Updated: Jul 24, 2022
I have been to San Diego twice now, when I was 20, and when I was 21...both times were equally as amazing, and I got to see new things and go new places both times I went. Both times, I only went for 5-7 days, and there was a lot to pack into those days for sure. Here are some of my favorite San Diego spots!
Balboa Park is a cultural park in San Diego located close to the San Diego Zoo. The park is made up of short walking paths, grassy areas, museums, theaters, gardens, etc. There is so much to do at this park! If I remember correctly, unless you are going to one of the museums or theaters, I believe entrance to the actual park is free if you're just walking around.
SAN DIEGO ZOO
I've always loved animals have always enjoyed visiting Zoos, and this is definitely one of my favorite zoos I have ever visited. It was huge, and had such a diversity in animal exhibits. Due to the close proximity to Balboa park, we were able to visit both places in one day. The San Diego Zoo has over 3,500 different animals, and also has interactive shows. This zoo is on the pricier side and costs $58 for a single day adult pass, but in my opinion, was worth it.
LA JOLLA COVE
This was definitely one of my favorite spots (and free too!). Being used to the greenish-brown Atlantic Ocean water at the Jersey Shore, seeing the royal blue Pacific Ocean crashing on the rocks was so cool. Not to mention La Jolla is teeming with seals and sea lions, and while they let you get pretty close to them, definitely don't try to touch them because believe it or not, they can be aggressive.
TORREY PINES STATE NATURAL RESERVE
I loved Torrey Pines! Both trips to San Diego we did a decent amount of hiking, and this was definitely one of my favorite hikes. It's an easier hike, but the view the entire time is breath taking as pretty much the entire hike is along the ocean. If I ever go back to San Diego, Torrey Pines will definitely be somewhere I will be re-visiting! The reserve is open 365 days a year from 7:15am - sunset, and costs about $15 per car to park at the reserve.
Definitely my all time favorite places in San Diego! You absolutely do not want to skip visiting. The best time to visit is on a sunnier day with a few clouds. We always went about an hour before sunset, and hiked around until we found a good spot on the cliffs to sit and watch the sun set over the ocean. These sunsets never disappoint, and even on cloudy days, the sky still turns beautiful shades of orange/yellow/red/purple. Sunset Cliffs is free, the only issue is finding parking...it is located in a pretty large residential area, so you have to park on the street, so sometimes finding parking is hard, and the hills can be really steep.
(This picture was taken on Huji Film Camera, so the colors are not accurate, however, this was the best picture I took to show the view)
OLD POINT LOMA LIGHTHOUSE
This was a neat place to visit. It's a small little light house that you are able to go inside of, however, the hike up / the view from the top where the light house is was such a cool view- you literally overlook thew entire city of San Diego. If I remember correctly, I believe it was about $20 / car for parking, however, there is more to do within walking distance than just the lighthouse.
CABRILLO NATIONAL MONUMENT
This is national monument within walking distance of the lighthouse. You have the option to take a free tour, or simply walk around on your own, and hike the easy trails. We started off in a tour group, but then ended up deciding to break off and go on our own, so we could take pictures and stuff without holding everybody else up. Right by the actual monument is a beautiful overlook as well.
(Didn't have a picture of the actual monument, but this is the trail we walked to get there)
There is a lot to do in Coronado, especially if you're looking for a good place to eat, or some fun shopping. There is also a beach, however, when we went it was a little bit later in the day, and it was pretty cold outside, so we decided to take advantage of the shopping. All of the shops were so cute, and they had a lot of unique, hand made stuff.
POTATO CHIP ROCK
Another one of my favorite places! It was a little bit of a drive from where we were staying, but sooo worth it. Potato Chip Rock is a pretty popular tourist destination, but for good reason! It is literally a jutted out rock (very sturdy no worries!) at the summit of Mt. Woodsen. It is definitely the main attraction of the hike. The hike is about a 5.5 mile loop, and I found it to be of moderate difficulty as a pretty avid hiker. Once you reach the rock, you'll know, because there's going be a crowd of people there. Everyone is so good about helping each other on and off the rock though (because trust me, it was a bit of a struggle) and nobody was rushing anybody taking pictures which was super nice. The view from the tip of the rock was incredible and definitely worth the hike! DEFINITELY bring water though, because we only brought 1 water bottle each, thinking we would be okay as it was a cool March day, but boy did we regret that decision. I believe it costs about $10 to park here.
Scripps Aquarium definitely isn't the biggest or most extravagant aquarium I've ever been to by any means. Like zoos though, I've always enjoyed aquariums, and this was cool because it was very interactive since it's a research aquarium. I believe the cost was $16 per person.
We had a time on this hike, let me tell you! This is one of the most difficult hikes I've ever done (we later found out this trail is also rated difficult!) and like I said earlier, I'm a pretty avid hiker. This trail is only about 3 miles round trip, but it was a little more strenuous as it was a steep uphill hike for a majority of the hike (Also we took a wrong turn heading back down, so it added to our distance) Overall though, the view from the top of the 1,593 foot summit was great. Being up high and overlooking everything is one of my favorite things, especially when there's a good view below.
(This was the view from about halfway up, but I didn't get a good picture at the top to show the view)
MT SOLEDAD NATIONAL VETERAN'S MEMORIAL
I always really enjoy going to veteran memorial monuments, especially because I have a few veterans in my family. This one was especially cool because it was basically a giant cross with plaques all around the base to honor veterans. The view from the base of the memorial is also unbeatable as it overlooks much of the city / ocean!
There is so much to do throughout Seaport Village! Just about every type of food you can imagine can be found at one of the many restaurants here. When we went there was live music and dancing as well. There's a bunch of shops, and several grassy areas to sit, set up a picnic, watch the various performers along the waterfront. Close to Seaport Village is also the Port of San Diego which consists of more shops / restaurants, battleships and the famous "Unconditional Surrender Statue" as pictured below! I've always seen pictures of this statue, so being able to see it in person finally was really cool, and it was so much larger than I expected!
San Diego really has so much to do, and this list is just a few of my favorite things I've done during my visits there! Thanks for reading! Remember, there's always more to be explored!