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Trip List by StrandsDanville

San Diego - Trip Report - 28th Anniversary 3 Nights

26 Aug 2009  Provide insights for other travelers to make their itineraries possibly better!
4.5 of 5 stars based on 3 votes

Our experiences during a 3 night, 4 day trip to San Diego for our 28th Anniversary. We enjoyed 2 nights in La Jolla and 1 night in Coronado to best "sample" what these beach communities offer. Below is what we found and learned to share with others.

  • Explore locations featured in this Trip List: San Diego, La Jolla, Descanso, Julian, Coronado
  • Category: Recent trip
  • Traveler type: Sightseeing, Active/Outdoors, Never been before, Beachgoers
  • Appeals to: Couples/romantics, Honeymooners, Families with teenagers, Active/adventure, Tourists
  • Seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
  • 1. San Diego
    San Diego, California

    Southwest Airlines offered $100 round trip flights from Oakland to San Diego, so we felt this transportation bargain was reason enough to spend our anniversary in this pleasureful city by the "warm" parts of the California Pacific Ocean!

    We had been to San Diego 25 years ago, spending at least 8 hours at its world renowned Zoo. This trip we opted to see Sea World, enjoy the beach environments of La Jolla and Coronado and take a scenic drive through Lake Cuyamaca State Reserve and a small section of the Cleveland National Forest.

    We stayed 2 nights in La Jolla, exploring Torrey Pines State Reserve and one night in the charming city of Coronado. Even though driving distances between cities is not far, we highly recommend staying in a Northern local and then a Southern to properly see these unique venues. One thing, you are never very far from the airport. I cannot think of another city in the world that put its "International" airport downtown next to the taxi stands! Sir, should I hail a cab or a 747 to Paraguay?

    Before heading to Lake Cuyamaca State Reserve, we stopped by SDSU to tour the campus because our niece is planning to attend starting in Fall 2010. IF we did not do this, then we would have toured the USS Midway which we read and heard many favorable reports about. In a major Navy town, you should see a Navy ship!

    Here are the Google Maps we created with our accommodations and restaurants for each of our 4 days:

    Paste each tinyurl into a web browser to display maps

    ARRIVE & EXPLORE TORREY PINES & LA JOLLA
    tinyurl.com/SD-Day-1
    LA JOLLA BIKING, KAYAKING, BEACHES, SEA WORLD
    tinyurl.com/SD-Day-2
    DAY TRIP SDSU, LAKE CUYAMACA STATE RESERVE, OLD TOWN, CORONADO
    tinyurl.com/SD-Day-3
    CORONADO & RETURN HOME
    tinyurl.com/SD-Day-Four

    We also preloaded each destination, categorized by day, into our Garmin GPS Nuvi 265WT. This made traveling around an absolute breeze. We highly recommend a GPS unit. You can even turn it on while on the plane to note your ground speed and the cities you are flying over! Another slick use was identifying a Von's market for hotel provisions just off the freeway from the airport to Torrey Pines State Reserve. We seamlessly exited and returned to the freeway through some rather confusing neighborhoods. Pre-GPS, being a bonafide ask no directions male, I unfortunately know we would have been lost and there would have been lots of sailor talk bellowing in the car (Popeye not Olive). I would have used it's a Navy town excuse. This example alone, certainly compared to alimony, pays for the unit a 1000 times over!

    What did we conclude after our short but wonderful time in and around San Diego?

    The beaches are most definitely the main attractions. From La Jolla Shores, Windansea Beach, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach to Coronado/Silver Strand Beach it is a series of communities all embracing the lifestyle of wind and surf! Everywhere you venture around the water there are magnificent marinas all populated by beautiful cabin cruisers for ocean navigation. There are people of all ages strolling through town in their bathing suits, wearing their flip flops and enjoying outdoor dining. Add in some mega attractions like the Zoo, USS Midway for the naval theme, Sea World, Birch Aquarium, Coronado's charming character and expansive, white sanded setting of the Del, world class Golf, Old Town, 7000 foot peaks only a hour away and it totals to What Is There Not To Like?

    San Diego is a great city!!

  • 2. Torrey Pines State Reserve & Gliderport
    Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, San Diego, California

    Torrey Pines State Reserve is accessible via a $10 fee entry station at Torrey Pines beach just before the grade leading up the hill to the visitors center:

    www.torreypine.org/

    After leaving the airport we headed directly to this Reserve for a short hike along the cliffs to take in the vistas of the shoreline. The grade leading up to the visitor center is somewhat steep and lengthy. Given our time constraints, we opted to pay the $10 fee and drive up to the Guy Fleming trailhead. Otherwise, we would have attempted to park in the public parking along the beach and walk up the grade to the trail.

