Best Liveaboard Marinas in San Diego in 2024

Can you live on a boat in San Diego? What are the best liveaboard Marinas in San Diego?

In this article, we will answer all your burning questions, including how to find a boat to liveaboard. Let’s dive in!

Best Liveaboard Marinas in San Diego

  • Harbor Island West Marina
  • Safe Harbor Cabrillo Isle
  • Kona Kai Marina Shelter Island
  • Pier 32 Marina
  • Point Loma Marina
  • Sun Harbor Marina
  • Intrepid Landing
  • SeaWorld Marina

1. Harbor Island West Marina

Location: Harbor Island West Marina is located at 2040 Harbor Island Drive in San Diego, California. As a place for you to dock your boat, this marina is close to both the excitement of downtown San Diego and the calm of the San Diego Bay.

Amenities and Services:

  • A full-service fuel dock
  • Free pump out
  • A deli for your snack needs
  • Restrooms, showers
  • Laundry facilities
  • Pool, spa, sauna
  • A sailing academy
  • Free parking

About: The marina offers 620 slips for boats ranging from 21 to 100 feet. It’s a community where boaters feel welcomed. Reviews often mention the friendly atmosphere and the convenience of its location.

Website and Contact Information: To learn more or to get in touch, visit Harbor Island West Marina. You can also call them at (619) 291-6440 for any questions or to plan your visit.

2. Safe Harbor Cabrillo Isle

Location: Safe Harbor Cabrillo Isle is located at 1450 Harbor Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92101, right in the heart of San Diego.

Amenities and Services:

  • Wet Slips
  • Transient Slips
  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Laundry
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Gated parking
  • Jacuzzi, Swimming Pool, Tennis Court
  • Premium resort style amenities, Waterside Restaurant

About: You’ll find that the marina has received positive reviews for its personalized services and community vibe. There are options for various-sized vessels, and while rates vary, you can inquire for specific pricing. It’s centrally located, making it easy to reach San Diego’s attractions by boat.

Website and Contact Information: For more details or to make an inquiry, visit Safe Harbor Cabrillo Isle at their official website. You can also reach them at the phone number (619) 297-6222 for any questions or to arrange your stay.

3. Kona Kai Marina Shelter Island

Location: You can find Kona Kai at 1561 Shelter Island Dr., San Diego, CA 92106. It’s really close to the San Diego International Airport, just under 4 miles away.

Amenities and Services:

  • marina services
  • supplies within walking distance.
  • heated pool and spa

About: This marina is great for all sizes of boats, even huge yachts with 520 slips they can accommodate boats from 30′ and up to 250′ Mega Yachts. If you stay here, it’s not just about a spot on the water—there’s a community vibe. People often talk about how nice it is.

Website and Contact Information: Want to get in touch with Shelter Island Marina? Head over to their Kona Kai Marina website for more details. Or if you’d like to have a chat, give them a call; their number is: (619) 224-7547.

4. Pier 32 Marina

Location: Pier 32 Marina is found at 3201 Marina Way, National City, CA 91950 right in San Diego. It’s a place where you can keep your boat with peace of mind and enjoy the beauty of the area.

Amenities and Services:

  • showers
  • laundry services
  • restaurants and lounges

About: At this marina, you’ll find that the rates are fair, and the community is friendly, making it a popular choice. People often leave good reviews, noting the helpful staff and clean facilities. Whether you’re staying for a long time or just stopping by, they aim to make you feel welcome.

Website and Contact Information: You can learn more details about what they offer, see pictures, or get in touch with them by visiting the Pier 32 Marina website. If you need to call, their number is 1-800-729-7547.

5. Point Loma Marina

Location: Point Loma Marina is nestled in Shelter Island’s America’s Cup Harbor. Your destination is: 4980 North Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92106.

Amenities and Services:

  • Accessible fuel dock
  • Clean restrooms and shower facilities
  • Laundry services

About: The slips range from 36’ to 100’, with end ties up to 178’. If you need to live on your boat, there’re live-aboard fees applicable for singles and doubles, but no pets are allowed. This marina is praised for its community feel and is only a three-mile journey to the open ocean with the San Diego Bay also close by.

Website and Contact Information: For more details on slip pricing and to get a feel for Point Loma Marina, visit their official website. You can connect with the team directly at (619) 718-6260 for personal assistance.

