The problem of dynamically mapping high-frequency (HF) radar radial velocity observations is investigated using a three-dimensional hydrodynamic model of the San Diego coastal region and an adjoint-based assimilation method. The HF radar provides near-real-time radial velocities from three sites covering the region offshore of San Diego Bay. The hydrodynamical model is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology general circulation model (MITgcm) with 1 km horizontal resolution and 40 vertical layers. The domain is centered on Point Loma, extending 117 km offshore and 120 km alongshore. The reference run (before adjustment) is initialized from a single profile of T and S and is forced with wind data from a single shore station and with zero heat and fresh water fluxes. The adjoint of the model is used to adjust initial temperature, salinity, and velocity, hourly temperature, salinity and horizontal velocities at the open boundaries, and hourly surface fluxes of momentum, heat and freshwater so that the model reproduces hourly HF radar radial velocity observations. Results from a small number of experiments suggest that the adjoint method can be successfully used over 10-day windows at coastal model resolution. It produces a dynamically consistent model run that fits HF radar data with errors near the specified uncertainties. In a test of the forecasting capability of the San Diego model after adjustment, the forecast skill was shown to exceed persistence for up to 20 h.