Hidden Gems in and near San Diego, California

San Diego, California aka paradise. I was lucky enough to live in San Diego for 4 years. Here are all my favorite spots that are a little off the beaten path.

1. Black’s Beach

Black’s Beach is famous for being the only nude beach in San Diego but it’s so much more than that. Come here for sunrise or sunset and the reflections of the water, back drop of the beach cliffs, and the ethereal pastels will have you staring in awe.

You will have to do a short hike up and down some stairs but it’s worth it. Trust me.

Distance: 0.6 miles round trip

AllTrails Link: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Gliderport+Trl,+San+Diego,+CA+92037/@32.8885899,-117.2537291,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m6!3m5!1s0x80dc06965d8d9477:0xc820af2967845659!8m2!3d32.8885899!4d-117.2511542!16s%2Fg%2F11fgm6w0hm?entry=ttu

2. La Jolla Secret Swing

Only locals know about this place. It’s the perfect spot to chill and watch the sun go down over the ocean.

Alright, now what you’re waiting for; how to get there. This is very close to La Jolla Cove.

Here’s the exact location: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Rocky+Beach+Rope+Access/@32.8483833,-117.268016,103m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m14!1m7!3m6!1s0x80dc03fea876e5eb:0x90ff653c28a7c617!2sLa+Jolla+Cove!8m2!3d32.8503895!4d-117.2729435!16s%2Fm%2F02pt3vb!3m5!1s0x80dc03fb81961ac7:0xc6427ba8e0d02d1f!8m2!3d32.8484548!4d-117.2676191!16s%2Fg%2F11kbm4mn11?entry=ttu

You’ll start at “The Cave Store”, take a right on “Coast Walk Trail”, and the take a left off of the path under the fencing when you get to the white bridge.

3. Open Ceiling Cave at Sunset Cliffs

This cave is one of the coolest places in San Diego. It’s in Sunset Cliffs but you would have no idea it’s there just looking out at the water. It can only be accessed at low tide. When you do go at low tide I would plan to be there about half an hour before the lowest point and then get out about 30 minutes after to avoid getting trapped on the coast and having to get fully wet to swim the beach where you can climb the cliffs to get back up.

You can’t climb directly into the cave. You’ll have to walk the coast a little. There’s an access point about 400 meters north of the cave which us pictured above on the left. Once you scramble down, you just walk along the coast and then enter the cave from the opening facing the sea (shown below).

Cave location: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Sunset+Cliffs+Cave/@32.724337,-117.2586884,19z/data=!4m10!1m2!2m1!1sopen+ceiling+cave+san+diego!3m6!1s0x80deabdaa1ece51d:0xfbf0c9539a74458a!8m2!3d32.724337!4d-117.2575619!15sChtvcGVuIGNlaWxpbmcgY2F2ZSBzYW4gZGllZ28iAhgBWhgiFmNlaWxpbmcgY2F2ZSBzYW4gZGllZ2-SARJ0b3VyaXN0X2F0dHJhY3Rpb26aASRDaGREU1VoTk1HOW5TMFZKUTBGblNVTjVhV1kzTURKM1JSQULgAQA!16s%2Fg%2F11g65bsdv0?entry=ttu

4. Scripps Pier in La Jolla

Scripps Pier is extremely easy to get to and a great place for sunset, especially if you’re squeezed for time. The Pier is used by UCSD’s oceanography students for research and the surrounding area is really pretty too.

Scripps Pier Location: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Ellen+Browning+Scripps+Memorial+Pier/@32.8662829,-117.2730909,15z/data=!3m2!4b1!5s0x80dc06b1dbe23655:0x79b52dde5a97143f!4m6!3m5!1s0x80dc06b192809967:0x98fe6acd0d87b1f!8m2!3d32.8662843!4d-117.2546369!16s%2Fg%2F11c2lbxz28?entry=ttu

5. Torrey Pines Gliderport

Gliderport is another easy place to get to for an amazing sunset and surreal experience. It has patch of a picture perfect green grass seemingly floating above the ocean. Get here before the sun dips below the horizon and you’ll be surrounded by swooping paragliders. You can even pay someone to take you up for a ride above the cliffs and ocean if you’re feeling courageous.

Gliderport Location: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Torrey+Pines+Gliderport/@32.8885899,-117.2537291,17z/data=!4m15!1m8!3m7!1s0x80dc06965d8d9477:0xc820af2967845659!2sGliderport+Trl,+San+Diego,+CA+92037!3b1!8m2!3d32.8885899!4d-117.2511542!16s%2Fg%2F11fgm6w0hm!3m5!1s0x80dc0693080cb29b:0x8f244f06aa6472e0!8m2!3d32.889867!4d-117.251201!16s%2Fm%2F04gvgnd?entry=ttu

6. USCD Campus Scripps

This is my favorite spot in all of San Diego. It’s part of UCSD’s campus right above Scripps Pier. The view overlooking the ocean is incredibly peaceful and you can see all the way to La Jolla Cove and Mount Soledad. Everything about this place screams SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.

