San Diego is an ideal vacation spot, with so much to see and do! The beautiful, mild climate lends itself to the outdoor lifestyle that characterizes many San Diegans. The greatest feature of San Diego living is that it is close to everything! One can go skiing in the rockies, surfing in the Pacific, off-roading in the desert, searching for stars in Hollywood, and bargaining in Mexico...all in the same day!! The city is known for its award-winning restaurants, great shopping, diverse museums, theater arts, and pristine beaches, and it is home to the Chargers and the Padres.
Here are some of the most popular things to see and do in San Diego. We've listed a ton of stuff here, but if you want to get some more ideas, let us know.
San Diego Zoo: (2920 Zoo Drive, 619-234-3153) Just a zoo, right? Nope! What sets San Diego Zoo apart is the shear beauty of the surroundings (lots of tropical plants) and the fact that the new exhibits place the animals in their natural habitat instead of a cage (well, sort of). You will not be dissappointed. Don't miss: Pandas, Polar Bears, Hippos (get an up-close, under water view), and the Apes. Also check out the Children's Zoo...it's not just for children! Skip: The Shows. Food in the park costs an arm and a leg, so try bringing in a picnic and storing it in one of the lockers until lunch time. During the summer, there are Nighttime Zoo hours too, so you can see all the nocturnal critters if that's your thing.
The Wild Animal Park: (Highway 15 to Via Rancho Parkway - 45 min from downtown, 760-480-0100) A lot of people love the Wild Animal Park. An extension of the San Diego Zoo, it's an a huge open area where most of the animals run free in a mini Masai Mara. You view the animals either from a tram or from various hiking trails. On top of all that, The Wild Animal Park features some excellent animal shows designed to entertain and educate. Sounds good so far, right? Well, the problem is that the animals go hide during the daytime. So the tram often is a 45 minute ride through a dusty valley where you only get to glimpse a rhino and a bunch of animals that look just like deers and goats. Don't believe the ads that show you up close to cheetas and giraffes. You just might see - - nothing!
Not only that, it can get incredibly HOT out there in the summer. Scorching, inferno hot! Check the weather report before you go. 100+ degrees in a crowded park filled to the brim with tourists in the summer is not much fun - especially when you could have just stayed at the beach where it was probably 20 degrees cooler. If you do end up going, make sure you watch the Bird Show and see the butterfly exhibit.
Sea World: (1720 South Shores Rd, 619-226-3815) Yes, it's touristy...and expensive. The shows are often corny. You even can wonder if it's such a good idea to keep a killer whale in a big pool. But you cannot come to San Diego and not visit one of our biggest attractions. Spend a whole day here and you'll have a great time. And no matter how much the kids beg, do not sit in the front rows of the Shamu show! They are not kidding when they tell you you'll get drenched. It's more fun watching others get soaking wet (try walking around all day in wet, salty shoes) than it is to be there yourself. Don't Miss: The Clyde & Seymour Show (always good for some laughs), Shark Encounter (oooh...scary!), Manatee Rescue (educational), and the tidepools (hands-on fun).
Old Town: (off Highway 5 near the Airport, Free Admission) Mexican Food, margaritas, and sunshine... What else do you need for a perfect vacation day? While it is possible to get the flavor of Old Town with a quick visit, we recommends you spend some quality time there if you can, arriving in the morning to visit the many shops and staying long enough to have a meal (see the restaurant reviews below). Old Town is also home to various art galleries, including one featuring animation cells by Chuck Jones (Bugs Bunny), Dr. Suess (a local San Diegan), and Charles Shultz. You can also see if you can find ghosts at The Thomas Whaley House Museum, one of the few houses actually authenticated by the U.S. Department of Commerce as being haunted. If you are in the mood for some light entertainment, plan to spend an evening at The Theatre in Old Town (619-688-2494).
San Diego Mission Basilica: (10818 San Diego Mission Rd, 619-281-8449) What will your friends think when you spent your entire San Diego vacation either drunk or on a beach? You need some culture, and here's the fastest way to get it. Mission San Diego de Acala was the first of the 21 California missions. You might want to read up on the history of the missions ("blah, blah, blah") or just stop in, take a picture of your significant other in front of some colorful bougenvilla vines, then head over to nearby Old Town for a margarita. Worth a quick stop just for the picture.
