I’ve been to San Diego probably 6-8 times over the past 4 years, but most of those trips in the past were for work. So I wasn’t really able to enjoy all that SD has to offer. Until last week when my husband and I took a quick flight to San Diego then a quick drive straight from the airport to La Jolla! The only time I’ve been to La Jolla was when I was on book tour to sign books at Warwick’s, but this time in La Jolla, I saw it all! I don’t think I’ve ever walked that much on a trip! It’s such an easily walkable city so we got our exercise in, walking everywhere we went!
When we got to the Pantai Inn, we were welcomed by a super friendly staff and adorable room that had a balcony overlooking the ocean. The Pantai Inn is right on the main street along the ocean so you’re right in the action of it all and you can quickly go downtown for a decadent meal or go to the coves to check out the seals and sea lions. So we did just that! It was super sunny that day so all the squishy little guys were laying out on the rocks and soaking up the day.
What’s so cool about that area full of seals and sea lions is that you can get right up next to them on the rocks and they truly don’t care. All they want is the sun and the ocean. So you can walk up right next to them and get a photo with the cuties. Sure, it smells like complete sh*t there, but it’s worth it because they are so damn adorable.
I mean…can you even with that face?!
We spent two nights at the Pantai Inn and I really loved it. This Bali-inspired hotel has multiple buildings and has been really well kept over the years. And the views are truly beautiful. Both mornings, I would walk over to the lobby bright and early to get me and my husband coffee then I would work on our balcony overlooking the ocean while people walked their dogs and got their day going. Once the sun came up, we would get breakfast from the lobby and the breakfast there was AMAZING!! They would put a little note in your room the night before letting you know what to expect at breakfast. One morning they had chicken sausage, eggs, and potato and veggie hash to choose from. Then the next morning they had an egg and ham casserole with amazing bacon on the side. And of course they have all the pastries and naughty things, but I stayed clear because you really don’t need any of that stuff when you have options like these! Plus, they even had almond milk to choose from for your coffee. Seriously so cool! You can tell that they really put the time and effort into creating a healthy menu there!
For our first night in La Jolla, we headed out to The Marine Room. And since it was only a mile and a half away, we decided to walk. Which was a great idea, minus I had brand new wedges on. Not the perfect attire for walking down a busy road. Before dinner, I walked my bleeding feet another half mile down from The Marine Room into Piatti (which has a gluten free menu!!) to get an extra strong dirty martini. Which was magical. I also had some sort of fruit martini but I’m totally spacing what it was called. Either way, the two martinis were delicious helped out with the walk back. The Marine Room is a beautiful restaurant that is right on the beach so you get to watch the sun set over the ocean while you enjoy some awesome food. We were able to meet executive chef Bernard Guillas who picked out our menu for the night! Everything we had was absolutely delicious and so fresh. And the staff was super knowledgeable about the entire menu and wine list. Everyone was welcoming and the chef even gave me his cookbook! So damn cool! If you are looking for a fancier meal with amazing views and extreme flavor, you absolutely need to check it out! Especially when high tide is coming in because then the ocean comes all the way up to windows right next to where you are eating! I wish that would have been going on while we were there, it looks so cool online!
After an early morning exploring La Jolla the next day, we stayed in the same neighborhood of Piatti where we had drinks the night before. That neighborhood is super cute and it’s in walking distance to the beach and has some cute stores to shop in. So we shopped then stopped in at Galaxy Taco for some street tacos on the patio. Galaxy Taco uses seasonal ingredients and hand makes their tortillas on-site daily, all made with fresh masa! So the tortillas are all gluten free! We tried their guacamole and then I got the chicken taco and carnitas taco! Both were super tasty and I almost wish they were smaller just so I could have also tried the short rib barbacoa and the mushroom tacos! If you like a different style of cocktail, definitely try their Margarita Zanahoria that has carrot in it! I loved it and I hate tequila, so that says something!
After tacos, we did more walking around the city, blisters and all, to check out the other downtown side of La Jolla and do some fun shopping. I found myself some amazing sunglasses and my husband found out his new obsession is lululemon. Which is quite exciting because it gives me more reason to go into their stores! So we wandered, we shopped, we coffee’d and we made our way to our friends house that was renting a beach home for a week with his families. Champagne with friends at their beach house is never a bad idea. Ever. So I’ll let you guess what we did after our friends house…We walked more! I know all the wandering sounds kind of lame but when wandering includes looking at million dollar homes and bar hopping along the way, it’s always awesome. Especially when wandering ended at Prepkitchen. This quaint little restaurant serves artisanal, farm-to-table food and it was absolutely awesome. We got the ceviche then I got Mary’s Chicken and I cannot even tell you how good it was. I want it a million more times! And on their menu, they specify what items are gluten free so you know exactly what you are getting!
