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San Diego is ideal for out of doors journey. On this unfold out metropolis you’re by no means removed from nature with miles of sandy seashores, climbing trails alongside dramatic bluffs, and plenty of parks and gardens to discover.
Regardless of being a metropolitan hub with world-class museums and eating places, you may rise up near sea lions, dolphins, pelicans, and whales, and revel in spectacular sunsets over the Pacific Ocean.
Locals spend loads of time outside—browsing, swimming, enjoying seashore volleyball, climbing, biking, paddleboarding, kayaking, snorkelling—and becoming a member of them is without doubt one of the finest methods to expertise this Southern California metropolis.
The climate helps too because it stays a pleasing 72ºF (22ºC) for many of the yr. We’ve visited in October and January and had a lot of sunshine and ideally suited temperatures for getting energetic.
Right here I share my picks for the very best out of doors actions in San Diego—many are free and all are enjoyable.
Prime Outside Actions in San Diego
1) Hike in Torrey Pines State Pure Reserve
Torrey Pines is probably the most lovely place in San Diego for a hike. Situated on the cliffs above Torrey Pines State Seashore, the protect protects the namesake Torrey Pine tree, a uncommon pine solely discovered right here and on Santa Rosa Island.
Effectively-kept sandy trails weave by pines and cacti, alongside the chiselled sandstone cliffs, and right down to the lengthy wild seashore.
There are good services (together with restrooms, maps, and a water bottle refill station) and trails for all talents from the straightforward 0.7 mile Man Fleming Path, with gorgeous ocean views, to longer walks combining the shorter trails.
We prefer to hike each the clifftop trails and the seashore, however the seashore is simply accessible at low tide.
On our newest go to, we did a reasonably simple three-mile loop which took us 1 hour 10 minutes with 429 toes of elevation acquire. We began by parking on the South Seashore Lot and walked up the hill subsequent to the street (not probably the most thrilling half, however it’s good to loop again by way of the seashore).
On the high, we took the Razor Level Path then the Yucca Level Path, earlier than following the Seashore Path down and strolling on the seashore beneath the crumbling cliffs (hold your distance!) again to our automotive.
It’s price beginning early to keep away from the crowds—arriving at 7.30am we had Razor and Yucca Factors to ourselves.
Notice that the paths are closed when it’s raining. If it’s low tide you may stroll on the seashore as a substitute (there’s free parking alongside the street).
When you’re searching for much more out of doors adventures in San Diego, you may paraglide and grasp glide at Torrey Pines Gliderport for gorgeous views of the cliffs and seashore from above.
- Location: N Torrey Pines Rd in La Jolla, about half-hour north of downtown San Diego.
- Price: Parking prices $15 – 25 relying on demand and is payable on the machine. You may park on the South Seashore Lot and stroll up or in case you solely wish to do a brief clifftop stroll, park close to the customer centre (parking right here fills up although).
- Opening Hours: 7am – sundown (from 5-8pm relying on the time of yr) each day. The customer centre is open from 9.30am-5.30pm.
Different Nice Mountaineering Spots in San Diego:
You’ll discover particulars of the primary three simple hikes beneath. Additionally, try my information to the finest issues to do in Encinitas for trails in North County San Diego.
- Bayside Path at Cabrillo Nationwide Monument
- Sundown Cliffs Pure Park
- Annie’s Canyon in San Elijo Lagoon Reserve
- Cowles Mountain Path in Mission Trails State Park – A 20-minute drive inland, the very best peak in San Diego is on our record for subsequent time.
- Borrego Palm Canyon – A two-hour drive away in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, this hike to a desert oasis is finest achieved as an in a single day journey.
2) Cycle Round Coronado Island
Coronado Island is without doubt one of the finest locations for out of doors actions in San Diego. It’s only a quick ferry journey or drive throughout the bridge from downtown however has a relaxed seashore city vibe.
Right here you’ll discover a lengthy white sandy seashore, a peaceful bay for paddleboarding, and one of many metropolis’s finest seashore resorts.
On our newest go to, we determined to cycle across the island, which is pretty small (the loop is about six miles) and largely flat. Though there are a number of busy roads, it’s largely peaceable alongside bike lanes or quiet streets.