    Visual Note: If you paste the Day 1 tinyurl into a browser and click on the camera icon next to the Torrey Pines visitor center destination, then you can see the entrance and height of grade I am describing! Seeing is believing!

    The Guy Fleming sandy trail is a very leisureful loop stroll for .7 of a mile. There are signs educating you about the unique Torrey Pine and certainly about Guy! There is a lookout deck where you can see up and down the coast. Again, given more time we would have also hiked down the Beach Trail for the exercise.

    Afterward we drove out of the Reserve and back towards Torrey Pines Lodge and Golf courses. Mr Strand spurned his love of golf on this anniversary trip for his true love riding with him and blocking his view of the course as they motored by!

    The next stop was the famed gliderport. It is a short drive out a dirt road to a parking lot before a grassy knoll and the launch point for para and hang gliders. There are picnic tables and a food stand to purchase burgers, etc. Mother Nature was mean, she produced the wrong thermal winds that day so we did not witness the gliders in action. Instead two different people gave us the Rod Serling, imagine if you will, how great it is when numerous brightly colored chutes with daredevil fliers are all swarming around the cliffs. Maybe next time. But we do recommend stopping by just for the view and hopefully for the treat of seeing these fliers!

    For us it was time for lunch and check-in down in La Jolla before the Birch Aquarium at Scripps.

  • 3. La Jolla - Days 1 & 2
    La Jolla, San Diego

    La Jolla meaning "The Jewel" in Spanish offers a slew of ocean activities, upper-end art galleries and delicious dining!

    Acclimating to a beach town lifestyle takes a little time when first visiting. We started with lunch at Osteria Romantica (review below) sitting on the sidewalk at our outdoor table. Observing bathing suit pedestrians with their peacock tattoos constantly walking by in between bites of linguine could be construed as culture shock. At least in an Amish town! At the time, unbeknownst to us, we did not realize how close we were to Hike, Bike Kayak (review below) where the next afternoon we would be parading right by our very table wearing our swimsuits, sans tattoos. When in Rome!

    After lunch we checked into the La Jolla Cove Suites (review below) across from Ellen Browning Scripps Park and the La Jolla Cove Beach (about 50 yards long) before heading back to the Birch Aquarium (review below). The Suites were ideally situated for an early evening walk at low tide to the tidepools by Cove Beach and along the shoreline to Childrens Beach for more tidepools and a look at the lazing seals.Then during sunset, a toast with our complimentary champagne on the rooftop terrace! Mrs Strand then changed into her "slides (whatever that means?)" and brought along her "pumps (whatever that means?) for the ascent up the steps to Prospect St and dinner at Georges At The Cove (review below). Before dinner we visited a couple more galleries having already visited some in the late afternoon during the "step climbing dress rehearsal"!

    Check the almanac for the tides & sunset times on your trip---> www.almanac.com/

    One of the many great things about La Jolla is its Ecological Reserve with a no boat zone, marked off by buoys covering 6000 acres of ocean area. It extends from the end of Scripps pier across La Jolla Shores beach to the edge of Ellen Browning Scripps Park. This is absolutely ideal for safe ocean swimming, tranquil snorkeling, tidepool exploration and kayaking in and along its 7 ocean-formed sandstone caves.

    Prospect Street affords several interesting galleries to peruse in the late afternoon with a stop for a refreshment with a view on the Ocean Terrace at Georges At The Cove. We were particularly impressed with the Peter Lik Fine Art Photography gallery.

    The next morning it was up early and over to Hike, Bike Kayak by 8AM for our terrific bike plunge and 2 hour kayak adventure. Afterward we changed back at the Suites, observing the large crowd for the free rock concert at Scripps Park. The music reverberated throughout the Suites. Then off to South Beach Bar & Grill (SBBG) (review below), Sea World (review below) and dinner at the Red Marlin (review below). Quite a long day. Truth be known, we were tired when we declined our "free" dessert at the Red Marlin while the Mrs was asking when she would have time to read her book!

    La Jolla and its Reserve are a place not to be missed while in San Diego!

  • 4. Birch Aquarium at Scripps
    Birch Aquarium at Scripps, La Jolla, San Diego

    See review StrandsDanville

    Terrific Educational Aquarium!