After dinner, we walked down to WhisknLadle for a little night cap and I had probably THE BEST cocktail I’ve ever had. I got the London’s Burning cocktail which had gin (I asked for Hendrick’s), jalapeño, avocado, cilantro, and lemon. If you like spicy cocktails and love cilantro as much as I do, get this one. I’m so in love with it. We didn’t try any food there but many people recommended eating there and they have A TON of gluten free options! I honestly want to back to La Jolla just to go back to these two restaurants!
On our last day in La Jolla, we started our morning off at NINE-TEN Restaurant in The Grand Colonial Hotel. My husband got THE BEST vanilla latte I have ever tasted. For real. Get it. I’m pretty sure it has lots of sugar in it, but it was worth every sip!
I ended up getting the short rib hash and let’s get one thing straight – it.was.divine. I’ve had short rib hash at multiple restaurants and most of the time it’s a small amount of meat or extra fatty pieces, but not this hash. This hash was completely different and was loaded with huge pieces of short rib with an absolutely amazing gravy on top, with extra pillowy soft potatoes. And then you rack the poached eggs on top and BOOM, pure brilliance. I seriously loved this plate at NINE-TEN Restaurant!
After breakfast, we walked our way across town once again to Surf Diva! Surf Diva is one of the first women owned and operated surf schools. They offer lessons for both beginner to competitive surfers and coach men, women and children! Both my husband and I had never surfed so we didn’t know what to expect, especially since the water was 59 degrees that morning. But they had wet suits, a super friendly staff, and an absolutely amazing instructor so I never felt uncomfortable or like I didn’t know what I was doing. We had Marianne as our instructor and she was seriously so awesome! She explain everything in detail, she helped us out A TON in the water, and she constantly gave us tips during our hour lesson. My husband got up right away and road the wave in! I could get up everything and ride for a little, but the my board kept turning into the wave. I just couldn’t get that weight distribution down. But it was seriously SO FUN! By far my favorite excursion while we were there. I would highly recommend it, even if you don’t like cold water. I seriously never felt cold with the wet suit on and my head was going under every time. If you like outdoor activities, try this one! Seriously so fun!
After an awesome morning of surfing and grabbing a quick burger and fries to eat along with some fresh squeezed mimosas next door at Shore Rider, we packed up our things and headed to downtown San Diego, in the gas lamp district to Hotel Solomar! This dog-friendly hotel is in the heart of downtown, within walking distance to everything! The rooms are beautiful, they have an amazing rooftop pool, and the staff is so friendly and helpful no matter what you need! Our room came with a huge jet tub that I ended up using when my husband had to leave early. It is THE BEST. And room service for breakfast was easy to choose from, I just got my normal eggs, sausage and potatoes! I seriously loved this hotel. It was so spacious and comfortable!
On our first full day in San Diego, we headed to Balboa Park which is the absolutely gigantic part right in the city. It’s actually bigger than Central Park, which I thought was pretty cool. It’s home to 17 museums, multiple restaurants, shopping and many gardens. And no far off the path, you can even go to the Zoo, which I heard was awesome! I also heard that included LOTS of uphill walking which would have killed me so we didn’t end up going. We did, however, climb the stairs inside the California Tower! In the tower you go up a staircase hidden to the public for decades, then you climb seven floors, getting glimpses through narrow windows of the beautiful park outside. Then you climb up this narrow circular staircase to the top to see all of California, and even into Mexico! So pretty up there!
All the detail that went into this park and it’s landscape is pretty cool to see!
I mean, do views get any better than palm trees and husbands?!
After our morning at Balboa Park, we decided to venture back downtown for lunch and we ended up at Searsucker. I’ve been to Searsucker before, but only for dinner so the quiet environment in the afternoon was a nice surprise. And my meal was absolutely awesome. Their simple burger was cooked absolutely perfect and the brussels sprouts were out of this world. I wanted to get another order. If you go there, get 4 orders. Don’t think, just do.
