There’s plenty to see and do in San Diego, but if you’re itching to explore more of Southern California I’m here to guide your way. With day trips from San Diego, you’ll discover everything from wine country to national parks and even a bit of Old Mexico. Ready to see where the open road can take you? Let’s go!

Europa Village FB

Europa Village/Facebook

1) Temecula Wine Country

If you love wine (and really, who doesn’t?) day trips from San Diego to Temecula Wine Country will be right up your alley. Located in Riverside County about an hour from San Diego, wine aficionados can sample award-winning wines in over 50 varieties from wineries like Briar Rose Winery, Europa Village and Longshadow Ranch Vineyard & Winery.

Whites, reds and blends are served in Temecula Wine Country, so every one is sure to find a flavor to suit their palate. Tasting rooms are generally open daily, from 10am-5pm. Sample fees apply to samples. With almost 40 wineries creating Temecula Wine Country, the rolling vineyards of the area are able to create an intimate experience for expert tasters and novices alike.

Wildflower in Anza Borrego

Wildflowers in Anza Borrego Desert

2) Borrego Springs

Looking to leave the hustle and bustle of the big city behind? At Borrego Springs you can do just that as this laid back desert community, located in northeast San Diego County, there are no stop lights and strictly mom and pop-style shops. The slower pace of life can be deeper explored at the nearby Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. As California’s largest state park, this sprawling oasis is framed by rugged mountains, and offers scenic drives, hikes and even 4×4 tours.

From late February through March, you can find blossoms on the desert floor, which is a lovely sight to behold. Adding to the unique landscape are large, metal sculptures of prehistoric animals. Built by Ricardo Breceda, these are popular tourist attractions and totally Instagram-worthy.

Griffith Observatory Hollywood Hills (66)_RSZ

Griffith Observatory

3) Los Angeles

With Los Angeles just two hours from San Diego, it’s easy to day trip to Hollywood. If you only have one day to spend in Los Angeles, I recommend venturing to Griffith Observatory for stunning views of downtown Los Angeles as well as the Hollywood sign. Visitors can also look through telescopes, explore exhibits, and see live shows in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium. Add a quick stop to Hollywood Boulevard to your tour, then cruise on down to Santa Monica from endless ocean views and a little seaside fun on the pier.

Be sure to grab a bite to eat at Blue Plate Taco. Located right across the street from the Santa Monica Pier, the restaurant has a beachy vibe and tasty Mexican dishes as well as some of the best margaritas I’ve ever had.

Avalon Harbor, Santa Catalina Island

Avalon Harbor, Catalina Island

4) Catalina Island

You’re right at the coast, so why not visit an island—specifically Catalina Island. Drive to charming Dana Point for one of the best day trips from San Diego. Here, you can catch a ferry to the island. Catalina Express offers 30 departures daily. However, it’s still best to make a reservation as seats fill up fast!

The trip to Catalina Island takes about an hour, but the time is broken up by sightings of sea life such as sea lions. Once at the Island, take time to explore the quaint streets, shops and scenery that has made Catalina Island famous. Land and ocean adventures are available in both Avalon and Two Harbors, the main entry points for the island. Glass bottom boat tours, dolphin excursions and zipline eco tours are some of my favorite activities, and dining at The Lobster Trap is a must.

Yucca Brevifolia Mojave Desert Joshua Tree National Park Califo

Joshua Tree National Park

5) Joshua Tree National Park

For day trips from San Diego, you can’t beat the beauty of Joshua Tree National Park. Traveling here takes some time, about 2.5 hours, but the vast scenery of the Park is well worth the trip. Visitors are treated to a vast combination of desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, which are characterized by rugged rock formations and stark desert landscapes. Named for the region’s twisted, bristled Joshua trees, the park offers easy walks, strenuous hikes and excellent star-gazing. Must-see spots include Skull Rock and Keys View to the quieter areas around Cottonwood Spring and Black Rock Canyon.

Tijuana Flickr

Flickr/Glen Scarborough

6) Tijuana

Tijuana is just a hop, skip and jump away from San Diego. Located right across the Mexico border, visitors can take a trip to Tijuana solo-style or for added convenience book a group tour. Tijuana has long been known as a shopper’s paradise (be prepared to haggle on prices), with the Zona Rio area being the most popular shopping district. Tour the Zona Centro historic district, home to Avenida Revolución, the main tourist thoroughfare, as well as Rosarito Beach, a relaxing Mexican hot-spot. Even though Tijuana is right across the border from San Diego, you will need your passport for this day trip.

Are you ready for a road trip? With these day trips from San Diego, you can navigate to the best sights surrounding San Diego. As a result, you can easily discover more of this popular vacation destination.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

San Diego offers visitors a tremendous amount of things to see and do. Home to stunning scenery, miles of sandy beaches, and an abundance of attractions for all ages, like SeaWorld and San Diego Zoo, this Southern California destination is teeming with activities for visitors. Plus, there are plenty of free things to do in San Diego that are fun for those of all ages. In San Diego, visitors can have fun without spending a fortune to do so.

The Best Free Things to Do in San Diego

 

IMG_6367_RSZ free things to do in San Diego

Coronado Beach

1) The Beach

There are over 30 beaches open to the public in San Diego—all of which are free to visit. So, suit up, grab your beach bag and towel, and make a day of it by sunning, surfing, searching for seashells and building sandcastles. A few recommendations include Coronado Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla Shores.

