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San Luis Obispo

San Diego

Weekend road trip from LA to San Diego

My bf and I live in San Luis Obispo and we just got back from a road trip from Napa up north, now we want to head down south to San Diego for a weekend!  We've driven to LA many times, so we're really just looking for recommendations between LA and San Diego now (though if there's something amazing in LA, we'd love to hear about it).  We'll likely drive down the 5 for the ocean view and go through Irvine, Oceanside, and down to La Jolla. 

Since it's a road trip and we have a car, we can be flexible and play things by ear.  We have a vague semblance of a plan to visit as many beaches as possible.  What else should we check out in terms of local food and local flavor?

8 Answers

top answer by
Dave from San Diego

If you're coming to San Diego, here are a few fun ideas (I live here, and I've enjoyed all of these).

  1. Go kayaking in La Jolla. You can take a guided kayak tour of the cove, and even go through a little cave (don't worry, it's not scary).
  2. Take a surf lesson at Del Mar Beach. The Powerhouse Park at Del Mar is a grassy area right off the sand, perfect for setting up a pop-up canopy and a tatami mat for relaxing (and you can place your stuff under the canopy out of the sun so it all stays cool). Several surf school options in Del Mar, just look online.
  3. After surfing, you've got great lunch options at Del Mar Plaza, just a block up the hill from the beach. I like  Pacifica Breeze Cafe, or if you're looking for a relaxing afternoon hangout, go have a glass of wine and admire the sunset from the patio outside Il Fornaio. For Dinner, you can try Pacifica Del Mar just above Pacifica Breeze...or right on the water, you've got Jake's Del Mar and  The Poseidon Restaurant on the Beach to choose from.
  4. Rent a beach cruiser or other bike in Solana Beach on the coast highway, and ride South to Del Mar, or North along the coast to Encinitas. Terrific coastal views, people watching, exercise, and nice small cafes and eateries to choose from. For a very healthy lunch, try Swami's Cafe. Or, in Cardiff by the Sea (just North of Solana Beach and before you get to Encinitas), go where the pro surfers go, Pipes Cafe.
  5. If you like pizza, be sure to hit Pizza Port. Great, fresh veggies and meats, and I love the crunchy multi-grain crust. While you're waiting for the pizza, munch on "Beer Buddies", which are pizza crust mini bread sticks with marinara or ranch dipping sauce. And, they're a self-contained microbrewery as well, so try a local beer if you have the urge.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. La Jolla (city)
  2. Del Mar (attraction)
  3. Powerhouse Park (attraction)
  4. Pacifica Breeze Cafe (restaurant)
  5. Il Fornaio (restaurant)
  6. Pacifica Del Mar (restaurant)
  7. Jake's Del Mar (restaurant)
  8. The Poseidon Restaurant on the Beach (restaurant)
  9. Encinitas (city)
  10. Swami's Cafe (restaurant)
  11. Solana Beach (attraction)
  12. Pipes Cafe (restaurant)
  13. Pizza Port (restaurant)
9 thankscomments (1)

answered first by
Jason from San Diego

On the drive down, check out Emporium of Postmodern Activities.  It's cool a bicycle, surf, motorcycle, and coffee shop.

When you're in Oceanside, you have to go to Hill Street Cafe for their avocado burrito!  

Jitter's Coffee Shop is great for weekend breakfasts and Yerba Mate lattes.

This may be slightly out of the way, but Temecula Olive Oil Company is pretty cool.  The saltish (smoked sea salt) is amazing!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Emporium of Postmodern Activities (attraction)
  2. Hill Street Cafe (restaurant)
  3. Jitter's Coffee Shop (restaurant)
  4. Temecula Olive Oil Company (attraction)
7 thanks

answered by
Bekah from Los Angeles

Definitely try to hit  Coronado. Do set some time aside, though, to stroll through town and check out the restaurants and shops. If you've just trained it in to San Diego, you can grab a cab or ferry over to the island

Coronado Beach is the biggest draw. Walk it, bike it, skate it... this is a fantastic beach. Don't be surprised by the low-flying helicopters. They're just returning to the nearby military base they call home.