Belmont Park: (3146 Mission Blvd., 619-491-3110) The Giant Dipper first opened in 1925. The nearly 2 minute ride starts with a 73 foot slow climb to the top where you will be distracted by the incredible view of the Pacific. The Dipper is located amongst various kiddie rides, T-shirt shops, and food joints, as well as The Plunge, the original indoor swimming pool. This is serious tourist trap territory, but still fun for a couple of hours. The Mission Beach location is often filled with "odd" people, so if you're from Kansas, well, you're not in Kansas anymore! You can park on either side of the roller coaster for free, or across the street. You can also visit 'Canes rooftop bar along the boardwalk for a great view and a great drink...you might even catch a live band while you are there.
Seaport Village: (619-235-4013) You're bordering on serious Tourist Trap territory when you visit Seaport Village. From its Disneyland inspired take on New England to the overpriced ice cream (Ben & Jerry's) and t-shirts, you might think to skip this attraction in favor of something more "authentic". But Seaport Village is actually worth a stop, especially if it's a nice day or a warm evening. Located on a scenic stretch of the Bay, Seaport Village features gift stores, restaurants and a great old Merry Go Round. Spend an afternoon there, grab an ice cream, visit a few shops (the kite shop and hot sauce store are cool) and then sit back in the sunshine and just watch the people. OK, this is touristy, but it's still fun. For good quality "restaurant" food, take a hike to The Fish Market (619-232-3474) and grab a seat outside on the patio.
Balboa Park: (off Highway 5 near the Airport, Free Admission) Tons of museums, tons of activities, hours of amusement! The first thing that will strike you about the 1,200 acre park is the absolute beauty. The original architecture sets the stage. If you've seen Citizen Kane, you've seen Balboa Park. Movie great Orson Welles used the exteriors of the buildings to represent Kane's castle. It's filled with museums for every taste, from art to sports to science to electric trains. Now here's your problem! So many museums, but so little time. Hungry? The best (and only) restaurant is The Prado, located in the House of Hospitality. Featuring excellent upscale Italian cuisine, The Prado has been getting rave reviews from locals and tourists alike. Good choice for a nice meal. There's also a little sushi restaurant near the Japanese Friendship Garden where you can see a great koi pond, then grab a tuna roll. Nice setting. Other than that, most of the other food in the park is typical park fare - hotdogs, french fries, and overpriced sandwiches. If you don't plan on a real meal, our advice is to bring a little picnic and relax in the sunshine!
Stephen Birch Aquarium: (2300 Expedition Way, 619-534-3474, $7.50) If you wondered what that fish you ate last night looked like while it was still swimming, you need to stop in at the Stephen Birch Aquarium and check out the sea creatures. Although billed as the "largest oceanographic exhibit in the United States", don't expect another SeaWorld. But the location itself on the top of a hill with a panoramic view of La Jolla is enough to warrant a stop. Should keep you busy for about an hour or so. In fact, doing this and visiting some real live tidepools in La Jolla is sort of a poor man's SeaWorld - and might be just as much fun.
Cabrillo National Monument: (1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr., 619-557-5450, $5 a car) Sometimes it's great to just get in a car and drive, especially if you rented a convertable and the drive is to Cabrillo Monument at the very tip of Point Loma. This hour long drive on Catalina Blvd. will wind you through the very history of the discovery of San Diego by Portuguese explorer Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542. Take your time and stop at the many viewpoints along the way, including the killer view of the San Diego skyline on the left side of the road and the incredible military cemetary on the right. At the end of the road you'll find a museum, a lighthouse, and a view to knock your socks off. Bring your camera.
While you are in the area, don't miss driving down the hill to the tidepools, possibly some of the best in San Diego. If you hit it at low tide (call ahead at 619-557-5450), we guarantee hours of fun torturing, umm, I mean viewing the little trapped sea creatures. All kidding aside, these guys are protected so picking up a starfish and flying it like a frisbee is not recommended unless you want a tap on the shoulder from the nearby Ranger.
