Top Places to Explore in the San Diego Area
The magnificent Pacific Ocean, year-round sunshine, and laidback surfer vibes of San Diego offer something for everyone. Here are our favourite places to explore in the region.
The San Diego area in Southern California offers endless opportunities for those seeking downtime as well as adventure. Besides the historic and beautiful downtown San Diego, the 70 miles of glorious coastline has a myraid of options for fun and relaxation. Here are the top five places to explore in the San Diego area.
A small, charming seaside town along the San Diego coastline with wide sandy beaches, Solana Beach is a must visit for those who prefer to walk to their destinations. There is a 1.5-mile walk known as the Solana Beach Coastal Rail Trail that covers the length of the city with colourful quirky mosaics and plants along the way.
Lovers of culture, fashion, and design must schedule a visit to Cedros Avenue Design District. Also easily accessible by foot, this is a historical and stylish boulevard (or two-and-a-half street blocks) of 85 boutiques, cafés, art galleries, and restaurants. There is even an urban winery, a weekly farmers market, and performances happening here.
ALCE 101 Kitchen + Tequileria in Solana Beach is Southern California's first real farm-to-table Southwest restaurant. Enjoy delicious mezcal and Tequila cocktails or peruse the wine list that includes interesting choices from Mexico (alongside California, Spain and South America).
EncinitasA few miles north of Solana Beach is the delightfully eclectic coastal town of Encinitas offering a mix of ‘60s-inspired beach culture and zen meditation. Running parallel to the historic Highway 101, the beaches in Encinitas are among the best in Southern California. The landscape ranges from white sandy beaches to rocky bluffs, and legendary surf spots line the coast – even beginners can try surfing here by signing up for a day lesson at the friendly Eli Howard Surf School.
The renowned Self-Realization Fellowship Encinitas Retreat was founded by the spiritual guru, Paramahansa Yoganand, known as the 'Father of Yoga in the West'. Anyone is free to visit the gorgeous Meditation Gardens on its grounds which offer a diversity of vibrant plants, meditation nooks, koi ponds, and stunning ocean vistas – providing a unique inspirational setting for reading, praying, studying or meditation while enjoying the beauty of nature.
A very talented group of local artists known as the San Dieguito Art Guild exhibit their work in the Off Track Gallery in Encinitas. Affectionately known as the “biggest little gallery in San Diego”, it showcases the work of more than 100 artists in a range of media, from digital art and watercolour to sculpture and jewellery. A lovely place for viewing paintings of beautiful coastal scenes many of which are quite affordable and make for a truly unique souvenir.
937 S Coast Hwy 101 c103, Encinitas, CA 92024
La JollaConsistently voted one of the top beach destinations in the world, La Jolla (pronounced La-HOY-a) is more than just an upmarket beach town. It is home to the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Salk Institute, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. The affluent community it attracts is also reflected in the luxurious hotels, restaurants, boutiques and art galleries to be discovered here.
Despite its glitzy reputation, the town is also family friendly. One of its most famous residents was the late Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel whose work can be viewed in the Legends Gallery (1205 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037)
The Children's Pool is not however suitable for children to swim in. A small cove protected by a concrete breakwater wall, it was originally built as a safe sea swimming area for children but was claimed long ago by seals and sea lions who beach themselves on the sand with their pups. Although now completely closed for swimming, the Children’s Pool offers a crowd-pleasing and often amusing view of these wild marine mammals.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve comprises 2,000 acres of coastal state park located just atop the La Jolla cliffs. It is an excellent destination for adventurous trail hikers, while golfers are also welcome to enjoy the 36-hole municipal course, Torrey Pines Golf Course, owned and maintained by the City of San Diego.
CoronadoSpanish for “crowned,” Coronado is a tied island connected to downtown San Diego by a tombolo (a sandy isthmus) called the Silver Strand making it easily accessible by car (or ferry).
The most famous and recognisable attraction at this resort town is the storied and iconic Hotel del Coronado which featured in Marilyn Monroe’s 1958 film Some Like it Hot. The mile-and-a-half stretch of golden sand in front of the hotel is the Coronado Central Beach which actually sparkles thanks to small pieces of embedded mica.
Here you can level up your sandcastle building skills from the maestro himself, The Sandcastle Man who offers lessons at the beach. Theatre lovers should check the schedule at Lamb’s Players Theatre, an iconic and intimate playhouse that punches above its weight with its productions, and try to take in a show while visiting.
Downtown San DiegoLast but certainly not least there is downtown San Diego which offers a wealth of attractions starting with Balboa Park which could keep one busy for a solid week visiting the 17 museums, multiple performing arts venues, lovely gardens, trails, and many other creative and recreational attractions, including the world-renowned San Diego Zoo.
The Gaslamp Quarter is one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods where modern architecture and Victorian Age buildings stand side by side. Once the home of brothels and saloons, the Gaslamp district is now famous for art galleries, boutiques, nightclubs, rooftop bars, gastropubs and a plethora of dining options.
Everyone should come to San Diego equipped with a bucket list of local cuisine to try. Its proximity to Mexico (20 miles away) influences much of the local flavours. Japanese food, in particular sushi, also takes pride of place among San Diego’s local cuisine.
A modern spin on traditional Japanese meals from seasonal fish flown in from Japan alongside a menu of hot and cold sake.
555 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101