Beach, Beers, and Bikinis—a phrase that easily embodies the San Diego coast.
This beach haven will forever have a special spot in my heart. I have created so many memories here & I am so excited to finally share this guide– for those who constantly ask me about my past SD trips! If you follow this guide, I guarantee a trip full of adventure, laughs, new experiences, and of course overflowing drinks 😉 There won’t be one moment where you aren’t completely immersed in the beach culture and the array of beauty that San Diego has to offer!
** some pics are not personally taken by me
MISSION BEACH, SAN DIEGO
Where to stay:
Pacific Beach is a laid back beach town that is filled with tons of young families and college students. Being a fellow college student… there is no way I can afford a lavish hotel. The way I have always gone about weekend trips is to get a decent hotel with an amazing location! To me, location is more important than a spa and fancy room.
My favorite hotel I have stayed at in Pacific Beach is Diamond Head Inn . It is a quant two-story hotel that provides a beach as your backyard and the boardwalk as your transportation. Being at the end of the board walk, it’s not as loud or crazy at night like those other hotels in the middle of the boardwalk.
What really attracted me to this hotel is the 20 second walk to the beach! Yes, that close! I can live my every fantasy of what a beach house would feel like by staying at this hotel. I have 180 degree views of pure beach heaven and I get to go to it anytime I want. May not be a 5 start hotel, but it is definitely 5 stars in location!
What to do during the day:
- Belmont Park/ WaveHouse:
Belmont Park (a mini Santa Monica Pier) is one of the main attractions to visit when you go to Mission Beach. Belmont Park was created over 100 years ago and still entices millions of beach go-ers to come and enjoy the roller coaster, arcade games, and my personal favorite: the Wave House.
The Wave House is SO MUCH FUN. It is a beach side restaurant/ tiki bar/ and wave house that is always so lively. If you don’t know what a wave house is, it’s a machine that creates an artificial wave where people pay to surf or boogie board on it. People do all kinds of tricks and flips on this wave and when they fall it definitely makes for a good laugh.
I always come here when I go to San Diego because it’s the perfect spot for a beer break with friends after a relaxing beach day. Plus, I always love a good atmosphere that makes me feel like I’m on vacation.
Who doesn’t love a beach boardwalk equipped with ice cream shops and souvenir goodies? You can find all this and more on the Mission beach boardwalk.
Bike riding is a popular thing to do on this path, so if you’re looking for a quick workout with a nice coastal breeze… this might be the activity for you!
- Jet skiing Mission Bay:
When I go on vacation, I want to do some sort of activity that gives me an adrenaline rush. Jet skiing can definitely satisfy that need! Mission Bay has tons of water toys available like sail boats, jet skis, paddle boards and more.
What to do during the night:
You’re by the beach! Of course you can’t skip out on a sunset! There is nothing better than watching a picturesque sunset while sticking your toes in the sand. First, grab a few drinks from one of the countless beach bars on the boardwalk. Then make your way to the shore to watch the most beautiful orange and red colors kiss the ocean as the sun sets in the distance.
- PB beach bars:
Beach bars are always the best when you are looking for that laid back chill vibe at night. But once it hits 10 o clock, expect these bars to turn into a big party! A lot of locals and college students head to PB because the vibe is more intimate and the dress attire is much more relaxed. My favorite bar in PB is Baja Beach Café. Mouthwatering Mexican food, tasty happy hour margaritas, and beach side dinning… everything about this place just screams a good time!
- Gas Lamp District:
The best night life is found at the Gas Lamp District in Downtown San Diego (which is a quick 15 minute drive from Mission beach). The Gas Lamp is a very popular destination for tourists because clubs, bars, and lounges line the streets, making it one huge party!
You know those times when you go to a bar and it’s not as fun as you thought… and you don’t want to pay money for another uber or waste time traveling miles to another bar? Well, you will never have this problem here. Don’t like one club? Walk a few feet and you’ve arrived at a completely different club. Don’t want to club anymore? Walk another few feet and a chill bar is right in front of you. The party just never ends when you’re here!
