Where to stay, explore and eat in sunny San Diego, California.
By Kelly Cronin
Even though we live in one of the most sought-out vacation destinations in the world, sometimes taking a break from our routine means taking a long flight to another beautiful spot. This time we escaped to sunny San Diego, California, USA. The California coastline is full of scenic spots, and San Diego is one of its greatest cities. Boasting one of the best climates in the world (we’re talking sunshine and dry warmth year-round), there’s more to the city than just its renowned beaches – although you could easily spend a whole vacation with your toes in the sand too! With 965 square kilometers and roughly 1.4 million people, there is PLENTY to do in San Diego, so we break it down into the best of the best. Here’s the ultimate San Diego Travel Guide – luxury edition:
Where to stay
Hotel del Coronado
The famous Hotel del Coronado sits pretty on the beautiful Coronado Island (although really a peninsula), directly across from the downtown Gaslamp District of San Diego. The historic victorian style hotel opened in 1888. Today, it is the second largest wooden building in the United States, with recognition as both a National Historical Landmark and a California Historical Landmark. Tourists come from all over to enjoy the multiple beach bars, explore the beautiful lobby filled with boutiques and lay on the wide beach laying in front of the hotel.
Accommodation ranges from ocean view rooms in modern towers to historic victorian suites to individual beach bungalows. Known for its incredible luxury and timeless vibrance, the Hotel Del is a MUST stay while you’re visiting San Diego, whether it be with family, friends or a romantic get away. Not to mention the variety of fine dining options available. If you’re a wine-lover, you will love the Eden Wine Bar at the Hotel Del (pictured above). For more information, visit their website.
Where to go
Just next to downtown in the heart of San Diego is the incredible Balboa Park. Balboa is not what you would expect from a typical “park”, in fact more like the opposite of Central Park in NYC. Beautiful historic buildings lay in squares connected by rose gardens, fountains, organ theaters and more. Most of the buildings are museums where artifacts range from classic to modern art to science.
The botanical garden is my favorite spot. Here, orchids, ferns and beautiful flora sit inside a breathtaking building that resembles a very very small Taj Mahal (okay I really love San Diego so that might be a bit of exaggeration). Whether you choose to explore the Japanese tea gardens or enjoy a lunch at the remarkable Prado restaurant, it is easy to escape to this little paradise within the city for a day.
San Diego Zoo
Explore one of the United State’s most famous zoos in the heart of San Diego’s Balboa Park. The zoo houses over 3,700 animals, including the most adorable Giant Panda. If you’re lucky, you might be able to catch a glimpse of their new baby pandas (although the exhibit is not always open).
Up close and personal with zebras at the zoo // Image by Kelly Cronin
Wander around the picturesque park while seeing koalas, giraffes, elephants, tigers, zebras, a full snake exhibit and so much more. If you’re feeling adventurous, the Zoo offers a Safari Adventure Park, where you can take go on a safari and see wild animals up close (from the safety of the vehicle of course), just like a real African safari. For more information and tickets visit sandiegozoo.org
La Jolla & Torrey Pines
If you’re looking to escape the popular crowded beaches, but still want some epic ocean views, La Jolla and Torrey Pines are your haven. La Jolla is a city in San Diego county just north of Mission and Pacific Beach. The luxe area is known for its wealth and pristine landscape. In downtown La Jolla, you’ll find boutiques (including an awesome renaissance mask shop), restaurants, hotels and plenty of art galleries. Make your way down to the waterfront and you’ll enjoy a beautiful scenic walk by La Jolla Cove. The cove is a underwater park where sea life is protected. Brave the cold waters to do some snorkeling, and you might even be swimming next to a seal or sea lions! La Jolla is littered with seals, sea lions and pelicans, too. If you follow the shoreline south, you can explore tide pools and catch a pretty amazing sunset with waves crashing against the rocky coast.
Just north of La Jolla is Torrey Pines Natural Reserve, near the famous scenic golf course. The Natural Reserve is a seaside hiking area along the beach, with trails that show an incredible wildlife landscape. Hike up for incredible views of La Jolla before taking the trail down to the beach. Here, dramatic cliff sides sit next to the beach to make for a really unique location to lay your tired legs in the sand. Look north and you can see gliders floating above the coastline.
Where to Eat
Location: Harbor Island
Everyone loves a view during a fine dining experience, and Island Prime has a view of San Diego that’s pretty hard to beat. Situated on the water in San Diego harbor, the full glass windows show the incredible skyline of San Diego, including the iconic Coronado bridge. Make sure to ask to be seated next to a window, although there really is not a seat without a view in the whole place. There is something incredibly relaxing and luxurious about watching the skyline light up in the evening as you sip on red wine and converse with good company.
The menu consists mainly of steak and seafood with modern twists. The dining spot is also known for its elegant cocktails and fine selection of wines. Executive chef Deborah Scott creates an extremely elegant dining experience, from starters to desserts. One of my favorites is the Everything Crusted Ahi (pictured above) paired with a beautiful glass of white wine. My mouth is watering just at the thought…
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