  • 5. Osteria Romantica
    Osteria Romantica, La Jolla, San Diego

    See review StrandsDanville

    Italian La Jolla Style!

  • 6. La Jolla Cove Suites
    La Jolla Cove Suites, La Jolla, San Diego

    See review StrandsDanville

    Mixed Expectations, Mixed Results!!

  • 7. George's at the Cove
    George's at the Cove, La Jolla, San Diego

    See review StrandsDanville

    Terrific Food, Quite The Goldmine!!

  • 8. Hike Bike Kayak San Diego
    Hike Bike Kayak San Diego, La Jolla, San Diego

    See review StrandsDanville

    Bike & Kayak - The True La Jolla Experience!!

  • 9. South Beach Bar & Grill
    South Beach Bar & Grill, San Diego, California

    See review StrandsDanville

    South Beach Is A Happening Place!!

  • 10. SeaWorld San Diego
    SeaWorld San Diego, San Diego, California

    Our Sea World "strategy" worked like a charm but Sea World did not deliver on its scheduled commitments. We parked at the Hyatt Regency adjacent to the park to primarily utilize its VIP water taxi service and also have dinner at the Red Marlin restaurant upon returning from the park. The water taxi at $3 each ($12 to park your car at Sea World) round trip was fantastic. You board at the Hyatt's marina dock, cruise through Mission Bay and disembark at a "VIP" entrance only available to Hyatt. Nick our terrific Captain of the Glorietta said the kids seem to like the water taxi rides as much as Sea World. This is huge value! Also, the Hyatt concierge sells entrance tickets for $53 which are below the current $55 park rate. We highly recommend this option to visitors of Sea World.

    Now the but...2 weeks prior to leaving we utilized Sea World's web site to plan our show schedule. Yes I noted the subject to change warning...Side note: IF you read all the fine print caveot emptors, you would never go anywhere! The one show we wanted to see most was Cirque de la Mar which was discontinued one week before our arrival. For us this show was the deciding factor to actually visit Sea World. Then while at the park we arrived at 7:30 for the 7:45 Sea Lion show which was at Full Capacity. The PA was blaring constantly "you bozos are not early enough, you lose". IF we had any advance heads up or warning about this probable occurrence, then we would have arrived at 7:15. So if you read this item, you have been warned!

    We have always followed the edict in any capitalistic country, it does not have to be Mexico, that everything is negotiable. This includes Sea World not delivering on its commitments. We really enjoyed Shamu at 5PM but the park had also pulled the 6PM dolphin discovery show as well. So off to customer relations we went to present our case for a partial refund. Fingers were pointing from Sea World that the Hyatt must issue any refund and the Hyatt later said Sea World must issue any refund. We seemed to not matter even though it was our money they were fighting about! Bottom line the Hyatt on business day Monday issued us a one ticket or $53 refund. We persisted to get a note from the service clerk at Sea World stating we should get a partial refund. This turned out to be sufficient enough to put the fingers back into their scabbards!

    We passed on the water rides because we did not want to get wet. Wild Arctic and the simulated helicopter, followed by the "base" tour was fantastic. Absolute creative genius goes into the conceptualization, design and construction of these attractions. Both the penguins and sharks were equally as impressive. Plus Laslo, a park sweeper, delivered off the charts customer service on our behalf on two occasions. Our first encounter, after Shamu, he walked us across the park to customer relations and our second encounter, when we could not find the VIP water taxi dock, he walked us across the park through the aquarium to see his favorite giant octopus and out to the exit gate/dock. He declined a tip. We tip our hats to Laslo! Note: We did send a glowing message to Sea World about his service.

    Believe me, we do not enjoy "negotiating" for non-performance but usually it always works when you present the "facts". Net, net we are very satisfied with the value received and our Sea World experience!

  • 11. Red Marlin
    Red Marlin, San Diego, California

    See review StrandsDanville

    Something Is Missing?

  • 12. Cuyamaca Rancho State Park & Coronado - Days 3 & 4
    Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Descanso, California

    First a little background on our likes and dislikes! By most comparison's we have traveled to quite a few places on this wonderful planet of ours. As the decades add up and the destination list grows, we have used tripadvisor maps to choose our favorite destinations around the world. We enjoy reminiscing about our travels and discussing why our top 21 are what they are.