After lunch, my husband had to head back home and get back to work, but I had one more day left. So I went back to Hotel Solomar for a workout then relaxing jet tub dip and got to work before I headed back out on the streets of downtown San Diego to check out Cafe21. When I mentioned I was going to SD, multiple people recommended Cafe21, so I was super excited to try their food! The cute restaurant was filled with really good live music and I started my meal off with a cucumber cocktail then tried a couple of their starters including the veggies fries (coated in a gluten free rice flour), the albacore tuna stack, and the beet tartare, then I tried the sea bass for my entree and had the flourless chocolate cake for dessert. So here’s the thing – everything I tried was absolutely outstanding, but the sea bass – HOLY SH*T!!!! The sea bass was pure brilliance. I wasn’t expecting much because I’ve been let down so many times with sea bass, but not this time. But whole fish was true perfection. Just the smell alone was intoxicating and I kind of hate myself for saying that, but it is true. I LOVED that fish. Go there and get it right now!!
The next morning, I headed out early to have breakfast at the Westgate Hotel. This luxury boutique hotel is seriously breathtaking and the simple salmon hash I had at their at fine dining restaurant was soooo good! I definitely wasn’t dressed appropriately since I was in workout clothes, ready to check out their wellness spa afterwards, but they still welcomed me in! After breakfast, I headed into the newly opened AquaVie, a state-of-the-art wellness center. The new $14 million, four-level 40,000-square-foot facility has dedicated rooms for cardio training, instructional classes and strength training and more than 200 units of the latest fitness equipment. The fourth level features a 15,000 sq. ft. rooftop with a junior Olympic sized lap pool, a hot tub and a relaxing lounge area with city views plus an area for spin class! The rooftop urban oasis houses three private studios and wellness equipment along with a 1/10th mile running track. It’s seriously amazing up there.
AquaVie spa members and hotel guests have access to amenities and services including the full service Spa at AquaVie with five spacious treatment rooms. If you are a person who enjoys some time at the spa, you absolutely need to check this place out. I had the Sublime Facial and it was outstanding. Seriously. My skin felt silky and smooth for days and was glowing for quite a while. The staff was friendly, helpful and incredibly courteous. I loved my experience there and cannot wait to go back there and take a dip in the pool…was it’s not raining!
After my spa treatment, I hopped in a cab and headed out for my last stop at Liberty Public Market! This historic collection of buildings that once housed the Naval Training Center and has been restored into a thriving arts, culture, dining and shopping district that includes parks and hotels. And the market showcases a environment with prepared foods, beer, wine, specialty cocktails, produce, fish, desserts and pastries, pastas, arts and crafts, a test kitchen, pop up dinners, and educational driven events. I went there strictly for the food…obviously. When you walk in Liberty Public Market, you can start in their mess hall, with three new eateries, or you can head deeper into the market, finding over 30 different smaller restaurants. I went to Local Greens to get myself a rice bowl and charcoal lemonade! My bowl was absolutely delicious and if I would have had any room left, I would have grabbed a decadent gluten free brownie that kept catching my eye at one of the bakeries! It was such a cool experience in there and would be so nice to work close to there and try a new restaurant every day!
If you are looking for a vacation spot or just a trip that gets you to beautiful weather and happy people, head to either La Jolla or San Diego…or both! I had so much fun on this trip and can’t wait to go back to try even more outdoor excursions and activities!
Quick Summary of La Jolla Favorites:
- Pantai Inn – overlooking La Jolla coastline and has an outstanding, well thought breakfast every day!
- The Marine Room – fancy restaurant right on the beach – go at sunset!
- Piatti – I just went there for delicious cocktails, but I’ve heard they have a great GF menu
- Galaxy Taco – homemade street tacos – get the Margarita Zanahoria
- Prepkitchen – try their ceviche and definitely get GF Mary’s Chicken
- WhisknLadle – huge GF menu – try the London’s Burning cocktail
- NINE-TEN Restaurant in The Grand Colonial Hotel – definitely get the short rib hash
- Shore Rider – quick lunch with a quick burger and tasty fries
- Surf Diva – amazing surf school that also has stand up paddle board lessons, as well
Quick Summary of San Diego Favorites:
- Hotel Solomar – dog friendly hotel, in the gas lamp district – walking distance to everything!
- Westgate Hotel – luxury boutique hotel with amazing fine-dining
- Searsucker – get multiple orders of the brussels sprouts
- Cafe21 – order the sea bass, you’re going to be in heaven
- Balboa Park – 17 museums to check out, multiple restaurants, and lots of shopping
- AquaVie and Spa at AquaVie – if you need a place to work out, definitely check out their wellness center in the Westgate Hotel then get a facial or other spa treatment at the spa. Such an amazing experience
- Liberty Public Market – over 30 restaurants to try! I loved Local Greens
This trip was hosted by Visit San Diego, but all opinions are my own!