San Diego offers so much to visitors. Beaches, parks, historical architecture, a renovated Gaslamp district for nightlife, and outstanding restaurants for any kind of cuisine you fancy. Having lived in San Diego for most of my life, I have a few favorite must-sees. If you visit for only a short time, I recommend starting with this list. You’ll never run out of places to see and experience here — I still haven’t! — but these four are my top recommendations.
This is number 1 on my list. Coronado is an island reached by bridge or ferry and has a vibe all its own. The gem of Coronado is the fabled Hotel del Coronado, which has hosted visiting dignitaries through the decades. Presidents Taft, FDR, Ford, and Carter were here. Famous folk such as Charlie Chaplin and Charles Lindbergh are in the visitors list. Marilyn Monroe filmed “Some Like It Hot” here in 1958. Author L. Frank Baum lived at the hotel while he wrote some of the Wizard of Oz books. He commented in 1905 on the Hotel Del: “And every day her loveliness shines pure, without a flaw, new charms entrance our every glance, and fill our souls with awe!” I have never stayed here, but I’ve often strolled on the lawns and beach, and I’ve splurged now and then to dine here. The beach is the perfect place to view sunset on the Pacific.
Favorite restaurant: Miguel’s Cocina, our go-to for celebrations, where you’ll find scrumptious Mexican food and pomegranate Margaritas, plus mud pie for birthday dinners.
The Cabrillo National Monument and Lighthouse
Up on top of a hill above San Diego Bay stands the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, opened in 1854. It’s “old” because it’s been replaced by a newer lighthouse that’s down on the shore. But its charm remains.
The views from the lighthouse, both from the front and around from the backyard, are worth the trip alone.
Next door to the lighthouse is the Juan Cabrillo National Monument, celebrating the sailor who landed here in 1542. A film tells about Cabrillo, and a gift shop offers books and games and fun items for kids.
You can hike down to the bay on a dirt path. You can also see one of the older Fresnel lights used in the lighthouse and learn more about how the lights work, too. There’s even a World War II bunker built into the hill under the lighthouse. There’s so much to explore here!
Old Town San Diego
The history of San Diego is preserved in the delightful Old Town area of the city. You can travel back to the mid 1800s as you stroll the wide streets and wooden sidewalks. Buildings from this era are open to the public. San Diego’s proximity to Mexico is apparent in the architecture.
Favorite restaurant: Casa Guadalajara with authentic Mexican food and a festive atmosphere, and you can watch the fresh tortillas being made right there.
If hiking is on your itinerary (I always love finding new scenic hikes!), then head to Torrey Pines. The hiking paths wind around the hills above the ocean among fragile sandstone cliffs. You’ll enjoy the sea air and the magnificent views.
You can park at the top of the hill and enter the crisscrossing trails. Or you can park down at the beach and walk up the hill, for more of a workout. The trails eventually lead down the cliffs to the beach.
How about you? Have you been to San Diego? Do you have a favorite place?