San Diego For Free – Biking the San Diego Bay

 A weekly column dedicated to sharing the best sights and activities in San Diego at the best price – free!  We have a great city and you don’t need to break the bank to experience it.



Neighborhood & Address: San Diego, National City, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, Coronado; Detailed map here.

Best For: Outdoor enthusiasts, bicyclists, nature lovers, bird watchers

Hours: Free all day, every day.  $4.25 for ferry if you prefer not to bicycle round-trip

The San Diego Bay is one of many iconic natural features of the regional geography.  The bay is about 12 miles long, from San Diego in the north to Imperial Beach in the south.  On the east side of the bay lies National City and Chula Vista and Coronado is about a mile across the bay to the west.

A wonderful feature of the San Diego Bay is the Bayshore Bikeway, a 24-mile bicycle-friendly loop that goes from Broadway Pier on the downtown San Diego Embarcadero around the entirety of the bay to the south-east, before returning north along Silver Strand Boulevard and ending at the Coronado Ferry Landing.

The first portion of the bikeway was built in 1976 and improvements and additions to the bikeway continue today and more are planned for the future.  Currently the bikeway is a mix of shared-use roadways and bicycle-only paths.  The ultimate vision is for the entire bikeway to be bicycle-only.  The next step towards this goal is path construction from Marina Parkway in National City to 32nd Street in San Diego.  This construction is scheduled to begin by January 2013 and be completed by summer 2013.

I recently completed my first ride of the Bayshore Bikeway in its entirety.  Included here are photos from various locations on the ride.  I had a great time and was impressed by the availability of stops along the way for water, resting, or food.  The Chula Vista Marina has a nice children’s playground if you are taking a young one on your ride, as I was.

I made a small detour from the bikeway in Imperial Beach to stop at the West Coast Cafe and get a coffee and something to eat.  I’d been there before and was happy to see them supporting local roastery Cafe Moto so I will probably make this a regular stop on future bay rides.

Returning up Silver Strand Boulevard / Highway 75 was the most challenging portion of the ride.  Because the bikeway is along the water there is essentially zero incline or decline but coming north on Silver Strand meant riding into a slight headwind and it was also just after noon on a warm day.

Overall the trip was very enjoyable and I’ll be heading out for a return trip again soon.  I would estimate about 2 hours for moderate riders with limited stops, 3 hours with more sightseeing or extended stops.  The bikeway is free of charge, and you can also visit the Silver Strand State Beach for free if on bicycle or foot.  If you want to complete your ride via the ferry from Coronado Landing to downtown San Diego, instead of riding back along the bikeway, the cost is $4.25.  The ferryschedulecanbefoundhere. Please note that if you’re an early riser you can take the morning commuter ferry from Coronado for free (last ride is at 8:10).  If you prefer to operate on your own schedule, Water Taxi service is $7 to cross the bay and can be requested via phone at (619) 235-8294.

Biking the bay is a unique San Diego experience and one I highly recommend.  You will almost certainly learn and see something new about the communities surrounding the bay regardless of how familiar you are with the area.  As with so many outdoor activities in San Diego I felt lucky to be part of such a beautiful area of the world.

All photos by John Anderson.


John P. Anderson

John was an accountant in a former life and now devotes his time to child-rearing, reading, writing, and working to ensure that San Diego is truly America's Finest City. Interested in environmental issues, John enjoys connecting with others that want to improve the health of our world and community. You can find John at or on Twitter (@j_p_a_). Comments, suggestions, wisdom, and complaints are enthusiastically welcomed.