Rendezvous to sunny San Diego to enjoy enticing Pacific eats, oceanside adventures and beyond beautiful beaches
As you dip your oar into the glass-like surface that frames your kayak and pull back slowly to propel your boat forward, you wince as your paddle partner splashes your sun-drenched back with the cool droplets of seawater that have fallen from the blade of their paddle. The splash is welcomed with a laugh, because you’re beaming as you bask in the beauty that surrounds you, and, well, you were getting a little too warm anyways.
This is winter in San Diego—where the sun shines approximately 266 days a year, and the temperature remains welcomingly warm, thanks to the mild Mediterranean climate of “America’s Finest City.”
With its emerging culinary scene, endless list of attractions, and closer-than-you-think proximity to Vancouver, San Diego is the perfect place to sneak off for a sunny weekend getaway with your sweetie.
Here’s how to make the most of your three-day stay...
Where to stay: Hard Rock Hotel San Diego, Gaslamp District
Hard Rock Hotel San DiegoAs you walk through the parting glass doors and into the foyer of the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego, your eyes are immediately drawn to the psychedelic vignettes that decorate the lobby walls. Each concierge emanates a rock-star vibe, wearing guitar-pick-shaped name tags donning their first name and favourite artist. The hosts are super friendly and down-to-earth, making each guest feel as though they are “with the band.”
Once you’ve provided your name, you are prompted to select your favourite genre of music while a welcome beverage is placed in your hand. As you stroll down the hallway toward the elevator, you’re transported through a rock-and-roll time capsule, surrounded by memorable snapshots and timeless memorabilia from iconic musicians of all genres and eras. The elevator ambiance puts you in the centre of a smoky dive bar, continuing the rockstar feel as you heads towards your room.
Hard Rock Hotel San DiegoAs you open the doors to your room, your ears are filled with your favourite tunes. The decor is modern chic with a laid-back rock-star feel, which is carried throughout every detail, right down to the little Fender guitars stitched on the corners of each pillowcase.
Each guest receives an all access pass to the hotel, which includes a complimentary welcome wine, free drip coffee at the '50s-inspired Maryjane’s Diner, access to a selection of Fender electric guitars for in-room jamming and free Electra bike rentals—perfect for cycling along the sea wall to the city’s many harbour-side spots.
TIP: It’s worth it to splurge on a suped-up, spacious King Suite, which comes with added perks such as access to the VIP concierge/lounge area where you can enjoy express check-in/check-out and free drinks and VIP access to 207 Bar and Float Rooftop Lounge.
Day 1 - Stroll, sip, savour and spa in downtown San Diego
Bianca BujanStart your morning off with a belly-filling breakfast at the '50s-inspired Maryjane’s Diner, located in the hotel lobby. Enjoy your favourite greasy-spoon diner dishes while watching old-school cartoons play on the in-booth flat screens as you plan your day.
Grab a coffee to go and head out for a stroll along the boardwalk (located only a block from your hotel) to Seaport Village, where you can browse through shops, listen to live music and admire the boats that line the harbour. Pop into the chic new Headquarters—a revamped shopping and dining spot located in the former headquarters of the San Diego police department. Take a peek at a fully-restored eight-cell jail block, and then pop over to Puesto, a local favourite taco spot where you can sip on Micheladas and nosh on a trio of tacos on the sun-drenched patio.
Continue your stroll along the sea wall to the USS Midway Museum—a can’t-miss San Diego ship museum featuring 29 restored aircraft, 60 exhibits and flight simulators, giving guests an authentic look at the history behind life at sea on one of America’s longest-serving aircraft carriers. Before you head aboard, be sure to snap a photo of the 25-foot “Embracing Peace” statue by Seward Johnson, depicting the iconic image of a sailor kissing a nurse before heading off to battle during World War II.
Walk back to the hotel and recharge with a one-of-a-kind "Synchronicity Massage" at the Rock Spa. This fully-immersive, music-centric treatment features a choreographed massage set to the tunes of your pre-selected spa soundtrack. Feel the music vibrate gently through your body as you sink into the table (featuring a built-in subwoofer and a sound dome positioned above your head for surround-sound, concert-quality tunes). You’ve never felt music quite like this.
TIP: Give yourself at least two hours to tour the Midway—there’s so much to see and do in and around the ship, and you’ll want to chat with some of the veterans who live to tell tales from their adventures at sea when the Midway was still an active vessel.
Bianca BujanFor dinner, head to the new Pacific Standard Coastal Kitchen, located in San Diego’s Little Italy—a hilly Italian fishing village turned culinary hot spot in the city. With Bravo TV’s Top Chef alum Giselle Wellman at the helm, the simple, laid-back feel of the space complements the surprisingly sophisticated menu and made-with-heart dishes. With a focus on embracing the local artisan community, Chef Wellman’s kitchen uses only the freshest local ingredients to create a diverse, rustic-refined and coastal-inspired menu. Her refreshing culinary take on classic dishes makes it tough to choose just one, so you may want to share.
Must-try dishes include the beet salad, featuring slow-roasted baby beets, goat cheese, avocado, tangerines, toasted pistachios, fresh mint and Californian olive oil, and the Crab Cakes, jumbo lump Maryland style, spicy remoulade, fennel and carrot slaw—both as pleasing to the eye as they are to the taste buds.
Day 2 - Cruise and cavort through Coronado
Bianca BujanAgain, begin your day with a stroll along the sunny seawall of Seaport Village and wave at friendly joggers as they sprint past you while you sip on a coffee and soak in the scenery.
