With reliably warm, sunny days and beautiful beaches, San Diego has the best climate in the continental United States for encouraging an active, outdoor lifestyle. Plus, the local attitude is more laid-back than in most big cities thanks to the surfer vibe and fun-loving college kids attending the University of California San Diego. Electric scooters are everywhere, making it easy to zip around the city and along the boardwalk. So here are a few suggestions for keeping well while exploring this quintessentially Californian place.
The new Intercontinental San Diego has panoramic waterfront views, and boasts an excellent health and wellness centre—including a fitness-on-demand studio with virtual instructor-led classes, ranging from yoga to kickboxing, projected onto a screen wall.
If you’re a golfer, you’ll want to stay at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, home to the most spectacular public golf course in the United States, not to mention great hiking at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. Originally built in 1961 as a humble inn, the Craftsman-style waterfront lodge retains its old-fashioned charm, with incredibly friendly, gracious service and cozy rooms.
AquaVie fitness and wellness club offers day passes for visitors and has the best rooftop pool in town, along with state-of-the-art gym equipment and year-round rooftop fitness classes. Rise from savasana after a Saturday morning yoga class to find a sweet surprise: complimentary mimosas.
San Diego has the most biologically diverse terrain in California, and hiking and mountain biking are great ways to soak it all in. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is especially beautiful during wildflower season; and coastal hikes, like Sunset Cliffs Natural Park or Annie’s Canyon Trail, are easy and scenic, showcasing San Diego’s majestic sandstone bluffs. For a real challenge, head inland to climb the Mount Woodson Trail or El Cajon Mountain.
Mission Bay, La Jolla Shores, Coronado Island, and Oceanside Harbor are all popular spots to go kayaking, and during the summer and fall it’s warm enough that you won’t need a wetsuit. Keep an eye out for dolphins, seals, and even migrating whales. La Jolla Shores is also a great place to explore kelp beds and sea lion colonies not too far from the banks.
San Diego has one of the most underrated dining scenes in the United States, with super fresh, local seafood and an array of Mexican influences from just over the border.
Ironside Fish and Oyster is a pioneer in the sustainable seafood movement, sourcing a rotating selection of local catch from fishermen at Tuna Harbor Dockside Market. The raw seafood platter including rockfish ceviche, shrimp aguachile, oysters, and kanpachi crudo is especially impressive; and if you sit at the counter in back, you can chat with the chefs and see if they have any off-menu specials, like simply-grilled fish collar and belly.
Juniper and Ivy is another local favourite, packed even on weeknights for its lively environment. Start with an array of fun finger foods like halibut hand rolls, Baja yellowtail tostadas, and carne crudo asada to whet your appetite; then dig into whole roasted duck with confit legs or a hefty 34-ounce steak with sides of barbecued carrots and Mexican street squash with chipotle sour cream. Everything here is meant to be shared, and the menu changes daily, resulting in optimal fun.
However full you might be after a hearty dinner, there’s always a little room for ice cream. An’s Dry Cleaning is an adorable former dry cleaning shop now home to some of the best gelato in town. Try “fabrics” like linen (pineapple basil) and argyle (strawberry, chocolate, and cream) while eating off of ironing-board tables. And in the beachy La Jolla, Bobboi Natural Gelato keeps it simple with pure, intense flavours like the signature Mediterraneo: a nutty trifecta of pistachios, hazelnuts, and almonds. If you prefer more chunky texture with lots of mix-ins, Portland-based Salt & Straw is your best bet, although the lines are usually out the door at the Little Italy shop. And Stella Jean’s is the newest ice cream contender, with fun options like Earl grey citrus tea cake and s’mores with coconut ash.
Pigment has a stylish selection of curated gifts, from home decor and cooking utensils to jewellery and stationery. Or there is Shop Good, a clean beauty and wellness destination for skincare and makeup. And Moniker General features an engaging mix of must-haves, including clothing, sunglasses, and books. Bonus? There is an in-house bar for grabbing a latte (or craft beer) after you browse.
A sunset helicopter ride is a beautiful and romantic way to explore San Diego by air, and Corporate Helicopters offers several different tours. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can also try paragliding or hang gliding from La Jolla’s Gliderport.
Whether on water or land (or in the sky), San Diego is a relaxed yet engaging adult playground. The hardest part will be saying goodbye after a few sunny days on the California coast.