    Besides our bias about Danville and Northern California because this is where we choose to live, our favorites seem to unveil a theme about geography and beautiful natural settings. The exception is Paris, France where we find the City of Lights to be an extraordinary presentation of architectural beauty from the stations within the Metro to the street signs and bridges along the Seine leading to Notre Dame. Otherwise, our choices are dramatic geography (i.e. Ayers Rock, Ngorongoro Crater) which for us captures the amazing diversity of our planet. One good example is we have been to Hawaii several times but our favorite choice is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park because it is so unique. The interesting question is at what period in ones life does geography become more enjoyable than activities? Our vote is mid-30's!

    So why the preamble? We always look for intriguing geography wherever we travel too. We enjoy hiking, not camping, and Cuyamaca Rancho State Park seemed to offer some significant contrasts to the beautiful beaches of San Diego and an opportunity for a wilderness hike and a picnic!

    After touring SDSU, we stopped at DZ Akins, Jewish deli and bought a mega "fresser" sandwich (pastrami, corned beef & turkey on rye) for our picnic on Fletcher Island at Lake Cuyamaca. Unfortunately we were visiting the beaches at the right time of year but the mountain temperatures (90's) were higher than expected and there was a lack of water at the destinations we wanted to hike at (Green Valley Falls and Mount Laguna Lake). We had also identified an alternative 3 hour round trip hike to Stonewall Peak from the trailhead at Paso Picacho campground. On our loop drive, we did stop at Green Valley Falls to hike through the canyon. There was a limited amount of flowing water and a couple of families perched on the better locations along the falls. After 30 minutes, the Mrs said she was hot and she did not particularly like the vegetation. Knowing the broader meaning, I knew our 3 hour hike was also in the scrape heap! Back to the buggy for the short drive to Lake Cuyamaca. On the sad negative side, this area still has significant devastation from the 2003 fire that destroyed the trees covering the mountain sides. Even the trail posts at Green Valley Falls were charred! At the lake, we parked at Chambers Park to take a short walk across a small dam, passing by a few fishermen, then along the lake path to the second picnic table. It was a little windy but we enjoyed our sandwich (too big to finish) beside the lake. For dessert, we headed to Julian and the Apple Alley Bakery (review below), one of the apple pie capitals of the world! Afterward we finished our loop drive by heading down the scenic (no fire damage) Sunrise Highway. Just before Mount Laguna (funny there is no mountain laguna, it is just a name) campground on the left heading downhill on the highway is an unsigned road leading up to Stephenson Peak. There is a FAA communications structure for San Diego airport traffic but nothing else. The silence was noticeable in a very positive way. The main attraction was the panoramic view of the Salton Sea, Anza-Borrego Desert and the mountains of Mexico to the South. We enjoyed this interlude. Also, our day trip to these State and National Parks was fun with very interesting scenery. Reaching 6000 feet in elevation from the ocean in a short period of time is a true California experience. We recommend this drive, especially in Mid-May.

    Note: Credit for all the destinations on this Lake Cuyamaca day trip go to fellow tripadvisor bw92116. We thank him for the insights to make our trip even better!

    Then it was back to the beaches and Coronado Island!

    Taxation soapbox: We paid $8 to enter the trailhead grounds at Green Valley Falls. Then we paid $6 to park at Chambers Park to hike across the small dam for our picnic on Fletcher Island. Also, later on, if we stopped on the Sunrise Highway in the Federal Cleveland National Forest there would of been another $5 fee. Somehow this park area needs to devise a revenue sharing plan because these fees became ridiculous. With the State of CA collecting 9.25% sales tax and the amount of Federal/State income taxes we pay, I believe enough is enough!

    After driving across the impressive (aircraft carrier height with a 90 degree turn) Coronado Island bridge, we arrived at the Marriott Coronado Island Resort (review below). Before heading off to dinner at the Old Town Mexican Cafe (review below) and Old Town itself (review below), we had time to read our books poolside, enjoy a refreshment and take in the vista of the San Diego City skyline (quite nice).

    Our final day started with a drive down to Silver Strand Beach (review below), a 2 hour Segway tour (review below) through the neighborhoods of Coronado, a very good lunch at Swaddee Thai (review below), an extensive tour of the Del (review below) with a beautiful walk through the breakers, observing the point with the Cabrillo Monument and commenting to the sand castle builders as they too enjoyed the day! Then alas, back to the airport for a pleasant flight home to Danville.

    We will always fondly remember our time in this true "California" city!

  • 13. Julian
    Julian, California

    The town of Julian was simply a destination for a slice of apple pie with a hunk of mode!

