The parking lot that is Marine Ave on any given day can make the Island seem even smaller than what it is. No place to park, long lines to get onto the ferry and a most of all nowhere to sit at Picante Martins Mexican Café. The traffic is to put it lightly, atrocious.

So what is a local to do, or even a visitor who wants to know how to better navigate around the island during these busy summer months?

Here are some secret tips that will make you the envy of all your friends that have to park at Pavilions and walk over (by the way, don’t do this they tow).

  • Between the hours of 1pm and 5pm are the busiest times on the island so make sure you get here before or after to get the best parking.
  • Instead of heading down Marine Ave. (the main drag with all the shops), make a right down the first alley after crossing the bridge. That’s what the locals do. Find street parking in front of one of the house. Just be careful of street sweeping signs.
  • Collins Ave. (a little trek, but a walk on the bayfront will make it seem shorter) is one of only streets that is a two-way street. Which means that there is usually always parking on this street on either side.
  • Do not park in an alley, as they will ticket your car. Instead, if you don’t happen to make the first right and turn down the alley, go all the way down Marine Ave. to Park Ave (that’s the second street after Balboa Ave.) Most people turn down Balboa Ave. to find residential parking. Park Ave and the streets perpendicular – you’ll have a better shot at hitting the jackpot and finding a spot.
  • Bring a small car. Yes, you probably don’t have a Smart™ car, but leave the big Soccer Mom Mobile at home and you’ll find more success with a compact car. This is because, not only are the parking spots shorter, but the streets are also narrow, so it’s hard to maneuver. Especially since most streets are one way and it’s kind of backwards to parallel park the opposite side of the street you are used to.
  • Start from the end and go to the beginning. Instead of trying to fight Balboa Island from Jamboree to Marine Ave. Enjoy the Peninsula first. There are plenty of street parking and parking meters/lots for you to park over on Balboa Peninsula. Walk to the ferry and hop on by foot to Balboa Island. No need to look for parking and you can rest assured that the ferry won’t leave you stranded as they run minimum two ferries until midnight.

Let us know if you have any tips in the comments about how to beat Balboa Island traffic and find that coveted parking spot.