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San Diego skyline at dusk

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San Diego, California: Day to Night Adventures in This Outdoors Lovers’ Paradise

By: Idoia Gkikas

John Bahu
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  • States:
    California

Here’s a four-day itinerary that showcases some of the essential outdoor activities of California’s southernmost coastal city

All of the beloved beauty of the California coast combined with a laid-back vibe and attractions for just about every interest – this is San Diego.

Day One

Morning

Start the day at Cabrillo National Monument, where the first European landed in 1542. Visit the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, explore the tide pools and enjoy spectacular views – on a clear day, you can see all the way to Mexico.

Afternoon

Rent a bike and ride the boardwalk along Mission and Pacific Beach and the scenic 19.3-kilometer Mission Bay Bike Path.  Kono’s Café, a San Diego breakfast/lunch institution, is a must-stop for a casual meal as you watch surfers in the Pacific.

Evening

Walk around the historic buildings and shops in Old Town San Diego. Watch authentic Mexican tortillas being made at Café Coyote, and stay for dinner and people-watching in the festive courtyard.  

Biking the Mission Beach Boardwalk is the perfect way to take in the sights, sounds and energy of the beach.

Biking the Mission Beach Boardwalk is the perfect way to take in the sights, sounds and energy of the beach.
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SDTA

Day Two

Morning

Begin the day with a hike at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, home of the rarest pine tree in the USA. Take photos along the bluff of the dramatically sculpted coastline and shimmering ocean waves.

Afternoon

Stop for lunch at Galaxy Taco to sample San Diego’s signature Cali-Baja flavors before spending the afternoon kayaking, paddleboarding or surfing at La Jolla Shores.

Evening

Visit the quaint village of La Jolla, keeping an eye out for the Murals of La Jolla, a collection of outdoor murals painted on buildings throughout the village. Treat yourself to an upscale, locally sourced dinner at Nine-Ten. The restaurant’s executive chef Jason Knibb competed on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America.”

For experienced surfers, grab your board and head to the southern portion of Black’s Beach beneath the bluffs of Torrey Pines.

For experienced surfers, grab your board and head to the southern portion of Black’s Beach beneath the bluffs of Torrey Pines.
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Aaron Chang

Day Three

Morning

Hit the greens at one of San Diego’s more than 90 golf courses such as Coronado or Torrey Pines, where Tiger Woods famously beat Rocco Mediate in the 2008 U.S. Open. The course will once again host the tournament in 2021.

Afternoon

Enjoy the fresh seafood brought in daily at Point Loma Seafoods. Take your pick of sailing tours within walking distance and cruise along San Diego Bay until the sun sinks into the horizon.

Evening

Browse the specialty shops and galleries in Little Italy, the largest in the USA, and enjoy local craft beers at Ballast Point. For dinner, head to the northern end of the neighborhood, which is quickly becoming known as “Top Chef Alley” thanks to the numerous creative restaurants from alumni of the hit Bravo TV reality cooking competition. Favorites include Juniper & Ivy and The Crack Shack by Richard Blais, Herb & Wood and Herb & Eatery by Brian Malarkey, and Pacific Standard – Coastal Kitchen by Giselle Wellman.

Torrey Pines Golf Course is situated on towering coastal cliffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean.

Torrey Pines Golf Course is situated on towering coastal cliffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean.
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John Bahu

Day Four

Morning

Explore Balboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in the USA with beautiful gardens, theaters, attractions, 17 museums and stunning architecture. Climb the California Tower atop the Museum of Man for one of the best panoramic views in the city. Have lunch at the Tea Pavilion in the Japanese Friendship Garden.

Afternoon

Visit the USS Midway Museum, set aboard America’s longest serving Navy aircraft carrier during the 20th century. Browse exhibits and 29 restored aircraft on board, while taking in downtown’s scenic skyline and waterfront from the flight deck.

Evening

Finish the evening with dinner and nightlife in downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter, a 16.5-block historic district with buildings dating as far back as 1850. 

Balboa Park bustles with activity day and night, making it a perfect location for people-watching.

Balboa Park bustles with activity day and night, making it a perfect location for people-watching.
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SDTA

Getting There

San Diego is connected to major international airports throughout the nation. It is only one flight away from Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Las Vegas, Seattle and more. International direct flights to San Diego International Airport (SAN) are available year round from the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada and Mexico, and seasonally from Germany and Switzerland beginning in 2017. Amtrak provides rail service to San Diego from Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and Anaheim on its popular Pacific Surfliner train.