Imperial Beach is the farthest beach south in San Diego, making it the closest in proximity to Mexico. Arriving on New Year’s Eve, our first stop was a Mexican owned burrito shop called El Amigo. Of course, we had to try the famous California Burrito! It was massive and filled with everything unhealthy the cooks could find, including french fries. I wouldn’t recommend eating a California Burrito on a daily basis, but it is a must have if you are going to Cali and enjoy trying interesting foods! As for the beach itself, Imperial Beach has a really nice pier and some decent waves. It is easy to access surf boards and paddle boards from the shops located on the beach. Kody rented a surf board one day and I rented a paddle board. Since we were there in December the whales were migrating south and Kody saw one swimming through the water while he was on his board. The waves the day we went were great for surfing. Kody ended up catching his “wave of a lifetime”. Imperial beach is a typical SoCal beach, I wouldn’t say that it was anything special but, if you are around this area it is a good beach to just kick back and enjoy the vibes.
La Jolla Cove
The cove of La Jolla is the most popular beach area in San Diego. When we arrived at La Jolla we had a hard time finding free parking because this area is very busy. We ended up paying $10 to park in a parking garage close to the cove. There are a few free parking spots at the cove but they have hourly limits and are hot commodities to say the least. One of the main attractions at La Jolla is the seal colony that thrives on the rocky outcroppings. The seals sit all over the rocks of the cove and they are extremely photogenic. Be careful getting too close to them because they can be mean. Snorkeling in the cove is a really good way to see some local marine life. The first time I ever wore a mask and fins was at La Jolla, I won’t discuss how that turned out. There is an abundance of life around the cove and the longer you stay in the water the more you will see. If you snorkel in La Jolla you will most definitely see Garibaldi, the state fish of California! Along with the great snorkeling in La Jolla, there are many attractions to see. Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave is the only sea cave accessible from land. There are fees to get into the sea cave, $5 for adults, and $3 for children and these can be paid at the gift shop. The 145 stairs to get down to the cave are quite steep so the trip down is not for everyone. Once at the bottom there is a beautiful view through the cave opening.
The city located on the San Diego peninsula is Coronado.We took the San Diego Metro to get from Imperial Beach to Coronado. Most people go to Coronado to see or stay at the famous Hotel del Coronado. It is a big beautiful Victorian style hotel located right on the ocean. Kody and I came to Coronado to visit for the day and had no concrete plans. While we were there we realized we came one day too late because they were just cleaning up their ice skating on the beach setup, which was only open for the holidays. So, if you visit around Christmas, I would suggest checking out the ice skating. We ended up eating lunch at a place called Vigilucci’s Ristorante. The Italian food was delicious but came with a price tag to match. After lunch, we walked around the town checking out the shops. We decided that we wanted to stay at Coronado to watch the sunset. We ended up buying a bunch of tropical fruit from the grocery store then headed to the beach to wait for the sun to go down.
The other side of the San Diego bay is the Point Loma peninsula. Point Loma is hillier than Coronado and has a beautiful park, called Cabrillo National Park, located at the end of the peninsula. The tidal pools on the western side of the peninsula are a popular tourist attraction and are within the national park. The park offers parking areas that are close to the tidal pools making it easy to access. While we were there, we saw all kinds of marine life, including crabs, sea urchins, spiny lobster, anemone, and even an octopus. A park ranger monitors the area and will point out interesting creatures to the visitors. The park ranger on duty when we visited showed us an octopus he found. He would hold a stick up to the side of a rock and the octopus would try to wrap his tentacles around the stick from underneath. I believe the species was a Two-Spot octopus. Walking around the tidal pools and finding all of the creatures that live there is a great experience. If you are planning on making a trip to the tidal pools make sure to wear shoes that are waterproof and have good grip because the rocks are pointy and can be slick. The Point Loma peninsula has two lighthouses, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse and the Coast Guard Reserve. The Old Point Loma lighthouse is easy to access but the Coast Guard Reserve is off limits to the public. The park has a few hiking paths and during certain seasons the park is known for whale watching due to its high vantage point. Point Loma also has one of the best views of San Diego from the eastern side of the peninsula.
If you want to see all of Balboa Park you should plan to be there multiple days. Just walking through the San Diego Museum of art can take hours. Most of the museums in the park have admission costs so if you are a student, senior, or in the military make sure to bring your id because they do give discounts. The Timken Museum is free to the public and they had a nice exhibit during our trip. San Diego has the number one zoo in the United States and it is located in Balboa Park as well. We did not make a trip to the zoo because the prices were a little high for our budget. Just walking around Balboa Park makes for a great day. It seemed as if there was always something going on and plenty to see. I would suggest looking at what specials the museums are having and pick out which ones you would like to see before your trip. I really enjoyed walking through the Old Cactus Garden and seeing all the different types of cacti. The Spanish Village Art Center was also one of my favorites because it is very bright and colorful and has many art galleries and gift shops. Like I said before, plan your trip to Balboa before you go because the park is extremely large and if you have specific places you want to hit you should be aware of where they are located, your timeline, and of course, the pricing.
San Diego Marina
The Unconditional Surrender statue is located in the San Diego marina and is a major icon for San Diego. The statue is a representation of a photograph that Alfred Eienstaedt captured on V-J Day (Victory over Japan during WWII), of a sailor kissing a nurse after the victory. Seward Johnson used the famous photograph as inspiration for his iconic sculpture. We made our way down to the marina to take our cliché photo with the statue. After visiting the statue, we decided to eat at Kansas City Barbeque, the bar that was used to film the piano scene in Top Gun. The joint is full of top gun souvenirs and even still has the piano that they played in the movie. The food was typical barbeque dishes and the atmosphere is just like you would expect for a restaurant bar. After eating, we decided to walk around the San Diego seaport village which has many shops and restaurants. We walked into a jewelry shop there and the woman was ambitiously trying to sell us a turquoise and coral necklace. I remember this story specifically because she put the necklace around my neck and then told Kody that it was 19 when he asked about the price. I looked at him like I wanted the necklace because I thought it was $19.00. Kody then said maybe another time and we left the store and he informed me that the necklace was $1,900. We laughed for a long time about the situation and still to this day that is the most expensive necklace I have had around my neck. After our shopping fun, I got a piece of cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory and we just sat by the marina and watched all of the boats go by.
Driving up the Coast
On our last day before heading home, we decided to drive up the coast a way to see if we could get to Dana Point to see the whales that were migrating. On our way, we stopped in Carlsbad and San Onofre. Both places were great to just relax and watch surfers. San Onofre is one of California’s most popular surfing beaches. It gives off all the beach vibes. There are people camping in Volkswagen vans, dozens if not hundreds of surfers, and beach bums crowd the beach. I remember seeing surfers surfing on their bums and doing all kinds of interesting tricks. After San Onofre, we went to Dana Point and had some lunch. We tried to whale watch but were unsuccessful. Since we were still and hour from Los Angeles, we chose to head back to San Diego and save LA for another time.
San Diego is a fun and thriving city to visit! If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them bellow!