There are ample things to do in San Diego, the beautiful city just two hours south of Los Angeles. It’s a haven for those who enjoy beautiful beaches and a thriving city. With so much to do, it can be hard to narrow down the options. That’s why I have done it for you! These are the 10 things every visit to San Diego must include, and I promise they will not disappoint.
1. Hike Torrey Pines.
The name Torrey Pines might sound familiar because of the famous golf course associated with it. But the main event here is really the hiking trails. Stretched out just above the water, they offer breathtaking views and an easy escape to nature for those who need it. Follow the trail to the end and you will arrive at the beautiful beach. It’s crystal clear water and expansive sand is one of my favorite places to swim and body surf in San Diego, so it should definitely be on your list of things to do in San Diego.
2. Visit La Jolla.
La Jolla is a great area to spend a day. With its beautiful shops and restaurants just across the street from the water, it’s perfect for an afternoon on land. Walk across the street to see the sea lions, who always gather in La Jolla. You’ll hear them first! La Jolla also boasts one of the top ten places in the world for snorkeling, in the La Jolla Ecological Reserve and Underwater Park. People come from around the world to snorkel and scuba dive here, so you know it’s really that good. If you’d rather stay above water, La Jolla also has one of the most beautiful beaches in the city.
3. Learn how to surf at Pacific Beach.
If surfing is on your list of things to do in San Diego, you’ll want to head to Pacific Beach. It is home to a lot of young people, with a lively boardwalk and the beautiful Crystal Pier. It’s also home to Tourmaline Surf Park, which is a great place to try your hand at surfing. The surf park is any surfer’s dream, located right in between Pacific Beach and La Jolla, just north of the pier. If surfing isn’t your thing, then grab a spot on the sandy beach and watch the day go by from there.
4. Visit Coronado Island.
Getting to Coronado from San Diego is a very interesting experience in and of itself! The island is located just across the bay, but the bridge is the cool (or scary) part, as it curves upward. You’ll be happy you made it when you see the beautiful and famous Hotel del Coronado, and enjoy the beautiful beach there. Hotel del Coronado has played host to many well-known people, including several presidents. It’s exterior is beautiful, and there are shops located on the lower level if you’re curious to take a peek inside!
5. Explore Point Loma and Sunset Cliffs.
This is one of my favorite places in San Diego, but it doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves! Cabrillo National Monument, located at the furthest tip of Point Loma, has panoramic views of the ocean and bay. The Point Loma Lighthouse is also located there, along with some of San Diego’s best tide pools! This is a beautiful spot to explore, just make sure you check the schedule for low tides. If you’d like the best spot to watch a sunset while the waves crash below, then Sunset Cliffs is the perfect place. Bring a blanket to sit on and watch the sun go down from this magnificent spot on the coast.
6. Eat in Little Italy.
You may be surprised to find out that San Diego has a thriving Little Italy. This area boasts one of the best farmer’s market, which stretches on for blocks with not only seasonal fruits and veggies, but also local products and artisans. It’s my favorite place to be on a Saturday morning in San Diego. But really, no visit to Little Italy is complete without sitting down to a meal. There are countless restaurants here that are definitely worth your time, or grab a piece of pizza and sit in one of their “piazzas.”
7. Go to the top of Mount Soledad.
The Mount Soledad National Veterans Memorial has some of the most amazing views over the city of San Diego, but it’s something that isn’t always mentioned in lists of things to do in San Diego. Each veteran has a plaque with a photo dedicated to them. You’ll want to make your way to the very top, where there’s a large white cross. This is the spot for the best views over San Diego, so make sure you go on a clear day!
8. Have dinner in Old Town.
Old Town is a neighborhood in San Diego that you will not want to miss! There are several museums located there and the Old Town State Historic Park. However, my favorite things to do in Old Town are shop and eat! They have some amazing shops with international goods that are fun to browse, as well as some architecture that will make you feel like you’re back in the Wild West, or were transported to Mexico. Old Town is also the best spot to find Mexican food, so I love making this a destination for the evening.
9. Explore Balboa Park.
The architecture in Balboa Park is probably some of my favorite, out of anywhere in San Diego. It should definitely be on your list of things to do in San Diego because the options are diverse. The famous San Diego zoo is located at Balboa Park, as well as ample garden space. My favorite area is the Botanical Building and Lily Pond. There you will also find museums, shows, and shopping.
10. Visit the harbor.
San Diego is not just about the beaches, there is also the bustling harbor! If you’re interested in past naval ships, take a tour of the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier, which is now a museum at Navy Pier. If you’d like to get out on the water, opt for a sunset dinner cruise. Just be sure to arrive early so you can snag a seat on deck! Last but not least, my favorite monument in the whole city stands by the harbor, the kissing sailor statue which stands 25 feet high! It’s an ode to the famous photo taken in Times Square at the end of World War II, and I love visiting it every time I’m there.
With so many great things to do in San Diego, I hope this list helps you narrow down your itinerary! Share this with someone you want to visit California with.
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Maggie is the blogger behind The Artful Everyday, a travel and lifestyle blog dedicated to living intentionally and finding beauty in the ordinary. She loves the idea that we get to escape our normal lives when we travel, and that it allows us to be more open to the world and its cultures. Maggie lived in Florence while studying abroad, then was an au pair in Rome last fall. She is very passionate about traveling in Europe, especially Italy, and living abroad. Maggie studied Interior Design at the University of Minnesota, but is currently pursuing a career in writing.