My biggest tips in visiting San Diego are to 1) carve out an entire day for laying on the beach and 2) apply sunscreen ALL DAY.
The first day was our beach day, spending the afternoon laying out and riding the waves at Pacific Beach. You really can’t go wrong with beach spots in San Diego. We chose Pacific because it was close to our Airbnb and had the best waves. If you walk up and down the shore, you’ll find Mission Beach, Ocean Beach and more. Across the bay is Coronado Island, home to the historic and elegant Hotel del Coronado plus another great opportunity to get in some good beach time.
Beyond beaches, San Diego is home to many cool areas:
Old Town San Diego is a can’t-miss for first-time tourists. Sure, it’s a lot of gift shops and restaurants and walking around looking things you don’t feel like you can fit in your suitcase – but the atmosphere is such an experience, as California’s oldest settlement with Spanish influences.
The Pacific Beach neighborhood is a perfect place for shopping in surf and gift shops, checking out new eats and watching the surfers and fishers. A quick walk down the boardwalk filled with nice vacation homes brings you to Belmont Park, a beachfront amusement park.
The Gaslamp District, in downtown San Diego, is a more modern area with a variety of restaurants and chic shopping centers. I’d recommend making to Gaslamp if you’re downtown or looking for more of a bar scene or higher-end food.
Mission Bay area is home to calmer waters and less people – which can be a nice change of pace, especially if you are in San Diego during a holiday weekend like we were.
Hiking and parks are abundant in San Diego too, even if you just have a short time. Torrey Pines was one of my favorite hikes we did, which brought us through sandy hills right to the rocky shore looking out over the Pacific ocean. Inland is Balboa Park, which is another one of my favorite stops.
If you’re looking to save money in pricey California, San Diego has great Groupons for restaurants in many areas, good Airbnbs near the beach and also has the Uber “pool” feature that gives you the option to carpool with others nearby and save money. Instead of renting a car, we “pooled” everywhere, saving us over $400.
Weekends in San Diego might top my list of favorites – if only the flights were more reasonable from Minneapolis.
San Diego Weekend Recommendations
Don’t Miss: A trip to the beach, exploring Old Town, Torrey Pines.
If You Have Time: Gaslamp District, Balboa Park.
Skip: SeaWorld, renting a car or getting a pricey hotel that’s not on the water.