It’s been 3.5 months since I’ve visited San Diego, and I can safely say that it’s a place I definitely plan on returning to (yup, Google Flights is now constantly monitoring flight prices for me out to SD!) It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited in the U.S., it has amazing food, an incredible craft beer scene, and is a lot more approachable than my other favorite SoCal city, Los Angeles.
What were some of my highlights of San Diego? Relive the fantastic experience below!
The Ultimate San Diego Travel Guide
San Diego Travel Guide — Where to Stay
We ended up bouncing between a couple of different hotels during our stay just to experience different areas of the city. The first hotel we stayed at was the Grande Colonial Hotel in La Jolla, which I’ve reviewed in greater detail in its own post. La Jolla is right on the water and has incredible shopping and restaurants, and it was a great place to relax.
We also stayed at a hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter, which is San Diego’s equivalent of “downtown” — the actual hotel we stayed at wasn’t much to talk about, however, I loved the neighborhood. We were steps away from the best nightlife that the city had to offer, and I loved the hustle and bustle of the area.
San Diego Travel Guide — Getting Around
We got to try out the 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE while we were in San Diego, and this was the perfect city to test drive this vehicle in! If you really want to explore the area, I’d recommend getting a car. It’s a pretty large city, and some of the surrounding towns are worth a visit as well, so it was nice to hop in a car rather than relying on Uber or Lyft the entire stay.
Southern California has some of the worst traffic I’ve ever seen in my life — and yes friends, I’m a D.C. native, so I’m no stranger to tons of traffic. It was awesome to have a hybrid in the city because the traffic in San Diego can be super unpredictable. We drove the car for an entire week, got stuck in some pretty gnarly traffic jams, and surprisingly did not run out of gas. A full tank of gas could last us over a week!
I also loved the 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE because it was a smooth ride overall, and it comfortably fit four tall adults without any issue. Not to mention, the striking red color of our car made people do a double take all over the city!
San Diego Travel Guide — Things to Do
- San Diego Zoo Safari Park: You’ve probably heard of the San Diego Zoo, but have you heard of the Safari Park? It’s an entirely separate property from the Zoo, and it was terrific. As an early Christmas present, my boyfriend got me tickets to the Caravan Safari Tour, where we got to travel in an open-air safari truck and view some of my favorite animals up close (and we got to feed a couple of giraffes and a rhino!) If you can’t get to a safari in Africa, this is the next best thing. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park works with works with local communities in Africa to relocate endangered animals to safer environments. I now make a monthly donation to the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy to support their efforts globally.
- La Jolla Beach: If you can stay overnight here for a few days during your visit, I would highly recommend it. There isn’t a ton of parking available in this town, and if you’re going in the summer, you can expect a crowd. La Jolla was gorgeous, we got to see sea lions and seals at The Children’s Pool (disclaimer: they’re protected, and you won’t be able to come close enough to touch them!), there’s incredible luxury/boutique shopping, and overall it’s a stunning place just to walk around and hang out with friends!
- Coronado Beach: I don’t think I’ll ever forget the views at Coronado Beach. Park your car at Hotel Del Coronado and just make your way up the coastline — there are a ton of super cute beachfront bars and restaurants to hang out at, and you’re able to rent out chairs and umbrellas to enjoy the beach.
- San Diego County Vineyards: San Diego County has been growing grapes longer than any region in the state, and they’re known for their merlot and chardonnay. We snuck in a visit to Orfila Vineyards and Winery, which was a short drive from the San Diego Safari Park. Enjoy a quick tasting, and soak up all of the gorgeous vineyard views!
- Liberty Public Market: This property used to be a Military base, and after it closed, they transformed it into an event venue and public market where you can dine at some of the best local restaurants and concepts the city has to offer — all under one roof. I wanted to eat *everything* during my visit, but I’ll just have to come back to try out more of the local artisan offerings.
San Diego Travel Guide — Where to Eat
We had a ton of *amazing* food in San Diego, and I’m sure there’s much more to explore. Here are our current favorites, and when we go back, I’ll be sure to update this list!
- Half Door Brewing Co. (Gaslamp Quarter): In addition to an amazing selection of craft beer, you can enjoy an innovative pub menu and comfort food with a twist.
- Iron Pig Alehouse: Enjoy authentic, slow-cooked BBQ coupled with an extensive craft beer program.
- La Playa Taco Shop: I was on the hunt for the best tacos in San Diego, and this was an excellent option. All of the ingredients were incredibly fresh, and they tasted very authentic.
- UnderBelly: Can you really go to California without eating ramen? That’s a negative, my friend! This place had a hip ambiance and served some of the tastiest ramen I’ve had in a while.
- Casa del Q’ero: This is a little bit outside of the city, but it’s worth the visit if you love Peruvian food as much as I do.
- Herringbone (La Jolla): If you’re craving seafood while on the coast, this spot is for you. They have an “Oyster Hour” from 4-6 PM daily and all night on Mondays.
San Diego Travel Guide — Breweries & Nightlife
Cocktails & Nightlife:
- You & Yours Distilling: This was a highlight for me: it’s a female owned distillery that has some of the most delicious cocktails I’ve had in a while (there was also a cookie pairing when I visited; I love how they partner with other local shops!)
- Prohibition Lounge: This was a super cool speakeasy located in the Gaslamp Quarter. We had to wait in a short line to get in, but it was worth it. They offer live music and some of the most carefully crafted cocktails in town. Heads up: there the dress code is enforced on Friday’s and Saturdays.
- Abnormal Beer Company
- Belching Beaver Brewery
- Modern Times (my personal favorite)
- New English Brewing Company
- Second Chance Beer Co.
- Stone Brewing