We began out in Coronado’s lovely residential neighbourhood with its fancy picket homes and tree-lined streets.
We then went counterclockwise across the island beginning on the Silver Strand Bikeway which connects the seashore to Ferry Touchdown. The Bayshore Bikeway is the very best part because it’s away from the street with fantastic views of downtown.
It took us about 25 minutes to succeed in the Ferry Touchdown Market the place there are many outlets and eating places and a small seashore.
In case you are staying downtown, you could possibly catch the ferry to Coronado and hire bikes from Holland’s right here to get to the seashore.
We crossed again over the island by residential streets to succeed in Coronado Seashore, top-of-the-line in San Diego. Biking subsequent to the white sand towards Resort Del Coronado is without doubt one of the most scenic components of the route.
This Victorian resort dates again to 1888 and is iconic in San Diego. There’s a stunning seashore resort vibe right here and it’s laborious to consider downtown is simply a 10-minute drive away.
This may be a improbable place to remain, however it’s additionally nice to wander with a lot of (expensive) locations to eat and drink with ocean views. There’s an upmarket store the place you decide up picnic elements.
We’d seen many of the island at this level (in about an hour of biking) however determined to increase our journey by biking down the Silver Strand, the slim peninsula that connects the island to the mainland.
We didn’t significantly take pleasure in this part, although. The lengthy, straight bike path is subsequent to a street so it’s fairly noisy and there’s no simple approach to get throughout the freeway to the seashore. We rotated at Fiddler’s Cove Marina and confronted a powerful wind on the best way again.
We ended up biking 12 miles in 90 minutes and our complete journey time was 2 hours quarter-hour with quick breaks (permit longer if you wish to get lunch or loosen up on the seashore).
Even in case you don’t wish to cycle, it’s properly price visiting Coronado to swim, benefit from the seashore, or paddleboard on the bay.
- Location: We rented bikes from Wheel Enjoyable Leases at 1019 C Ave, Coronado. Yow will discover free avenue parking in neighbouring streets. They supply a map of the bike paths.
- Price: A primary cruiser prices $8 per hour, $20 for half a day, and $30 for a full day. In addition they have e-bikes, tandems, and novelty bikes. It’s worthwhile to depart your ID as a deposit.
- Opening Hours: 9am – sundown each day, climate allowing. Final rental one hour earlier than closing.
Different San Diego Biking Spots
3) Discover the Many Seashores
San Diego is all concerning the seashore and there are lots of to select from whether or not you wish to sunbathe, swim, surf, stroll, play volleyball, or spot wildlife.
Listed here are just some of the choices from south to north:
- Coronado Seashore – Typically voted as top-of-the-line seashores within the US, this can be a lovely lengthy stretch of white sand. The ocean is commonly calmer than the surf seashores so is sweet for swimming.
- Mission Seashore – You gained’t have this full of life seashore to your self, however there’s loads of area. It’s good for folks watching, volleyball, and working or biking alongside the boardwalk. Retro amusement park, Belmont Park with its large curler coaster is close by as is Mission Bay, top-of-the-line spots for water actions in San Diego.
- La Jolla Cove – Small however fairly and with a lot of wildlife to see above and beneath the water.
- Torrey Pines State Seashore – Backed by crumbling bluffs, this wild seashore is ideal for a stroll.
- Swami’s Seashore – Legendary surf and gorgeous views.
- Moonlight State Seashore – An important all-rounder for a lot of seashore actions with loads of services and lifeguards year-round.
See my information to the finest seashores in Encinitas for extra suggestions.
It appears like everyone seems to be a surfer in San Diego. Standard spots with the consultants are Swami’s, Grandview, and La Jolla Windansea.
There are many gentler waves for inexperienced persons, although. On our first journey to town, our good friend took Simon out to his favorite newbie surf seashores—Tourmaline in Pacific Seashore and the jetty by Canine Seashore in Ocean Seashore.
Studying to surf is without doubt one of the most enjoyable actions in San Diego and there are a great deal of locations to get classes.
On a regular basis California presents 90 minute public or personal classes at La Jolla Shores seashore, which is right for catching your first wave.