San Diego Harbor Excursion: (619-234-4111, $20 for adults, $10 for children) Harbor Excursions are great way to see the coast and learn a bit more about our great city. They offer San Diego Harbor Cruises for the learning inclined, showcasing Harbor and Shelter Islands, Point Loma, Cabrillo National Monument, North Island Naval Air Station, and the Submarine Base. Or you could go for the Champagne Brunch ($42.50) or Dinner ($55) Cruises instead. Another popular and comparable company is Hornblower Cruises.
U.S.S. Midway: (910 N. Harbor Drive. 619-544-9600, $13) If you've never been on a real-live aircraft carrier, you should definitely take time to check out the Midway. No carrier has the history or the crew to match the Midway. A 47-year odyssey that spanned the end of WWII and Desert Storm, an odyssey in which more than 225,000 Americans took part. What makes the Midway even cooler is that Katie's Dad was stationed on it over 20 years ago!
Star of India/Maritime Museum: (1306 N. Harbor Dr. 619-234-9153, $5) What's with that pirate ship in the bay? Oh, you're thinking it's a goofy tourist trap, right? A fake boat with "Yo Ho" pirate music straight from Disneyland? Well, wipe that cynical smile off your face. This is the Star of India, a REAL sailing vessel that not only is a great stop but is also a fully functioning windjammer! The SD Maritime Museum is made up of three restored ships that can all be viewed with one admission price. The Berkeley is a 1898 ferryboat used in the San Francisco Bay until 1958. The smaller Medea is docked nearby and may also be boarded. But the best of the three is undoubtably the Star of India, the oldest active iron sailing ship in the world. If you are lucky you might catch the Star of India as it sails around the bay, but it's usually tied up good and strong to the dock along Harbor Drive.
Padres Baseball: If you are a sports fan, why not make plans to head to our brand-new Petco Park for a game? Now, granted, the Padres aren't the...uh...the most competitive team out there, but we like 'em. Plus, the new park is great, and located right in the middle of downtown, so you could grab a good meal or go dancing after going to the game. Check the schedule here to see if there are any games when you will be in town.
Olympic Training Center: (2800 Olympic Parkway, 619-656-1500) This is another option if you are a sports fan, and more specifically if you follow Olympic sporting events. At this training center there is a focus on summer sports (well...duh), including rowing, track, archery, field hockey, etc. You will be able to tour the facility, and there are dorms onsite, so you might be able to catch a glimpse of your favorite athletes.
Disneyland: (1 Lego Drive, off Canon Rd. on Highway 5, 760-918-5346) Located in Anaheim, approximately 1 1/2 hour drive from San Diego, this truly is the happiest place on earth....even if you don't have kids! The tickets are very expensive now, but you will be guaranteed an entire day of fun and laughs. Also worth a look are California Adventure, another Disney theme park right next door, and Downtown Disney, a district of shops and restaurants that has more of an adult focus and no admission cost.
LEGOLand: (1 Lego Drive, off Canon Rd. on Highway 5, 760-918-5346) Only go here if you have kids and they've already been to the Zoo & Sea World! Here's what you'll see: Famous buildings made out of Legos. Famous people made out of Legos. Little kiddie rides made out of Legos. You get the idea. Watch out for tons of traffic during rush hour, especially at what is called "the merge" where the 805 and 5 freeways come together. Going south on a Friday afternoon is also often busy due to weekend visitors from Los Angeles. Either leave before the traffic, or plan to stay in the area for dinner.
Winetasting in Temecula: If you've never been to Napa where some of the best wine in the world is made, then head to Temecula (about an hour and a half north on Highway 15) for an incredible simulation and an all day experience visiting the 18 or so wineries. Most charge a few dollars for a few tastes, but you get to "keep the glass", a cheap little souvenier of your fun day. Most of the wineries are located on or right off Rancho California Road. Go past all the homes and shopping centers for a mile or so. We've found that 3-5 wineries is a good number...any more and you'll need to stay the night in Temecula! Our favorites are Wilson Creek (good almond champagne and chocolate port), Ponté (good all around, their summer wines are tasty), Stuart Cellars (GREAT reds), and Falkner (nice outdoor tasting bar).