 

 

La Jolla Cove free things to do in San Diego

La Jolla Cove

2) La Jolla Cove

For an up-close look at local sea life, La Jolla Cove is ideal. Sea lions frolic along the shoreline and nap in nearby rock and sand embankments, putting some serious cuteness on display. Watching these sea lions in their natural habitat is a first-hand look at the natural side of San Diego.

 

 

Gaslamp Quarter free things to do in San Diego

Gaslamp Quarter

3) Gaslamp Quarter

The Gaslamp Quarter, 16-block historic district in downtown, has a distinct turn-of-the-century Victorian vibe and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Originally built in the 1860s, the name of the area comes from the gas lamps used to light the streets. These still adorn the walkways and streets of the area, now home to over 100 shops, restaurants and bars.

 

 

Oceanside Municipal Pier CC 6758823059_12f710b128_z free things to do in San Diego

Oceanside Municipal Pier: Flickr/Ted

4) Oceanside Municipal Pier

When you walk along the 1,942-feet of the Oceanside Municipal Pier, you’re walking on a landmark. This pier is the oldest wooden pier on the West Coast, and is great of fishing and wave watching.

 

 

Stone Brewing Co.: Flickr/Bernt Rostad free things to do in San Diego

Stone Brewing Co.: Flickr/Bernt Rostad

5) Brewery Tours

San Diego is the home of America’s craft beer scene, so where better to go on a brewery tour? The Green Flash Brewing Co., Karl Strauss Brewery, Stone Brewing Company and Lo Jolla Brewing Company all have free tours. Sample free beers while getting a behind-the-scenes look at suds making.

 

 

IMG_5675_RSZ free things to do in San Diego

Cowles Mountain

6) Cowles Mountain

Hike to the top of Cowles Mountain for prime panoramic views of San Diego County. At 1,593-feet the summit is the highest peak in all of San Diego. The hike is a rather strenuous switchback-style uphill hike, but the views are worth the effort. Arrive early for the best views.

 

 

Point Loma free things to do in San Diego

Point Loma

7) Point Loma & Cabrillo National Monument

The Cabrillo National Monument, located on Point Loma, commemorates the landing of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542. Along with the monument, there is a historic lighthouse, with views all the way to Mexico, a veterans memorial, sea cliffs and tide pools to explore.

 

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve free things to do in San Diego

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

8) Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Hiking at Torrey Pines is one of the best ways to see the natural beauty of San Diego. Trails curve around sandy mountains, with views of the bright blue coast, jagged sea cliffs and rare Torrey pine trees dotting the way. Plus, you can swim at the base of the Torrey Pines cliffs.

 

 

old_town_sodiego_1 free things to do in San Diego

Old Town

9) Old Town State Historic Park

Trek through the history of California’s birthplace at Old Town, San Diego’s first downtown. There is a distinct feeling of Old Mexico within this 6-block, 12-acre park, with historical sites covering shops, restaurants, museums, preserved adobe buildings and more. It’s easily one of the most authentic free things to do in San Diego.

 

 

Balboa Park's Casa de Balboa Building in San Diego, California free things to do in San Diego

Balboa Park

10) Balboa Park

Balboa Park is teeming with free things to do in San Diego. There are over 65 miles of walking trails at Balboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in America. In addition, there are gorgeous gardens, botanical gardens and spectacular Spanish Colonial Revival architecture to see. Don’t miss the Spreckles Organ Pavilion which hosts free outdoor organ concerts on Sundays at 2pm.

 

California Surf Museum FB free things to do in San Diego

California Surf Museum/Facebook

11) California Surf Museum

Surf’s up at this museum, home to a permanent collection of historic boards, photographs and videos. Located in Oceanside on Highway 101, tour through the displays on Tuesdays for free admission.

 

 

 

Summer concerts in San Diego free things to do in San Diego

Summer concerts in San Diego

12) Summer Concerts

During the summer season, a variety of venues host free concerts. From the Coronado Summer Concerts in the Park to the La Jolla Concert by the Sea, there is an event planned for every week of the summer. Click here for a comprehensive list of free summer entertainment.

 

 

Seaport Village free things to do in San Diego

Seaport Village

13) Seaport Village

Stop by lively Seaport Village for a leisurely stroll along the bayfront, where window shopping, free entertainment and affordable cafes await. Seaport Village hosts the annual Busker Festival each spring, and offers over 75 stores and restaurants. Pop-up concerts and strolling entertainment featured on the weekends.

 

 

Sunset Cliffs free things to do in San Diego

Sunset Cliffs

14) Sunset Cliffs

The rugged Sunset Cliffs are juxtaposed with modern highways and homes. Truly lovely during the day, the cliffs are made even better in the evening. Watch the sun sink into the ocean horizon and witness an array of pinks and oranges painting the sky.

 

 

Mt. Soledad free things to do in San Diego

Mt. Soledad: Flickr/Oleg

15) Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial

Located in La Jolla, Mt. Soledad is an easy-to-access peak with 360-degree views on San Diego. While you enjoy the views, be sure to pay your respects to the brave men and women of America’s armed forces at the Veterans Memorial. Black granite stones tell the stories of those lost, encircling a massive cross honor those who served faithfully.

 

 

As you can see, it’s easy to find free things to do in San Diego. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, history buff or entertainment junkie, you can’t go wrong with these absolutely free options. Visitors can experience a fun and unforgettable vacation experience without breaking the budget.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

There’s no doubt that San Diego has something for everyone. From a baseball game for the sports fans to a day at the beach for the outdoorsy folk, San Diego is a great place to vacation. With so much to do and see, it can be difficult to fit everything into one vacation. Instead of trying to pack in every site, make sure these 7 San Diego landmarks are on your itinerary for an unforgettable vacation.

