Let’s talk day trips from San Diego. It’s no secret that it’s difficult to get to many of San Diego’s best sights without a car. I’d definitely recommend renting one if you’re there for fun, and if you’ve already got the wheels, then you’re in luck—there’s plenty OUTSIDE the city that you can see within an hour’s drive, too. Read on to see my picks for how to spend a day along the coast, but be warned—this post is FULL of sea lion spam!! 😉
HIT THE FARMERS’ MARKET
If you’re hitting the road on a Sunday, make the La Jolla Open Aire Market your first stop. It’s a huge farmers’ market featuring produce, flowers and wares, but you’ll also find plenty to eat there for breakfast (or lunch, depending on when you start your day!).
SEE THE SEA LIONS
If you’re an animal lover, this stop will be the highlight of your day—or maybe even your trip. You’ll find hundreds of sea lions lounging on the shore—just follow the crowds and you’ll find them!
Did I mention there are adorable baby sea lions there, too?!
EXPLORE THE SEA CAVE
For something a little different, head to the Sunny Jim Sea Cave, where you can access a unique view of the ocean via a tunnel and some stairs. It can be a little dark and damp, but rest assured that it’s nothing too strenuous. To visit the La Jolla’s sea caves from the other side, you can also rent kayaks!
Make sure to spend some extra time walking around the area before you leave for some spectacular coastal views and local flora.
VISIT THE PIER
After La Jolla, drive as far north as you’d like. Encinitas and Carlsbad are worthy stops, but my favorite is Oceanside, which will put you exactly one hour’s drive from San Diego with the La Jolla stop. If it’s warm enough to swim, the beach is beautiful, but even if it’s not, there’s plenty to see. You can walk along the pier for some great views of the shore and catch plenty of surfers and fishermen in action, too. Make sure to hang around for sunset; California has some of the best.
STOP FOR DINNER
Did you know you could earn frequent flier miles by renting a car? The major U.S. carriers (see: United, American, Delta) offer miles for renting with their partner companies. Sometimes booking through airlines can turn out to be more expensive, so I don’t do it every time. But oftentimes airlines will send out promos offering bonus miles for a rental, which can make this a great route to go.
Several credit cards also come with perks you can use while renting a car, as this article breaks down well. And when spending on gas, make sure you’re using a credit card that earns a bonus; in my case, that’s the Citi Premier.
For more on earning and using points and miles to travel for free, check out the 52 Cities free resource library or register to join me on my next live masterclass! And for more San Diego inspo, here’s my city guide a list of the city’s cutest coffee shops.
Have you driven along the California coast? What was your favorite part? Any other favorite day trips from San Diego? Let me know in the comments! >>
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