If you’re looking for activities in San Diego away from tourist traps, our contributing writer Elisa Boorman provides three things you can do for fun “off the beaten path!”
1. Coronado Island getaway, Local style
What you’ll need: bikes, helmets, backpack, picnic blanket, water, snacks
When arriving in a new city, the first thing I like to do is ask the locals the best spots for food, drink, and adventure. No one likes to feel out of their element or like another tourist looking for something to do. You won’t find these tips in a tourist guide, because they are “off the beaten path.”
Coronado Island is a hotspot for locals and tourists alike, and what better way to add adventure (and physical activity) than to get there on a different mode of transportation all together- by bike. This will allow you more freedom once you’re on Coronado Island, and an easy way to see the whole island. The boardwalk and streets are biker friendly, but make sure you rent a lock for your bike and always wear a helmet!
Step-by step: Hop on your rented or borrowed bikes (there are many places to rent from all over San Diego- one downtown option is from Wheel Fun Rentals on N. Harbor Dr.) and ride along the San Diego waterfront until you reach the Midway Museum. From here, you can buy your $7 ferry ride ticket to Coronado Island, bringing your bikes on board at no extra charge.
(*Note: if you need to kill time while you wait for your ferry, there’s plenty to do in that vicinity! Walk along the waterfront, go shopping at seaport village, pop in the maritime museum, grab lunch at The Fish Market, etc.)
Once on the ferry, store your bike in the bike rack below and get nice and cozy at the bow (front and center of the boat), taking in the views of San Diego before you. Once you reach Coronado, the opportunities are endless. On any given weekend, you will most likely be treated to some live music.
Grab a coffee and enjoy the tunes and the sunshine before hopping back on your bikes and cruising around the island. The boardwalk is paved all the way around, and it is highly recommended that you ride all the way to the Del Coronado Hotel-a landmark in San Diego.
You can explore, shop, or dine at the Del, or set up your own picnic station on one of the beautiful and not-too-crowded beach spots – a truly gorgeous place to watch the sunset. Afterwards, head into Coronado to walk around and grab dinner (I recommend Leroy’s). Head back to downtown SD on the ferry until 9:30pm 7 days a week, or 10:30pm on Friday’s and Saturday’s. You can always opt for a late-night private water taxi back which will only cost you a few more dollars.
Now you have bragging rights to your friends who simply drove to Coronado!
2. Exploring the hidden trails of Balboa Park in San Diego
The multitude of museums in the historic Balboa Park in San Diego are a must-see, but if you’re all museumed-out, you can take advantage of the park itself and hang out with the locals. There are plenty of public spaces to enjoy in the parks and gardens on the end of the Laurel St. Bridge, opposite from the museums.
For some family fun, or if you like competition, find a bocce ball set and head to the bocce courts on the North side of Laurel St., just before crossing the bridge. Point Loma Nazerene University has an incredible athletic department and they rent their gear to the public for great prices. You can use a Bocce set for the whole day for just $4.00, or see what other toys you can make use of on a sunny afternoon.
If you want added adventure, explore the network of trails that Balboa Park offers on both sides of the bridge. There are botanical gardens, redwood trees, and over 65 miles of 19 different trails that vary in difficulty. You can find a trail map online or at the entrance of the Park. Bring plenty of water, and wear comfortable footwear!
3. Waterfall Hike in San Diego County
Want to getaway on an afternoon adventure to a tropical oasis in San Diego County? Look no further than Pine Valley! Head to the Three Sisters Waterfall hike and you will instantly feel like you’ve transported yourself onto Maui.
The drive takes about 45 minutes from downtown San Diego. You’ll drive along a winding dirt road for about 12 miles, and once you get to the trailhead, you can’t miss it. The hike is steep and dirty going down, but the reward of jumping into a refreshing, beautiful waterfall at the end is definitely worth it.
The hike down takes about half an hour, but you’ll definitely want to spend another half an hour to a full hour enjoying the waterfalls, so bring snacks and take lots of pictures. You can bask in the sun on the rocks to warm up and get a nice tan. Bring plenty of water because it can get hot, especially on the way back up (this part will take about an hour, making the whole hike about 3 hours round trip).
*Note: This trail is recommended for experienced hikers only.
Edited by: Dawn-Renee Rice
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