San Diego: six reasons to visit


By Ellie Ross, Travel writer and California enthusiast.

Photography by Jo Ann Snover/Alamy

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January 2018

San Diego has it all: idyllic year-round weather, miles of glorious coastline and a host of cultural happenings (not to mention exceptional food and drink). Travel writer Ellie Ross reveals just some of the reasons why everyone should tick this city off their to-do list.

The great outdoors

San Diego usually has wonderful weather, boasting an average of 263 sunny days a year. This ideal climate, coupled with over 100 kilometres of coastline and a diverse topography, makes the city a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts – you’ll find activities including sailing, rock climbing, hang-gliding and stand-up paddle boarding. Explore pretty La Jolla Cove, with its protected marine life and caverns, by kayak with Everyday California. If surfing is more your thing, the numerous surf breaks along the coast suit beginner to experienced surfers – book a lesson with San Diego Surfing Academy. Golfers can get their tee fix at the world-class Torrey Pines Golf Course, and runners or cyclists should embark on locals’ favourite, the 20-kilometre Mission Bay Loop.

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History trail

San Diego is known as the birthplace of California and history buffs should head to the Cabrillo National Monument, located on the rocky peninsula Point Loma. This is where, in 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo became the first European to set foot in California. The site of the original Spanish settlement is in Old Town, where today you’ll find more than 20 historic buildings plus specialty shops and authentic Mexican food. Balboa Park is America’s largest urban cultural park, home to 1200 acres of gardens, museums, performing arts venues including The Old Globe Theatre, and the San Diego Zoo.

Visitors will discover an extraordinary array of concerts, events and street festivals throughout the year. Highlights include the Surf Dog Competition, when dozens of canines take to the waves.

  • Catch one of San Diego’s quirkiest events at the Imperial Beach Surf Dog Competition © Lisamarie Quiles.

    Doggy paddle

    Home of the original surf dog competition, San Diego’s Imperial Beach is one of California’s cleanest beaches, with an uncrowded beach pier that makes for a great sunset snap.

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  • Celebrate San Diego’s colourful heritage in Old Town San Diego © Getty Images.

    Nacho problem

    San Diego’s Old Town, created in 1769, is regularly heralded as a Mexican food paradise, with authentic spots Casa Guadalajara and Barra Barra Saloon known for the town’s best margaritas.£621 pp

    Plan your holiday to San Diego
  • Take a road trip to the charming Mexico resort town of Rosarito Beach © Getty Images.

Tequila and tortillas

With the international border just a 20-minute drive away, San Diego has Mexico right on its doorstep. You can cross the border into the city of Tijuana for a day trip (don’t forget your passport), where you’ll find a hive of activity by day and night, with duty-free shopping, authentic Mexican cuisine and superb arts and culture, such as the Tijuana Cultural Centre. A few extra days will allow you to venture deeper into Baja California. Don’t miss the beach resort of Rosarito and Valle De Guadalupe, Mexico’s answer to Napa Valley, which produces 90 per cent of the country’s wine.

Artisan ales

One of the most exciting developments for tourists is the burgeoning craft beer scene, and the city now boasts more than 150 breweries. Stone Brewing is southern California’s largest brewery and offers guided tours, while Mike Hess Brewing has a World Beer Cup-winning Kölsch ale and a lively bar in which to drink it. Monkey Paw also serves popular beer on tap with quirky names such as Santa’s Pet Monkey, an imperial stout. The city hosts popular beer festivals, such as San Diego Beer Week.

  • Wander around one of San Diego’s best-loved markets at Ocean Beach © Troy Orem.

    Wish you were beer

    As well as the weekly Farmers’ Market, each October sees this beachside space transform into the OB Oktoberfest with beer, barbecue and beach vibes included.£470 return

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Fresh pickings

Thanks to a year-round growing season, San Diego has over 6,500 small farms. It’s America’s top avocado producer, and lemons, strawberries and pomegranates also grow in abundance. To sample seasonal produce, dine at A.R. Valentien, a top farm-to-table restaurant. For a more affordable alternative, mingle with locals at one of the many farmers’ markets. Among the best are the markets at Ocean Beach, Little Italy and Hillcrest.

A feast of festivals

No matter when you visit San Diego there’s bound to be something going on, from live music to Comic-Con. Visitors will discover an extraordinary array of concerts, events and street festivals throughout the year to suit all ages and interests. Highlights include Mardi Gras, the Earth Fair – the world’s largest annual environmental fair, which takes place in Balboa Park – and the annual Surf Dog Competition, when dozens of canines take to the waves.

Plan your holiday to San Diego