Just 120 miles south of Los Angeles resides, quite literally, La Jolla, or “the jewel” of San Diego – or might I say California as a whole!
As neighboring cities, Los Angeles and San Diego are natural competitors – known to rival each other from tourism to sports, to housing, industry, culture and quality of life. For being just two hours apart, these coastal cities offer surprisingly different atmospheres and attractions.
As a born and raised San Diego native, here are some top picks from a local perspective.
How To Get There
If possible, driving is the best way to get to San Diego, especially if you time your travel to beat the traffic between rush hour. I recommend taking the 405 to the 5S in the off-times, either between 10am-1pm, or after 7pm. Depending on timing and unforeseen traffic accidents or construction, the travel time can take anywhere from 2.5 hours to 5 hours. Plan accordingly with gas and snacks!
Many of the things to see and do in San Diego are far apart. It’s a known saying in San Diego that it takes twenty minutes to get just about anywhere. Save yourself the hassle and expense of taking an Uber or Lyft everywhere by driving your car instead!
LAX has quick flights to San Diego, sometimes for as little as $100 roundtrip.
Landing into the San Diego airport is one of the most beautiful destinations to fly into! I recommend choosing a window seat to witness a gorgeous descent into downtown San Diego, complete with a view of the Coronado bridge and San Diego Harbor.
One of the easier and more scenic options is to take the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner from Union Station all the way to downtown San Diego. I recommend paying the extra $15 for business class, which comes with more spacious seating and complimentary beer, wine and snack packs.
Make sure to ask the train attendant which side of the train has a view of the ocean! The tracks quite literally are on the cliffs overlooking the ocean for a majority of the ride. It’s truly spectacular to sit back and avoid traffic!
The train also has (somewhat spotty) wifi, but when it’s working, it makes it super easier to check emails and sip vino as you ride.
What to Do
- Rent jet skis, paddle boards or kayaks in Mission Bay
- Ride bikes along the Pacific Beach Boardwalk or around Coronado Island
- Hike Torrey Pines State Reserve
- See the seal lions, have a picnic, or scuba or snorkel at La Jolla Cove
- Hop around dive bars overlooking the ocean at Pacific Beach
- Get a taste of authentic pizza, pasta and wine in Little Italy
- Explore San Diego’s craft brewery scene at Ballast Point
- Experience a piece of history at Balboa Park’s museums and botanical gardens
- Visit the San Diego Zoo, rate the #1 zoo in the United States
- The Del Mar horse races, open between July and September, is the Kentucky Derby of San Diego!
Where to Stay
- Airbnb’s or VRBO’s (Anywhere)
An affordable and easy way to feel like a local, especially if you’re visiting with a large group!
- The Pendry (Downtown Gaslamp)
One of the best places to stay in the Gaslamp, right next to Little Italy and right in the middle of all the action!
- The Valencia (La Jolla)
An iconic, pink hotel that’s a San Diego gem in La Jolla. Keep your eyes peeled, the Kardashians are known to stay here when they visit San Diego!
- Hotel Del Coronado (Coronado Beach)
It’s one of the oldest hotels in San Diego, known for it’s quaint decor and impeccable service, this hotel has hosted former presidents, celebrities, and old Hollywood icons like Marilyn Monore.
Where to Eat
- Barbusa in Little Italy
- George’s at the Cove, rooftop bar and restaurant
- Puesto for authentic Mexican
- Javier’s La Jolla
- Cucina Urbana
- Tom Hams Lighthouse
- JRDN Restaurant