Mexico: OK, here's the scoop. Tijuana is really just for the adventurous or curious only. If you're expecting happy people, pinatas and festive party time, you will be sorely disappointed. To get there, you will need to park at the border (or take a trolley there), cross the border on foot (don't forget your ID), then take a taxi into TJ. Do not be surprised to see poor starving children selling gum, legless beggers on skateboards, donkeys painted to be zebras; it can be quite depressing and unnerving if you aren't prepared. Now that doesn't mean you can't get some great authentic food, a cold beer, and bring home some cheap tequila. You can. There is also quite a crazy nightclub scene (see below). But the average tourist looking for festive fun might be better staying in Old Town.
If you want to have a quality visit to Mexico, go further south to Rosarito, Ensenada or Puerto Nuevo, where you can get great, cheap lobster cooked baja style. Golf at Bajamar, an excellent course right on the ocean. Or stay overnight in one of the great resorts in Rosarita Beach. If you do decide to do this, make sure you purchase mexican auto insurance at one of the shops before driving across the border (usually $10 or less). Give us a call, and we'll give you some more info if you need it! :)
Average Meal Price: $: Under $20 $$: $21-$30 $$$: $30-$40 $$$$: $41+
Old Town: In Old Town, you will find the best Mexican food in San Diego. Any restaurant you find there will be excellent - our favorites are Casa de Pico (great outdoor dining), Casa de Bandini (inside a historic brothel), Casa de Guadalajara (has its own parking lot). Pretty much anything you order will be delicious, and if you are wanting a birdbath-sized margarita, there are plenty to go around! One of Mike's favorite spots is O'Hungry's, where you can get yards of beer. Old Town is also filled with interesting historic sites and specialty shops. $/$$
Humphrey's By the Bay: (2241 Shelter Island Drive, 619-224-3577) This is located right next to Humphrey's Half Moon Inn and walking distance from Island Palms. The restaurant is a baby boomer's paradise: a premiere concert venue featuring beloved national acts (see nightlife section), a hip lounge and a casually elegant restaurant. The menu of "California coastal" cuisine features plenty of fresh seafood, but ventures in to Asian and Cajun tastes too. Thanks to the recent overhaul of the entire club, the room has beautiful views of the bay with sailboats galore. There's also a popular Sunday brunch. $$$
Tom Ham's Lighthouse: (2150 Harbor Island Dr., 619-291-9110) This restaurant is about 5 miles from the designated hotels. Tom Ham's is famous for its beautiful location and sweeping scenes of San Diego Bay. The menu features familiar favorites like prime rib, seafood Newberg and broiled lobster tail, as well as recent hits like macadamia-crusted mahi-mahi. There's also a Sunday champagne brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Sunday. $$
Bali Ha'i: (2230 Shelter Island Dr, 619-222-1181) The Bali Ha'i is within walking distance of Humphrey's and Island Palms and serves authentic Hawaiian cuisine. The best items on the menu include the Kona Combo and the Island Sampler, guaranteed to please those unfamiliar with island fare as well as die-hard fans. Call and make a reservation for one of the beautiful window seats and enjoy the spectacular view of San Diego Bay. $$
Ruth's Chris Steakhouse: (1355 N. Harbor Dr, (619) 233-1422) Maybe it's the way the waiter warns you to keep your paws off the 500 degree plate, or the way the butter splatters all over the tablecloth when they set the steak in front of you, or the giant platters of potatoes that makes "Super Size" look like a joke. If you love steak and have never been to a Ruth's Chris, make this one of your stops for dinner. Excellent, superb quality and gigantic salads and sides of potatoes that are big enough to split with 2 to 4 people. Expensive, yes, but you're worth it.... and you're on vacation! Simple, elegant decor. Noisy at times, but who cares with steaks this good? $$$$
The Fish Market: (750 North Harbor Drive, 619-232-3474) One of the most popular restaurants for locals and tourists alike, The Fish Market and the more upscale Top of the Market combine great location with great seafood. Located right on San Diego Bay, the views of sailboats, seagulls, and an occasional aircraft carrier docked at Coronado makes this a "must do" restaurant. The food options include a fresh seafood counter, sushi bar, oyster bar, outdoor appetizer and cocktail dining on the breezy patio, indoor casual dining, and upstairs fancy dining. $$ (Fish Market), $$$ (Top of the Market)