6. Sun Harbor Marina

Location: Sun Harbor Marina is located in America’s Cup Harbor at 5000 N Harbor Drive, San Diego, California 92106. It’s in a spot that’s easy for you to access with your boat.

Amenities and Services:

  • Ecological Practices
  • Shops and restaurants are nearby

About: The marina is known for its environmentally friendly management and is recognized as the first LEED certified marina in the world. This means your choice to dock here supports sustainable practices. The community of boaters at Sun Harbor is known for being welcoming, and reviews often highlight the marina’s beauty and cleanliness. While rates are subject to change, you can expect competitive pricing for the area.

Website and Contact Information: For the most current information on rates or to ask about availability, visit their official website. To speak with someone directly, dial 619.222.1167 and they’ll help you with your questions.

7. Intrepid Landing

Location: Located in the heart of San Diego, you will find Intrepid Landing at 2811 Dickens St., Ste 201, San Diego, CA 92106. It’s not just any marina; it’s a spot where you can tie up your boat and feel at home.

Amenities and Services:

  • repair and maintenance services
  • showers
  • laundry facilities
  • picnic area

About: Intrepid Landing has competitive rates for slips, fostering a friendly and welcoming boating community. Reviews highlight the marina’s modern facilities and the professionalism of staff. However, be aware of the rules they have in place — designed to maintain a top-notch experience for all.

Website and Contact Information: To get in touch or learn more, visit the Intrepid Landing website or call them at (619) 269-7300.

8. SeaWorld Marina

Location: SeaWorld Marina is positioned right next to SeaWorld in San Diego. The full address is 1660 South Shores Road, San Diego, CA 92109.

Amenities and Services:

  • secure docks
  • water hook-ups
  • showers
  • pet-friendly

About: SeaWorld Marina offers a welcoming community with varying rates to suit your needs. People often speak well of their experiences here, praising the convenience and safety.

Website and Contact Information: For more information, or if you want to reach out to SeaWorld Marina, you can visit the SeaWorld Marina website. If you want to contact them directly, call at (619) 226-3910.

How Much Does it Cost to Live in a Marina in San Diego?

The cost of living in a marina in San Diego varies depending on the marina and the size of the boat.

Here are some examples:

Kona Kai Marina:

  • Slip rates range from $28 to $66 per foot per month, depending on the length of the boat.
  • Liveaboard fees are an additional $600 per month.
  • End ties and single slips have additional fees ranging from $1 to $5 per foot.

Pier 32 Marina:

  • Slip rental rates range from $23.95 to $37.24 per foot per month, based on the length of the boat.
  • Liveaboard fees are $500 per month for a single person and $575 for a couple, with an additional $150 per month for each extra person aged 10 or older.

These costs generally include water and garbage service, but electricity is often metered and charged separately. Additional amenities and services, such as security, storage, and parking, might also incur extra charges.

Living on a Boat in San Diego

docking at the marina

There are many marinas in the San Diego area that allow a certain percentage of boats to liveaboard. For health reasons, the Port of San Diego and private marinas limit the number of people living on a boat in San Diego.

The term “liveaboard” is defined by the marina. Generally, anything more than three nights per week is considered full-time. Often, a two-week vacation is also granted once a year, on the condition of not living aboard.

If you live on a boat in a marina, you can even save on housing costs while meeting fellow boaters and sailors and having a great time.

Most marinas have a limited number of restrooms and showers. Some marinas have limited parking facilities. Not to mention marina employees remove trash from the docks.

Some marinas are more “liberal” about the exact number of people traveling with you. Others try to limit the number of full-time residents. A rough estimate is 10 to 20% per marina. One hundred berths and 10 to 20 residential cabins.

Marina management is subject to change. There are always rumors that “this or that” marina allows a high percentage of residents. A new person arrives and cleans up.

The boat with a barking dog tied to the deck by a rope. The guy who pays his mooring fee is two weeks late. Suddenly they fall victim to the 20% rule and leave.

It can also be a temporary resident. People who settle in to liveaboard for about six months a year. Other boats go out to sea to Mexico. They can arrange with the marina to stay on board temporarily. After a few months, they head south to explore the area.