San Diego Landmarks - San Diego Zoo

See all of your favorite animals at the San Diego Zoo.

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park

When you visit San Diego, you have to go to the San Diego Zoo. As one of the top zoos in the world, it’s a rite of passage to visit this legendary attraction. From monkeys swinging from branch to branch, to towering giraffes and trumpeting elephants, the San Diego Zoo is home to more than 3,700 rare and endangered animals and counting. Plus, did you know the zoo is also a botanical garden with over 700,000 types of plants?

For the best San Diego Zoo experience, follow our expert tips:

Arrive as early as possible to get a phenomenal parking spot and see the animals being active. During the afternoon hours, most of the animals tend to rest.

Take advantage of the Bus Tour. The tour departments every half hour and provides one of the most thorough tours of the zoo. It’s a great way to see as many animals as possible during your day.

Check out this quick video guide to a day at the San Diego Zoo for more advice.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park is another treasure you don’t want to miss. The 1,800-acre park allows visitors to go on a safari adventure unlike any other. Between the behind-the-scenes experiences and seeing animals in their natural habitats, you’re sure to have a wild time at San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

To make your time at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park a breeze, reserve your tickets ahead of time using Reserve San Diego.

Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego

Image by Emilee Rader / Flickr

Cabrillo National Monument

The San Diego landmarks on our list have their own story and the Cabrillo National Monument is no exception. The historic monument commemorates the story of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who arrived at San Diego Bay in September 1542. Upon discovery, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo actually called the area, “San Miguel”. It wasn’t until 60 years later that the area was named “San Diego” by explorer Sebastian Vizcaino.

While at the monument, you can explore the statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, learn about his voyage, and gaze out into the ocean from the Old Point Loma lighthouse.

USS Midway Museum - San Diego Landmarks

Climb aboard the USS Midway Museum for an unparalleled San Diego experience.

USS Midway Museum

Climb aboard the USS Midway, an authentic U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, for an educational experience you’ll never forget. With 60+ exhibits, self-guided tours, 29 restored aircrafts, and outstanding ocean views, there’s something for everyone at the museum.

Among the most historical of San Diego landmarks, the USS Midway allows visitors to hear stories from Desert Storm pilots and experience life aboard the famous vessel. Plus, daredevils can hop into a flight simulator and “jet off” into the sky!

Book your trip to the USS Midway Museum using Reserve San Diego to skip the ticket lines and spend more time inside the aircraft carrier.

Balboa Park - San Diego Landmarks

Image by richmbythesea / Flickr

Balboa Park

Did you know Balboa Park is known as one of the best parks in the world? The park houses 15 museums, performing arts venues, botanical gardens, cultural and recreational attractions, and the San Diego Zoo.

With over 1,200 acres to explore, you can spend the majority of your San Diego vacation in Balboa Park and never get bored! As the nation’s largest urban cultural park, it’s easy to see why Balboa Park made our list of San Diego landmarks you can’t miss.

Torrey Pines cliffs

Visit the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve for unbeatable views and outdoor adventure.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

California is home to hundreds of beautiful national and state parks. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is one of the 16 parks with reserve status. This means that everything in the reserve is exactly as it was before the entire city of San Diego was built. From the calming trails to the incredible beaches, this natural reserve is one of San Diego’s true treasures.

When you visit Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, follow all of the rules put in place by the California State Park System. The point of the reserve is to keep it safe from waste and harm while tourists visit the park.

Gaslamp Quarter - San Diego Landmarks

Visit Gaslamp Quarter to combine history and fun in one neighborhood.

Gaslamp Quarter

Located in the heart of the historic city, Gaslamp Quarter is known as San Diego’s entertainment district. With 16.5 blocks of Victorian architecture and stories of San Diego’s past, everything for a phenomenal vacation is at your fingertips.

As a result, you’ll find the following throughout the famous neighborhood:

  • Art Galleries
  • Theaters
  • Award-Winning Restaurants
  • Live Music and Bars
  • Museums and Attractions
  • Premier Shopping
  • Luxury Hotels and Lodging

 

We guarantee you’ll love Gaslamp Quarter, especially since it’s one of the top San Diego landmarks!

Old Town San Diego - San Diego Landmarks

Don’t forget to stop by Old Town San Diego too.

Old Town San Diego

Known as the birthplace of California, you need to visit Historic Old Town San Diego. In 1968, the State of California Department of Parks and Recreation announced the establishment of Old Town, therefore preserving the area’s rich history. Throughout the neighborhood, you can learn about San Diego’s past, visit local shops, or attend a festival.

With so much history and fun packed into one neighborhood, it’s no wonder why it made the list of top San Diego landmarks!

Reserve Your Vacation to See All 7 San Diego Landmarks Today

With so many San Diego landmarks to visit, it’s best to plan your trip ahead of time. Eliminate the hassle of booking a hotel room or purchasing tickets on several different websites by using Reserve San Diego. From hotel reservations to travel tips, Reserve San Diego has everything you need for the San Diego vacation of a lifetime in one place.

 

Located in sunny Southern California, San Diego is widely known for its majestic beaches. Year-round mild temperatures coupled with endless sunshine makes the 70 miles of coastline a true treasure. No matter when you visit, you’ll want to explore the surf and sand of San Diego beaches.

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There are a number of beaches dotting the San Diego coastline, and their offerings are as varied as the towns built around them. Reefs, rocky cliffs, tide pools and sandy beaches are just a few of the landscapes you’ll discover. No matter which beach you visit, stay for the sunset!