5) Stand Up Paddleboard
If battling the waves is just not for you, I like to recommend attempting arise paddleboarding as a substitute. It’s rather a lot simpler in case you discover a calm bay and nonetheless a good way to get out on the water—I at all times discover it enjoyable.
Board rental prices about $30 for one hour. You may normally decide it up with no lesson, however I did discover some suggestions from a trainer helped me enhance my approach and navigate windier situations extra simply.
As we have been staying in Encinitas, I went paddleboarding at Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad.
I like to recommend paddleboarding on Coronado Island—the bay is calm and has improbable views of downtown. SUP Coronado rents boards and presents instruction (by appointment solely).
One other calm and central spot is Mission Bay. Leases can be found at a number of locations together with Aqua Adventures, the place kayaks and hydro bikes are additionally obtainable.
6) Benefit from the View at Cabrillo Nationwide Monument
Among the best views in San Diego is discovered on the tip of the Level Loma Peninsula.
Cabrillo Nationwide Monument commemorates the touchdown of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542, the primary European to set foot on what’s now the West Coast of the USA.
There’s a customer centre to study extra, however our focus was on the character of the realm slightly than the colonial historical past.
We parked on the customer centre and walked to the Outdated Level Loma Lighthouse, which dates again to 1855. From right here we linked to the Bayside Path.
The two.5 mile out and again path took us slightly below an hour with breaks to learn the indicators concerning the flora and historical past (there’s a searchlight shelter utilized in World Wars I and II).
There are lovely ocean views all through and you’ll see over to downtown San Diego, the naval base, Coronado Island, and even Mexico.
It’s not a difficult stroll however it’s uphill on the best way again so take water—it felt actually sizzling even on a winter morning.
One other space of Cabrillo price exploring is the tide swimming pools (a brief drive from the customer centre), that are finest seen at low tide.
- Location: 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr, a few 25-minute drive from downtown San Diego.
- Price: Parking prices $20 per automobile. When you have an America the Lovely annual go for Nationwide Parks you should use it right here.
- Opening Hours: 9am – 5pm.
7) Stroll the Encinitas Meditation Gardens
Considered one of our favorite out of doors actions in San Diego is to drive up the coast to Encinitas the place you’ll discover some fantastic seashores and gardens.
The Meditation Gardens on the Self-Realization Fellowship Encinitas Temple are small however beautiful, stuffed with vibrant flowers, cacti, and koi ponds.
There are benches overlooking the ocean the place you may watch the surfers at Swami’s Seashore beneath (I like to recommend a stroll on the seashore after the gardens). Or, in fact, meditate.
- Location: 215 W Ok St, Encinitas. There’s free avenue parking exterior.
- Price: Free.
- Opening Hours: Open Tuesday to Sunday from 9am – 5pm (from 11am on Sunday) and closed on Monday.
8) Discover the San Diego Botanic Backyard
One other fantastic backyard in Encinitas is the San Diego Botanic Backyard. There are 4 miles of trails to discover taking you thru numerous environments together with a rainforest, bamboo forest, cacti backyard, and orchid conservatory.
We liked seeing distinctive vegetation from Africa, Australia, the Mediterranean, California, Mexico and extra.
Enable a number of hours in your go to and put on comfy strolling footwear as some trails are unpaved.
- Location: Nook of Quail Gardens Drive and Ecke Ranch Rd, Encinitas.
- Price: $18. Advance on-line reservations for a particular entrance time are inspired. See the San Diego Botanic Backyard web site.
- Opening Hours: 9am to 5am Wednesday to Monday. Closed on Tuesday.
9) Spot Sea Lions at La Jolla Cove
I really like how a lot wildlife there’s in San Diego and La Jolla is without doubt one of the finest locations to see it. This upmarket seashore neighborhood is a 20-minute drive north of downtown San Diego.
Within the late afternoon, we walked on the boardwalk from La Jolla Cove to Youngsters’s Seashore. It’s solely half a mile however there’s lots to see alongside the best way. It might probably get busy, although.
La Jolla Cove is a fairly little bay and simply across the nook, at Level La Jolla, we noticed dozens of California sea lions lolling on the rocks.
