We did a short trip to the San Diego area visiting Erika’s aunt who lived there at the time. This worked out well since we had a place to stay and basically a free tour guide during our trip! She actually lived in Carlsbad so we did not stay in the city of San Diego, we were just outside in the surrounding areas for most of our trip. We did some site seeing, got to do some kayaking, surfing and beach time and finally ended our trip with some wine tasting in Temecula Valley which is about an hour outside the city (we will talk more about that in a separate post). We don’t have as many food recommendations in this post since we did a lot of eating in or packing picnic lunches since we were staying with a local. We will share with you a couple places we did enjoy.
One of the first places we went was to Mt Soledad National Veterans Memorial. The memorial sits on top of a hill which offers great views of the city, the surrounding mountains and the coastline. The memorial is meant to honor all veterans ranging from the Revolutionary war to more current events. The memorial is open for visitors daily and admission is free. It is a nice place to go to get some great views of the city.
From there we headed to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. This is a park that overlooks the ocean near the La Jolla area. We spend some time walking around and taking in the ocean views from up on the top of the cliffs along the coast line. There are multiple hiking trails in the park to explore. If we had more time we would have loved to spend more time here and do some hiking. We were told that often times you can see people hang gliding from the cliffs. We didn’t see any the day we visited but it would definitely be a beautiful spot for this if that is something you are interested in doing.
We spent the rest of our first day in La Jolla which is along the shoreline. This area offers lots of shops and restaurants as well as beautiful views of the ocean. While wandering through this area we stopped at the Sunny Jim sea cave which was an old bootlegger cave during prohibition. There is a cave store where you enter and you can buy souvenirs it is about $5 per person to go down into the cave. From the store there is a tunnel that was dug out by hand to allow access to the sea cave. It is a pretty short path, less than 5 minute walk from the store to the cave. The stairs in the tunnel are pretty steep and small and can be slippery with the water. From the cave you get views out to the ocean and you can see the water coming in and out with the waves. We would highly recommend visiting if you’re in the area!
One of our favorite things we did in La Jolla was sea kayaking. We did this through a company called La Jolla Kayak. They had tandem kayaks and single kayaks available. We went in a tandem. The hardest part was getting out past the wave break. We were instructed on how to do this and most people in our group got past it without a problem. After you are past the wave break the water is calm and it is pretty easy to kayak around the area. We had two guides and a group of about 8-10 people. The guides educated us on the history of the area and the wildlife in the area. They brought us over to where the sea caves are so we could get a good look at the caves. It was a bit wavy by the caves the day we went so we couldn’t get up super close. If the water is calmer you can kayak right up to and into the caves. We did get to kayak by several sea lions as they were sun bathing on the rocks nearby. The water is fairly cold, on average 55* to 61* F. If you do want a wet suit to help you stay warm during your tour they are available to rent. Coming back in with the waves was a lot of fun because you are basically surfing them. That being said about a quarter of the people went sideways and got a bit wet. Check out their website for specific tours and pricing options. https://www.lajollakayak.com/tours/.
La Jolla has great park spaces near the waterfront to take advantage of. After we did our kayaking tour we had a picnic lunch in the park and spend some more time walking along the coastline.
The next day we headed to the beach in Carlsbad for some surfing. I don’t know if you’ve heard about it but surfing is big in California! There are multiple companies to do lessons, and people that offer surfing lessons. We booked a lesson ahead of time online with Carlsbad SoCal Surf Lessons. This was a private lesson that was one hour followed by an hour of surfing on your own. Rusty the instructor was a great teacher and awesome guy in general. If you’ve never surfed before, this is a great place to learn (not too crowded).
After surfing we headed into San Diego. We spend the afternoon in Balboa Park. This is where the zoo is located if you choose to visit. The park has a lot of other attractions worth seeing as well. This is a 1,200-acre urban cultural park that is absolutely beautiful to walk through! The park has many gardens, walking paths and open green spaces to sit and relax as well as museums and theaters. There are also several restaurants and shops in the park to enjoy. We would definitely recommend visiting if you are in San Diego. For a full list of events happening in the park you can check out their website. https://www.balboapark.org/. Sunset is a really pretty time to see the buildings and the theaters in the park.
Food: We do have a couple recommendations
In-N-Out Burger: This is going to sound funny to anyone on the West Coast. But In and Out is a must try while in California. It’s a fast food burger place offering burgers, fries and shakes. It is a chain that you can find throughout California and maybe in other states as well. We do not have them in Michigan or anywhere we have been in the midwest of the U.S. If you are craving a good, greasy burger this is your place! Yes it is fast food which we normally do not enjoy but this place is worth a try.
Harbor Fish Cafe: This place is right on the beach in Carlsbad. It is a causal place with great fish tacos! Fish tacos are definitely a must eat while in California. The tacos here are huge! There are fried and grilled fish options available.
Cardiff Crack: This is a term used locally to describe Burgundy Pepper Tri Tip. You can buy this at the Seaside Market– here is the address 2087 San Elijo Ave, Cardiff, CA 92007. This is a tri tip steak with a Burgundy Pepper marinate. Our last night we picked one of these up and grilled it up for dinner with a nice bottle of wine. It was really good! We will be attempted to recreate it at home at some point. It isn’t easy to find tri tip steaks in markets/grocery stores where we live in Michigan so that will be a challenge. We would highly recommend getting this while you are in the area!
Our final full day we spent heading out to Temecula Valley for some wine tasting. We will do a separate post on that with more information. After that we unfortunately had to head home the next day. This was a pretty quick trip for us, we would love to spend more time in this area at some point. California has a lot to see and do. We will eventually make it back to the west coast!