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The Definitive San Diego Travel Guide

Author 03-17-2017

If you’re gearing up for a trip to San Diego, California, get ready for an awesome time! This travel guide will introduce you to the exciting places you’ll want to visit in San Diego. You won’t want to waste a minute deciding what to do next when there are so many options and you probably have a limited amount of time although, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to find yourself lost in this beautiful city, since you never know what you will stumble upon! San Diego has a plethora of beautiful beaches to relax on and many places to explore alongside exciting activities to engage in on virtually every avenue. Enjoy your time in this coastal paradise, but don’t worry if you’re not able to fulfill all the items on your trip itinerary. You can always come back to explore more soon enough!

Beaches & Coastal Regions

The San Diego coastline is littered with pristine sandy beaches and vibrant beach-towns that makes it a world-class tourist destination. There are many beaches within the city limits of San Diego, California, each with their own unique characteristics. Mission Beach is a popular stop with a two-mile-long boardwalk and fun attractions, including a boardwalk amusement park (Belmont Park), the Wave House, and more. Mission Beach is fun place to go for all ages attracting a diverse crowd of visitors all throughout the year. The location is also popular among the adult crowd during the evenings, featuring several bars and an exciting nightlife scene.

South Mission Beach is where you’ll want to be if your goal is to avoid the dense crowd that lingers near Belmont Park and the pier. Volleyball is the most prominent beach activity on South Mission Beach, so bring a ball or join in a friendly game.

Across the way eastward, you’ll find Mission Bay has calmer waters, less crowds, sandy beaches, and even SeaWorld! Around Mission Bay, you’ll find beachgoers engaging in popular water sports such as sailing, paddle boarding, jet skiing and more!

Just north of Mission Beach and Mission Bay, you’ll find San Diego’s Pacific Beach. Similar to Mission Beach, Pacific Beach is an all around fun place to experience San Diego’s sandy shores. If you are an experienced surfer, or just want to give the sport a try, the Tourmaline Surfing Park is a designated surfers-only beach where you’ll find beginner and expert surfers alike conquering these SoCal waves; check the weather or call ahead first to check surf conditions.

Ocean Beach is another fantastic beach in San Diego with a great surf scene and a leisurely pace. The pier extending from Ocean Beach is a great place to fish, and you can do so without a California fishing license as well. Dog Beach at the northern end of Ocean Beach is a pet friendly SD beach where your dogs are free to run wild and swim until they’re exhausted—but please, bring a doggy bag.

Head to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Park for a unique and wild beach experience. This beach’s terrain is the most diverse in the San Diego area. With cliffs towering over the shoreline, you can participate in casual beach relaxation or soar over it in a hang glider; you can even golf cliff-side at the Torrey Pines Golf Course! From a clifftop parking lot, you can hike down to Black Beach, a popular nudist beach within Torrey Pines State Park that is only accessible by hike.

Across the San Diego Bay is the city of Coronado, and although it’s a separate entity from the city of San Diego, this upscale tombolo is often frequented by tourists. They flock to the gorgeous sands of Coronado Beach, which often is listed in top spots on travel lists of America’s top beaches.

Aside from the aforementioned coastal regions, San Diego is bordered by dozens of notable beaches, cliff-sides, and tourist spots that are well worth a visit along the coast, such as: Point Loma, Del Mar, Imperial Beach, La Jolla, Oceanside, Leucadia, Black’s Beach, and plenty more. Unless you’ve lived here for an extensive period, you won’t run out of new places to explore on the western edge of San Diego.

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Downtown Districts

Southeast of the San Diego International Airport, San Diego’s downtown area is composed of several districts replete with restaurants, shopping centers, attractions, hotels, and nightclubs. The Gaslamp Quarter in central downtown is the most well-known district in downtown San Diego, famous for its Victorian era architecture, nightlife scene, shopping, and attractions. The Gaslamp Quarter is a must-see for all visitors.

