A harbor cruise tour takes you away from the hustle and bustle, and shows how closely the city is tied to its maritime heritage. It's a great way to rest your feet and get some great city views with ships docked beneath San Diego's modern skyline, or watch sea lions lounging on a buoy.
See It Now: Photo Tour
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. One-hour tours either go out toward Point Loma or travels past the Coronado Bridge, the Navy Seals Training Base and ships of the Pacific Fleet. It's hard to say which is more interesting, and with the price of a two-hour tour only a bit more than a one-hour one, and we recommend the longer 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, while 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. Wednesday afternoons are especially good for a San Diego harbor cruise, with lots of local sailboats out for the weekly "beer can" races. The local yacht club's "opening day" also brings out the boats for a big race.
Take warm clothing along on your harbor cruise. It's always colder on the water, 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 against the strong breezes.
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 until a few minutes before the boats leave at the dock, but group tours can sometimes fill them up, so if you'd rather do it ahead of time, Viator.com offers one hour and two hour harbor cruise ticket options.
The Go San Diego Card offers a lot of attractions including a harbor cruise. 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.
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. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.