Buca di Beppo: (705 6th Ave., 619-233-7272) Overflowing plates of hearty, homestyle pasta. This is not your upscale Italian pasta ristorante, but rather a funky, fun, noisy, obnoxious sort of "in your face" spaghetti house. Forget the fine wines and the snobby waiters. This is overflowing plates of pasta, a bottle of cheap chianti, and tons of laughter and fun. Messy eating, but that's part of the fun. There is a location in the Gaslamp District on 6th Avenue, and in Mira Mesa. If this isn't your style of Italian and you're looking for classier fare, there are many other great choices in the Gaslamp District; while not cheap, they all have wonderful cuisine. $$
P.F. Chang's China Bistro: (Fashion Valley Shopping Mall, 7007 Friars Rd, 619 260-8484) OK, it's not authentic. But unlike some unauthentic Chinese restauants that try to pass off Egg Foo Young with noodles out of a can as the real thing, P.F. Changs has pretty good quality food and a fun, lively setting. Start your meal with the lettuce wraps - diced pieces of chicken and vegetables that you wrap in lettuce and eat like a taco. These are almost a lunch by itself, so share a plate with a friend. Noisy, and very busy. Waits during prime lunch and dinner can last over an hour, so get there early or make a reservation. $$
Islands: (2441 Fenton Parkway, 619-640-2777) If you really want that Cheeseburger in Parasise, then head over to Islands. Decorated with a surf and palapa motif, you half expect Jimmy Buffet to be your waiter. Great for families, the menu features lots of burger and chicken sandwich variations, salads, and huge baskets of fries big enough for a family to share. Not as cheap as you might think ($7 a burger), but ambiance makes up the difference and the burgers are big, big, big! Split one and you still might not finish it. $
Pizza Nova: (5120 North Harbor Dr., 619-226-0268) Before Pizza Nova became a mini-chain in San Diego, the Point Loma location offered creative little pizzas cooked in a wood-fired stove. Weird little pizzas. Stuff like the BLT pizza, or artichoke hearts and goat cheese sort of pizzas. And the salads! Killer Chinese Chicken Salad before it was on everyones menu. Well, times change and the novelty of designer pizzas is over, but the food is still great and Pizza Nova is just the ticket for those tired evenings after a long day at the zoo when all you want is good food in a nice setting for a good price. $
".....bertos" Taco Shop": (Multiple Locations - there's an Aiberto's on 3910 West Point Loma Blvd, 619-223-6384) For some strange reason, a lot of our Mexican fast food shops have "berto" in their name, as in Roberto's, Alberto's, Hilbertos, Alibertos, etc. Roberto's is the original (though some claim Albertos was first), but all of them have about the same menu and most all of them offer excellent food in a tacky setting. Expect to see some questionable characters - with food this cheap and this good, Robertos attracts people from all walks of life, from businessmen to the employment-challenged. If you are new to real Mexican food, start with an order of rolled tacos (taquitos) with real guacamole. Make sure the guac is real - some of the rolled taco deals that are too good to be true (6 rolled tacos for $2 bucks) feature a green sauce that only resembles avocados in color. When in doubt, ask. Tacos with shredded beef, chicken or pork, burritos the size of a small football - this is the real thing. Grab some Robertos and head to the beach. Doesn't get more San Diego than that! $
Pat & Oscar's: (8590 Rio San Diego Drive, 619-295-6200) You're dead tired from sightseeing and McDonalds is starting to look like a good option right about now. But don't do it! Instead, seek out an Oscars restaurant for great salads, pizzas, chicken wings, and pocket sandwiches. It's a line up and order sort of place, but the waiters will bring the food to your table so you can pretend it's a real restaurant. The Mission Valley location has tables outside if the weather is nice. The lemon chicken wings are great, meaty and tangy, and all of the salads are very good. And don't forget the breadsticks - they're a favorite with locals. $
