Where to Stay, What to Do and Where to Eat in San Diego

The ultimate guide to this sunny SoCal city for trendsetters, beach bums, culture chasers and eco-adventurers.
 

Oceanside's pier, photo courtesy of Brett Shoaf.

With its laid-back vibe and 112 kilometres of coastline, San Diego is the perfect spot for a winter escape. This Southern California city always dazzles, whether you choose to fill your days with mellow surf sessions or a relaxing spa visit followed by cocktails on a downtown rooftop.

Hotels

hotel indigo
Photo courtesy of Hotel Indigo.

If you’re trendsetters: Solamar Hotel

Discover San Diego’s Kimpton Solamar Hotel, a prime homebase for exploring the East Village. Its decor merges the city’s upbeat character with regal, early Spanish influences. Unwind at its rooftop pool, and enjoy perks such as nightly hosted happy hours and complimentary bikes to help you explore the city. 

If you’re beach bums: Surfhouse

About 45 minutes north of downtown in Encinitas, you’ll discover a coastal oasis, Surfhouse. This eight-room boutique motel was opened in 2017 by two surfing brothers who were raised riding the local waves. It features local art, a laidback vibe and goes by the motto, “Drop in as a guest, take off like a local.” 

If you’re culture chasers: The Guild

Revel in the beauty of The Guild, a hotel housed inside downtown’s century-old Army-Navy landmark building. Designed by local Sormeh Rienne, the decor at this 162-room hotel includes floor-to-ceiling arched windows with velvet drapes, rose gold lighting fixtures and leather-tufted headboards.

If you’re eco-adventurers: Hotel Indigo

You will feel good about staying at Hotel Indigo, downtown San Diego’s first LEED-certified hotel. Situated near the the Gaslamp Quarter, this contemporary venue keeps its carbon footprint low thanks to eco-friendly materials, green roofs featuring native plantings and a recycling program. Bonus: Pets are welcome.

Things to Do

Sea kayaking in La Jolla, photo by Melanie Stocker.

If you’re trendsetters: Sea cave-kayaking excursions

Solamar guests receive discounts at Saffron & Sage, a holistic health club that hosts sound bath and breathwork classes, and offers wellness treatments (think acupuncture and fire cuppings). Adventurers will want to join La Jolla-based company Everyday California on its surfing and sea cave- kayaking excursions. 

If you’re beach bums: Watch surfers from Oceanside’s pier

Go for a leisurely drive and explore the beach towns and cities scattered along Highway 101 (a.k.a. the Pacific Coast Highway). Watch surfers ride the waves from Oceanside’s 1,942-foot-long pier, browse the shops and galleries in Solana Beach’s Cedros Design District, or kayak at the La Jolla Ecological Reserve.

If you’re culture chasers: Pick up a Museum Month pass

Be sure to pick up a San Diego Museum Month pass in February for half-priced entry to more than 40 museums, including the California Surf Museum, La Jolla Historical Society and Japanese Friendship Garden. After the sun sets, discover the local music scene at Belly Up Tavern—a Solana Beach hotspot. 

If you’re eco-adventurers: Join a Surfrider cleanup

Join ecologically minded locals and help keep area beaches trash-free during cleanups hosted by organizations such as the Surfrider Foundation. After lending a hand, wander among the tidepools at Cabrillo National Monument or along the trails of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.

Places to Eat

morning glory
Morning Glory, photo by Zack Benson.

If you’re trendsetters: 10 Barrel Brewing Co.

 At nearby 10 Barrel Brewing Co., enjoy casual eats (try the steak and gorgonzola nachos or the creatively topped pizzas) and trendy craft beers while playing board games. Nearby, Ocean Beach’s Blue Water Seafood makes a splash with its raw oysters and tacos stuffed with seared ahi tuna and jumbo scallops.

If you’re beach bums: Le Papagayo

Settle into the cosy courtyard of Le Papagayo, where live music fills the air every evening. Enjoy a selection of Mediterranean- and Latin American-inspired dishes: shrimp ceviche, Cobb salad, spicy macadamia calamari strips and skillet steak tacos. And try a smoothie at Swami’s Café, a San Diego institution.

If you’re culture chasers: Morning Glory

Begin your day with a feast for your eyes, and your stomach, at Morning Glory. Overlooking Little Italy’s Piazza della Famiglia, this stylish brunch-and-cocktail venue serves flapjacks, shakshuka and French omelettes. At dinnertime, Animae wows with its coal-fired, Asian-inspired fare and lavish decor.  

If you’re eco-adventurers: Kindred

Savour refreshing cocktails and seasonal vegan fare ranging from veg-centric dumplings like almond ricotta and chive, to an artichoke po’boy and a Memphis BBQ Jackfruit sandwich at Kindred. Or, make your way to Donna Jean for plant-based favourites, such as Nashville-style breaded mushrooms.

[This story appears in the February 2020 edition of WestJet Magazine.]

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