Non-Touristy Things to do in San Diego

I’ve done two versions of this trip so far: I fly into LAX, pick up a rental car (a mini cooper convertible!) booked through Turo and drive two hours to San Diego. Turo is such a great app and I promise I’m not being paid to say so. The best way to explain it is that it’s like Airbnb but for cars. A little bit of advice, make sure to take photos of the condition of the car, speedometer, and gas tank before and after your rental period. The only difference between this time and last time was that last time, we picked up another rental car from Avis so we could drop it off at our end destination and drove it to San Francisco.

After we landed in LAX, we picked up our mini cooper but we were absolutely starving so we popped by Eggslut in Venice. Then we started our two hour drive to San Diego.


I. Hotel Aqua Mar

We booked our hotel through Hotel Tonight. You can obviously tell I’m very into travel apps. Use my promo code CINYUK to get $25 dollars off your first book of at least $135. We stayed at Hotel Aqua Mar located in the Point Loma area of San Diego.

II. Better Buzz Coffee & Civita Park

Honestly the location was the best part of it. There is a Better Buzz Coffee right next door which was great for the mornings where we just wanted to grab a quick bite and as you all know, my morning coffee that I can’t live without. Unfortunately since we were running behind, we didn’t have time to stop by Civita Park.

III. La Jolla Cove

We skipped ahead to see the sea lions at La Jolla Cove. I couldn’t believe how close you could get to the sea lions. Some tourist came really close to actually physically touching them. Obviously they are mammals so don’t expect to smell flowers.

The sight is also beautiful. It is right on the beach so if sea lions aren’t your thing, you can definitely take in the sights or go swimming (away from the sea lions).

IV. Belmont Park


Then we headed over to Belmont Park which was a beach front amusement park. It’s right on Mission Beach so if amusement parks aren’t your thing, you can also go for a walk on Mission Beach which has several great beach front bars/restaurants including Cannonball.

V. Sunset Cliff Natural Park

Sunset occurs in San Diego around 8pm so make sure you get to Sunset Cliff at least by 7:45pm. Parking is super easy as they have an unpaved lot for parking. If you want to get further down Sunset Cliff, make sure to get there even earlier. It does get pretty chilly as you are right on the beach so bring a sweater. The view was absolutely beautiful but to get to certain “photo-ops” it is a bit dangerous as you have nothing to hold on to while climbing down cliffs. Definitely worth it though just make sure to plan accordingly.

VI. Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill

I asked Siri where to eat the best fish tacos in San Diego and Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill was one of the choices. For some reason, maybe because of the $$ on Yelp, I thought it was an “fancy” restaurant but you order at the register and then they seat you with a number. There was quite a line when we got there at 8:30 but you get to stare at the fish selection while you stand in line.

We also waited 5-10 minutes to be seated since the restaurant was busy but that meant good things for the food! The one fish that isn’t in the case is cod but it definitely is an option for the fish tacos! I had the fish and (waffle fries) chips. The fish servings are huge, at 4oz so beware when ordering food!

Day 2

I. Northside Shack

This is a must stop if you are into acai bowls. I’ve traveled around trying different acai bowls because, well I don’t know why it just seemed very Cali. I tried the one from Better Buzz and it’s pretty good but I have to say the best acai bowl in San Diego is found at Northside Shack, three blocks away from our hotel. Get the half acai, half pitaya bowl with almond butter. You can add (or remove in my case) all the fruits and dry ingredients that you want but the almond or peanut butter is extra. The smoothie base is more like a sorbet. Although different than what I’m used to, it is definitely still the best acai bowl I’ve had so far.

II. Potato Chip Rock

The actual hiking trail is called Mount Woodson trail. We started at Lake Poway and hiked upward to get to Potato Chip Rock. It is definitely not an easy hike and it does take about 1.5 hours to get up there so beware. Wear and bring lots of sunscreen and a hat because man did I get sun burnt.

But the photo-op was definitely worth it. It actually is quite dangerous just getting down to the rock because there isn’t a man-made path to the ledge. You can either scale up a 30-50 degree angle boulder or you can jump 4-5 ft down from two boulders right next to each other. Then the way down or up depending on which way you want to use to get off the ledge is even more tough. However, the people also enjoying the photo-op are nice enough to help you so return the favor to the next person trying to get off the ledge.

III. Donut Bar

I wish I could say this was my photo but it actually Bakerella’s photo from instagram. We didn’t make it to the Donut Bar unfortunately. As you may know, running late is my motto and a 12pm close time basically means I’ll never make it. 😰 But I’m still putting it on my list because where else can you get a rainbow cloud donut?

IV. San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo is not cheap but it is worth it! Make sure you have enough time to go through each section of the zoo and as there were a lot of portions of the zoo that was under construction we did a lot of walking around. Wear sneakers!

Make sure you go to the polar bear section because they are definitely true performers plus there are a couple of photo-ops with the sculptures.

V. Balboa Park

Try to scope out Balboa Park to figure out what you want to visit. We really enjoyed the Globe Theatre, the Japanese Friendship Garden and the Botanical Building.

Unfortunately as Henry is modeling above, we went after everything was closed. Time management is not our strong suit. Don’t worry though because they do have early night entertainment including live music.

VI. Extraordinary Dessert

I celebrated my birthday at Extraordinary Dessert and it was amazing. They have a small food menu as well with wraps, sandwiches and salads but if you’re going to a place called Extraordinary Dessert, I’m sure thats not what you’re ordering.

We split three desserts, the chocolate dulce de leche cake, lemon bar and the bread pudding. The one that is pictured is the bread pudding and it was absolute heaven. You scoop up some bread pudding dripping in chocolate, dip it in a condensed milk like pudding, and scoop up some whipped cream. Heaven.

Day 3

I. Pacific Beach

Take a stroll down Pacific Beach before your surf lesson. It’s such a beautiful beach and a great photo-op 😁.

II. Pacific Surf Lessons

I’ve now taken three surf lessons so far so I am a complete newbie still. But I do understand why people love it! Pacific Surf‘s tent was easy to spot on the beach and the instructor really made sure that we each had enough time to practice.

He even had us run on the beach before we got in the water since it was early in the morning. The only negative was that there were several other people getting a lesson at the same time so sometimes you would almost run into them. It definitely got you to learn quickly how to maneuver your surfboard but if you weren’t confident in your ability to drive your surfboard, it could be catastrophic. Unfortunately, there’s really nothing you or Pacific Surf can do about it since neither owns the beach.

III. Oscars Mexican Seafood

Oscar’s is located a couple of blocks away from Pacific Surf and it is absolutely my favorite fish taco place. If you love fish tacos, stop by here and do not miss the specials menu. I wish I could say that the photo is mine but not even I can stop myself from devouring these tacos to take a photo.

IV. Explore Balboa Park

Remember how I said you should scope out Balboa Park on Day 2? Well now is your chance to see the things you bookmarked when it is actually open.

Go into the Natural History museum or the San Diego Railroad museum. Whatever floats your boat!

V. Liberty Public Market

Grab early dinner and a drink at Liberty Public Market. After surfing, you deserve a stuffed burger from Stuffed and a beer from Bottlecraft. The market was located just a couple of block away from our hotel. If you’re not from New York or have been to Dominique Ansel Bakery before, stop by Pacific Provisions and grab a cookie shot or stop by Scooped and create your own ice cream sandwich.

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