Sometimes when I want to try new things, I either dip a toe or dive in. My trip to San Diego was me dipping a toe in the water. If I could manage three days in a state by myself until my husband arrived to meet me, I knew I could do it again one day. San Diego marked my dry run. My risk-taking trip without taking too much risk.
I landed in San Diego Wednesday morning and to my surprise, the Airbnb was ready before 3:00 pm. Rather than drag my luggage around, I dropped off my bag and napped first thing. I read a few blogs before this trip that discussed solo travel tips and the one that stood out to me was “listen to your body”. I knew I needed a nap when I stepped off the plane, so I went ahead and got that out of the way.
Once I woke up, the two main priorities became lunch and the beach. I hadn’t seen the beach in three years and even then, my actual time on the beach that trip was very limited. I held back the tears when the Lyft dropped me off at the pier. The water was beautiful, and I felt so beyond grateful to finally see the Pacific ocean for the first time. I mean, I guess Seattle sort of counted, but not really.
For lunch, I grabbed a Lyft to Oscar’s Taco’s in PB. We stayed in Mission Bay, which I would pretty much consider Central San Diego. What was tricky planning this trip was deciding where to stay. Would we want to split our time between the beach and the city? My thought was yes, but Keegan wanted most of our time on the beach. So I got some of those “city yearnings” out of my system before he arrived. I also doubted he’d be interested in yoga on the beach; thus I inhaled my ceviche and seafood tacos near where the class was taking place.
Yoga on the beach was invigorating and difficult! That was honestly the most challenging yoga class I’ve ever enrolled in. But it’s California, so go figure. And the idea of sunset yoga on the beach was too good to pass up. Much like my Red Rocks Yoga experience, yoga outside without a ceiling is the best.
Yoga left me feeling relaxed, proud and accomplished. As I headed towards World Famous Seafood, strolling along the coast by myself, I paused as the sun set, taking in the scenery, the smells and the sounds of all that surrounded me. Everything about that first evening by myself was truly magical.
I walked as far as I could before calling a Lyft. World Famous turned out to be a little pricey, so I grabbed a quick drink and left to try Pacific Beach Fish Shop.
PBFS turned out to be amazing. Turns out, they’re rated the best seafood in all of California on MSN.com, and it was such an honor to try this place. The clam chowder reminded me of Pike Place Chowder in Seattle, and the salmon was probably the best I’ve ever had. I love how you pick a fish, a marinade and a style. If I ever go back to San Diego, I will definitely return here.
The next morning as I ordered brunch at some place in Hillcrest, I thought it’d be cool to try one of those electric scooters. My lift driver told me they’re easy to navigate and only 15 cents a mile. Communal Coffee was just a few miles away, so I downloaded the Bird app and gave it a go.
Big mistake. I throttle the Bird accidentally and slammed into the side of an outdoor patio. Several folks ran over and asked if I was okay. My body was bruised literally, and my ego was bruised figuratively. Nonetheless, I was determined to make it to that fucking coffee shop with the floral shop attached.
These pictures honestly do not reflect the severity of the accident. I arrived to Communal Coffee with a bloody knee, bloody shin and a severely bruised ankle. My Lyft driver complained of me dripping blood in his car. My pinky toe felt broken, but I could still apply pressure. Luckily the barista’s were so friendly and accommodating; they offered me their First Aid Kit. I, in return, purchased a large iced dirty chai (quad shot espresso–my nerves were shot) and a sleeveless tee to commemorate the day. I will never wear my Coffee and Flowers tee without remembering my scooter incident, along with the servers’ kindness and generosity.
The flower shop was absolutely beautiful. Had I not planned on being out all day, I would’ve handpicked myself a bouquet, piece by aesthetically pleasing piece.
But alas, I had an agenda.
Balboa was a must-do, according to the locals online. I braced myself for the inevitable: 1,200 acres of gardens and museums at my fingertips, and only a few hours to cover the basics.
Nick and Regina strongly recommended Museum of Man, so I made time for this one museum. I started with the Cannibalism exhibit, and it shook me up so bad, I honestly didn’t even enjoy the remaining exhibits. It was the saddest exhibit I’ve ever seen besides the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Click here to learn more about the cannibalism exhibit in San Diego.
I connected with my cousin on Wednesday, who just so happens to live in San Diego. Stefan encouraged me to meet him where he works, which just so happened to be on my to do list anyways. Hotel Del Coronado offers an extravagant, leisurely experience for those who are willing to pay the price. Me, on the other hand, I live on a modest budget and could never afford to stay there. So when I found out Stefan manages the concierges I rearranged my schedule to meet him on the beach.
