Special shout-out to my husband and favourite travel partner who has taken most of our travel photos.

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San Diego itinerary in 5 days

Hotels

San Diego:

We have visited San Diego several times and stayed at a variety of hotels. Here are our favourites.

Kimpton Palomar Hotel

♥♥♥♥

This hotel is located in the Gas Lamp district in the heart of San Diego. The rooms are modern, fresh and luxurious. They offer a complimentary evening wine hour and morning coffee. 

The Marriott Del Mar

♥♥♥♥

This hotel is a typical Marriott - with nice, large rooms. It has a large pool area. It is located outside of San Diego, so not really walking distance to anywhere but the price was right and it was just a 15 minute drive into San Diego. 

Hotel Del Coronado.

♥♥♥♥

If you want to splurge this is the place to stay. "The Del" hotel and resort has appeared in Hollywood movies including one which starred Marilyn Monroe. It is more than simply a hotel - it is a complex with luxury shopping, restaurants, pools and a beautiful beach. The common areas are beautiful but many of the rooms are dated.

Noteworthy Restaurants

San Diego:

  • Rubio's is a local chain serving Baja-style Mexican tacos. Although it is a chain restaurant, their tacos are delicious and served fresh. We especially love their fish tacos.

  • Duke's, which is named after a native Hawaiian who is father of modern surfing, is located in La Jolla. The restaurant overlooks the La Jolla Cove and serves delicious fresh fish, seafood and modern Hawaiian specialties.

  • Prado Restaurant, in Balboa Park, has a hacienda-style patio and serves modern California and Mediterranean Cuisine. It is conveniently located in the heart of San Diego's museum district.

Favourite Museums

San Diego:

  • USS Midway Museum. Located in downtown San Diego on the aircraft carrier, the Midway. Entrance admissions comes with a self-guided audio tour which takes you through the aircraft carrier. Visitors walk through the crew's sleeping quarters, the massive kitchen, engine room as well as the pilot's ready rooms, flight control and other areas. Highly recommended.

The wonderful thing about San Diego is the weather - it is fairly consistent throughout the year, warm - but not too hot - and nice and sunny. That's one of the reasons it's a desireable destination any time of the year. 

There are fantastic beaches, museums, outdoor activities and of course the world-renowned San Diego Zoo.  

Since the drive from Los Angeles to San Diego is only around 2.5 hours we combined this trip with my Los Angeles itinerary in 6 days.

Day 1

Morning

We departed Los Angeles and drove down the coast to San Diego where we checked into our hotel, the Kimpton Palomar Hotel. This hotel is located in the Gas Lamp district in the heart of San Diego and bonus, they offer a complimentary evening wine hour!

 

Afternoon

This afternoon we drove to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve which is a 2,000 acres state park along the coast in La Jolla. We hiked and climbed the trails up the cliffs. The coast is rugged and the red-brown colours of the cliffs are stunning. We also spotted a few whales and dolphins in the ocean. 

We stopped for lunch at a small Mexican taco restaurant on the roadside near La Jolla. 

Evening

We had dinner in a nice Italian restaurant in La Jolla.

Day 2

Morning

We drove to Coronado Island, just off of San Diego and rented some bicycles. We went for a scenic bike ride around the island and stopped for a snack near the famous Hotel Del Coronado. This hotel and resort has appeared in Hollywood movies including one which starred Marilyn Monroe. It is more than simply a hotel - it is a complex with luxury shopping, restaurants, pools and a beautiful beach. Nice to walk around and enjoy the people-watching.

Afternoon

We stopped for fish tacos and Rubio's, a local chain serving Baja-style Mexican tacos. Although it is a chain restaurant, their tacos are delicious and served fresh.

We took the boys for a tour of the USS Midway Museum - a museum located in downtown San Diego on the aircraft carrier, the Midway. The entrance admissions comes with an animated and informative self-guided audio tour which takes you through the aircraft carrier. Visitors walk through the crew's sleeping quarters, the massive kitchen, engine room as well as the pilot's ready rooms, flight control and other areas. You learn all about life on an aircraft carrier.

Evening

We had an exciting evening at a college Hollywood Bowl College Football Game.  

Day 3

Morning

This morning we headed to Laguna Beach, a small coastal town located in Orange County about an hour north of San Diego.

We spent the morning walking along its board walk, which meanders by beautiful beaches, passing tide pools, and heading into the beautiful gardens of Heisler Park.

We then walked over to Broadway Street and visited the shops and many art galleries.

Afternoon

We headed back to San Diego and stopped in La Jolla for lunch at Duke's which is named after a native Hawaiian who is father of modern surfing. This restaurant that overlooks the La Jolla Cove serves fresh fish, seafood and modern Hawaiian specialties.

After lunch we walked around Prospect Street, wandering into shops and galleries, and then headed to the boardwalk along La Jolla Cove beach below.

Evening

This evening we had dinner at a local restaurant in Gas Town, San Diego.

Day 4

Morning

This morning we went to the world-renowned San Diego Zoo. You don't need to be a kid to enjoy this wonderful zoo which houses over 3,700 animals of over 650 species and subspecies. They offer train tours and many experts at various exhibits.

 

You can spend anywhere from a couple of hours to almost a whole day at this zoo. As this wasn't our first time we only spent a couple of hours wandering around.

 

Tip: We bought a multi-day pass to the zoo and the Balboa Park museums.

Afternoon

We had lunch at the Prado Restaurant in Balboa Park. It has a hacienda-style patio and serves modern California Cuisine. It is conveniently located in the heart of San Diego's museum district.

 

After lunch we headed to Coronado for a walk along the beach and a game of catch with the boys. 

Evening

We went to Old Town in San Diego for authentic Mexican cuisine. 

It's a nice area to wander around.

Day 5

Morning

After breakfast we headed to Balboa Park which is home to more than 17 museums. We enjoyed the Mingei International Museum, the San Diego Art Institute and the San Diego Museum of Art

Although we focused on the art museums, there is a wonderful science museum, automotive museum and many others to explore.

Afternoon

We drove back to La Jolla and had lunch at a nice restaurant in the La Jolla Village area.

After lunch we went for a walk along the beach in La Jolla in Lower Hermosa and Big Rock Reef. This stretch of beach has beautiful rocks and a nice board walk. We walked all the way to La Jolla Tide Pools and Seal Rock, where you can see many seals lying on the rocks catching some sun.

Evening

We had dinner in Gas Town at a local restaurant.

Day 6

Morning

After breakfast we checked out of our hotel and headed to Palm Springs. 

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Itinerary Add-ons

This itinerary can be combined with: