of historic ships, including the Star of India. Built in 1863, the full-rigged ship hoists its sails at least once each year to be able to retain its title as the world’s oldest active ship.
Directly across from the cruise terminal is Wheel Fun Rentals, where you’ll find a variety of rental bikes, including three-wheel recumbent bicycles and four-wheel surreys (both carry four passengers). Pedaling either of these is a fun way to spend an hour or so along the waterfront.
From the waterfront, you can also go by ferry or boat (about 10 minutes) to Coronado Island. To purchase tickets, make your way to the on the Embarcadero. Take time to browse the shops and restaurants at the marketplace. While you’re there, you can even book yourself on a Harbor and Whale Watching Excursion.
Or hop on the Coronado Ferry and visit the Old Ferry Landing, a picturesque boutique shopping center with an extraordinary view of San Diego. There, you can have lunch at one of several bayside cafes. Coronado Island is best known perhaps for Hotel del Coronado, one of America’s most beautiful beach resorts. The classic historic hotel, opened in 1888, is a National Historic Landmark and has played host to many movies, including the 1958 film, Some Like It Hot, starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe.
The Travel Channel ranks Coronado Island’s beaches as the nation’s #1 beach for families and #2 of America’s Top 10 Beaches. The island’s main thoroughfare, Orange Avenue, was awarded the Great American Main Street Award in 2000. Spend an afternoon or evening strolling this charming street lined with shops and parks.
With all of this and more, nothing beats a day in the Big Bay.