Additional alongside, we walked down the steps to Shell Seashore. Because it was a detrimental low tide, it was time for tide pooling and we noticed a tiny hermit crab change its shell residence.
Again up on the cliffs, we watched a flock of California Brown Pelicans with their large beaks and shiny crimson pouches.
Youngsters’s Seashore is one other small sandy cove. It’s purported to be the very best place to see Pacific Harbor seals however we solely noticed a number of.
Simply behind the seashores is the massive grassy Ellen Browning Scripps Park. We received takeout veggie tacos and potato taquitos from Puesto and ate them on a picnic desk because the solar set.
If you’d like an extended stroll, you may proceed down the coast in both route.
10) Kayak and Snorkel in La Jolla
One other nice approach to expertise La Jolla’s marine life is to get out on the water on a kayak or with a snorkel. The La Jolla Ecological Reserve is a protected space.
This 90-minute La Jolla kayaking tour consists of the Seven Sea Caves and the possibility to identify sea lions, dolphins, turtles, quite a lot of fish (together with the intense orange garibaldi), and even whales.
Snorkelling can also be wonderful on this space. You may hire gear and head out by your self at La Jolla Cove, however you’ll doubtless see extra with a information.
This two-hour kayaking and snorkelling tour combines the very best of each worlds as you kayak out to top-of-the-line snorkelling spots.
We weren’t in a position to do that (snorkelling excursions run within the hotter months solely), however it’s high of my record for subsequent time.
11) Go Tide Pooling
Lots of San Diego’s seashores have tide swimming pools the place you may see marine life like hermit crabs, snails, sea urchins, sea stars and extra. In case you are very fortunate, you may even see octopuses. It is a significantly enjoyable out of doors journey in San Diego with children.
Tide pooling is finest in the course of the winter when the very low minus tides occur in the course of the day. Verify the San Diego tide chart and select a time when the tide is near zero (-1 foot or decrease is finest).
Listed here are a number of the finest tide pooling spots in San Diego:
- Shell Seashore in La Jolla – We have been delighted to look at a hermit crab altering its shell.
- Cabrillo Tide Swimming pools on Level Loma – The tide swimming pools on the Cabrillo Nationwide Monument (see above) are a number of the finest. The close by parking fills up shortly so you could possibly park on the customer centre and stroll down.
- Tide Seashore Park in Solana Seashore – We walked right here from Cardiff State Seashore (about 20 minutes) and located the mossy tide swimming pools significantly scenic.
12) Stroll at Sundown Cliffs Pure Park
The identify offers the attraction away right here, however even at different occasions of day, Sundown Cliffs Pure Park is a gorgeous place to stroll.
There are numerous trails and it’s a great spot whether or not you need a fast leg stretch or an extended stroll. The paths comply with the coast with gorgeous views of the sandstone cliffs carved into shapes by the weather and the ocean past with a number of hardy surfers. Look out for whales in winter!
At low tide, it’s also possible to stroll right down to the seashore the place there are tide swimming pools.
The cliffs are unstable so avoid the sting.
- Location: There are a number of entry factors. We parked on the lot on Ladera Road. Luscomb’s Level is meant to be the very best spot for sundown. Parking fills up at sundown. It’s a 20-minute drive from downtown. It’s on Level Loma so we mixed it with a go to to the Cabrillo Nationwide Monument.
- Price: Free.
- Opening Hours: 24 hours.
13) Head Again in Time at Outdated City State Historic Park
We didn’t anticipate a lot from Outdated City, San Diego’s open-air dwelling historical past museum, because it sounded slightly touristy. And it’s, however it’s additionally very picturesque and a enjoyable, traffic-free place to wander, store, and eat.
The park is in Outdated City, San Diego’s first neighbourhood, and was created to guard a number of the space’s oldest buildings. It’s a mixture of restored and reconstructed buildings from the 1800s when San Diego transitioned from Mexican to American rule.
The adobe and picket buildings encompass a stunning grassy plaza with lovely bushes. Some sections really feel like Mexico Disney (in a captivating method), whereas others have a Wild West vibe.
