Do you fancy a chilled lifestyle? Beach, Sand, Surf? How about art galleries? Museums? Parks and gardens lush with green and inspiration? Then San Diego is definitely the spot for you.
Despite living in California from the age of four, I never actually made it all the way down to San Diego (even though it is only a six-hour drive away!) until spring break of last year! But the time that I did spend there, I totally made the most of.
I spent a long weekend eating and walking my way through this interesting city that’s sprawling full of skyscrapers and palm trees, evoking that chill California vibe that people associate with surfers and sand. And while the beaches and surf spots are fantastic, that’s not all that this city has to offer.
But let’s start with the basics when it comes to planning an awesome itinerary for things to do in San Diego!
Where To Stay
In my opinion, I would forego those chain hotels and spice up your trip with something on Airbnb. I personally like this platform, as it has a little something for everyone.
You could consider this adorably quirky one for 82 EUR a night, stay in an RV that can host up to four people, have a luxury apartment all to yourself, or simply rent a room in a home if you’re on a budget.
If you are looking for a hotel or a hostel however, some top choices:
Five Star Hotels:
Omni San Diego Hotel : Featuring rooms with a view of San Diego Bay, terry cloth bathrobes, pillow top mattresses, poolside terrace, and more.
Pendry San Diego : In a highly sought-after location, and great value for money, breakfast, and city views.
Four Star Hotels:
Hilton Garden Inn San Diego : Rooms with a sea view, buffet breakfast, a business centre, and gym.
Kona Kai Resort & Spa : Located on Shelter Island and offers access to a private beach.
One – Three Stars (including hostels)
ITH Hostels & Eco Lodging : A hostel in Little Italy, for budget and adventurous travelers.
Days Inn : A one-star inn close to Mission Trails Regional Park.
Motel San Diego : A one-star Pacific Beach motel close to Crystal Pier.
Pacific Inn and Suites : A two-star hotel, two minutes from San Diego International Airport.
Residence Inn San Diego : A three-star hotel, 20 minutes drive from the San Diego Zoo.
Surf Beach Hotel : A three-star hotel a mere three-minute walk from the beach.
Things To Do
While visiting San Diego, I was lucky enough to have a friend as a tour guide – a local at that. But if you aren’t able to have a local guide, here’s an easy-to-follow itinerary for you to follow.
- Breakfast Republic is such a win! I got the eggs Benedict, and I really enjoyed it! You can’t go wrong with their roast potatoes, either, which are savory, loaded with herbs – basically everything a person would want in a roast potato!
- Bottom Line: Great food, welcoming atmosphere… brunch sorted!
- Tip: make sure to get here early to beat the rush!
Coffee and Dessert Spots
- Get your caffeine fix at Holsem Coffee or Communal Coffee.
- Enjoy a latte and donut at Holy Matcha. True to its name, this cafe serves all things ‘matcha’. From lemonade to soft serve (both topped with beautiful flowers). And the interior is an Instagrammer’s dream. The place practically advertises itself. With bright pink walls and leafy plants, you’ll definitely want to sit and take a picture here—like pretty much everyone else who visits.
- Grab some ice cream at Hammond’s Ice Cream. With flavors like classic chocolate and Tahitian vanilla, to more unique ones like mango lychee sorbet, Thai tea, and blueberry freckle, it’s almost impossible to pick just one. And you don’t have to! Get one of their ice cream flights, where you can choose a variety of flavors scooped into tiny ice cream cones.
- Take a break from all the food and head to Pigment for some shopping. If you’re into succulents and trendy decor, this is the store for you. Their beautiful displays are filled with all sorts of goodies, like delicate jewelry, colorful mugs, and even a carry-on cocktail kit. It’s also known for two walls: a bright pink one and another with a decorative plant fixture. Both are popular Instagram spots, so don’t be surprised if you see someone randomly standing in front of a wall!
- Stop by Artelexia for their vibrant “You are radiant” mural and handcrafted Mexican gifts, art, and decor popping with color.
Botanical Gardens & Parks
Make sure to stop by North Park, which isn’t actually a park – but a neighborhood/community bursting with color and character. You can find everything from boutiques, trendy cafes, restaurants, and murals here.
Another popular location is Balboa Park, that has the tagline of, “where culture and nature meet.” This one is actually a park, and at 1,200 acres, it’s a huge one at that! There’s truly something for everyone here, from gardens, playgrounds, fountains, gorgeous architecture, to museums for every interest, including classical art and space travel. Balboa Park also hosts a number of events and entertainment, including plays, musicals, heritage dancing, and ballet.
Side note: if the weather is not on your side (yes, it does actually rain in California from time to time!) don’t worry – your day is not ruined! You can still visit the beautiful Botanical Building filled with plants both familiar and unfamiliar, and when it really starts to pour, take refuge in the San Diego Museum of Art.
If the Botanical Building doesn’t have enough flowers for you and you happen to visit between the months of March and May, take a trip to the Carlsbad Flower Fields.
San Diego Zoo
If you’re in the mood to see some pandas, you can visit the world famous San Diego Zoo.
Of course, no SoCal trip would be complete without visiting the beach, right? I suggest soaking up some sun at Pacific Beach, Coronado Beach, or Ocean Beach. You can’t go wrong with spending your day lounging on the sand and reading a good book or taking a dip. And if you want to learn how to surf or scuba dive, head over to La Jolla Shores.
Drinks, Bars & Clubs
If you’re the type to chat over a couple drinks or dance the night away, head to the Gaslamp Quarter for a good time. Known for its nightlife, this lively neighborhood has its fair share of cocktail lounges, dive bars, and clubs, whether you’re looking for a chill night or partying past midnight. And if you get hungry, just grab some carne asada fries at La Puerta.
So, are you California dreaming yet? Trust me when I say – if you visit, and end up falling in love with it like me, you’ll want to go back as soon as you leave!
This article was written by guest blogger, Isabel Paner & edited by Helena Lorimer