Surf, sunsets and sultry evenings in San Diego’s eclectic neighbourhoods make for a fabulous long weekend – there’s so much more on offer than the standard city sightseeing.
Nowhere shows off California’s beach life better than San Diego. The beach city has the perfect mix of Pacific coastline and downtown chic, with a healthy dose of contemporary culture thrown in – it’s got everything from Comic-Con International to rooftop bars with heavenly sunset views, plus you’ll find the best tacos in the US on the seafront.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
From here, take your pick of the museums and galleries. Top of the list is the new Comic-Con Museum, a hands-on space celebrating popular culture, opened to sate the demand of fans impatient for the annual get together. Others worth visiting are the Mingei International Museum, which celebrates human creativity, and the Centro Cultural de la Raza, which creates, promotes and preserves Chicano, Mexican, Native American and Latinx art and culture. And don’t miss the Old Cactus Garden, tucked behind the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theatre, for some grand home interior inspo.
After a day in the park take your pick from two of the city’s best nightlife districts, both nearby. Depending how the wind blows you, to the north is Hillcrest, San Diego’s most LGBTQ-friendly neighbourhood (drink wine and eat farm-to-table Italian at Rusticucina); to the south is the Gaslamp Quarter, with some of San Diego’s oldest Victorian-style buildings and plenty of cocktail bars, clubs and restaurants (beautiful Callie is a fave, technically in neighbouring East Village).
Day two in San Diego is all about the Pacific Ocean. The city has 70mi (113km) of coastline, so there’s more than enough for everyone. If you’re in town for longer than three days, visit La Jolla, a smart enclave with pine trees, rugged cliffs and secluded houses (Alicia Keyes lives here), but if time is tight focus on the main strip of Pacific Beach, Mission Beach and Ocean Beach.
The best way to explore the Mission Beach boardwalk is by bike, specifically a laid-back, low-slung cruiser hired from Mission Beach Rentals on the seafront. Then channel your inner surf dude in a lesson with the Pacific Surf School, a 10-minute ride north, at Pacific Beach. You’ll typically find waves to suit all abilities here, and the water is warm enough to not need a wetsuit.
Mission Bay is a huge man-made saltwater lake with a large network of inlets and islands to explore. This 4,600 acre (1,862ha) aquatic playground – the largest of its kind in the world – has been purpose built for adventurers, with opportunities at every turn to go kite surfing, wake boarding, fishing, sailing, jet skiing and stand-up paddle boarding. When you’re all adventured out, light up the barbecue or set off on a relaxing moonlit cruise on Bahia Belle.
If you still have some late afternoon to fill, settle in with some beachfront cocktails at one of the best rooftop or patio bars in Pacific Beach – El Prez and its spicy margaritas or the Mavericks Beach Club with outdoor games are favourites. Let the music play and the pretty drinks flow as the sun begins to set.
Finish the day at Belmont Park, San Diego’s best amusement park, right on Mission Beach. Open until 9pm at weekends, ride the Giant Dipper, play mini golf and live the California dream before heading to Miss B’s Coconut Club for a dinner of jerk chicken and frozen cocktails.
Today is all about exploring San Diego’s heritage and culture. Known as the birthplace of California, and home to the Kumeyaay people for 12,000 years, San Diego has a disputed history – the Spanish laid claim to the land in the mid-16th century before the Mexican War of Independence ended Spanish rule in 1821.
While in Barrio Logan, head for Chicano Park to see the world’s largest collection of Chicano murals, which depict the life and struggles of San Diego’s Mexican community. Next is either Bread & Salt or La Bodega, warehouses-turned-galleries that highlight DJs, artists and musicians.
From parks and piazzas to art and architecture, discover the delights of San Diego’s unique neighbourhoods for yourself. Visit sandiego.org to start planning your trip today.
Funded in part with City of San Diego Tourism Marketing District Assessment Funds.
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meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
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Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.