Gaslamp District is home to the Westfield Horton Plaza, a 5-level shopping mall with tastefully offbeat architecture. It is also home to many notable live music and theater venues. The Quarter is also known for its annual festivities including ShamRock, Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp, Street Scene Music Festival, and the St. Patrick’s Day Pub-Crawl. No matter what time of day it is, you’ll find the streets of the Gaslamp District alive with San Diego culture. From here, head east to East Village, where you’ll find Petco Park, and over 700 businesses, including many restaurants and unique art galleries of many flavors. The East Village has been undergoing a cultural rebirth since the construction of the Petco Park Stadium in 2004.

The robust Italian community that resides in San Diego is concentrated in the northwestern downtown district known as Little Italy. This italic pocket is where to go when you’re ready to indulge in fine dining, art, fine wine, or upscale shopping. Some of San Diego’s top chefs have opened restaurants in the district particularly on Ketter Boulevard making Little Italy a great place to go for a romantic night. South of Little Italy is the seaside Marina district in downtown San Diego. Here you’ll find outstanding San Diego attractions such as The USS Midway Museum, the New Children’s Museum, Seaport Village, and the San Diego Convention Center.

A short trolley ride north of downtown is Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo. The 1,200 acres of Balboa Park has earned it the reputation as “the nation’s largest urban cultural park,” with 15 museums and many gardens, artistic venues, and attractions. A trip to San Diego is not complete without visiting the cultural edifices within Balboa Park.

On the opposite end of downtown, to the south, is another distinct cultural district that has flown under the radar of mainstream tourism. Barrio Logan is an upcoming cultural district that exhibits the conflation of Mexican-American cultures. Taste authentic Mexican food in local restaurants and tour the germane art galleries that bring life to Barrio Logan. This is a great San Diego district for travelers interested in experiencing true Mexican-American culture at its roots.

Activities & Attractions

Sightseeing in San Diego could take a lot of planning to do sufficiently, so one practical option would be to take a San Diego tour with one of the numerous San Diego touring agencies. However, getting around San Diego on your own is fairly easy, even without a vehicle. The San Diego Trolley is a very popular and convenient option to get around town for tourists. San Diego’s most popular tourist spots include the many renowned museums, Sea World, Balboa Park, Petco Park, downtown districts, Old Town, San Diego Zoo, Belmont Park, Seaport Village, Birch Aquarium, and its many beautiful beaches. LEGOLAND California is very popular theme-park and waterpark situated north of San Diego in Carlsbad, CA.

Typical SD beach activities like swimming, surfing, parasailing, wakeboarding, beach cruising, volleyball, paragliding, water jetpacking, boating, tanning, and sandcastle building are only a few of the ways to enjoy San Diego, CA. If you still have time after shopping and dining at the finest establishments in downtown San Diego, you can try your hand at ocean fishing with a local fishing charter or even fish right off the pier.

Inland, Mission Trails Regional Park has several hiking trails for the more rugged travelers looking for adventure, but the most scenic coastal hiking is found on trails throughout the Torrey Pines State Reserve.

With the San Diego International Airport being only a hop away from the cruise ship terminal, San Diego is a premier port city for cruise ships. If you are looking for a new and romantic dining experience, there are a number of San Diego dinner cruises that depart from the terminal and take you around the bay while the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean. There are also regular San Diego Bay tours available for you and your family’s sightseeing pleasure.

Sometimes floating on the ocean isn’t enough excitement for everyone. If that’s the case, there are plenty of scuba diving excursions to choose from that will get you beneath the surface and up close to pacific marine life.

Stay in Style

Whichever way you choose to spend your vacation in San Diego, you are sure to have a blast! San Diego is a world-class tourist destination year-round with so many world-class beaches and attractions to explore, you’ll wish you could stay forever. Although you probably won’t be able to stay forever, it will be nice to stay in comfort. 710 Beach Rentals offers the best vacation rentals in and around San Diego, California. Their vast portfolio of beach homes, condos, apartments, villas, and vacation homes is sure to include the perfect rental suited for your travel needs. Experience the best of California here in sunny San Diego!


  1. “Park Information.” Park Information | Balboa Park. Accessed March 08, 2017. http://www.balboapark.org/info.
  2. “The Official Travel Resource for the San Diego Region.” The Official Travel Resource for the San Diego Region. Accessed March 08, 2017. https://www.sandiego.org/.