Grab your sunscreen, a beach towel and dive into an ocean of fun at one of these beaches.

San Diego Beaches

Coronado Beach_CC

Coronado Beach: Flickr/Rajapal

Coronado Beach
902 Ocean Blvd
Coronado, CA

A fantastic family beach due to the calm waters, this park is also dog-friendly and the perfect place to stroll the beach.

Ocean Beach
1950 Abbott St
San Diego, CA

Surfers flock to this beach, as do dog owners as it is one of the only beaches where your dog can roam freely – leash free.

Mission Bay Park CC

Mission Bay Park/Flickr: Tony Webster

Imperial Beach
2 Elder Ave
Imperial Beach, CA

Located a half-hour north of San Diego, this beach is great for swimming and building sand sculptures.

Mission Bay Park
2688 East Mission Bay Drive
San Diego, CA

Mission Bay Park is a veritable playground stretching over 4,200 acres. There are 27 miles of bay front and is a popular place for watersports.

Mission Beach_CC

Mission Beach: Flickr/Quinn Dombrowski

Bonita Cove
1100 W Mission Bay Dr
San Diego, CA

Enclosed within Mission Bay Park, families like Bonita Cove for its tranquil waters and grassy picnic areas.

Mission Beach
Mission Blvd & Ventura Place
San Diego, CA

Usually bustling with activity, people watching and volleyball are two popular activities. Extending from Belmont Park to the south end of West Mission Bay Drive, parking can be difficult to find but is worth the hassle.

Pacific Beach CC1

Pacific Beach: Flickr/Gary J. Wood

Pacific Beach
974 Thomas Ave
San Diego, CA

Another busy beach, Pacific Beach is located along Ocean Front Walk. Surfing is popular here, especially at Tourmaline Surfing Park which prohibits swimming. Lifeguards are always on duty here, which adds an extra level of safety.

Windansea Beach
6800 Neptune Pl
San Diego, CA

Although not ideal for swimming, it is a beautiful stretch of beach worth exploring. It also offers excellent surfing conditions.

Windansea Beach_CC

Windansea Beach: Flickr/Jeeheon

Children’s Pool
850 Coast Blvd
La Jolla, San Diego, CA

You can swim at Children’s Pool but the real attraction is the harbor seal population. You can easily spot dozens soaking up the California sun from fall to spring.

La Jolla Cove
1100 Coast Blvd
La Jolla, CA

A beautiful setting and calm, protected waters make this a haven for snorkeling and scuba diving. Visit to explore the unique Underwater Park, home to deep canyons, tidal pools and artificial reefs.

La Jolla Beach CC1

La Jolla Beach: Flickr/Thomas Galvez

La Jolla Shores/Beach
8200 Camino Del Oro
La Jolla, CA

Postcard perfect, the setting of La Jolla Shores brings the crowds. Activities here include jogging, swimming, kayaking, scuba diving and surfing. Plus, you can easily spot seals sunbathing at this beach.

Black’s Beach
2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Dr
La Jolla, CA

Secluded and good for swimming and surfing, Black’s Beach is most notable for its nude bathing. Even though it’s technically illegal, don’t’ be surprised by the nudity if you decide to stop by.

La Jolla Beach_Seals_CC

La Jolla Beach: Flickr/Łukasz Lech

Torrey Pines Beach
12600 N Torrey Pines Rd
San Diego, CA

Combining the great outdoors with a seaside experience, Torrey Pines is rarely has a crowd and is a fantastic for beach walking.

Del Mar Beach
1700 Coast Blvd
Del Mar, CA

Grassy cliffs and a playground area highlight this beach, located 15 miles from downtown San Diego.

All of these San Diego beaches are open to the public. So, grab your swimsuit and beach bag and great ready for fun and sun in Southern California.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

San Diego is a sprawling seaside city with a wide selection of things to see and do. Among these are cultural attractions and scenic spots, all of which you want to try and visit during a vacation here. One of the best ways to do so is to purchase a ticket for the San Diego Old Town Trolley Tour. The sightseeing tour highlights the best of San Diego while allowing you to explore at your own pace. With the option to hop on and off at 11 different spots, you can create a day all your own.

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You can board one of the trolleys at any stop location. I choose to start my tour at their headquarters in Old Town, as I planned to cover all of the stops. When you first board, you’re given a sticker to wear. This is essentially your boarding pass to hop on and off at the various stops, so don’t forget to stick it to your shirt or pant leg. After taking the full tour myself, I can tell you how to make the most of your one-day trolley ticket.

Old_Town_Trolley_Hop_on_Hop_off_Sightseeing_Tour__(71639) Every stop has a rolling schedule, with pick up times every 30 minutes. This means you can take a quick look at some of the sights and stay longer at others – the choice is yours. I do recommend starting your trolley tour early in the day to make the most of your ticket as the trolley runs during the day only.

Some of the points of interest I think deserve your time is USS Midway. A tour is available at ship’s Aircraft Carrier Museum, where you can learn about the Navy’s longest serving carrier. Seaport Village is a quaint bay front complex with cobblestone streets and charming views of San Diego Bay. Grab a bit to eat at one of the local cafes, before hopping back on the trolley. Gaslamp Quarter is a Victorian-themed district worth a quick stop. But, save this destination for after dark as that’s when you can really experience the excellent cuisine and nightlife available.   Take in soaring views as you drive over the famous Coronado Bridge, then get off the trolley at the Coronado Ferry Landing stop. The highlight here are the views of San Diego Bay. You can also pick up a sweet treat for later at shops like at ChocoAmore or a souvenir at La Camisa.

