Well Intentioned: A Chilled-Out Guide to San Diego, California

Enjoy an exceptional dining experience at the Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in San Diego
Enjoy an exceptional dining experience at the Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in San Diego | Courtesy of Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa / Expedia.com
Emma Sparks

Hit up beaches for sunset treks, head to mindful cafes with healthy menus and dial down the pace with spa treatments in this laid-back California city.

With yoga studios on practically every corner, thousands of bike routes and an abundance of beaches, San Diego is one of the most liveable cities in the United States. All you need to experience the benefits that living here can bring is a can-do attitude, a pair of yoga pants and, perhaps, a floaty kaftan. Ready to soak up some of that SoCal sunshine and unwind? Here are the best ways to go slow in San Diego.

1. Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa

Spa Hotel, Luxury

Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa
Courtesy of Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa / Expedia.com

This Spanish-style hotel near Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve – stitched with 3,000 rare trees – is spread over 10 acres (4ha) of succulent-studded gardens and home to one of the best spas in Southern California. Book a whole day to enjoy a tension-busting CBD-oil massage, relax in the eucalyptus-scented steam room and swim in the saltwater pool (reserve a cabana in advance for the ultimate shady lounging spot). There’s also a meditation garden and private yoga classes on request.

2. Cafe Gratitude

Cafe, Restaurant, Vegan, Vegetarian

Cafe Gratitude
© Talia Dinwiddie
This plant-based micro chain has spread its good vibes across California, including this branch in Little Italy. Mindful eating is a given here – the plates are etched with the question “What are you grateful for?” – and each organic dish has an inspiring name such as Humble, Brave or Blessed. You might even get ecstatic about the maple miso-glazed brussel sprouts. The drinks menu has everything you’d expect from a wellness-focused restaurant, including superfood smoothies, golden turmeric lattes and sustainable vegan wines.

4. Hotel del Coronado

Hotel, Luxury

View from the beach of the majestic Victorian Hotel del Coronado in San Diego
Courtesy of Hotel del Coronado / Expedia.com

Fans of Marilyn Monroe may recognize this grand beachfront resort as the Seminole Ritz – the ‘Miami’ hotel from the classic romantic comedy Some Like it Hot (1959). In reality, it’s a true California dream, with Pacific Ocean views, mermaid-themed water-aerobics classes and ocean-inspired spa treatments (try the algae-infused facial). Swing by the watersports center to hire an SUP board or book a surf lesson.

5. Balboa Park


Cactus gardens at Balboa Park San Diego California
© Dennis Frates / Alamy Stock Photo

You could spend a week in Balboa Park and still not see it all. Its sprawling 1,200 acres include art galleries, cultural centers, the Natural History Museum and San Diego Zoo. But those seeking a chance to immerse themselves in nature will have ample opportunity. Take your pick of the many gardens – Palm Canyon hosts 50 different species, while the Desert Garden is packed with drought-resistant plants – or follow one of the challenging, tree-lined hiking trails.

6. Rancho Valencia

Boutique Hotel

A luxurious guest casita with high exposed-beam ceilings at Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa
Courtesy of Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa / Expedia
California isn’t just about the beach. This 43-acre (17.4ha) estate in Rancho Santa Fe, just north of the city, features sprawling gardens and a collection of luxurious casitas with vaulted ceilings and private patios. Fresh orange juice, direct from the onsite citrus grove, is delivered to your room each morning. From then on, it’s a case of choosing your own adventure. Get tennis coaching from a former pro, practice warrior posture in the floating yoga pavilion, get pampered at the spa, or lounge by the outdoor pool.

7. Salt Pilates

Fitness Studio, Gym

Woman stretching her arms at class
© Jacob Lund / Alamy Stock Photo

Head to the quirky, LGBT-friendly neighborhood of Hillcrest for a sweaty workout at Salt Pilates. Classes engage both body and mind and focus on firing up your core. Some sessions are heated to between 85F (29C) and 95F (35C), which is said to help your body flush out toxins, improve muscle recovery and promote relaxation. Choose between HIIT-style sets, sequences backtracked by upbeat tunes, and slow-paced, stretchy flows.

8. Ocean Beach

Natural Feature

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 11, 2018: View of beautiful San Diego in southern California seen from Sunset Cliffs in Point Loma.
© Littleny / Alamy Stock Photo

Want a lazy beach day with a casual, hippy vibe? Head to the boho neighborhood of Ocean Beach, where you can browse artists’ stalls and second-hand record shops and sip organic smoothies on the sand before heading into the waves for a surf lesson. For a life-affirming finale, head south along the Sunset Cliffs Coastal Trail to soak in the epic sunset views.

For more information and to start planning your own trip, visit sandiego.org

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