In-n-Out Burger: (3102 Sports Arena Blvd.) You cannot leave San Diego without driving through an In-n-Out Burger. In-n-Out created the first drive through restaurant in America in 1948 and the line hasn't let up since. Don't be discouraged if you see lines of cars outside and lines of people inside. The people there know that In-n-Out has perhaps the best burger in the world for a price that is downright cheap. It's definately worth the wait to get a Double Double (double meat, double cheese), an order of fries that were actually real whole potatoes just minutes before, and a shake or lemondade. Be sure to try an item from their Top Secret Menu: Animal Style (lettuce, tomato, extra spread, pickles, grilled onions, and mustard fried into the patty), Wish Burger (same as a regular burger without the meat), Protein Style (toss the bun and the carbs, wrap the patty and all the fixin's in a large piece of rolled lettuce), 3x3 (3 patties, 3 pieces of cheese, all the toppings. You can also get a 4X4, 5X5, etc.). $
Rubios Baja Grill: (3555 Rosecrans- St #101B, 619-223-2631) Don't be ridiculous. Of course you must try a fish taco if you visit San Diego. And, while the image of a fish taco might sound odd, they are actually quite good. Fish tacos are made with battered fried fish, wrapped in a soft tortilla and garnished with cabbage and a white yogurt sauce and salsa. Rubios is where the fish taco craze started. The story is that Rubio, a San Diegan, was so taken with the fish tacos from Ensenada that he brought them to San Diego and kicked off a fish taco craze that is still going strong today. If you've never had one, ya gotta go. Get the combo plate with two fish tacos, beans and chips for about $5.00. If you miss Rubios, you'll have one more chance at the airport in terminal one. Don't miss it! $
Humphrey's Concerts By The Bay: Humphrey's Concerts by the Bay is located between right next to our recommended hotel, Humphrey's Half Moon Inn. The 1,350 seat outdoor theatre, ideally situated on San Diego Bay, has been presenting a wide variety of major attractions since 1982. Generally running from May through October, Humphrey's Concerts covers the total spectrum of entertainment from rock and jazz to comedy, blues, folk and international music. All seats are reserved, and tickets can either be purchased for just the concert or a dinner show package.
Gaslamp Quarter: This area downtown is San Diego's premier dining, shopping, and entertainment district, where you'll find an eclectic blend of food, fun, and culture -- all within one of San Diego's most historic areas. As the sun sets, and the gaslamps are illuminated, the streets come alive with pedestrians. There are many restaurants, pubs, bars, clubs, coffee houses, smoke shops, theaters, and dinner shows to choose from. Some of our favorites are On Broadway ($20 cover, very upscale swanky crowd, long line), Cafe Sevilla (Latin music and dancing, with a slightly older Euro/Latin crowd, Salsa is Tue-Thu, Brazilian is Sun), Croce's Jazz Bar (owned by Jim Croce's wife), Deco's (indoor & outdoor dancing), Onyx Room (posh downstairs club, piano lounge in front, dj or jazz in the back), Thin (above onyx, stylish, futuristic bar with great signature drinks...try the Cucumber Cosmo), Dick's Last Resort (mean waiters, tacky decor, greasy bar food, but wait...that's part of the fun! Great place to get a beer and listen to a loud live band), Jimmy Love's (if 80's is your thing), W Hotel - The Beach (rooftop beach with a great view...heated sand, white cabanas, fire pit, specialty drinks ), The Bitter End (3 story bar, with lounges, dance floors and pool tables...great signature martinis).
Pacific Beach Club District: PB is a great choice for the young and young at heart. The crowd consists mainly of college students or recent grads, and the dress is casual (jeans are fine, and tennis shoes are usually acceptable). You will see mostly bars and dives, though there are a couple of clubs with dancing. Most of the major clubs are located on Garnet. Some of our favorites are PB Bar & Grill, Moondoggies, Longboard's, and The Beachcomber in Mission Beach. Another great spot is 'Canes on the Belmont Park boardwalk, where they have a rooftop bar with a gorgeous ocean view, live bands downstairs and delicious Hurricanes (Level 1-5 in strength!).