After this quick stop, the official Coronado stop is next. For me, this spot is ideal for two reasons – views of the famous Hotel Del Coronado and the beach! Spend some time with your toes in the sand, snapping photos and enjoying the ocean breeze.

Old_Town_Trolley_Hop_on_Hop_off_Sightseeing_Tour__(61413)Balboa Park, a city park and cultural attraction all in one, is another must stop. You won’t be able to see all of this sprawling 1,200 acre gem, but you can experience some its finest features. Stroll through the long promenade of El Prado and then admire the grand design of the Casa de Balboa. Experience some of the many gardens, like the one blooming at the Botanical Building. Explore the California Bell Tower, and visit one of the many museums on site like the San Diego Museum of Art. The San Diego Zoo is located here too, but save it for another day as you’ll need more time for that attraction.

You can see the best of San Diego with the Old Town Trolley Tour. It’s a convenient way to acclimate yourself to the city. Make it one of the first things you do when you arrive. You’ll get a good perspective of your vacation destination and discover places you have to visit more than once.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Let’s face it: As adults we spend entirely too much time working. We all need to break away from the everyday now and again, leaving the hustle and bustle of our routines behind for new experiences. One of the perfect places to do just that is San Diego. There are so many things to do in San Diego for adults you won’t waste a minute of your time wondering “What’s next?” For recommendations on what to do and where to go, check out my list below.

La Jolla Kayak FB

Kayak into a cave with La Jolla Kayak

La Jolla Kayak

The scenic setting of La Jolla is ideal for water adventures like kayaking. The surrounding cliffs and seashores are pretty, but the main attraction is kayaking into the famous Seven Caves and La Jolla Underwater Park. The original La Jolla Kayak tour, which is 2-hours, includes sightings of spectacular marine life around, such as Dolphin, Sea Lions, Leopard Sharks, and Garibaldi. Plus, kayaking into a cave is seriously cool. If you’d prefer, though, you can choose a sunset kayak tour to experience those oh-so-lovely San Diego sunsets. Bonus: Stop at Seal Beach to get up-close to native sea lions.

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The view from Razor Point Trail

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve & Beach

The first time I visited Torrey Pines, I fell in love. The charming coastal nature reserve has some seriously breathtaking panoramic views unspoiled by the progress of man. Throughout the park there are eight miles of trails, each zig-zagging along bluffs and with gorgeous overlooks of the Pacific Ocean at every turn. The twisty Torrey Pine, found in only two places on Earth, is also a sight to behold as are the rugged cliffs and varied desert plant life. A sandy beach is the end reward for those on the Beach Trail and Broken Hill Trail, while the best scenic vistas can be found on the Razor Point and High Point Trail.

The Gondola Company FB_RSZ

Go on a romantic gondola ride in San Diego

The Gondola Company

Gondolas seem to set just the right mood for romance. The Gondola Company accompanies guests around the Coronado Cays, an area dotted with beautiful homes and harbors. Cruises last 50-minutes, includes an Italian appetizer plate or dessert plate (think chocolate covered strawberries), as well as a blanket to keep you cozy. Riders can also bring their own wine, with glasses and openers provided. Sit back, sip your beverage of choice, and let the gondoliers take you on a cruise ripe with passion. Sometimes the gondoliers even singing, making it a truly transportive experience. Tours depart daily from 3pm-Midnight.

Balboa Park 463680953

Stroll around stunning Balboa Park

Balboa Park

Where do I even start? Balboa Park, with over 85 attractions, provides the perfect playground for adults seeking a cultural experience. The main attraction at Balboa Park is the San Diego Zoo, but there are also 15 museums, gorgeous gardens, cultural centers, a carousel and more. Spend the day leisurely touring Balboa Park: listen to an outdoor organ concert, stroll through the free Japanese Botanical Garden, watch a play at The Old Globe Theater and dine at The Prado. With Spanish Revivial Architecture framing all of Balboa Park, it’s easy to see why this is one of the favorite things to Do in San Diego for adults. For a complete Balboa Park guide, click here.

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See the best of the historic Gaslamp Quarter

The Gaslamp Quarter

I love the atmosphere at The Gaslamp Quarter. Stretching for 16 square blocks, this Victorian-era district intermingles with modern skyscrapers creating a unique place to play. With more than 100 restaurants, pubs, and nightclubs, as well as shops and cultural offerings like theaters, art galleries, museums and concert venues, the Gaslamp Quarter is the go-to place to spend a night out in San Diego, California. Rooftop bars are a signature of the Gaslamp Quarter’s nightlife scene. Altitude Sky Lounge, RoofTop600 and Float are just a few of places to sip a drink, soak up the skyline and enjoy the year-round balmy San Diego weather. Other popular bars include Barley Mash, The Tipsy Crow and The Lucky Bastard Saloon. For the best date night dining, I recommend The Strip Club, Searsucker, Hopping Pig and Bang Bang. There are so many options, though, and you can’t go wrong with any of them. Check out our Gaslamp Quarter guide for even more suggestions.

As you can see, there are a variety of enticing things to do in San Diego for adults. And, this is list is just the start! Plan a San Diego vacation and discover all the ways adults can play in this inviting SoCal town.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

San Diego

Just as the state California has so much diversity in geography, weather, and populations, the San Diego beaches each have their unique spirit and offerings, so it’s good to know which are best to for you and your family.   Whether your family is young, and you have toddlers waddling their way to the water, or your kids are teens, and they want to learn how to surf, San Diego has a great beach for you! Here is my list for the best San Diego beaches for families.

