A weekend getaway to San Diego and the coastal areas that make this part of Southern California so inviting is exactly what I have in mind to enjoy a short visit to the city. I wanted to spend the weekend in San Diego to explore the unique and fun coastal neighborhoods like Sunset Cliffs, Point Loma, La Jolla, Coronado and some of the popular attractions in the downtown area. Hopefully this post will inspire you to plan your own weekend getaway to San Diego and discover many of the distinctive sites and different places to visit around the city.
Highlights to a weekend getaway to San Diego
I arrived San Diego late in the afternoon and quickly got off the plane and into the shuttle to pick up my rental car. A quick Waze set up and I’m ready to drive out of the airport zone and head to my weekend rental home in a lovely part of town at Sunset Cliffs, in the Point Loma neighborhood.
Check into my rental at Sunset Cliffs vacation rental
The owner of the property, Lisa of Wanderlust Vacation Homes, graciously met me at the property since I was arriving later in the evening. What perfect timing, right when I got to the Hidden Beach Oasis rental, she was also parking and met me with a warm smile and offered to carry stuff from the car. The Hidden Beach Oasis is very comfortable with five bedroom and three baths along with a spacious great room and open air kitchen. It’s modern and well designed with colorful accents and elegant details that make all the rooms pop. I quickly chose the master suite, put the groceries in the fridge and did a quick tour with Lisa. She then showed me the nifty tablet I can check out with the guide about the Sunset Cliffs neighborhood, eateries and other interesting things to do in the immediate area.
I popped open a nice chardonnay, opened some snackies and plopped down in front of the TV. In just a few minutes I’m ready to crash for the night with a full day lined up visiting the coastal communities in the area.
Morning at Sunset Cliffs
After a restful sleep, I’m in the mood to have a large breakfast and take full advantage of the provisions we brought and the gorgeous kitchen I get to cook in. I love all the huge pots and organized utensils and cooking material and create a nice breakfast meal in no time.
Breakfast is served!
The area around Sunset Cliffs is really gorgeous, and the nice thing about my San Diego vacation rental is that it’s just a few short blocks walk from the coastline. We checked out the small two block neighborhood with a coffee shop, some eateries and a workout studio before heading out to the coastline. Along the way I spot some really cool vintage cars to photograph on the street and in a car lot along with a fun coffee surf joint that really gives off a So Cal kinda vibe.
The beach or really cliffs around Sunset Cliffs are busy this morning with joggers, bikers and exercise fanatics enjoying the early morning. I opted to doing a morning hike on a trail around the park area with these magnificent views of the coastline and rugged cliffs jutting out directly in front of the blue ocean. It looks like it has been a dry season with the sparse wildflowers popping up in a few spots on the trail – but no worries, the splendid views more than make up for the minimal wildflowers I was hoping to see.
A visit to Point Loma and Cabrillo National Monument
After the nice hike through the Sunset Cliffs, it was time to get in the car and do a short drive to visit the narrow peninsula of Point Loma and the tip of the Cabrillo National Monument. With the help of the National Park Service, the area has been well maintained and intact in its natural state all around the tip of Point Loma. Before entering the national park, you go through a scenic area of the naval cemetery and base with open views down the hill to the bay and San Diego downtown in the background.
It was quiet entering the national park with only a handful of tourists in the visitor center. So we had most of the museum and center including the lookout points all to ourselves to explore. We walk towards the Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo monument and enjoy some more lovely views of San Diego Bay and various landmarks along the coastline.
Visiting the Old Point Loma Light House
Next on our morning tour was a short uphill walk on a paved path to see the Point Loma Light House and explore the inside of the building. Adjacent to the impressive lighthouse is the assistant care takers home. It’s filed with a large Fresnel lens in the middle of the room along with some personal effects, photographs and other collectables from assistant caretakers who have stayed here.
Next, we walked up to the lighthouse which was the home of the various light attendants and their families. The rooms were set up in the early 19th century with the exact furniture, accessories and other personal belongings left from the various families that lived in the lighthouse. You can climb up to see the different rooms up to the top, (the viewing area above is closed off) and check out all the private quarters in the light house.
A coastal drive to La Jolla and Torrey Pines
Back to the car, we head out on Highway 5 to our next stop at Torrey Pines to check out the swank hotel, golf course and the natural reserve beach areas. It’s a fairly quick drive on Hwy 5 before you take the Torrey Pines exit, and the hotel is right off the main drag with the golf course next door.
Because I’m not a big golf fan, we decide to check out the hotel because I’m an arts and crafts geek and wanted to check out all the gorgeous details of this well designed hotel built in an Arts and Crafts period style which includes these impressive front doors that mimic the beautiful Gamble home built in Pasadena. You enter through these gorgeous dark doors with stained glass wood ginkgo panels that are wonderfully lit up from the inside. We walk around and check out all the beautiful interior areas and I’m totally in awe with the recreation of striking period arts and crafts details throughout the entire place.
We head on out to check out the cliff and beach areas of the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve next by driving down North Torrey Pines road until we see the entrance to the beach area. The cliffs fronting the beach are massive and we walk on the beach about a half mile and it seems endless and goes on forever. After a nice hike on the beach we walk back and I start looking at the sand for sea shells or interesting rocks to collect and surprisingly, there’s not much to gather here. No worries, it’s still a nice walk and we head out next to stop in the afternoon at La Jolla.