Make sure you see the  Gaslamp Quarter. Cobblestone streets, gaslamps adding ambience... all you need is a guided historical tour and you'll feel like you stepped into San Diego's rollicking cowboy roots.  Old Town San Diego is a favorite of mine as well. So much fun to step back in history with an afternoon at Old Town San Diego. Fun shops at Bazaar Del Mundo offer knick knacks and the like. A must -- grabbing a margarita at any of the restaurants ( Casa Guadalajara for one) and people watching.  Balboa Park is great. Yes, the museums are terrific here, but more than anything, I love strolling the gardens and taking in San Diego's prime weather. A great place to let the kids run off some steam.

I love  San Onofre State Beach. This is the place to spend a day surfing, or in my case, watching the surfers, hit the waves. The locals have the system down to a T and you can even find them cooking up gourmet fare on their camp stoves at lunch time. Treasure hunters will want to hike to the tip of the beach, where goggles whipped off by waves find their way home.

The Prado at Balboa Park is one of my favorite restaurants. This is a great place to grab lunch and soak in the landscape. I also love  Addison. I'm not ashamed to admit it -- I ate myself into a food coma here. Who can blame me, the dishes created by Chef William Bradley are sublime. Just plan on taking a L-O-N-G walk after dinner.

Whaley House Museum which is said to be the most haunted place in the United States! Definitely get a guided tour to learn about the spirits joining you for a look-see in the house. The history of both the Whaley House and area is fascinating. Also, and I know this sounds funny, but be sure to see  The New Children’s Museum. This is, hands down, my favorite museum of all time. I know I'm a grown-up, but I still love adding paint to a VW bug, hearing rain hit the tin roof of an indoor cottage, making arts and crafts... you get the idea. Don't miss this museum! An addition to make for a perfect day -- a meal around the corner at Richard Walker's Pancake House. You'll be addicted.

Coronado Bridge - Yes, I'm calling this bridge an attraction. Indeed, it's an e-ticket ride with breathtaking Pacific panoramas.

San Diego Zoo where you can spend the night. You read that right. The park has a great camping program complete with tents, meals and behind-the-scenes looks at the park after dark.

Not sure if you need a place to stay, but there are some great hotels in San Diego. 

The Lodge at Torrey Pines is gorgeous. Spectacular setting! The spa is excellent. The dining choices offer outstanding views of the golf course. Terrific hikes on property. Be on the lookout for paragliders taking flight from nearby cliffs.

The Grand Del Mar is fantastic if tucked away, They make guests feel as they have the resort to themselves. A day at the spa is sublime. 

Omni San Diego Hotel - What's not to love about a hotel that bridges a baseball field! The Omni has a location for checking out some of downtown San Diego's hot spots. The spot to be, though, is in the hotel's very own box seats at Petco Park. And haven't we all wanted to merely walk home after a game and crash?

L'Auberge Del Mar is phenomenal. You might not think about wine country while visiting this hotel. That is, until you head down to the spa. Try a treatment off the menu featuring the healing properties of the glorious grape.

