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Photograph: Courtesy Rustic Root

The best rooftop bars in San Diego

Experience the best of this coastal city with a strong cocktail and a view of the Pacific at the best rooftop bars in San Diego

Written by
Kai Oliver-Kurtin

With nearly perfect weather year-round (72 degrees and sunny is a frequent forecast), San Diego is best experienced outdoors – preferably near the water, on a rooftop, with libations. Thankfully there’s no shortage of rooftop bars spread throughout the city, ranging from casual vibes to party scenes. We’ve got you covered if you’re looking for live music, dog-friendly haunts or fire pits; in the mood for craft cocktails, micro brews or wine; or prefer poolside locales, romantic ambiances or happy hour specials. 

Read on to see our list of the best rooftop bars in San Diego, spanning from Oceanside to the Gaslamp Quarter. Several of the bars are located within local hotels, but each are open to the public. If you need other recommendations while in America’s Finest City, be sure to check out our lists of the best restaurantsbest beaches, best bars, best breweries, and best things to do in San Diego. Consider your research done.

Best rooftop bars in San Diego

You won’t notice it from street level but once you take the elevator up to the 14th floor above Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Gaslamp/Convention Center, The Nolen offers sweeping views of downtown, Coronado and Point Loma. The Nolen makes house-batched, barrel-aged cocktails that are aged in oak for a minimum of two months. They also have cocktails on draft, beer cocktails (aka “hoptails,”) and bar bites. While Sunday brunch is a popular time to visit The Nolen, happy hour delivers deals on select cocktails and bites for only $7. Happy hour runs Monday to Wednesday from 5-7 p.m. and Sunday from 3-7 p.m.—perfect timing for a sunset toast!

Overlooking the University Heights neighborhood sign, Kairoa Brewing Company is a New Zealand-inspired brewery and restaurant serving its own beer, plus wine cocktails, hard kombucha, seltzer and cider. The food menu is a homage to the founders’ home country of New Zealand, with dishes like sausage rolls, lamb lollipops, and fish & chips, but there’s also plenty of vegan and gluten-free options. The 10,500-square foot space is designed like a modern farmhouse, with plenty of space for private events, a play area for kids, and fire pits for nighttime. A seat anywhere on the open-air rooftop patio is a great place for a pint.


Located on the 40th floor of Manchester Grand Hyatt—the tallest waterfront hotel on the west coast—Top of the Hyatt has dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows framing panoramic views of the San Diego Bay. It’s a great place to raise a glass and nibble on light bites during sunset (especially when it’s too cold to be outdoors) and transfix your gaze out over the water. Their happy hour is later than most, from 7-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, when they offer $2 off wine, beer, specialty cocktails and select appetizers.

If it’s baseball season and you want to be part of the fun without battling crowds (or just need somewhere to pre-game), Fairweather is your best bet. Overlooking Petco Park, Fairweather serves tiki cocktails, mai tais, pisco sours and other concoctions from warm weather locales that match its vibrant decor. You can order food from their downstairs neighbor Rare Form, which is known for its tacos and burritos.


Taking over the 7,500-square foot rooftop at Solamar San Diego hotel, Upper East Bar is a casual poolside spot with outdoor games, fire pits and private cabanas. The urban oasis hosts happy hour Monday through Friday from 5-7pm when they serve $5 canned beers, $6 draft beer and house wines, and $8 well cocktails. You can even bring your dog to this chill spot for special discounts and specials at “yappy hour.” They have a limited food menu with shareable small plates like loaded tater tots, chicken wings, and cheese & charcuterie plates. If you’re there with your squad, they have buckets of beer, pitchers of well cocktails (serve four people), and bottles of wine and bubbles.

Perched high on the 12th floor of Manchester Financial Centre in Bankers Hill, Mister A’s has been a classic San Diego institution since 1965. An upscale American restaurant, Mister A’s is perhaps one of the most popular places in San Diego for wedding proposals thanks to its jaw-dropping 360-degree view of the San Diego skyline. Its romantic vibe extends out to the patio, where you can watch airplanes land at San Diego International Airport and enjoy happy hour deals from 4:30 to 5:30pm nightly. It can get windy up there, so plan to go early and enjoy the last bits of sunshine over San Diego Bay.


