San Diego is one of California’s finest cities but before booking a trip, I had a hard time finding out a lot of information about this under-the-radar area of Southern California. Located just a couple of hours south of Los Angeles, it seems to be constantly in the shadow of its glitzier neighbour. But whilst it might be more laid back than Laguna with less of the glamour of LA, this friendly city is so much more than your average sunny beach town. With a lot to offer visitors year-round, and direct flights from Heathrow daily, now is the perfect time to uncover America’s Finest City. Here’s my ultimate two day guide to soaking up the very best of San Diego.
9am – Wake to the sounds of birds tweeting and sprinklers flickering at the tranquil, garden-fringed Estancia Lodge and Spa. Grab a coffee from the onsite coffee shop Blend before hopping on the free shuttle bus to nearby La Jolla Shores for an early morning surfing lesson.
9.30am – Meet your instructors at Surf Diva, a local company that specialises in surfing lessons for women but caters for everyone – whatever your age or level. We signed up for a two-hour stint on the water and our expert instructor Dave helped us catch wave after wave, giving us helpful tips to improve our form as we progressed.
11.30am – Buzzing from our time on the water, we decided to try our hand at sea kayaking. There are a handful of sea kayaking companies offering tours In La Jolla, but we opted for Everyday California who had a fun, relaxed style to their tour. We spotted sea caves, tons of wildlife and even got a glimpse at Dr Seuss’ house perched on the cliffside.
1pm – After all that exercise you’ll have worked up a big appetite and there is no better place to be if you’re hungry in La Jolla than at Galaxy Taco. This vibrant Mexican bar and café served up spicy tacos, nachos, quesadillas and delicious margaritas – from the weird and wonderful to more traditional salt-rimmed creations.
2.30pm – Spend some time sunbathing at the beach, reading a good book or taking another dip in the sea before cooling off and making the most of happy hour with a drink or two at the many restaurants and cafes along the main street in La Jolla Shores.
6.30pm – Sunsets in San Diego are an event in themselves and at La Jolla, you’re all but guaranteed to see one of the most beautiful. Head to La Jolla Cove to join the crowds drinking in the views as the sun disappears over the horizon. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the day’s surfers gliding back to shore.
7pm – Stop for a drink overlooking the ocean at waterfront rooftop hotspot George’s at the Cove before taking your pick of the area’s finest cuisine; from steaks to seafood and everything in between. We ate at relaxed seafood joint The Crabcatcher, dining on signature crab, mac and cheese and freshly caught fish-of-the-day.
7.30am – Wake up early to enjoy a morning hike at Torrey Pines Natural Reserve. This stretch of California coastline boasts 1,500 acres of land which is home to marine life, unspoiled beaches and hiking trails.
9am – Head to the famous Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego and eat like the locals at Café 222, an unassuming brunch spot with a menu that packs a punch. From mouth-watering waffles to fluffy pancakes and eggs any style, there’s a reason this local haunt is top of every brunch list in the city.
10am – The jewel in San Diego’s crown, Balboa Park is one of the many hidden surprises that a visit to this city will unearth. At 1,200 acres it’s bigger than Central Park and is made up of beautifully landscaped gardens, museums, restaurants and more. There’s even a zoo inside! We spent hours wandering through the rainbow-coloured rose garden, literally stopping to smell the roses.
12pm – Take the short drive to neighbourhood of the rich and famous, Coronado Island, for a glimpse into how the other half live. Home to the Hotel Del Coronado, the backdrop of much of the famous Marilyn Monroe movie Some Like It Hot, just a few hours exploring this island will make you feel like you’re on a movie set.
1pm – Hire one of the pastel-coloured cruisers lining the waterfront and cycle around the island along the six mile Bayshore Bikeway, taking in stunning views of the city across the bay.
3pm – Make like Marilyn, don your best bathing suit and spend some time wiggling your toes in the golden sands or splashing in the waves at Coronado Beach.
6pm – San Diego is home to a whole host of culinary hotspots and Little Italy is the best place to find some of the most terrific eats. There are so many amazing restaurants to choose from, but I challenge you to find better pizza than at Isola. Belissimo!
8pm – Head back to Estancia to curl up by the fire with a good glass of red wine at their cosy Mustangs and Burritos restaurant – the only way to end your San Diego weekend in style!