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Coronado Beach

Coronado Beach
Best for: All Ages

This beach is my favorite beach in San Diego, simply because of how massive it is. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, you can always find your own space to layout, play paddleball or play football. You might not be too close to the water, but if you want some relaxation time AND the opportunity to play in the calm waves, this beach is perfect. You won’t have people stepping over you. The coolest thing about this beach, however, is the fact that just north of it is the landing strip to the Navy airport. On working days, you can watch massive fighter jets fly around and land.

Insider tips: Parking is tough near the beach, but the entire pseudo island of Coronado has parking throughout the residential streets, and it’s free! Dogs are welcome on the north end of the beach.

Mission Beach

Mission Beach

Mission Beach
Best for: Teens and older

At Mission Beach, you’ll find your quintessential SoCal boardwalk, a historic amusement park with rides and games, small waves for the novice surfer, and a bayside to the east for boat launching, picnics in the grass, and biking. Since there is so much to do in Mission Beach, that it attracts thousands of people during the summer, and that’s why I think it’s a great beach for teens. They can bike around, learn how to surf, and get burritos after riding the historic rollercoaster at Belmont Park.

Insider tips: If you decide to stay at the beach, or in the area after sunset, be sure to stay for the firework show at Sea World at 9pm.

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La Jolla Shores

La Jolla Shores
Best for: All Ages

This beach has shark-infested waters that do not pose any threats to beach visitors. You can rent snorkels to get a glance of the bottom-feeding leopard sharks, and tell all of your friends and family at home that you swam with sharks in San Diego! This beautiful beach sits in between the Torrey Pines cliffs and the 7 Caves of La Jolla, offering visitors incredible sunset views and a thrilling kayak experience.

Insider tips: There are bonfire pits, a grassy area for picnicking near the water, but parking is tough. You may want to consider taking a kayak tour with one of the tour companies off of Avenida de la playa.

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Moonlight State Beach
Photo Credit: Bjorn/flickr

Moonlight State Beach
Best for: All Ages

This North County beach is a popular one amongst the locals. It has a play area for kids, volleyball nets, bonfires, picnic tables, and a beach rental shop. The waves don’t get huge, making it a great place for surfers and swimmers. It does get crowded, but the beach is long, so you may have to walk north or south to get the perfect spot to set up camp.

Insider tips: Parking is limited, and you will have to walk back uphill to your car. There is one way in and out of the beach, so I would suggest against trying to park in their parking lot is it’s past 10am in the summer. Kids and teens can take surf lessons at this beach.

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Del Mar Powerhouse Park Beach
Photo Credit: Chris Lee/flickr

Del Mar Powerhouse Park at the Beach
Best for: All Ages

This patch of grassy area just above the sand to the beach is a huge family favorite. You will find families of all sizes with picnics on the grass while kids play in the sand and in the water. The train track is situated just behind the grass, making it a fun way for young kids to learn about trains, and watch them in action.

Insider tips: I would suggest grabbing lunch or dinner at one of the nearby restaurants. You can walkup to the Plaza for sunset and outdoor dining.

Now that you have a good idea of which beaches to visit while you’re in San Diego, you can start prepping for your big beach day! Don’t forget your sunscreen, towels and toys! And, remember to check the weather because even the best San Diego beaches can be cooler than expected, even in the middle of summer!


Bianca is a San Diego native, and prides herself on her knowledge of her city. As a professional tour guide, she offers food and drink tasting tours through her company: So Diego Tours. With 8 years in the tourism industry, she brings you updates on how to make the most out of your time, money and energy in her city.

Stuff your carry-on luggage, and hop on the plane, because we’ve only got 3 days to enjoy San Diego for an extended weekend. Here’s my guide on “How to Spend 3 Days in San Diego.” Ready? Set! Go!

Day 1

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USS Midway Museum

Assuming that you came in the night before, and you’ve got a full night’s rest, we will start the day at 9am in Downtown, San Diego.

9am: Coffee and Breakfast at Brickyard Coffee. You’re going to have to fuel up before you start Day 1 in San Diego. This neighborhood coffee shop is right by the Seaport Trolley station, and has a nice, large patio and great food and coffee. My favorite breakfast items are the Breakfast Bakes and the Acai Bowl.

9:30am: Now that you’re buzzed from your coffee, it’s time to hit the pavement. It will take you about 15 minutes to walk to our first attraction: The USS Midway: a retired US Navy aircraft carrier museum. It will take you about 3 hours to check this museum out. Make sure to watch my video on tips on visiting this museum.

12:30pm: After the museum, you may be ready for lunch. If you’re starving, the Fish Market is right next door to the museum, and it really good and fresh. They have a patio outside overlooking the San Diego Bay. It’s first come, first served when it comes to seating, and there is a limited menu in this section, but it provides for faster service and a more casual dining experience.

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Hotel Del Coronado

If you’re not too hungry (or after lunch), I suggest you buy a ferry ticket, and head to Coronado Island. Keep in mind that the ferry leaves every hour on the hour at the dock next to the USS Midway. It’s only a 15-minute ride, but you’ll get incredible views of the working Navy ships, million-dollar homes, and the San Diego skyline. Once in Coronado, feel free to walk around The Ferry Landing where you’ll find great restaurants, shops and galleries. I love Candelas restaurant. They have great Mexican-fusion cuisine, cocktails, and a killer view of Downtown, San Diego.

