San Diego, the ultimate west coast dream. A beautiful city, the bright sun, and plenty waiting to be seen. Short visits are hard for any traveler- trying to squeeze in as much as you can in a short time can be hectic. I’m hoping that this guide can help you start planning your next tour of SD. So, let’s get started, here’s everything you should visit while traveling to San Diego.
I was taken back by how big San Diego really is. Make sure to plan how you’ll be getting around, either relying on taxis & uber, or renting a car. A cool app that works a lot like airbnb is Turo, which allows you to rent cars from individuals rather than going through a company and paying and arm & a leg.
You won’t run out of options when choosing a beach to enjoy – and will be greeted by palm trees at every corner. Here’s a list of the best beaches in San Diego.
Scripps Pier – with so many options to choose from, Scripps pier is a cozy quick stop by Caroline’s Seaside Café – our favorite breakfast location. It’s quite, makes for a nice walk and doesn’t get crowded. It’s not much of a beach with umbrella and chair options, but grab your towel and check it out.
Coronado Beach – you’re not only getting a great beach experience, but you get to see the grand Coronado hotel, shopping boutiques, and restaurants. Corondo is on somewhat of a secluded island that’s connected to the rest of San Diego by the Coronado Bridge. Make sure to wander around the town itself there are some great gems.Note that this is about 10-15 minutes out of downtown San Diego, so plan accordingly!
Ocean Beach – also popular, maybe too poplar, crowded but has a boardwalk. Probably our least favorite stop, but it’s nice that you have access to shops and beach snacks on the boardwalk.
Moonlight Beach – the most secluded, quiet, peaceful and certainly a favorite if you’re trying to escape the crowds.
What to Visit
Balboa Park & Zoo – a 1200 acre cultural park, endless pedestrian only pathways, gardens, museums, cafes and also home to the San Diego Zoo. Make sure to visit at night as all the buildings light up and it’s quite a scene. Check out the California Tower and look up the opening hours before hand as they seem to sell tickets fast!
Belmont Park – is a cool outdoor amusement part that closes at 10 p.m. It’s very simple and offers a amusement park vibes with rides, cotton candy, funnel cake all plopped in the middle of the city. No entry fee, except for the tickets you get for the rides.
Newport Avenue – resembles a bar hopping street, with many rooftop options, boutiques for quick shopping and good music venues.
Gaslamp Quarter – for high end dining, underground bars, and rooftops – this is the place for all your nightlife needs.
Greetings Wall – a bit out of the day, but a staple stop.
Seaport Village – a low key spot right in downtown San Diego with mostly waterfront stores and restaurants, nice for a quiet stroll but not much else going on.
Sunset Cliffs – catch a breathtaking sunset in the Sunset Cliffs neighborhood and specifically the Natural Park. There’s plenty of hiking trails, caves to explore and quite a bit of climbing/descending…. hence the cliffs.
Old town – a vibrant town with a hop-on/hop-off trolley that takes you through the first permanent Spanish settlement in the region. Grab some fresh Mexican food, walk through the historic park and check out the museums.
La Jolla – we loved La Jolla so much, we wrote a whole post about it. Make sure to check out the full guide to traveling through La Jolla. Some tips on the go? Sunny Jim’s Cave, Children’s Pool, and Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Harrah’s Resort – if you catch yourself in San Diego during a busier time of the year and looking for some time to relax stop by this resort. Filled with hot tubs, pools, an in-pool bar and great food.
Where to Eat
California’s food scene is unbeatable, but here are a few places that stood out.
Caroline’s Seaside Café– if the view wasn’t enough, this seaside café serves some delicious breakfast and lunch options. You can see Scripps Pier right from the terrace and of course the full backdrop of the ocean.
The Crack Shack– this is literally crack chicken. Some of the best culinary chicken sandwiches you can grab on the go.
Cannonball – super close to Belmont Park, this rooftop bar and dinner joint is a perfect cap to any night.With fun large beach props, a fireplace and comfortable seating, Cannonball is a great place to unwind, grab a drink or bite and enjoy the ambience.