With its sunny disposition and year-round mild weather, San Diego makes it easy to while the days away on the beach. But there’s so much more to this bustling SoCal city than scenic stretches of sand.
With five years of local knowledge and a slew of awards under her belt (including Concierge of the Year 2018 from the San Diego Concierge Association), Les Clefs d’Or member and lead concierge of Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Fairmont Grand Del Mar Adhara Mereles gives us the inside scoop on what to see, which speakeasies to visit and where to catch the city’s best sunsets.
If we only have one day to explore San Diego, what should we do?
I suggest spending the morning walking through Balboa Park‘s wonderful museums and gardens. Alternatively, I would recommend a visit to the picturesque La Jolla Cove and wandering around La Jolla’s lovely selection of galleries and restaurants before returning to our resort for an afternoon of relaxing poolside.
San Diego is famous for its golden stretches of sand. Which beaches should we visit?
I recently revisited a couple of notable beaches near Sunset Cliffs. Not only is Sunset Cliffs one of the best spots for catching sunsets — hence the name of, course — it also houses some of the best local beaches.
Two of my favorites include Santa Cruz and No Surf. Santa Cruz beach is located right at the end of Santa Cruz Avenue between Ocean Beach and Sunset Cliffs. There are actually two beaches to choose from there, both of which are charming and family friendly.
No Surf Beach, on the other hand, entails hiking down a cliff, so while it’s not conducive to providing access for young children, it certainly features a beautiful beach [that’s] not to be missed.
What are some of the city’s most underrated attractions?
Perhaps the Birch Aquarium is one of the most underrated attractions. Guests often gravitate toward attraction parks such as SeaWorld, Legoland and the zoo, all of which are superb. However, the Birch Aquarium is truly a gem to be enjoyed that offers not only the aquarium, shark tank and exhibits, but also an outdoor tide pool with sweeping views of our magnificent coastline.
Another may be the Cabrillo National Monument. This stunning attraction offers views of the San Diego Bay on one side and tide pools with views of the ocean on the other. There is also a great hike called the Bayside Trail to be enjoyed there.
Are there any new stops we should add to our itinerary?
While Liberty Station is not necessarily new, it seems every other week they are unveiling a new establishment. Whether it’s a new restaurant or addition to their highly acclaimed Liberty Public Market, there is always something unique and contemporary being added to the neighborhood, which has been growing significantly for years now.
What other new restaurants should we check out?
Javier’s [in La Jolla] is currently one of the hottest restaurants. It is a Mexican establishment located in the Westfield UTC mall and boasts a very hip, swanky vibe.
Born and Raised is another excellent option. This steakhouse has a superb ambiance and is located in the heart of Little Italy, one of San Diego’s best dining areas.
What about bars?
Some of the best bars include establishments such as Polite Provisions, located in a trendy neighborhood called Normal Heights. These types of bars have a great ambiance and a sexy vibe that is very appealing. Rendezvous, at The US Grant, is a speakeasy-style bar that even has live music.