If your second day happens to fall on a Saturday, be sure to check out the Tuna Harbour Dockside Market (open only on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to1 p.m.). This is a great people-watching spot, where you can take in the liveliness of the local residents and chefs who flock frantically from station to station to load up on the fresh catches of the day, including albacore tuna, box crabs, octopus, sea urchin and live lobsters. Be sure to peek over the sides of the dock where you’ll find clusters of seals and sea lions floating on the water’s surface, desperate to catch fish droppings as the local fisherman slice and dice the market picks at the edge of the pier.
Hornblower CruisesHead further along the seawall (just past the USS Midway) and embark on a Whale Watching Adventure tour with Hornblower Cruises. Climb aboard the yacht and pick your spot on the spacious sun deck where you can sip on cervezas while enjoying a three-and-a-half hour tour of San Diego’s waters. Speed out to sea and ogle at pods of playful dolphins, tail-splashing whales, and sunbathing sea lions while enjoying the company that surrounds you.
After your tour, head over the bridge (by car) to Coronado, where you can enjoy a beach stroll on one of the most beautiful beaches in America, featuring white sand, calm surf, mini sand dunes and a wide and forever-stretching beach that will take your breath away. Head to the luxe Hotel del Coronado that sits on the water’s edge, and sip on drinks while lounging on the picture-perfect patio.
Bianca BujanHead back into Little Italy for a casual dinner at the brand new Herb & Eatery Cafe and Chef’s Market—a culinary creation by another Top Chef alum, Brian Malarkey. While the ambiance of the eatery is cozy/casual, the all-day fresh fare features elegantly-elevated, mouth-watering takes on classic courses, such as fried chicken, mac n’ cheese, and eggplant Parmesan.
Must-try dishes include the poke and avocado composed salad with kimchi, cilantro, black vinegar lime ponzu, artisan mixed greens (note: larger-than-you-can-handle portion size, this is a must-share), and the fried chicken lite, with cucumber, red onion and tomato salad with lemon buttermilk sauce.
Not ready to call it a night? Pop into False Idol Tiki Bar (located inside Craft & Commerce Restaurant) for post-dinner drinks in an exclusive, Polynesian-inspired tropical paradise, featuring a flaming volcano and an indoor waterfall. Just don’t order The Zombie; a cocktail described as having “an almost impossible amount of rum with a hint of spice and citrus.” This pick has a two-drink limit “for your own protection,” and for good reason. Be sure to make a reservation as this is a high-traffic hot spot.
Day 3 - Enjoy jaunts and jollies in La Jolla
Everyday CaliforniaStart your final day off with a scenic drive to La Jolla—a postcard-perfect seaside destination located approximately 20 minutes from downtown San Diego (by car). Head to La Jolla Shores and take an epic 90-minute kayak tour of the cove with Everyday California, where you’ll explore sea caves, learn about the thriving marine life, and if you’re lucky, paddle alongside the pods of playful dolphins and curious sea lions that call the cove home.
Galaxy TacoCool off and grab some grub at the neighbouring Galaxy Taco, where you can sip on an ice cold craft beer and lunch on La Jolla’s finest and most flavourful Mexican fare. The tacos are out-of-this-world good.
Must-try dishes include the roasted Brussels sprouts (doused in chipotle crema, lime, cotija, and cilantro), and the Baja fried fish tacos (with cabbage, pico de gallo, chipotle crema, and avocado).
The Lodge at Torrey PinesSet your sights on a soothing couples massage at the Spa at Torrey Pines, located in The Lodge at Torrey Pines, where golf’s finest stay for the annual Farmers Insurance Open PGA Golf Tournament. Featuring Scottish architecture and sage-scented lotions and oils, this dimly lit oasis will have you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated before you head out for your last dinner in paradise.
Torrey Pines GilderportA trip to San Diego would not be complete without catching an awe-inspiring sunset at Gliderport Torrey Pines. This is America’s most popular soaring site for hang gliders and paragliders, and the best spot in the city to snap a romantic selfie against the backdrop of jutting cliffs, scenic surf, and an orange-and-yellow sky.
Sam Wells PhotographyA grand finale dinner at The Hake is the perfect way to wrap up a romantic weekend in San Diego. This newly updated oceanfront restaurant perfects the fine dining experience without being overly pretentious. The setting is upscale but comfortable—you won’t find white linens or gloved servers in this joint, but the food tells a different story. The global-fusion dishes are made with equal parts passion and skill. Influenced by the culturally-diverse culinary background of Executive Chef Aarti Sanghavi, the courses ooze of Indian, Mexican, and Asian influence, combining unheard of combinations of flavour and Snap-worthy plate presentation. The community feel of the dining space, combined with the passionate and knowledgeable staff and delectable dishes, makes this the ideal spot to dine, drink and dote away your last evening in the sunny city of San Diego.
Must-try dishes include the Grilled Spanish Octopus (with confit potato, chipotle, watercress, and grapefruit), and the Wagyu Beef Tartare Toast, a seasonal special that can’t be beat.
Steal This San Diego Itinerary
- Downtown San Diego
- Stroll to Seaport Village
- Puesta at The Headquarters for tacos and drinks
- Tour USS Midway
- Rock Spa Synchronicity Massage
- Dinner at Pacific Standard in Little Italy
- Coronado Island
- Mary Jane's Diner breakfast
- Whale watching tour
- Coronado Island beach stroll and drinks at Hotel Del Coronado
- Dinner at Herb & Eatery
- Drinks at False Idol Tiki Bar
- La Jolla
- Kayak tour
- Galaxy Taco
- Spa at Torrey Pines
- Gliderport Torrey Pines sunset
- Dinner at The Hake
For more on all there is to see and do, check out the great resources available on the San Diego Tourism Authority site.