I left Balboa and took the ferry to Coronado; for a whopping $4.50, you can take a 15 minute boat ride from the Broadway Pier. Admittedly, my favorite part of any coastal vacation is usually the ferry ride. I feel like a little kid, giddy and eager to ride the waves.
Hotel Del is the most remarkable hotel I’ve step foot in thus far. It’s like Opryland Hotel with Spanish flair, on steroids, next to the beach. You never know what will be your favorite part of any vacation until afterwards. Upon reflection, the ferry rides and Hotel Del were my favorite things about San Diego. Stefan set me up with a bed on the beach for free, and I felt like a queen. Little did I know, the bed was a $200 value, as if I’m made of money. Throw in a few strong tropical drinks with the sounds of Real Estate, Jack Johnson and John Mayer playing gently in the breeze, and you have me living my very best life.
As much as I hated to leave the peninsula, I booked it to the Crab Shack before they closed. I got my crab leg fix and sat at the bar again to avoid feeling lonely or awkward. So far, all the tips I’d read regarding solo travel rang true. Grab a seat for one, sit at the bar and chat with strangers while you wait on your food. With the exception of the weirdo at World Famous the night before (“I can usually read people pretty well, but you’re a mystery. I just can’t read you…and I swear I’m not hitting on you, I just can’t figure you out”. Eyeroll, barf, etc.), everyone I’d met from Lyft drivers to customers at bars and restaurants had been nothing but friendly and polite.
The following morning, I started my morning at the Cafe on OB’s Crystal pier, the longest pier on the west coast. My lobster omelette and iced latte were exactly the fuel I needed.
I could chill on this pier and watch the surfers all day long. As much as I hate to leave this spot, I wanted to shopped in OB before Keegan arrived. I visited cheesy tourist shops, found a flower shop and grabbed lunch at Hoodad’s. Then, I continued my shopping with a trip to Seaport Village.
I wanted to do all the city stuff before Keegan arrived that evening. Seaport Village had some quirky shops, and I found Keegan a freshly rolled cigar. Afterwards, I took a Lyft to Little Italy, since Italy remains my #1 dream country.
Little Italy had so much pizza to choose from, but truthfully I was the most excited for Salt and Straw. Earlier this summer, as I listened to Bon Appetite’s Ice Cream Man episode and learned more about this relatively new start-up, I knew I had to try it. The Avocado & Oaxacan Chocolate Fudge taste delicious with the Freckled Woodblock Chocolate. My taste buds were in heaven.
I spent the remainder of the day in PB, relaxing on the beach. With each and everyday in San Diego, it was becoming apparent how much I appreciated the beach and wanted to spend most of my time there, soaking in every last inch of those relaxing vibes.
That evening, Keegan met me at the Airbnb. I was delighted to have him with me and to try a few new bars that evening.
We weren’t impressed with Waterbar to be honest; their 10:1 ratio of male bouncers to female servers was sad to watch. Large groups of men sat idly by, waiting on a fight to break out, while a small handful of women ran around like chickens with their head’s cut off. But the tiki bar next door was right up our alley. We split a huge frozen pineapple mango marg, and I slept so well that evening.
Keegan’s daylight introduction to San Diego featured Crushed, a brunch spot off the main strip in PB. Between my breakfast tacos and his seafood Bennie’s, we thoroughly enjoyed our food.
I found a Groupon for snorkeling the week before, so that’s how we spent our Saturday morning. I knew in the back of my mind that it might be nerve wracking to try; I have an innate fear of drowning, but that wasn’t about to stop me.
Sure enough, I had a really hard time sticking my face in the water. Luckily we could move at our own pace once we arrived at La Jolla Cove. No pressure from anyone to rush through the session. Keegan mastered the art of free diving; I, on the other hand, remained near the surface, eyeing the Garibaldi beneath me.
I almost forgot that I listened to a podcast on this area a year ago. What a strange coincidence! When the Beasts Come Marching In details the decades-old debate of who should have priority access to the beaches where the seals raise their pups: Community members of La Jolla or the seals. Having seen La Jolla for myself, I can assure you I remain firm in my support of the seals. Between the seals, the sea lions and the Garibaldi, California’s state fish, the cove and children’s pool ought to remain protected for the sake of the wild life that’s already stressed, thanks to gawking tourists and locals getting far too close to them.
All that’s to say, I thought snorkeling was “alright”. I probably won’t do it again; my wet-suit was far too tight, and I felt claustrophobic in my mask. I felt slightly disappointed that it wasn’t what I thought it would be, but you never know until you try. I don’t regret our experience, I just think I’d rather be doing other things like boogie-boarding.
