It is no coincidence that San Diego is called “America’s finest city”. I have been there several times and it never fails to impress me. Just 2 hours south of LA, with unique landscapes and miles of coastal lanes San Diego has something for everyone.
San Diego is located near the Laguna mountains, meaning you can find a lot of trails for hiking, all of them exposing breathtaking views. Most of the trails are not very steep nor very hard, so you do not need any special equipment. The only thing you cannot go without is water, since the heat is very unforgiving especially during summer mid-days. One of the best and most famous ones is the Torrey Pines hike, which is also a state natural reserve. Another one, which I strongly recommend, starts at the Cabrillo National Monument (the picture above was taken there). The monument is one of San Diego must-sees, because it provides a stunning view of the bay, the Coronado island and you can even catch a glimpse of Downtown San Diego. On the other side of the hill you can just admire the ocean and the sensation of tranquillity it creates. Alongside the western coast of the area you can find tide pools, but we’ll get to them later. You can reach the monument by car, so I personally wouldn’t choose this path for hiking – my idea of hiking doesn’t really involve highways – but there’s a two-mile hiking trail that goes down the eastern slope of the hill. From there you can get the same view as above while enjoying Cali’s nature.
Tip: Another great way to enjoy the beautiful view of San Diego Bay is on a boat – soaking in the warm sunlight with the ocean breeze in your hair while sailing by the skyscrapers is Downtown SD. If you’re interested in charter service for the Bay (and not only in San Diego area), here are the best captains in town.
Tide pools in San Diego can be found, as I mentioned, at the Cabrillo Monument and at several places in La Jolla. These are one of the best things to see in San Diego, because every tide pool has its own ecosystem. Make sure you visit during low tide – always check in advance the tide charts! Tide pools and its inhabitants have been something of interest to marine biologists for years, so you will enjoy creatures in different shapes and colours. What’s more, this is a perfect option if you are with kids – they will just love ‘exploring’ around!
After all, what would be California without its beaches? In San Diego you can find plenty of them. Most of them are paradise for surf lovers, but even if you are not into surfing – like me, I’ve never tried and I don’t think I have the guts for it – that’s just fine. To be honest, coming from a country by the small and warm Black Sea, swimming in the freezingly cold waters of the Pacific isn’t something I could do for a long time. I prefer laying in the Cali sun, listening to the sound of the waves, but of course it is up to you. Again, if you are with kids there’s another option. Not all beaches are that open to the ocean, consequently the water is a bit warmer and calmer – there are no big waves (or no waves at all). Most of them are in the Mission Bay area, where you can also find parks for picnics or just for a walk (see below).
Everyone loves theme parks, no matter how old they are and here’s another reason why San Diego is a must-visit destination. Marine lovers, Sea World San Diego awaits you. Dolphins, killer whales (which seem so cute contrary to their name), sharks, sea lions – you name it! There are special shows with trained sea creatures that will surely amuse you and blow your mind. Oh, and did I mention the roller coasters? Journey to Atlantis and Manta are both worth waiting in line!
Another of San Diego’s most beautiful places is the Balboa Park – one of my absolute favourites – with a number of museums and the famous San Diego Zoo – one of the biggest zoos in the world. Divided by themes, you can drool over koalas or let your heart be melted by the charming Chinese pandas! If you want to feel closer to the animals, you can go to the San Diego Safari park and go on an actual safari in the African savanna or even fly in a balloon over the park!
Of course, there are lots of other parks in the area like Legoland and Belmont Park (go on the Big Dipper!), but the aforementioned are my favourite and you will not regret visiting them!
Here I’ll include two not so popular places, but trust me – they are part of the city’s magic. The first one is actually a dining place, which I found 2-3 years ago and I’ve been loving it ever since! It’s called the Corvette Diner and it’s like a time-machine taking you right back to the 50’s. Styled like a traditional American diner, the place offers the tastiest burgers and shakes and also a gaming room. And even the waiters are dressed in the spirit of the Rock’n’Roll era! It is always a nice time spent there. The place is located at Liberty Station, but is usually quite busy, so you might have to wait for a table.
The second one isn’t actually a special place, it’s more of a local secret. It is called Sunset Cliffs Park and, as the name hints, these are cliffs overlooking the ocean but the view is what makes the place so special. Last summer, when I was in San Diego, I really wanted to find a nice place and admire the sunset. And this was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. It was something really awe-striking, yet something that happens on a daily basis. Take a look and see for yourself!
Out of all the places I have been to – and probably will be – San Diego always remains my number one dream destination, whether because of the memories I have or something in the city’s atmosphere. Whatever you choose to see or do there, America’s finest city won’t let you down, I promise!
Let me know what you would like to read about or if you have any questions, I will be happy to help!