10 ways to soak up the San Diego sunshine
Famous for its massive zoo and wild animal park—where you’ll encounter more than 3,700 species, including rare giant pandas—San Diego is home to all manner of wildlife. Snorkel along 70 miles of coastline to see sarcastic fringehead fish (yep—that’s its real name), lion's mane nudibranchs, and other marine animals. Peek above the water, and you’ll likely spot a not-so-rare SoCal surfer. December through April, watch for grey whales; more than 20,000 of the gentle giants migrate through here each year. For a supernatural encounter, visit in July when thousands of superheroes, aliens, and monsters converge on the Convention Center for Comic-Con.
1. Take it to the edge: hike the cliff-side trails of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Head down Del Mar Scenic Parkway to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve to explore 2,000 acres of undeveloped land within city limits. On the six main trails, you’ll be surrounded by the nation’s rarest pine tree—the Torrey Pine—which grows in only one other place in the country. Weave through the Red Ridge Loop Trail to see views of the lagoon to the east and west. It'll look so refreshing that you might want to jump right in and cool off.
2. Paddle Out, Drop in at Silver Strand State Beach
Catch a wave at Silver Strand State Beach. The 2.5-mile-long stretch is home to three surfing peaks—The Jetty, The Bowl, and The Ship. Before you shimmy into that wetsuit and paddle out on your own, perfect your skills at the Coronado Surfing Academy. Get one-on-one instruction during a private lesson with a pro surfer or sign up for a group session. While you're waiting for your big break, keep an eye out for sea lions and porpoises—the area’s original surfers.
3. Sample gourmet beer provisions at Stone Brewing Co.
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the brewing process at Stone Brewing Company. Named “All-Time Top Brewery on Planet Earth” by the readers of BeerAdvocate, this craft brewery is known for its hoppy brews, such as the Arrogant Bastard Ale, Ruination Double IPA, and the Smoked Porter. The 45-minute tour includes a peek into their experimentation room, a lesson about fermenting, and a tasting at the end. Pick your favorite brew, and grab a growler of fresh-from-the-tap beer to take home.
4. Snorkel and Scuba Dive in La Jolla Park
Don your mask and flippers and get up close and personal with sea life in La Jolla Cove, a small beach hidden between sandstone cliffs. This spot is reserved exclusively for scuba divers and snorkelers (no surfers, boogie boarders, or fishermen allowed!). Water visibility is often an astounding 30 feet, allowing you to swim over kelp forests and sea lettuce algae to see giant sheep crabs, vermillion rockfish, and fairy hydroids. If you're lucky—or unlucky, depending on how you look at it—you might spot a group of leopard sharks in this ecological reserve.
5. Leave the Urban Sprawl behind (and below)
Launch your day with an exhilarating sunrise hot air balloon ride over the rolling hills and vineyards of Temecula, located just 30 minutes north of San Diego. Uncorked Tours will kick off your high-flying adventure with coffee, champagne, orange juice, and warm pastries at Monte De Oro winery. Following your 45- to 60-minute hot air balloon ride, toast to your successful flight with a glass of champagne—and maybe a glass or two of Southern California wine.
6. Turn Mission Bay Into A Personal Playground
Sign up for a stand-up paddleboarding lesson with Surfari and float through Mission Bay’s 4,200 acres of interconnected waterways and sandy shoreline. For some seriously stellar people-watching, keep an eye on the boardwalks, where locals go to bike, skate, and stroll—sometimes in very little clothing.
7. Saddle Up in Wine Country
Gallop between the vineyards and rolling hills of Temecula’s wine country, located about a half-hour north of San Diego. A trip to wine country isn't complete without a glass of vino or two, so get your giddy-up on with Saddle Up Wine Tours. At the end, stop at Miramonte Winery, where you can sample a glass of Syrah or one of the other Rhone varietals available. At Chapin Family Vineyards, toast to your adventure with a Cabernet Sauvignon with rich chocolate and fruit flavors.
8. Give Gravity a break in La Jolla
Fuel your adrenaline by hang-gliding or paragliding at Torrey Pines Gliderport. Located on a bluff overlooking La Jolla beach, it’s the largest operation of its kind in the world. More than 200,000 brave souls have taken flight here in the last 20 years. Sign up for tandem hang-gliding with an experienced instructor, who will guide you over La Jolla's cliffs and sandy beaches for a real bird’s-eye view of the ocean.
9. Find A new Perspective On San Diego on a Flight Tour
Why tredge through San Diego like an ordinary person when you can fly like the superstar that you are (or hope to be)? Enjoy a 20-minute or 45-minute private flight with San Diego Sky Tours. You'll get an aerial view of the city's top landmarks, including Mount Soledad, Lindbergh Field, SeaWorld, and Point Loma. While you're taking in the natural beauty of the San Diego coast, keep an eye out for dolphins, whales, and seals popping out of the Pacific Ocean.
10. Navigate the Sea Caves By Kayak
La Jolla Cove’s ancient cliffs hold seven intricately carved caves. Here’s the catch: only one of them can be accessed by foot. Hop in a kayak to explore the caves and meet the animals that live there. The cove’s calm, clear water makes it easy to spot harbor seals hiding in the kelp forests as well as leopard sharks, rays, and colorful garibaldi. Inside the caves, you’ll see fossilized shells and signs of 200,000 years of water wear on the rocky walls.