Once our snorkeling adventure came to an end, we grabbed pizza at Bronx. This excursion was worth driving out of our way for. Stefan text me and advised we book it to Cornoado soon, before all the beds were taken. So we scarfed our pizza and headed towards the Broadway Pier to take the ferry to Coronado.
By this point, Labor Day Weekend was in full swing. The beds were booked, but we still landed a swanky set-up on the beach with ample shade thanks to our tassle-ridden umbrella. And of course, introducing Keegan to the ferry brought me an unnecessary amount of joy. Gotta love those views of San Diego.
Keegan and I chilled on the beach all afternoon. We loved catching up with Stefan and planned on dinner that evening.
Stefan and Miranda agreed to pick us up from our Airbnb for dinner in Little Italy. Ironside said they had a 2 1/2 hour wait, but it only turned out to be an hour. As we waited, we walked to Ballast, a popular brewery that I actually recognized. I went to grab my ID from my clutch and realized it was missing.
Keegan, Stefan and Miranda tried to assure me I left it at the house, but I knew there was no way. I would never grab my card without my ID. Just as soon as they ordered drinks at Ballast, our table was ready at Ironside. Keegan and Stefan chugged their beers and we booked it back to Ironside. As I sat there, trying not to stress, I received a message from a stranger on Facebook. This guy from Fort Collins found my ID on the ground and left it at Salt and Straw, right next door to Ironside. I could cry, I was so happy. We actually ran into each other as as he was leaving the ice cream shop, and I gave this guy such a huge hug. My MasterCard was faded af; if I didn’t have my ID, I highly doubted I could get back on the plane to return to Colorado…although I wouldn’t have necessarily minded being “stuck” in San Diego another few days.
I felt so relieved to have my ID in hand. We finished our lobster rolls at Ironside and returned to Ballast, just on the edge of Little Italy. I’ll never be a beer drinker, but the rose was on point.
We closed the bar down and were politely booted out. Stefan and Miranda showed us one of their favorite night-time spots to see the cityscape at night. San Diego really is such a beautiful place, and I’m jealous they get to live there while Miranda goes to school.
For our last full day in San Diego, we tried Kono’s Cafe for breakfast, with their long-ass line. Reminiscent of Nashville’s Pancake Pantry, the wait area is nonexistent and thus, a line forms around the building. The food was filling, cheap and delicious. Plus, we had oceanfront views. We also enjoyed the sense of humor, as indicated by their chalkboard sign on the wall: QUOTE OF THE WEEK: No feta? What kind of Greek restaurant is this place?
We didn’t have time to check out Torrey Pines State Reserve north of La Jolla, so we opted for Sunset Cliffs instead. Despite some construction, the views were amazing! You can see so much farther out in the ocean from the cliffs than you can standing on the shore below. These were the cliffs I imagined in California. These were the seaside views I had hoped for all along.
Keegan and I dedicated most of Sunday to water-based activities. We spent the better part of the afternoon lounging on the beach and boogie boarding. I hadn’t rode a boogie board since I was 15 years old, and Keegan had never tried one, ever. We enjoyed our boards, but it wore me out! I don’t remember growing tired so quickly as a teen. The joys of growing up abound.
Afterwards, we grabbed tacos, ceviche and drinks at South Beach Bar and Grille. We slammed our lunch before returning to our Airbnb to freshen up for our coastal tour.
We were technically supposed to go on a whale and dolphin-watching tour, but I messed up our reservation accidentally. Luckily, they were still able to put us on a tour of the bay instead, for free. This resulted in a surplus of $45 Groupon bucks that we had to spend post-vacation. It was a happy accident, and I wasn’t mad about the scheduling mishap. We sailed into the sunset with drinks in hand.We learned more about the bay area and kicked it with other passengers on board.
For dinner that evening, I took Keegan to the Fish Market, for him to try what I thought was the best fish in San Diego. I’m glad he agreed. We retreated to the house afterwards to pack our belongings.
As per the usual, our vacation came to an end too soon. But I did learn a few things that week:
- I can travel alone and not have a panic attack
- Always pack a first aid kit
- Snorkeling is not my thing.
If you had told me last year I’d take a solo vaca in 2018, I would’ve looked at you like you were crazy. I don’t think this trip would’ve been possible without some of the major changes that happened this year. As we approach the last quarter of this year, I reflect on the last 9 months and smile. It’s been a great year so far, and there’s still more exciting things coming soon.