Beautiful beaches, amazing hiking trails covered in succulents, and bountiful brunches, San Diego is where I am going to retire. Plus, the fish tacos are the most awesome here. This where you’re going to get the rest and relaxation you need and deserve. Be aware that San Diego is very sprawl so you will need a car to get around, especially to the beaches. Featured image is Sunset Cliffs.
Having been to San Diego countless times for friends and vacation throughout the years, here are my top recs. Special shout out to J. Liu who has lived in San Diego for almost a decade and provided most of these recs! Items are listed in priority order with the neighborhood in parentheses. Anything in italics is on my to-do list.
1a. Balboa Park
(Free): This must-do gigantic urban cultural park is filled with museums, botanical gardens, walking paths, and theatres. It even houses the world-famous San Diego zoo ($50 for adults). Named after a Spanish maritime explorer and built in Spanish revival architectural style, this historic landmark park is filled with endless beauty. Rent bikes and explore!
($50, Escondido): Your 1-Day Pass includes the Africa Tram, the Cheetah Run, and all regularly scheduled shows. I guess if you’re not going to Africa anytime soon, this is the next best given you’re in SD.
($20, Downtown): A maritime museum located in downtown San Diego, California at Navy Pier because it is on the aircraft carrier Midway (CV-41). On the ship-turned-museum, you’ll find many aircrafts.
3a. La Jolla Shores
(Free, La Jolla): A great big beautiful family beach with lots of parking. Soft sand, clean water and gentle waves with a playground and grassy picnic areas at the adjacent Kellogg Park.
3b. La Jolla Cove
(Free, La Jolla): Want to see fish instantly upon landing on the beach? Just swim a little outward into the ocean from this very small beach between sandstone cliffs. Don’t underestimate it because it’s small, it’s one of the most photographed, most beautiful beaches in Southern California and in the summer is ideal for swimmers, snorkelers and scuba divers wanting some clear waters.
(Free, La Jolla): A calm getaway from city life, come here for some easy breezy hikes and long walks on the beach. 2,000 acres of coastal state park located off North Torrey Pines Road.
(Free, Ocean Beach): Go during sunset time for this epic viewpoint. Tide pools are cool too.
5a. Del Mar Beaches
(Free, Del Mar): One of the most beautiful beaches in San Diego, it’s ideal for relaxing, walking, running, and picnicking. You can visit it by going to Powerhouse Park or the adjacent Seagrove Park or the Dog Beach.
5b. Black’s Beach
(Free, La Jolla): It’s very steep to get down to it but this a secluded section of beach beneath the bluffs of Torrey Pines behind UCSD.
(Free, La Jolla): Really good for photographs, this secluded beach is more for surfers wanting fierce waves than families looking for soft sand.
(Free, Poway): You’ll have to wake up early to go or prepared for the heat and crowds. It’s a 6.9 mile round-trip trail that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and mountain biking from Sep until May.
8. Little Italy
(Free, Little Italy): Try to go on Saturdays anytime from 8am to 2pm for Little Italy Mercado, a farmers’ market that is top-notch. Filled with delicious eats and interesting vendors, you’re sure to find something you’ll like. Tons of fresh produce, free samples, and fresh uni for $7!
(Free, Old Town): This old neighborhood is perfect for tourists looking to get some nice photos of old but beautiful architecture, a brief history lesson, and locals doing reenactments. It’s an old timey town with restaurants, stores, trolley rides, and old buildings revised and retrofitted for tourists.
10. Solana Beach
(Free, Solana Beach): Small but beautiful beach for photos and a park for the kids. Nearby is my favorite avenue of all, Cedros Avenue where you see stores, shops, cafes with a flair and eye for design. Tons of interior design stores and small boutique you have to visit to really comprehend the SoCali vibe.
Drop by and visit the Hotel del Coronado, a luxury beachside resort hotel that is a historic 1888 Victorian landmark just a 10min drive from downtown San Diego.
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