Exploring La Jolla and the sunset hour
It’s just a short drive to our next stop at La Jolla and we quickly find parking along the La Jolla Cove area to walk around and enjoy the spectacular views of the coastline and checking out some of the cool caves in the area.
The coves at La Jolla are a popular spot to hang out and watch the end of day along the beautiful and rugged coastline. After the sun goes down we head out to the downtown area to check out the shops and find a spot to eat for dinner.
Dinner at La Jolla
There’s plenty of choices for a nice meal in La Jolla, the tricky part is finding something good that won’t break the bank for a nice meal. I’ve been to Karl Strauss Brewing Company last time and had a fantastic and affordable seafood dinner and sampled really tasty IPAs. This time I saw a seafood cioppino on the menu that looked good along with a 4 tasting sampler of their popular IPAs which sounded like a perfect combination. The cioppino was a rich tomato broth filled with shrimp, fish and various shellfish cooked to perfection and the four IPAs tasted cold and refreshing in contrast with the salty tomato based stock.
After dinner, it was a quick drive back home to the Hidden Beach Oasis home to read a book on the yummy couch and then a long and restful sleep on a large and comfortable bed.
Day two at Sunset Cliffs
You can’t go wrong waking up on a super comfortable bed, in fact its hard to get out of bed except there’s still some fun things to explore in the city and we have a full day packed with places to see.
I finally crawled out of bed and make breakfast in the gorgeous kitchen. Breakfast for today was an easy spinach and mushroom omelet with some cut up fresh fruit. I loved the gigantic island to prep all the ingredients and cut up the fruit and still use the other side of the island to eat breakfast. Fortunately since I did all the cooking my friend ended up doing all the cleaning so it was a fair trade for a nice home-made meal.
Visiting Old Town and Balboa Park
Two of the most popular attractions were on our itinerary today – the Old Town and walking around Balboa Park. From Sunset Cliffs, it’s an easy drive down to San Diego’s Old Town state park. What I love about visiting the park is that most of the buildings have been transformed back into their original a state either as a clothing store, a hotel, cigar shop and other various storefronts surrounding the main plaza of town.
One of the nice parts about visiting this state park is seeing live re-enactments with volunteers dressed up period clothing, acting and explaining fascinating insight of the buildings we were visiting. They also shared fun stories and details about living in the Victorian era of San Diego which made the tour more interesting. We explored the area of the Bazaar del Mundo and the shops around Fiesta de Reyes and then checked out the Cosmopolitan hotel done in Victorian Splendor and later the grand adobe home of a wealthy family known as the Estudillo adobe.
A visit to Heritage Park
Not as well-known as Old Town, Heritage Park is right next door with eight Victorian era buildings that were saved and moved to the park to create a small Victorian enclave for visitors to walk through and explore. You will find homes made for simple modest income families to some of the more elaborate and grander Victorian homes with ornate details, widow’s walks and elaborate exterior trim work. In the middle of the park is the oldest Jewish Synagogue of San Diego sitting regal in the park like setting. The period details of the synagogue blend in well with the rest of the Victorian homes in the park.
Exploring Balboa Park
The short drive from the Old Town to Balboa Park is fast and parking in the mid morning was easy. The plan for the day was to explore the various Panamanian Expo buildings, the botanical garden pavilion and the art center just off the expo buildings. I loved to walk around the various building which were created for the Panama – California Expo during 1935-36 and are now a national landmark.
There’s over 16 museums located around the historic expo buildings, but we only get to explore the San Diego Museum of Art and the Timken Museum of art, along with a visit to the Botanical building and grounds.
Another fun area we got to explore was the Spanish Village Art center which houses a variety of art coops, galleries and other artist inspired venues showcasing the work of local artisans along with art demonstrations. I loved visiting and actually seeing artists’ sharing their work and process, it’s fun to connect with creative types this way and see different mediums of art. I’m especially drawn to ceramics, photography and glass and there were quite a lot of artists that were selling impressive pieces in each medium which was inspiring to see.
Relaxed dinner back at the Hidden Oasis
Instead of trying to find a dinner spot on a busy night, we decided to cook for the evening in our gorgeous Hidden Beach Oasis rental and have a relaxing night drinking some wine, grilling some sausages and creating a nice salad and some side dishes. It’s lovely to have such a beautiful kitchen to create something simple and delicious to eat and I thought this was a better way to unwind from a busy day sightseeing and spending a lot of time outdoors.
A few more glasses of wine and relaxing in the comfortable sofa sectional and I was ready to crash in my super comfy bed for the night.
Relaxed morning and last walk around Sunset Cliffs
Another easy and relaxed morning and emptying out the fridge to make an impromptu breakfast meal with mixed fruit, scrambled eggs and breakfast sausages is so easy and fast when you have so much space to spread out in this kitchen. I loved all the simple and white plate ware which makes everything look so good.
A perfect morning for breakfast on the patio
Afterwards another walk around the coastal areas at Sunset Cliffs to enjoy the beautiful morning and slow and easy walks around the paved trails and spying on the gorgeous ocean with million dollar homes fronting the sea.
It’s hard to leave our wonderful weekend retreat at Sunset Cliffs, but we reluctantly close up the home and head back slowly to the airport to catch our plane back home. It really was a nice stay and I hope to do it again some day.
Where to stay in San Diego
I enjoyed my stay at the Hidden Oasis Vacation rental, it was spacious and can actually accommodate up to 10 people per stay. If you’re looking for something smaller or different, check out all these other rentals on Wanderlust Vacation homes here to find your perfect weekend getaway to San Diego.
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