San Diego is one of our favorite places in the US. We always say, if cost of living was no prerogative, we would move to San Diego in a heartbeat. The weather is almost always perfect, the hiking trails are endless and the food is delicious. We recommend spending at least 5 days here, plus or minus depending on how much hiking you want to do. Here is our guide on the best hiking and activities near San Diego, California.
FYI: This post was written based on a trip taken in early February
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What to do in San Diego
Hike Potato Chip Rock
An approximately 8 mile out and back hike with a little over 2,000 feet of elevation gain. You hike around a small lake then through some grassy and desert areas before reaching Potato Chip Rock (rock that literally looks like a potato chip). Pictures do not do this rock justice. While on it, you feel like you are suspended in the air. It’s exhilarating! If we had to chose one, this was the best hike we did in the San Diego area.
Tip: Hike to Potato Chip Rock on a weekday to avoid crowds. The trail and rock tend to be quite busy on the weekends. We loved our weekday hike here.
Looking for great hiking boots? Here are links to the ones we’ve used for 7+ years and highly recommend: Men’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots & Women’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots
Visit La Jolla
La Jolla is a picturesque small coastal town with lots of different restaurants and shops. It is fun to walk around the small downtown area here. Our favorite part of visiting here was La Jolla Cove where you can get up close to sea lions. You can also rent kayaks to use in this area.
Hike Cowles Mountain
This 3 mile out and back hike gives you panoramic views of San Diego once you reach the summit. The trail can get pretty crowded, with it being so close to the city, so plan on hiking here early to avoid crowds.
Walk along Mission Beach & Pacific Beach Boardwalk
Both Mission Beach and Pacific Beach Boardwalk are nice to run/walk on. Leave your headphones out to enjoy the sound of ocean waves and seagulls.
Day Trip to Anza Borrego State Park
This desert and state park is about 2 hours northeast of San Diego. We hiked the Borrego Palm Canyon trail here. On this trail, you hike several miles through the barren desert before coming upon a palm canyon. It is pretty neat to see this palm canyon in the middle of the desert. Make sure to take in the different cacti and wildlife (we saw mountain goats) along the way. Additionally, this park has a nice visitor/education center and other trails to choose from.
Anza Borrego State Park Website
Tip: Another day trip (or overnight trip) you could take from San Diego is to Joshua Tree National Park. This is about 3 hours from San Diego and has even more great hiking and scenery. See Four Days in Joshua Tree National Park for more information on this park.
Visit USS Midway Museum
Natalie is not a museum person like Sam, but she really enjoyed the USS Midway Museum. The USS Midway is a naval aircraft carrier turned into a museum and is located in the heart of downtown San Diego at Navy Pier. It is really cool to see how service members lived on this ship–you get to see the living quarters, ship hospital, cafeteria, etc.–as well as the aircrafts housed on the carrier.
Visit Coronado Island
Coronado Island is located just across the bay from Downtown San Diego. Coronado is well-known for it’s beaches, shops and restaurants. Make sure to visit the famous Coronado Resort while you are here.
Explore & Hike Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
This natural reserve has many different short trails along the coastline with stunning overlooks.
Where to Eat in San Diego
Lighthouse Ice Cream
Here you can get homemade waffle ice cream sandwiches that are absolutely delicious. We got fresh blueberry waffles as the outside of our sandwiches and would highly recommend this.
Woody’s Breakfast and Burgers
This casual American restaurant is right on the waterfront of Pacific Beach. The funky furniture at the restaurant makes it a unique spot to enjoy waterfront dining views.
Point Loma Seafoods
Fresh seafood market, with the best Calamari sandwiches, located right on the water.
The Fish Market
Located right off of Navy Pier and south of the USS Midway. We enjoyed lunch on the patio overlooking the water and USS Midway. The atmosphere and fresh seafood were both great.
Delicious speciality tacos and refreshing cocktails. The atmosphere is really fun but laid back. Our friends who live in Los Angeles recommended it and drove down from LA to meet us here for dinner.
Where to Stay in San Diego
Bahia Resort Hotel
This resort offers beachside rooms on Mission Bay. It is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the main city. We loved this location for exploring the nearby Pacific Beach as well as for jogging around Mission Bay in the mornings. There simple rooms are spacious and the location as well as the price are on point.
We hope this post helps you plan your trip to San Diego. Anything else you’d add to our guide on the best hiking near San Diego and what to do when visiting San Diego guide? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions. Please leave us a comment!
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