Few tips for partying in the Gas Lamp:
1) Do not get drunk enough where you decide to take one of those glowing bicycles taxis. It may seem very tempting, but I heard the fare is quite expensive. So, do your wallet a favor and say no to the bike taxis–no matter how fun and cute they may look!
2) Expect to wait in lines and pay covers. Lines go by fast, but the covers are definitely an annoyance. Ladies, if the bouncer is a girl… don’t think smooth talking is going to change her mind about the cover.
LA JOLLA, SAN DIEGO
Where to stay:
If you’re ballin’ on a budget, but still want more bang for your buck than I recommend staying at La Jolla Cove Suites. Personally, I don’t like spending more than $200 on a room (especially for a weekend getaway). For one, I don’t even stay in the room that much & second, I would rather spend my money on fun activities. Think of it this way: what are you going to remember more—the room or the fun adventures you go on? La Jolla Cove Suites is the perfect place to stay because it is decent, affordable, and the location is incomparable.
You are steps, literally STEPS, from La Jolla cove! When you wake up you are instantly greeted with the best view of sandy shores and beautiful ocean. My favorite part about this hotel has to be the rooftop complimentary breakfast buffet (of course anything to do with food would be my favorite part). While sipping on that much needed cup of coffee and devouring blueberry pancakes, you have an amazing view overlooking all of La Jolla! It is absolutely stunning!
Since the hotel location is so prime, you don’t even have to use your car to get anywhere. All the La Jolla shops and bars are within walking distance from the hotel. Convenience– who doesn’t love that!?
What to do during the day:
- Snorkeling La Jolla Cove:
It’s time to channel your inner adventurer because snorkeling in La Jolla’s crystal clear water is a must-do. La Jolla is a 3 mile protected marine reserve that is known for its abundance of sea life. You can’t visit La Jolla Cove and not take advantage of the FREE snorkeling adventure you are able to have here.
Sea lions and garibaldi fish call these shores home and are constantly swimming in and out of snorkeling crowds and sun bathing on the rocks (well, the fish aren’t sunbathing obvi). La Jolla Cove gets really busy, especially during summer, so these sea lions are completely comfortable with all the crowds- as long as you don’t touch them! Seeing these sea animals under the water is one of the most exhilarating and magical moments you will have! Watching animals in their natural habitats and being so close to them is an experience you will never forget. Not to mention—it makes you feel freaking cool to say you swam with sea lions (okay, maybe it only makes me feel cool)!
- La Jolla Kayaks:
If this is your first time going to La Jolla, then I definitely recommend doing the kayak tour to the Seven Caves. It is a 2 hour excursion that leads you to the beautiful and majestic caves that formed along the cliffs. Once you hit the caves, the instructor will take you into a narrow passage where you kayak into cave filled with sea lions! It is so unbelievable and a great way to introduce yourself to the marine life La Jolla has to offer!
After the kayak tour, the instructor will show you where you can swim with leopard sharks right off the shore. Yes, I said leopard sharks! I know this sounds crazy, but you can actually snorkel with them because they are harmless! They feed on small animals like worms and crabs, so don’t think that your fingers will be on the menu that day!
Not going to lie, I was FREAKED OUT the first time I snorkeled with the leopard sharks. But, I also felt totally awesome that I faced my fears and got to have this amazing experience. Now, that doesn’t mean I am going shark cage diving any time soon, but I can at least say I swam with an animal in the shark family!
- The Cave Store:
A hand dug tunnel known as Sunny Jim’s Cave is one of the only sea caves accessible by land. When you walk up to The Cave Store, you think it’s nothing more than a cute little seashell shop. However, after paying a $5 fee, you are able to go downstairs and realize this house is not just a house—but a house that used to smuggle in Chinese immigrants and contraband whiskey during the Prohibition days! When you walk down the tunnel you are overwhelmed with a feeling of eeriness (and claustrophobia), but then it opens up to this beautiful sea cave with the sounds of crashing waves. It’s a pretty cool and interesting thing to stop and see if you’re walking around the coastal streets of La Jolla.
NOW GET TO BOOKING THAT SAN DIEGO TRIP !!