San Diego: California’s Best Known Secret
I know it’s been a while since I update my blog but my last ever January exams(!!) got in the way. Things are back to normal now though so I thought I’d kick off this year’s travel posts with a post about my experience in California’s underrated little gem, San Diego!
Last summer I went on a tour of the West coast of the USA with Trek America and the first stop on our itinerary was this beautiful place. San Diego had never been a place I had particularly wanted to visit but I’m so glad I have been as it was so much more than I expected. When we first got to San Diego we stopped off at Mt. Soledad Cross to get our first view of the whole of San Diego (you can even see Mexico from up there!), before driving a little further where we parked by Pacific Beach and had a picnic. It was a beautiful place where the water and the sky were both a perfect shade of blue, and numerous palm trees stretched upwards towards the burning sun- the way I always imagined California to look. After lunch most of the group hired bikes and went exploring, whilst the four of us on the tour who had spent the whole summer in run down cabins at summer camps spent three hours relaxing on the beach. I’m not kidding when I say it was like heaven!
When we finally managed to drag ourselves away from the tranquillity of the beach we got to see where we were staying for the next two nights (but not before grabbing some frozen yogurt obvs. When in America…). We stayed at a hostel right on the Gaslamp Quarter aka where it’s at! Obviously it was noisy at night (which wasn’t so fun for me when I was only 20 at the time. Boo) but if you’re staying there it’s probably because you’re looking for cool bars and that, right? On that first night our tour guide had booked us into a lovely Mexican restaurant as she was a firm believer in not being allowed to be this close to Mexico without eating Mexican food (to be fair, she has a point). NB: If you’d have told me a few years ago that one day I would be in San Diego eating at a restaurant with 13 strangers whom I’d only just met earlier that day, I’d tell you to stop lying to me (okay, I wouldn’t actually say it but I’d definitely think it!).
The next day was a free day and guess what we all did? Yep, we spent most of the morning- and a good part of the afternoon- on the beach! This time though we went to check out Mission Beach, the beach to be at in SD apparently! It was a lovely place and I thoroughly enjoyed relaxing on it. We were obviously feeling a little bit more energetic today as we spent some time strolling along the boardwalk, and we even hired out paddle boards. There was just such a chilled out vibe which I absolutely loved. If that’s your kind of thing I can’t recommend this city enough.
In the afternoon we went to Coronado- a big island that is basically one huge, luxury hotel. We had a couple of drinks overlooking the water, and at one point a football team ended up behind us singing the National Anthem to a nearby flag before going off to play a game. It made me feel very patriotic and I’m not even American! I really wish I’d had the time to go and see Balboa park to get a glimpse of San Diego’s more cultural side, or La Jolla to get up close and personal with its abundant marine life, but there’s always next time because I will definitely be back!
All-in-all, my couple of days in San Diego were lovely, and would never have happened had it not been a place on the tour itinerary. I’d never considered it a place I’d want to go to but I highly recommend it as it’s a perfect beach town with a lovely, chilled out vibe.
Where to stay: We stayed at USA hostels, right on Gaslamp Quarter so, if you’re under 21 (like I was) it can be a bit of a bummer later on when you can hear all the noise from the bars knowing you can’t get into any of them, but never-the-less it’s a nice hostel. The rooms are quite small but the beds are comfy and there are power outlets, and a little shelf by each bed. There’s plenty of toilets/showers, vending machines, washing machines, and a kitchen with a cute little (emphasis on the little) eating area upstairs. The hostel also organises bar crawls, trips to San Diego’s attractions and they even had a free spaghetti dinner night when we were there. Not bad, ey?
Where to go: I loved Coronado Island (the beach with a huge hotel attached). To get there we had to drive over the Coronado Bridge which offers great views, the beach itself is peaceful, and the terrace bar we had drinks at was lovely. Also, the Gaslamp Quarter has to be visited at night. It has lovely restaurants, many with amazing Mexican food, and there is a wide variety of bars including a piano bar, a bar with a mechanical bull, and a Coyote Ugly bar. What more do you want?
Where not to go: Sea World. The only down side to the hostel is they advertise trips to this awful place!