San Diego is one of my favorite places to visit. There are a thousand ways to be active, it doesn’t require a ton of planning, and it’s on the Pacific coast. What more could you ask for in a city?!
After having been several times, I put together an adventure packed 3-day itinerary for this amazing city. If you are like me, you love to squeeze in as much exploring as possible on trips. This itinerary will be perfect for you. If you have kiddos or like to relax a little more on vacation, you can totally still go to all these places. You may just want to do it in 4 days.
No matter how you choose to explore San Diego, there is no doubt that you are going to love it. There is so much fun to be had in this city.
Day 1: Torrey Pines & La Jolla
Start your trip bright and early at Torrey Pines State Reserve. It’s a bit outside of San Diego, but is definitely worth the drive. Torrey Pines has easy hikes with insane views of the cliffs and the ocean.
When we went, we took the beach trail loop. It’s a short 2 mile hike that loops you down to the beach with tons of beautiful overlooks along the way. Don’t rush through the hike. Stop and enjoy the views on top of the cliffs and down on the beach.
After you are done exploring Torrey Pines, head back towards San Diego to La Jolla. On your way stop and check out Scripps Pier. If you want to get in some beach time, you can do that here!
Once you are finished at the pier, grab lunch in La Jolla. If you are looking for inexpensive and delicious, try The Taco Stand off Pearl Street. There is usually a line, but it’s totally worth it. Also, you can’t go to San Diego without getting tacos at least once!
After lunch, head towards the ocean to check out the tide pools and explore the cove. La Jolla is known for all the seals that hang out right by the tide pools. As you walk towards the ocean, you’ll see, hear, and smell them!
This whole area is a super fun place to walk around and explore. You can walk down to the beach in a few places or hike around the cove. It’s really fun to just see where the trails take you!
If you hang out long enough, you can stay to catch the sunset off the coast before heading back to the Air BNB!
Day 2: Surf & Ocean Beach
Last December I went to San Diego with my friend, Courtney, who insisted we try surfing. I honestly don’t know why I hadn’t before, but now a trip to San Diego wouldn’t feel complete without at least one surf day.
If you’ve never surfed, you can read all about our experience surfing for the first time here. I share where we got our boards, our thoughts on lessons, and things that surprised us. Long story short, I totally recommend it. We went to Pacific Beach and we loved it. Rent boards from Rays off Mission and you’ll be set.
Not into surfing? Make it a beach day! Head to Mission Beach where you can hang out, jump in the ocean, bike the boardwalk, and explore the fun restaurants and shops.
After surfing, return your board and head to Ocean Beach. You are going to be hungry, so grab food right away! An OB must is Hodad’s off Newport. There will likely be a wait, but I promise it’s worth it.
When you are finished with lunch, explore Newport Avenue a bit before making your way to Sunset Cliffs.
An absolute must in San Diego is catching the sunset from Sunset Cliffs. Something about a neon pink and orange sun setting over the ocean never gets old. If you do nothing else from this post, do this!
Day 3: Exploring Downtown San Diego
In addition to San Diego’s outdoor scene, there are also a lot of fun places to explore downtown. On your 3rd day of the trip, spend some time exploring the city.
There are a few options for a day downtown.
You could explore the famous San Diego Zoo for the day. It is consistently rated the number one zoo in the nation and could easily fill a day of your trip. This is a great option if you have kiddos!
If you don’t want to pay for the zoo pass, you could spend the morning exploring the rest of Balboa Park: gardens, museums, and tons of beautiful photo ops! After Balboa, grab lunch in downtown San Diego. Might I suggest Oscar’s Mexican Seafood? When you are finished with lunch, head to Harbor Drive. The harbor is a happening place with tons of restaurants and shops, but it is also home to the USS Midway. Even if you don’t go in, it’s super fun to see and read about.
If you are taking a summer trip, make sure to check the Padres schedule! PetCo Park is one of my favorite baseball stadiums and it’s totally worth catching a game just to see it.
If the Padres aren’t playing, but you still want to go out, spend your evening in the Gaslamp Quarter. San Diego is known for its nightlife and that’s all thanks to Gaslamp. A night exploring this district is sure to be a good time!
If you are headed to San Diego, I’d love to hear about it in the comments! 🙂 Thanks for reading, friends!
Pin it for Later