2:30pm: After lunch, you’ll want to head to the Hotel del Coronado – the iconic, Victorian resort in Coronado. You can either take a taxi there, or the free Summer Shuttle (June-September). Once at “The Del”, you can walk around the premises to the various shops, to the beach, or the Sundeck to relax, have a cocktail, and enjoy the Pacific Ocean views. You should also walk on Orange Ave. and Ocean Blvd. to get to know the neighborhood. There is beauty around every corner of Coronado.

5:00pm: Happy Hour! Stake happy hour offers the best views and deals on the island. On Sunday and Wednesday they have a live band on the patio starting at 6pm. You can continue in Coronado to watch the sunset, or head back to your hotel to get ready for the night.

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Gaslamp Quarter

8:00pm: Dinner in the Gaslamp is fun, hip, sexy, and delicious! Some of my favorite spots in the area are: Double Standard, Searsucker, Rustic Root, and Sushi Lounge.

After dinner, have fun walking around the area. You’re bound to run into a bar or restaurant that has live music, dancing, sports, or entertainment – unless you want to visit a secret speakeasy-style bar. My favorite bar in the Gaslamp is Prohibition. They have live music Thursday-Saturday nights.

Day 2

9am: Wake up early, and head straight to Balboa Park for a nice walk amongst the trees and gardens. Here, you will find many museums such as the Air and Space Museum, The Museum of Man, and the San Diego History Center. You can also enjoy the world-famous San Diego Zoo. You can spend 3 hours at this park. If you get hungry, check out The Prado or Panama 66.

1:00pm: Drive to Old Town, and enjoy learning about the birthplace of California as you walk through the historic state park. Visit original adobe homes, one of San Diego’s oldest cemeteries, and America’s most haunted house. You might want to save your appetite, and eat here, because there are about 25 restaurants, and 90% of them are dedicated to Mexican food. You can have some incredible margaritas, and fresh Mexican food.   Check out Café Coyote, Casa Guadalajara, or Fiesta de Reyes.

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Balboa Park

4:00pm:  Mission Bay/Beach. Just 10 minutes away from Old Town, you’ll enjoy some beach culture at Mission Bay. Rent a bike, and cruise around, or learn how to stand up paddleboard. There is even a mini amusement where you can enjoy rides and games. The beach and boardwalk are quintessentially San Diego, and offer the best spot for a picture perfect sunset. Before you know it, the sun will be down, and you’ll be hungry again. There are many small eateries in this area, but I would suggest heading to Amplified Ale Works for good, fresh beer and great Mediterranean/Californian food.

You can stay in this area into the night. The nightlife at the beaches is really casual, so no need to get dressed up. Flip-flops, shorts, and tans are always welcome!

Day 3

Today, we are heading up to North County! Bring your swimsuits, because this day is all about exploring the Pacific Coast Highway.

Self Realization Gardens

View from Self Realization Gardens/Yelp: Katie B.

10:00am: Take the I-5 freeway up to Encinitas, and head straight to the Self Realization Fellowship Meditation Garden. This garden is on a cliff overlooking the Pacific, and is gorgeous. Take in the views, take in some fresh air, and free yourself of all negative emotions and thoughts you may be carrying with you. Set the intention for the day, and see how happy you will feel throughout the day.

After your mini meditation, drive north to the town of Encinitas. I love stopping into Pannikin for coffee or tea. Enjoy your drink with some of the locals here. Next, head to the beach. Moonlight State Beach is really popular. If you walk along the beach, you’re sure to find a nice area to layout in.

2:00pm: You’ve got some sun, and now it’s time to hit the road down the coast on the 101 aka PCH aka Pacific Coast Highway. You’ll pass the surfing town of Cardiff, Solana Beach, and Del Mar before you arrive to Torrey Pines State Reserve. Hike the trails at Torrey Pines, or go to the Torrey Pines Lodge to indulge on a gourmet, farm to table meal. If you don’t want to do Torrey Pines, head into the village areas of the beach communities before arriving to Torrey Pines. Cedros Ave. in Solana Beach is fun for shopping, and the Del Mar Plaza is great for lunch and shopping, as well. You can also drive down to La Jolla Village and walk through the galleries or along the coastline where the seals and sea lions lay out.

Wind and Sea Beach San Diego

Wind and Sea Beach

6:00pm: As the sun begins to set, be sure to get a spot to watch it. I love Wind and Sea beach. You’ll see many surfers catching the last waves of the day.

7:30pm: By the end of the day, I would suggest going to dinner back in the Village of La Jolla. I absolutely love The Med at the La Valencia Hotel. You’ll find great, seasonal dishes here, a great view, and live music. It’s pretty casual here, so you won’t have to worry about your shorts and sandy feet in the lounge of this restaurant.

In a perfect world, you’d probably live in San Diego, but that’s not always an option. Three days is just a tease, but as you can see, you can get a lot in in that time. I hope this is blog helps you plan your short-lived extended weekend!


Bianca is a San Diego native, and prides herself on her knowledge of her city. As a professional tour guide, she offers food and drink tasting tours through her company: So Diego Tours. With 8 years in the tourism industry, she brings you updates on how to make the most out of your time, money and energy in her city.

To truly witness the scenery of San Diego you need to lace up your shoes, and hit the trails. Torrey Pines, a natural reserve located on the Southern California Coasts, is one of the most picturesque places to go. Offering dessert landscapes, ocean views and rigged cliffs, it’s a recreation dream.

The 1,750 acre reserve is named after the Torrey Pine tree. Juxtaposed against sandstone canyons and windswept cliffs, Torrey pines dot the coastal wilderness and hiking trails. The collection of trails at the park wind through the terrain, boasting postcard-worthy views at every turn. There are eight miles of trails total on the five hikes available. Which Torrey Pines hiking trails should you do? Get details for each below.