Of course, there's also the  Hotel Del Coronado. Yes, I've stayed in the haunted hotel room and... it is, indeed, haunted. As chilling as the experience was, I preferred the restful night's sleep in the Hotel Del's villas right next door. Great beachfront location. The hotel is steeped in history and has much for guests to see and do. As for the ghosts -- hey, they know they've got a good thing going. I'd stick around, too!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Coronado (attraction)
  2. Coronado Beach (attraction)
  3. Gaslamp Quarter (attraction)
  4. Old Town San Diego (attraction)
  5. Bazaar Del Mundo (attraction)
  6. Casa Guadalajara (restaurant)
  7. Balboa Park (attraction)
  8. San Onofre State Beach (neighborhood)
  9. The Prado at Balboa Park (restaurant)
  10. Addison (restaurant)
  11. Whaley House Museum (attraction)
  12. The New Children’s Museum (attraction)
  13. Coronado (attraction)
  14. San Diego Zoo (attraction)
  15. The Lodge at Torrey Pines (hotel)
  16. The Grand Del Mar (hotel)
  17. Omni San Diego Hotel (hotel)
  18. L'Auberge Del Mar (hotel)
  19. Hotel Del Coronado (hotel)
4 thanks

answered by
Andrew from Minneapolis

Ladona Restaurant in San Diego makes a mean enchilada verde, and if you're looking for something a little fancier, Nobu is good. I had sea urchin here that was literally on the bottom of the ocean three hours prior. That is fresh!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Ladona Restaurant (restaurant)
  2. Nobu (attraction)
3 thanks

answered by
Shauna from Santa Monica, California

Try Old Town Mexican Cafe. Definitely on the mucho tourista side, I still think this place is a lot of fun. They have a long happy hour and usually a long wait, but when in old town... do as the tourists do and have a good time at the Mexican Cafe.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Old Town Mexican Cafe (restaurant)
3 thanks

answered by
Marc from Los Angeles

I agree with the Hotel Del Coronado -- such a beautiful hotel and the location of so many movies and tv shows. The bike path that's right in front of the hotel is great. You can go up and down the beach for several miles. Some of the best mom and pop pizza restaurants are in the sleepy little beach town of Coronado right by this hotel. Perfect weekend getaway spot!

Another great spot is the Paradise Point Resort & Spa-- it's like a cruise on land. you could easily spend a week here and not run out of things to do right at your hotel. on mission bay.

Also love La Valencia Hotel. old la jolla vibe. amazing food. you'll feel like a 1920s movie star here. it has that vibe. right in the heart of downtown la jolla. little known fact, eddie vedder was a security guard here until he got fired for sleeping on the job. he returned years later and gave the manager a bottle of wine. it was getting fired from this job that made him focus on music. true story.

Try to get to the Torrey Pines Gliderport. This is really fun to watch. it's amazing what these gliders do. they take off from the cliffs and fly around over the ocean. you can also watch from a nearby hiking through the torrey pines hills. 

I also really like the Belly Up Tavern. It's a great place to hear live music! They get local acts as well as big names! You can take the Amtrak shoreliner train here if you're coming from LA. The station is right across the street from the club!

Make sure you see Mission Beach, too. The land between the ocean and the bay is called "The Strand" and it filled with great bars, clubs and restaurants. One of my favorite hotels in this area is the Bahia. It's right on the bay and five minute walk to the ocean. They on great deals on their website if you book ahead of time.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Hotel Del Coronado (hotel)
  2. Paradise Point Resort & Spa (hotel)
  3. La Valencia Hotel (hotel)
  4. Torrey Pines Gliderport (attraction)
  5. Belly Up Tavern (attraction)
  6. Mission Beach (attraction)
2 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Lauren from Los Angeles

I agree about Old Town. Old town has great Mexican food. There is a great tortilla factory where you can see them make tortillas.

And don't miss Del Mar. The Del Mar Fair runs in the summer and it is one of the best fairs ever! Don't miss the huge cinnamon rolls, they are the best I've ever had! Also, Julian Pie Company has the best pies! They are known for them. I played a bluegrass festival here and everyone in every corner was talking about which pies they liked the best here. From experience, they are all good!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Old Town (attraction)
  2. Del Mar (attraction)
  3. Julian Pie Company (restaurant)
2 thanks

answered by

May want to check out the craft beer scene which is growing in San Diego.  "Beer Map" attached.  Plenty of new and popular breweries in Vista and San Marcos areas.  

1 thankscomments (1)

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