I never expected to fall for San Diego the way I did, but the mix of the laid back attitude, its countless beaches, maritime wildlife, and incredible food just won me over. So if you’re planning a trip to San Diego, here are a few things you definitely shouldn’t miss off your list!
San Diego’s proximity to the sea means visitors have the chance to see hundreds of species of marine wildlife. The city offers many different ways for tourists and locals to learn about the animals and their habitat. If you’ve read some of my earlier posts, you will know that I’m a big fan of marine wildlife and used to spend hours watching documentaries about coral reefs and whales as a child. Geeky I know. So when I found out that I would have the chance to visit San Diego, Whale Watching was the first thing that came to mind and went straight to the top of my priority list!
There is a variety of different tours to choose from that cater for your availability, interest and budget. I really recommend the Hornblower Dolphin & Whale Watching Tour. The tour operates twice a day, departing from Navy Float 970 N. Harbor Drive and lasts 3.5 hours. Seating is available on the lower and top deck. The whole experience was fantastic. I love boat trips as it is, but the tension when you’re starring out in to the sea to try and spot a whale made this one even more exciting. The moment I actually saw the whale fin coming up made me forget all about the uncomfortable feeling my belly was experiencing thanks to the strong current. The seals, dolphins and beautiful views were an added bonus to seeing these impressive giants.
If you’re lucky and you’re visiting San Diego in the spring or autumn time, you might get to witness the whale migration. Humpback whales spend the summers feeding in northern waters around Alaska. During autumn the Humpbacks head south towards warmer waters for calving (Hawaii, Western Mexico and the Islands of southern Japan). They will leave the winter breeding areas again with their new born calves in the spring.
Seaport Village & The Waterfront
I love conversations with taxi drivers. They always have an interesting story to tell and tend to know a thing or two about the place you’re in. This was no different in San Diego and a chatty Uber driver told me that he loves spending his days off at Seaport Village with his wife. He recommended the restaurants and their quirky little shops with a beautiful view of the sea.
I really wasn’t disappointed. If anything Seaport Village exceeded my expectations. Imagine a cute little village with shops selling retro kitsch, t-shirts with quirky designs and indigenous jewellery by the waterfront, in midst of a city center. There is so much more to Seaport Village than just the shops, in fact I didn’t really buy anything at all. It’s more about the atmosphere: a lot like opening a treasure chest, you never know what surprises you may find. Seaport Village is the perfect spot for people watching and window shopping. Make sure to grab a seat in one of the restaurants with a sea view, even if it’s just for a drink!
Balboa Park is the nation’s largest urban cultural park. The park is home to 15 museums, multiple performing arts venues, gorgeous gardens and the San Diego Zoo. I only got to spend one afternoon in Balboa Park but it was enough to completely and utterly fall in love with it. It all started with the Spanish Village Art Center which is located between San Diego Zoo and the National History Museum. I had read about it in my guidebook, but I was not at all prepared for the rainbow of colours and the heart-warming charm that you’re met with as soon as you enter the village. One minute you’re in a luscious green park in San Diego and the next you find yourself in a colourful Spanish village.
The village is made up of 37 colourful art studios and galleries that exhibit and sell the work of over 200 artists and craftspeople. You can explore the work of local photographers, jewellery makers, sculptors and painters between 11:00am and 4:00pm every day. I particularly enjoyed that the studios weren’t just exhibiting the art, you can watch these talented artists create their pieces, talk to them about their art or even participate in an art workshop.
San Diego is known for its beautiful beaches. 70 miles of coastline, year-round sunshine and the mild temperatures are the perfect conditions to swim, surf and sunbathe. In fact there is so much choice, that it is hard to pick a beach if you have limited time. I picked Ocean Beach for a relaxing afternoon by the sea. Ocean beach is located between San Diego River and the hills of Point Lloma. It’s just a short drive from the city, yet feels like a whole different world. The local surfer crowd with their retro VWs creates a laid-back and friendly vibe from the moment you set foot on the beach. This is the perfect spot to relax and watch the surfers. Ocean Beach and the surrounding restaurants are dog friendly too, so much so, that some of the ice cream shops sell ice cream just for dogs. Did you know that your four legged friend can also enter a dog surfing competition in San Diego? Yes, that’s right, dog surfing is a thing! Who knew?
During my stay in California I witnessed quite a few unusual and quirky things, which is something I really liked about the place. Ocean Beach however won in the category of odd encounters when I watched a man throw his giant pet dragon into the sea and saw it running out of the water, back towards him. This went on for a good few minutes. A little bit like a game of fetch you would play with a dog in the park. Only that this was a reptile and we were on a beach!
Make sure you don’t leave San Diego without trying a Fish Taco. They are a San Diego classic and far too delicious to be missed! I tried this tasty treat at the Tower Two Café at Ocean Beach, al-fresco dining with a sea view at it’s best.