Guy Fleming Trail, Southern Overlook

Guy Fleming Trail, Southern Overlook

Guy Fleming Trail
Length: .7 mile loop
Rating: Easy

Relatively flat and easy-going, this trail is by far the easiest in the park. It also provides up-close views of Torrey pines, as well as stunning ocean views. There are two overlooks, one facing north, the other south, plus sandstone formations, spring wildflowers and sights of Gray Whales in winter to look forward to on the Guy Fleming Trail.

Razor Point Trail

Razor Point Trail

Razor Point Trail
Length: 1.4 miles round trip
Rating: Easy to Moderate

You won’t see as many Torrey pines on this route. You will, however, be rewarded with dreamy beach views as endless as the sea. Unmatched views of a gorge, badlands and ravines dotted with colorful sand and rich, green grass add to the natural display. The cliffs cut into the coast are a dramatic backdrop to the sea, demanding your attention. The trail also winds past the Red Butte Formation, ideal for a king-of-the-world photo op. You can also connect to other trails from Razor Point, such as the Beach Trail.

Beach Access with Flat Rock pictured.

Beach Access with Flat Rock pictured.

Beach Trail
Length: 1.5 miles roundtrip
Rating: Moderate

The Beach Trail isn’t the most scenic trail at Torrey Pines State Reserve, but it does have beach access. It’s only rated moderate, in my opinion as it is steep. Other than that, the trail is relative easy. Coastal chaparral dots the trail, gradually descending through badlands and along the Big Basin. You can also see visit Yucca Point. Towards the end, the trail winds into a path carved by the ocean before the sand is at your feet and a large expanse of beach at your disposal. Climb out on Flat Rock to feel the sprays of the ocean. Be sure to snap a photo or two.

An iconic Torrey pine grows alongside the Razor Point Trail

An iconic Torrey pine grows alongside the Razor Point Trail

Broken Hill Trail
Length: 2.5 miles roundtrip
Rating: Easy to Moderate

Broken Hill Trail can be accessed via North or South Fork, with both leading to the scenic overlook of Broken Hills. The parks longest trail has plenty of chaparral, few trees and inescapable views of the Pacific Ocean. After reaching Broken Hill Overlook, turn around, head back to the fork and start the hike towards the beach.   Access is provided via connecting section to the Beach Trail.

Sightseeing at the Guy Fleming Trail Southern Overlook

Sightseeing at the Guy Fleming Trail Southern Overlook

Parry Grove Trail
Length: 1 mile loop
Rating: Moderate

Parry Grove is the most secluded hike at Torrey Pines. The Whitaker Native Plant Garden is at the entrance, and hikers can see many of the park’s namesake tree on their short jaunt. In fact, the one of the park’s oldest tree can be spotted about halfway down the trail’s staircase. The downside of Parry Grove is the bark beetle infestation which has destructed a lot of this once full grove. Although short, the trail is moderate due to its steep stairs on entry and exit.

Directions
From San Diego, take Interstate 5 to the Carmel Valley Road exit. Head west to Torrey Pines Road South. The Torrey Pines Natural Reserve has a $10 entrance fee, and here are two parking options available. Park at the south end of the beach, then hike up the steep hill to access hiking trails. Or, save your stamina for the actual hikes and park in additional kits available throughout the park and at trailheads.

Helpful Tips

  • Torrey Pines is a day park only. Night activities are prohibited.
  • There are no places, or vending machines, to buy drink or food. Arrive prepared as the nearest gas station is 15 minutes away.
  • The visitor center is open daily from 9am-6pm in the summer, and 10am-4pm in the winter. Stop in for maps or to ask a park ranger for hiking advice.
  • Guided tours are available. Please inquire with the Visitor Center for exact hours, but they are typically held at 10am and 2pm and last one hour.
  • No pets are allowed.

 

If you’re visiting San Diego, add Torrey Pines to your list of places to go. The impressive coastal sights will leave salt on your lips, wind in your hair and postcard-worthy memories in your memory bank.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Known as “The Enchanted Island,” Coronado is the place where Main Street meets bare feet. When you visit San Diego, this is one of the iconic areas you must explore. Not only does it offer the atmosphere of a small town, but some of the best beaches in the United States are located here.

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Hotel Del Coronado

Located across the Big Bay from downtown San Diego, you can easily access Coronado. Drive the famous San Diego-Coronado Bridge, take a ferry or hop a trolley a let them do the driving for you. Once you’re there, you’ll find plenty of things to do. From art galleries, shops and restaurants at the Coronado Ferry Landing to the charming boutiques and eateries of downtown, you can easily spend a whole day here meandering through the quaint city streets. Even if you just want to sightsee, Coronado Ferry Landing boasts fabulous views of San Diego’s downtown skyline. Plus, if you take the ferry over you’ll have access to these views for your entire journey.

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San Diego-Coronado Bridge

One of the must-see attractions of the island is the Hotel Del Coronado. Built in 1888, this hotel has a colorful and storied background which includes the celebrities, scandals, politicians and even a ghost or two. It is now a historic landmark and continues to offer traditional service with a contemporary twist. Plus, it’s located on 28 beautiful oceanfront acres so you can easily explore the beach after your visit.

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Coronado Beach

Coronado’s coastline beckons visitors to the sea. The calm surf, white sand beaches and sparkling ocean waters are hard to beat. In fact, Coronado has been named one the 10 best beaches for families in 2014 by Family Vacation Critic. So, pack a beach bag for your day of exploring and spend some time relaxing at the legendary beach of Coronado.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.