Oceanside Beach’s first rooftop bar is located on the sixth floor of Mission Pacific Hotel, offering incredible views of the Oceanside Pier and historic “Top Gun House” (now a pie shop). There’s lounge-style seating, a picturesque pool deck, specialty cocktails and small plates. DJs are often holding court here to keep an upbeat vibe going for Sunday Funday, date night, or just a lively pool day. Mission Pacific is arguably the best place in Oceanside to catch the sunset.

This three-story bar, live music venue, and Asian-inspired restaurant in Ocean Beach has expansive views of the beach and neighborhood below. Nosh on salt & pepper chicken wings, kimchi fried rice and stir-fry noodles, or specialty cocktails like Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey drinks, mules or shareable 90-ounce cocktail towers. As the sister restaurant to beloved OB Noodle House, the food here is definitely not an afterthought. Brunch service is especially popular at The Holding Company when groups gather on the rooftop for ube pancakes, loco moco and boozy drinks while taking in ocean views.


One of Little Italy’s best nightlife hot spots, Kettner Exchange has a rooftop lounge and patio with views extending down to San Diego Bay. Since the restaurant was named for William Kettner, a congressman in the early 1900s who’s credited with bringing the military to San Diego, you’ll see nautical-themed decor like an early 20th century map of San Diego Bay. Kettner Exchange has daily live music and progressive American food served as small plates, including spicy tuna crispy rice, soft shell crab bao bun, and roasted Chinese eggplant. Their creative craft cocktails are worth fighting for a spot at the bar to order, but keep in mind that the vibe here drastically changes between dinner service and the nighttime bar scene.

Hidden within the Intercontinental San Diego Hotel, Garibaldi is a rooftop gem with views of the embarcadero, USS Midway Museum and Broadway Pier. This is a great place for summertime treats in the form of Southern Italian food and Italian-inspired cocktails. Pastas, flatbreads and a Sicilian-style swordfish dish are paired with Aperol spritzes, Negroni and Chianti during dinner and brunch service. While you’re here, stop by Layover on the fourth floor rooftop deck next to the pool where you’ll find plenty of firepits, Adirondack chairs, slushy cocktails, paleta cocktails and light bites. This casual outdoor lounge has views of both San Diego International Airport and Naval Air Station North Island.


Rustic Root is a multi-level restaurant with an open-air rooftop patio that has its own dedicated bar, surrounded by life-size animal topiary bushes and street-style lights as a nod to its location within the historic Gaslamp Quarter. As its name implies, the restaurant serves rustic American cuisine such as hearty meat dishes, seafood and pasta, including their best-selling lobster pappardelle. Many patrons linger on the rooftop sipping cocktails, wine and beer while enjoying the lively people-watching on the bustling street below.

For craft beer with a water view, head to OB Brewery located in a prime spot along Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach (credited with being the first microbrewery in this area). They have games like foosball and shuffleboard, plus fire pits for nighttime and daily happy hour specials. The casual, dog-friendly bar has rotating taps of beer brewed onsite, plus burgers, sandwiches, salads and appetizers. This three-story tasting room was designed to be the highest point in Ocean Beach, with views of the OB pier and beyond.


Situated on the top floor of La Plaza center in La Jolla Cove, Catania serves up coastal Italian cuisine with views of the village below. The restaurant is a personal tribute—it was inspired by the owner’s 1,400-mile road trip through Italy. Catania’s patio dining and outdoor bar space occupy more than half of the restaurant’s seating to best capitalize on its top floor vantage point. Catania has a minimalist design to not detract from the ocean views, which are best paired with their wood-fired pizzas, handmade pastas, craft cocktails and all-Italian wine list. Salute!

San Diego’s largest oceanfront rooftop is at Cannonball, located within Belmont Park in Mission Beach. The Pacific Rim-inspired restaurant has sushi rolls, sashimi and nigiri, plus salads and larger entrees. On the drink menu you’ll find Japanese whiskeys, sake and other cocktails. Designed to feel like you’re at a swim-up bar with its aquatic-themed decor, the 9,400-square foot space is suspended above the busy Mission Beach boardwalk. Every Thursday, Cannonball has live acoustic music on the rooftop during sunset featuring local artists.

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