You may wander free of charge, store for souvenirs, study extra within the museums, or participate in one of many actions akin to mineral panning. There’s additionally usually dwell music, donkeys, and a working blacksmith. There’s extra leisure on weekends however we loved our quiet weekday go to.
There are a number of Mexican eating places—we had lunch at Casa de Reyes. The meals was effective if nothing particular, however the giant patio is fairly they usually could make most dishes vegetarian or vegan.
- Location: 4002 Wallace St. A ten-minute drive from downtown.
- Price: Free.
- Opening Hours: 10am – 5pm each day.
14) Discover the Many Gardens in Balboa Park
Balboa Park is without doubt one of the hottest San Diego sights and it’s completely enormous. The sprawling park is residence to greater than 16 museums and humanities venues and 1200 acres of gardens and trails.
Even skipping the museums, there’s loads of out of doors enjoyable available simply wandering the gardens and admiring the grand buildings—it has a European really feel.
A spotlight is the Spanish-inspired Alcazar Backyard with vibrant tiled fountains, fairly flower beds, and the enduring California Tower with its mixture of architectural kinds from baroque to gothic.
You too can stroll by Palm Canyon (with 58 species of palms), admire the bonsais and koi fish within the Japanese Friendship Backyard, and see the lily pond on the Botanical Constructing (residence to greater than 2100 vegetation).
We have been dissatisfied that we couldn’t see the enormous Spreckels Organ, though the pavilion may be very grand. To see it, go to on Sundays at 2pm when there are free live shows.
- Location: Numerous entry factors. We parked free of charge at 2168 Pan American Rd E close to Spreckels Organ. It’s a five-minute drive from downtown.
- Price: Free entrance to the park. Some museums and gardens have charges (the Japanese Backyard is $12).
- Opening Hours: The park is open 24 hours. Particular person opening occasions range.
15) Climb a Slot Canyon
We anticipated slot canyons within the Arizona desert, not in the course of a metropolis!
Annie’s Canyon in Solana Seashore is a novel and enjoyable hike that doesn’t take lengthy (the 1.5-mile return path took us 35 minutes) however has a little bit of a problem.
After a straightforward stroll alongside San Elijo Lagoon, you climb up a slim sandstone canyon that includes some tight squeezes, scrambling, and climbing a ladder. You’ll really feel far-off from town!
See my information to what to do in Encinitas for extra particulars (and different trails within the space).
- Location: The path begins on the finish of North Rios Avenue in Solana Seashore, half-hour from downtown.
- Price: Free.
- Opening Hours: Dawn to sundown.
16) Store at a Farmer’s Market
You’ll discover open-air farmer’s markets in lots of neighbourhoods all through San Diego.
With its delicate local weather, you’ll discover contemporary produce year-round in addition to many different tasty treats akin to cheese, bread, honey, olive oil, dips, salsas, nuts and extra.
It’s finest to go hungry so you may attempt the free samples in addition to take pleasure in a meal from the varied sizzling meals stalls.
We’ve loved the markets in Hillcrest and Leucadia (each on Sunday mornings) and yow will discover a full record of farmer’s markets in San Diego right here.
17) Play Disc Golf
We had by no means heard of disc golf earlier than an area good friend launched us in San Diego.
This distinctive sport includes throwing a frisbee round a course attempting to get it into every goal (a metallic basket) within the fewest throws.
You may play disc golf on the scenic tree-filled Morley Subject course in Balboa Park. It’s probably the most inexpensive and enjoyable out of doors issues to do in San Diego.
- Location: 3090 Pershing Drive.
- Price: $5 on weekdays and $6 on weekends and holidays. You may hire discs for $2.50 every.
- Opening Hours: Dawn to sundown. E book your tee time upfront on the Morley Subject web site.
18) Take a Whale Watching Cruise
On our record for our subsequent go to to San Diego is a whale-watching cruise. It’s attainable to see whales year-round in San Diego, however the very best time is from mid-December to mid-March when grey whales migrate from Alaska to Mexico and again.
This four-hour whale-watching cruise prices $55 and has loads of indoor and out of doors seating on a big boat.
You may additionally see dolphins, sea lions, and harbour seals. In summer time, blue whales feed offshore.
Map of Outside Issues to Do in San Diego
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