    We found the small town to actually have a charming look and feel to it. There are several apple pie bakeries to choose from. Per a recommendation, we opted for Apple Alley Bakery (review below) with its small interior and of course alley way to sit and enjoy your pie.

    IF you are hiking around the area and want a small rest and break in the action, then we highly recommend a side trip to the metropolis of Julian - Home of American Apple Pie. In no time, you can literally stroll up and down both sides of town and do a little shopping while you are there!

  • 14. Apple Alley Bakery
    Apple Alley Bakery, Julian, California

    See review StrandsDanville

    We Really Enjoyed Our Slice Of Apple Pie!!

  • 15. Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
    Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, San Diego, California

    Old Town is a terrific concept to offer an Americanized taste of Tijuana without crossing the border! Primarily it is an abundance of retail stores and street carts, filled with colorful goods like textiles, bold paintings, ceramic parrots, sombreros and handcrafted jewelry. The restaurants offer a variety of beverages with a focus on tequila and margaritas plus the "standard" hardy Mexican cuisine.

    We chose Old Town Mexican Cafe (review below) from a tripadvisor recommendation and were not disappointed. Ironically we had been scouring the internet to purchase a ceramic parrot for our "tropical" room at home thinking we might need to buy one in Mexico. Once we arrived and visited the first store with muchos loros, we had our shopping list. After 3 stores we found the one matching our style elements. Although some people may think a ceramic parrot with a wry eye represents sub-zero style!

    Old Town is fun and it is interesting. It certainly had its hay day a couple of decades ago but it is still worth a visit and a dinner con margaritas. Ole!

  • 16. Old Town Mexican Cafe
    Old Town Mexican Cafe, San Diego, California

    See review StrandsDanville

    The Formula Works!!

  • 17. Coronado
    Coronado, California

    We really enjoyed our limited time on this unique, protected island in San Diego Bay. What surprised us was the clean, charming character of Orange Avenue shops and restaurants. We were unable to walk through them but they are on our list for our next visit!

  • 18. Marriott Coronado Island Resort
    Marriott Coronado Island Resort & Spa, Coronado, California

    See review StrandsDanville

    Quality Property With A Skyline View Except For The Lepers!

  • 19. Segway of Coronado
    Segway of Coronado, Coronado, California

    See review StrandsDanville

    Fun Even After The Crash!!

  • 20. Hotel del Coronado

    After Segwaying around the eastern part of Coronado Island, we drove over to The Venerable Old Dame, The Del!

    Our walking tour included going through the entrance and entering the very dark wooded (a little too dark for our tastes) Victorian lobby and climbing the guest staircase to the top for a ride down in the vintage elevator with the singing attendant. We could hear her excellent voice as the lift approached for our ride. Too bad she didn't continue! The carpeting color selection is 70's Mod Squad and possibly should be reconsidered to match the grace of the hotel. The ballrooms and their views out to the ocean are magnificent. The shops offered a large variety of goods. Mr Strand felt the Men's apparel and accessories at Brady's was exceptional. There also is a series of display cases giving the long history by era of the Del, from its revolutionary beginning in 1888, to Some Like It Hot, to its restoration back to its glory days! Then out across the warm white sands and a stroll North through the breakers challenging the sand castle builders to produce a replica of the Venerable Old Dame!

    We also were surprised at how nice the beach is in front of the Del. It is expansive, offering scenic views of Cabrillo Monument point and warm waters. Given a beautiful day, this is as close to a Hawaiian beach as you can get without leaving the mainland! We really liked the look of the Beach Village accommodations at the Del, where we will stay on our next excursion to San Diego.

  • 21. Swaddee Thai Restaurant
    Swaddee Thai Restaurant, Coronado, California

    See review StrandsDanville

    Scaled Spice For Tasteful Delights!

  • 22. Silver Strand State Beach
    Silver Strand State Beach, Coronado, California

    We took the scenic drive down the sliver of a highway to the entrance of this beautiful State Beach. We asked the booth attendant if we could park and just spend 5-10 minutes to walk out onto to the beach and by the water. She emphatically said NO, YOU MUST PAY THE $10 ALL DAY FEE TO ENTER, DO NOT PASS THE CONES AND TURN AROUND!

    Sorry Dear Arnold and the State of California legislature but this is an outrage! I am tired of paying off the chart fees to support your bloated, out of control State employee benefit legacy costs. Get your fiscal act together and stop biting off the hands that feed you!!

    I apologize for this outburst in this traveler forum but this is not smart Public management of Public property! I should have said my first name is Silver like in Hi-Yo!