From San Diego, you can go to the beach, Mexico, the mountains, the desert or Los Angeles all within a two-hour drive. No wonder the locals call their home “America’s Finest City”.
There are 110km of beaches near San Diego, including something for all tastes. In a city that is famous for pleasant, year-round sunshine, you can enjoy the sea and sand from January to December. With so much variety, it’s easy to see why San Diego is famous for surfing, jet skiing, paddle boarding, snorkeling, kayaking and scuba diving!
La Jolla Shores is prime location for surfing. Palm trees and lifeguard towers give an authentic Californian vibe, perfect if you want to try surfing for the first time. Of course, experienced surfers are welcome too.
A little further up the coast, Black's Beach runs from the city of San Diego to the cliffs of Torrey Pines State Park. Surfers love the waves, which can make swimming challenging. The top portion of Black’s is a nude beach, the San Diego section is not (just something to be aware of if you enjoy long strolls on the seafront!).
Meanwhile, Pacific Beach sits south of La Jolla and has a famous boardwalk that stretches to Mission Beach, which is the place for surf shops, taco stands and vintage wooden rollercoasters. Mission Bay has calm waters that are perfect for swimming.
Coronado Beach has glittery sand, calm waves and serene sunsets. There are public volleyball courts and fire rings, perfect for an evening bonfire.
The Coaster Train (gonctd.com) runs up and down the coast and is a nice way to travel between beaches in San Diego County while enjoying the scenery.
Hidden Street Art
The streets of San Diego are covered in art after a 2010 initiative by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. At the end of the project, many of the works were left up. For example, at 25th Street in the Golden Hills neighbourhood there is a musical bridge, where the metal bars of the bridge have been tuned to play a song when struck.
Tweet Street is an outdoor bird-park with some beautiful birdhouses designed by artists. It was built to provide a home for birds displaced through urban development. In Chicano Park, meanwhile, there are a large collection of outdoor murals to enjoy.
Benches and utility boxes across the city have been decorated by artists and one of the best ways to discover San Diego’s street art is through the urban art trail (urbanarttrail.com).
And if you enjoy your art in more “official” surroundings, both the downtown and La Jolla centres of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego are free on the third Thursday of each month from 17:00 to 19:00.
Balboa Park & San Diego Zoo
This enormous urban park is home to San Diego Zoo (sandiegozoo.org), sixteen museums, various designated gardens and a replica of London’s Globe Theatre, where plays and musicals are performed throughout the year. Lots of the architecture and natural attractions within the park came into being for the 1915 Panama–California Exposition, which celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal.
On the first Wednesday of every month you can stargaze outside the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center; the San Diego Astronomy Association sets up huge telescopes through which you can enjoy views to the far ends of the solar system. The Spreckels Organ Pavilion, meanwhile, is owned by the City of San Diego and houses the great open-air Spreckels Organ, which has 4518 pipes and its own civic organist!
There are more than 80 golf courses in the San Diego area, spreading from the mountains to the seaside cliffs. The most famous local courses are at Torrey Pines, which has hosted the US Open. Apart from the glorious location, what makes the two courses at Torrey Pines stand out is that they are owned by the local authority and open to the public (although you do need to book in advance and rounds are well over $150, even during the week).
You don’t have to visit a championship course to enjoy the local golf scene. Many local venues can be played for under $50 for a round, including Mission Bay Golf Resort, Warner Springs Ranch and Pala Mesa Resort.
If you are interested in how golf equipment is made, Callaway, Taylor Made, Titleist, and Cobra are based in Carlsbad, San Diego County. Some offer tours of their facilities.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a 730 hectare zoo in the San Pasqual Valley which houses a large array of wild and endangered animals from all over the world, including local creatures like the California condor. Take the Africa Tram through the expansive African exhibits and get up close with giraffes, rhinoceros and antelope, or strap in and ride a 3km zipline.
The animals at Sea World have rather less space to splash around in, but the legendary attraction is one of San Diego’s most famous destinations.