Tijuana, Mexico: This suggestion is not for the easily scared or the faint of heart, but it is quite an experience for the curious who have never been! The best way to get there, is to take the trolley to the border, cross the border on foot, then catch a taxi on the Mexican side. Ask the taxi driver to take you to "Revoluciòn" - this is a main street in TJ where all the clubs are located. Don't forget to save enough money to catch a taxi back to the border, or you will have a long walk ahead of you! Tijuana is also a fun destination during the day....go for some great shopping and grab a couple of Coronas while you are there. As long as you are a U.S. citizen, you do not need a passpart, just ID. Just remember not to drink the water, or you won't be a happy camper! :)
Mission Beach: This popular beach is everything you would expect from Southern California. With nearly naked hardbodies showing off in the sun, rollerbladers and bicyclists doing tricks on the boardwalk, and an old wooden rollercoaster right on the beach, this is the place to be if you are young, cool, hip, or just want to pretend you are. Mission Beach is right next to Belmont Park, so you can take a break from sunning to ride the coaster or get a drink at 'Canes
Pacific Beach: Pacific Beach is popular with tourists and locals alike, and for good reason. It's a nice mix of singles and families. Parking is often difficult and parking 5 or more blocks away is not unsusual, so pack light and get ready to walk. Diamond Street is a good place to start hunting for your piece of sand.
Sunset Cliffs: Located beneath the cliffs of Point Loma and very close to the designated hotels, this secluded beach is popular with surfers, tidepool hunters, and locals. No restrooms, so this is not the place for those with weak bladders or adversity to doing it as the fish do in the waves.
La Jolla: La Jolla has every type of beach you can imagine, from a big crowded "Baywatch" beach (La Jolla Shores) to tiny, private alcove sort of beaches (Shell Beach). If you only go to one beach, make it La Jolla. The beauty of the area will absolutely astound you.
- La Jolla Shores: The busiest beach perhaps in all of San Diego on a hot summer day, and our choice for top beach for "Visitors with only one beach day". Sure it's busy, and yes, parking is an absolute joke. But get there early and plan to stay all day and, yes, all night! Get yourself some firewood, some hotdogs, and some shishkabob skewers. When you get to the beach, grab a fire ring then. They'll be all gone within minutes after you get there. Then when the sun goes down, make a fire and have a beach party!
- Children's Pool: With live seals taking up the bulk of the beach, probably not the best place to lay down your towel but certainly an excellent place to get some pictures.
- Shell Beach: Just north of the Children's Pool is Shell Beach, a small and secluded beach. Ignore the crowds on the sidewalk above you and instead watch for seals and dolphins in the waves.
- La Jolla Cove: La Jolla Cove: Has to be one of the best beaches and most beautiful spots in the entire world. If this doesn't impress you, nothing will. Don't forget that there's a short hiking trail starting by the Cave Store.
- Windansea Beach: Take La Jolla Blvd and turn west onto Nautilus St. Big waves, great scenery, and great sunsets. This is one of the best places in San Diego to surf.
- Blacks Beach: One more beach, and this one is the unofficial "clothing optional" beach (NUDE BEACH). Now let us warn you - don't expect some sort of crazy orgy as you make your way down the steep trails. Whatever you find down there, you are sure to be disappointed. And do you really want to be woken up from your suntanning by a fully clothed policeman? :) :)
Torrey Pines State Beach: If the idea of wall to wall traffic in La Jolla doesn't seem like that good of an idea, then perhaps a more sedate adventure at Torrey Pines is a good alternative. Located south of Del Mar, Torrey Pines offers a mix of forested pine trees (the Torrey Pines only grow here in San Diego) and sunny California beach. You can hike the trails along the bluffs, or just get lazy and hit the sand. The only problem with Torrey is that the high tides sometimes don't leave much room for the sand, so check the tide tables and back up to the edge of the rocks if you'll be there at high tide. The best news is that the $4 parking lot keeps most tourists away, making access to the sand easy and painless.
Ocean Beach: Do you listen to the Grateful Dead? Do you have a pierced eyebrow? Then OB is your type of place. Ultra laid back and casual, OB is for the young and odd. It has a pier, complete with food stands and fishermen, that makes interesting walking with the local characters. Fairly uninteresting shops are in the area, barely worth your efforts, but some good restaurants.