With its year-round near-idyllic climate, varied terrain and abundance of outdoor activities, San Diego County offers recreationalists a vacation experience like no other. You'll find adventures on land, sea and air, including surfing, hiking, biking, snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, rock climbing and tide pooling. Here are some of our favorites.
Torrey Pines State Reserve spans eight miles of coastal hiking along four major beach trails. The four differing paths intertwine under forested ground displaying diverse scenery of trees, ocean, wildflowers and sandstone formations. The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California with over 500 miles of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas and numerous hiking trails. Mission Trails Regional—the largest contiguous urban preserve in the continental U.S.—provides outdoor enthusiasts with over 40 miles of trails, boating, camping, informative guided hikes and a state-of-the-art Visitor & Interpretive Center.
Pacific Coast Highway, or PCH, stretches up the San Diego coastline alongside the Pacific Ocean and passes through some of the area's most beautiful beach towns like Del Mar, Leucadia and Encinitas. The 27 miles of winding, paved bike paths that circle Mission Bay are car-free and provide a favorable location for family bike rides, leisurely biking and sightseeing. The Bayshore Bikeway is a 25-mile ride along San Diego Bay. The majority of the ride runs along bike lanes or separated bike paths, and the scenery varies en route. Riders generally start at the Embarcadero in downtown San Diego and head south through National City and Chula Vista, before looping around San Diego Bay into Imperial Beach, and then catching the Silver Strand into Coronado.
Mission Gorge Mountain is San Diego's oldest and most popular climbing area for climbers of all skill level. Climbs average 30-70 feet with opportunities for guests to free climb along custom made paths. Sitting 3,000 feet above El Cajon and Lakeside in San Diego's East County, El Cajon Mountain, nicknamed "El Cap," promotes challenging and steep climbs with rewarding panoramic views of the ocean and valleys below. Front Range Climbing San Diego offers visitors half- and full-day trips and classes in Mission Trails Regional Park, a 5,800-acre park of rugged hills, valleys and open areas, and Mount Woodson, located between Poway and Ramona, where hundreds of strewn granite boulders offer routes that rock climbers of all levels can enjoy.
Opportunities to "hang ten" are abundant up and down San Diego's 33 public beaches, from Oceanside in the north to Imperial Beach in the south. Guests who want to learn to surf can contact a number of local surfing schools offering lessons and camps, including Fulcrum Surf School, Del Mar Surf School, Menehune Surf, Surf Diva, Mission Bay Sportcenter, and San Diego Surfing Academy.
The two-mile stretch along Mission Beach and Pacific Beach offers surf action year-round, from northwest and southwest swells to changing wave shapes with the shifting sandbars. Windansea Beach in La Jolla is known for its beautiful scenery and community surf culture dating back to the 1940s. Surfers enjoy hard surf breaks created by underwater reefs common in the area, and although the shoreline is rocky, sandstone rocks help to seclude the beach for sunbathers. The popular surf spot Stone Steps Beach, located in the coastal community of Encinitas, offers scenery and surf for guests who make the trek down the long stairway from the cliffs above.
Underwater explorers often refer to the 6,000-acre marine habitat of the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park as the "jewel of the sea." Located between La Jolla Cove and Torrey Pines State Reserve, the park was the first coastal underwater preserve on the U.S. West Coast and is home to a plethora or marine life. La Jolla Cove is a world-famous dive site located in the La Jolla Ecological Preserve where marine life flourishes and guests are guaranteed to see an array of colorful crustaceans and fish. La Jolla Shores is the most popular dive and snorkel site in San Diego, and just offshore guests can find the La Jolla Submarine Canyon, one of the deepest places in the world.
Guests can kayak along San Diego's tranquil waters alone or with many companies that offer instruction, such as Aqua Adventure Kayak Center, Hike Bike Kayak San Diego, La Jolla Kayak, Mission Bay Sportcenter, and OEX Dive & Kayak Centers. Just off the coast of La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Cove, kayakers routinely glide over the clear blue waters of the Pacific, paddling up to tidal caves and small inlets, as curious sea lions swim alongside and bright orange Garibaldi dart in and out of the kelp beds below. The La Jolla Cove Ecological Reserve, protected since 1929, offers kayakers an up-close experience with the marine animals.
HOT AIR BALLOON OVER DEL MAR
Discover the exciting adventure of a hot air balloon ride in San Diego. This is an exciting way to explore the beautiful scenery of Del Mar with family and friends. Several companies offer evening flights over Del Mar, including California Dreamin', Magical Adventure Balloon Rides, Skysurfer Balloon Rides, and Hot Air Flyer.
Located just south of the Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, Torrey Pines Gliderport is a world-class flying site and one of the most successful paragliding schools in North America. Guests can experience tandem hang gliding, paragliding or a sailplane flight with a certified instructor seven days a week, year-round, weather permitting. A lesson includes 5-10 minutes of ground and safety school instruction and 20-30 minutes of motorless flight over the coastal cliffs of Torrey Pines and scenic Blacks Beach.