Rules of Liveaboard Marinas

Rules vary from marina to marina. For cruisers, the following general rules apply:

  • The boat has to be usually 35 feet or more in length. Don’t be afraid to call the marina if this is the case. There are some beautiful 27-foot sailboats that can cross an ocean. 35 feet is usually the starting point of the marina.
  • Often one car in the marina parking lot. Sometimes two if paying for two people. Parking can be a problem.
  • Dogs can be a problem. As with apartments, some breeds are banned these days. If you are going to leave your dog on board a boat all day, it is better to have a quiet dog. It is also a good idea to get your dog used to a flotation device. And if you have a barking dog, then you better start making friends with your marina neighbors ASAP and give them a nice boating gift or a bottle of wine to avoid any complaints.
  • Cats using the neighbor’s boat as a litter box are also problematic.
  • All boats must provide insurance to the marina, which lists the marina as secondary. In the event of damage to a neighbor or the marina.
  • Most marinas have a meter or flat rate for utilities. This is especially true for residents.
  • Most marinas expect the boat to be usable. They are not looking for a floating boat park. Keep rusty bikes and flower pots off the deck. Even if you rarely take the boat out, keep it in good repair.
  • Don’t even think about subletting your boat or using it for Airbnb. If you are serious about living aboard, you will be caught and asked to leave.
  • Be prepared to respond to any credit issues. As with any rental, a credit check will be performed.

This is a basic guide, but most marinas have similar rules. If the marina allows a 20-pound dog and your dog weighs 30 pounds, they may give you a permit. If your 5-pound poodle doesn’t stop crying, it may be a bigger problem.

Today, most marina gates have electronic keys. A simple computer program tells you that you arrive at 6 pm and leave at 8. The parking garage is equipped with cameras that check license plates every night.

The security guard makes a list of the people who are on your ship. Trying to get around the rules is almost impossible these days.

Mooring in San Diego and Living Aboard the Boat

Is it easy to get a mooring? The simple answer is that it can take years. Can you live aboard with an anchor ball? You can for a limited time.Let’s leave it at that.

There are no electronic keys or assigned parking spaces. That may change in the future, but if you don’t cause trouble, you’re on your own.

Again, if a poor dog is barking on the patio for days on end, he will (and should) be extra alert. It’s bad enough to leave a dog on a boat in a marina. Standing in the middle of the bay for weeks at a time is just cruel.

If your boat hasn’t been off the mooring in years, it’s often overlooked. If you think it’s a good idea to flush in the bay or have other silly ideas, you will stand out and get asked some questions.

Some boats come alongside and empty the holding tank. Emptying in the bay is a serious offense. For example, when you visit Catalina Harbor, they often put a marker on your holding tank. If they see the dye, you will face a hefty fine.

Others pay for a night at the transit wharf to empty holding tanks and fill water tanks. Perhaps to load heavy items like propane tanks.

The simple answer is that if you are discreet and clean, no one really cares how much you use (or spend) on your boat at the mooring. If you are entitled and like to call once a week to complain about things, you may be asked how often you are on board.

Mooring vs Liveaboard Marina in San Diego

boats at san diego marina

If you are single and go to the boat every day, a marina is certainly convenient. You might expect to pay around $900 for legal liveaboard status. You will have a hot shower and swimming pool just a few feet from where you park.

You can transfer from your car to a dockside cart and load the boat with ease. You can take the hose off the dock and fill the water tanks or wash the boat. You also have a power cord for the microwave and TV.

Probably the nicest thing about a marina is that there is a small electric heater. Pay a little more for a heater with a timer or thermostat. Even on low, the boat will warm up quickly with these heaters.

Energy consumption is something to consider. Solar panels and power generators are highly recommended to save you money in the long run.

Many people who do mooring use propane heaters. You have to be careful about ventilation, but they are a popular choice.

The same goes for water used for basic cleaning and brushing teeth. A shower is usually done at a local gym. You could try to schedule a daily workout at the local gym on the way home and take a shower after.

Sometimes you don’t have access to a gym, then you could still keep fit by using portable fitness equipment on the boat.

Your extra workout will consist of rowing to the boat every day. You may be lucky enough to be near the boat dock. They may be far away.

Some people risk leaving an old outboard locked in the boat somehow. If not, close the oars and move. Hopefully, you didn’t walk a few miles to get from your hidden parking spot to the boat.

So you have to do the math. Both financially and in terms of the time you have. If you are living with roommates or at home, a recliner can be a good solution.

Pay $200 a month and have your own place for a few weeks a month. If you have more time than money, this could also be a good way to own a boat for little money.

If you work overtime every day and then take a class at night, this might not be a good idea. Row to your boat at 10 pm every night and back at 6 am. Then get your car a mile away and drive to the gym to shower, that can get boring fast.

Where you receive your mail also matters. Most marinas, including the one where I live today, have limited mail slots. Even if you are a legal resident, you will likely wait years to receive mail.

Of course, if you have a berth, you’ll need a mailbox for your mail. So if you don’t have family nearby, budget for the cost of mail delivery.

Contrary to popular belief, it is cold in San Diego. Not for long, but there are 2 or 3 months in the winter when it can be freezing on deck. Your ship may be nice and warm, but jumping on the boat for a 15-minute ride ashore is a young person’s game. Especially if you have to walk 20 minutes afterward to find your car.

In my opinion, mooring is a great, cost-effective solution if you have some flexibility. You go to the boat two or three nights a week. You get up at 10 and paddle back before it gets dark. If you’re busy, there may be an easier way to save $400 a month.

If you only go to the boat three nights a week, you don’t even have to pay the charter rate. If the marina allows three nights, you’re on the safe side. Be aware of the vacation hours that apply at most marinas.

You may find a marina that charges $400 or $450. Compare that to the $200 for the mooring. It will be the best $200 you will ever pay. Convenient when it comes to convenience.

Now $900 or $200 is a big difference. Most of the berth holders are normal people. There are some who have been at sea too long.

Don’t talk to these guys. Find a normal-looking person to row ashore. Be aware that you may be looking at a 30-minute walk to find his car or the gym shower. Still, most people will make the effort to answer some basic questions.

Can I LiveAboard a Boat in Mission Bay

Mission Bay in San Diego is a state park. The simple answer is that there are no full-time boats in Mission Bay.

However, I did live aboard as a harbormaster in Mission Bay for three years. An arrangement had been made with the marina to have a pair of eyes on the dock at night.

These types of arrangements are rare, but it’s a good idea to have someone keeping an eye on things. I’ve secured boats whose lines were broken and turned off broken water lines. Most of the time I called people and asked them to come aboard and turn off the lights they had left on.

Not only did they say yes, but I usually found a six-pack of beer waiting for me the next time they came down. No one wants to fix a burned-out light bulb at the top of a sail mast. It also saved them a trip back to the marina.

If you want to stay aboard three nights a week, Mission Bay is a good solution. Personally, I like sailing in San Diego Bay, but Mission Bay is a direct access to the ocean.

Also, most of the moorings in Mission Bay are less expensive than in San Diego Bay. If you’re buying a sailboat, remember that Dana Inn, Mission Bay Yacht Club and Sea World marinas have low bridges to contend with.

Marina Village is the first stop to explore Mission Bay. The single berths are easier to handle than the 2 boats per berth that Seaforth has.

There are some City of San Diego-managed moorings in Mission Bay near the yacht club. There is a fairly long waiting list and they keep track of who is on board the boat. There is a 72-hour time limit in Mission Bay.

This includes the anchorage at the entrance to Quivira Basin. The lifeboat patrols the area and notes the hull numbers of the vessels that are there. And also who is on board the mooring in the city.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do people live on boats in San Diego?

Yes, some people do live on boats in San Diego. The city’s mild climate, numerous marinas, and large bay make it a popular place for liveaboards. Not all San Diego marinas accept liveaboards and thoose who do typically require a minimum boat size such as 35 feet.

What are the main costs of a sailboat in San Diego? 

The main cost is the mooring fees. A 35-foot sailboat costs about $900 a month for one person to live aboard. Insurance is $200 a year. A diver who cleans the bottom costs $50 a month.

Transporting the boat to paint the bottom can cost around $2,000 and this needs to be done every 2 to 3 years.

Should I live aboard a powerboat or a sailboat? 

This is a personal decision. I have always been a fan of sailboats. To me, powerboats are more expensive to maintain. Sailboats are also probably more fun because you can sail for free. It can cost $500 in fuel to go to Catalina on a powerboat.


There you have it: the top liveaboard marinas in San Diego, California. San Diego is known for its beautiful coastline and excellent weather, making it a perfect spot for living on a boat.

Living aboard a marina in San Diego can give you the best of both worlds: the comfort of a home on the water and access to the vibrant city life. With several marinas to choose from, you can find the one that fits your lifestyle and needs.

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