7. Pacific Beach Crystal Pier

Crystal Pier is a Pacific Beach icon. Walk the boardwalk, grab some ice cream at “The Baked Bear”, and watch some locals ride the waves along the pier.

Crystal Pier Location: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Crystal+Pier/@32.7959724,-117.2628227,17z/data=!4m9!1m2!2m1!1sice+cream!3m5!1s0x80dc0127237508f3:0xc187e7837bade526!8m2!3d32.7959721!4d-117.2583166!16s%2Fg%2F11scst9pfr?entry=ttu

8. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Torrey Pines is a continuation of the coastal cliffs in La Jolla but completely void of any manmade structures besides the park’s trail systems. There is a $15-$25 entrance fee to park here but it’s definitely worth it as it gets you access to some of the prettiest beaches in California. One of the prettiest spots to catch sunset in San Diego.

9. La Jolla Archietcture

The Salk Institute (above left) and the Gesiel Library (above right) are two of the most unique buildings I’ve seen and they’re right here in San Diego.

Salk Institute Location: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Salk+Institute+Architecture/@32.8871483,-117.2646023,15z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m6!3m5!1s0x80dc07f3722a627f:0xa1da9e1ef44bbe9a!8m2!3d32.8871497!4d-117.2461483!16s%2Fg%2F11k5239p_s?entry=ttu

Giesel Library Location: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Geisel+Library/@32.881092,-117.242072,17z/data=!4m10!1m2!2m1!1sucsd+library!3m6!1s0x80dc07853cb13045:0x2d2f19f483aaaace!8m2!3d32.881092!4d-117.2375659!15sCgx1Y3NkIGxpYnJhcnmSARJ1bml2ZXJzaXR5X2xpYnJhcnngAQA!16zL20vMGYyOXpw?entry=ttu

10. Secret Cabrillo National Monument Cave

Okay, this cave is the coolest cave in San Diego but a lot of things have to line up to get here. It needs to be low tide during park hours, there can’t be too many tourists when you walk past the “Do not past this point” sign, and you have to not get caught by a park ranger on your way to or on your way back from the cave.

How to get here: Pay to enter Cabrillo National Monument, take a right towards the “Tidepools” sign, park at the second to last parking lot at the tide pools, walk down to the tide pools, keep walking to your right until you get to the sign that says “Do not pass this point”, go pass the sign, walk for about 400 meters, crawl through a crack in the side of the cliff. once you crawl through the crack, it’ll open up into an open ceiling cave with two separate openings to the ocean. Both openings are occupied by a seal colony. Good luck finding this place and not getting caught.

Cabrillo National Monument Location: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Cabrillo+National+Monument/@32.6722558,-117.8183916,10z/data=!4m10!1m2!2m1!1scabrillo+national+monument+tide+pools!3m6!1s0x80deac405f87c57f:0xfea22d335a64608c!8m2!3d32.6722558!4d-117.2416094!15sCiVjYWJyaWxsbyBuYXRpb25hbCBtb251bWVudCB0aWRlIHBvb2xzWiciJWNhYnJpbGxvIG5hdGlvbmFsIG1vbnVtZW50IHRpZGUgcG9vbHOSAQRwYXJrmgEjQ2haRFNVaE5NRzluUzBWSlEwRm5TVU5CZUhWbWRscEJFQUXgAQA!16zL20vMDZxbHlu?entry=ttu

11. Scripps Coastline Meander Garden

In January, the aloe plants in the garden bloom, creating a maze of gorgeous red flowers.

Meander Garden Location: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Scripps+Coastal+Meander+Trailhead/@32.8707627,-117.2541654,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m6!3m5!1s0x80dc07bcbea4ce4f:0x53a64789e3648b83!8m2!3d32.8707582!4d-117.2515905!16s%2Fg%2F11h2pxjd54?entry=ttu

12. Font’s Point Day Trip

Font’s Point is located in Anza Borrego Desert State Park and is definitely worth the day trip from San Diego. Make sure to get there during sunset or sunrise though because that’s when it really shows off. You will need a high clearance vehicle as there is an 8 mile dirt road/washed creek bed you’ll need to take to get here. a 4WD vehicle would be preferable but I’ve seen some mid-size sedans make it. The viewpoint is less than a 2 minute walk from the dirt parking lot at the the end of the 8 mile road. Stop in Julian at Julian Pie Company and pick up one of their delicious pies to enjoy while enjoying the view.

Font’s Point Location: https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Fonts+Point,+California/Scripps+Coastal+Meander+Trailhead,+Scripps+Institution+of+Oceanography+9234-9218,+La+Jolla+Shores+Dr,+La+Jolla,+CA+92037/@33.0307984,-117.0631118,10z/data=!4m14!4m13!1m5!1m1!1s0x80da30a9812afa2f:0xbe6ea7bcfb0ec0d3!2m2!1d-116.2330555!2d33.2569444!1m5!1m1!1s0x80dc07bcbea4ce4f:0x53a64789e3648b83!2m2!1d-117.2515905!2d32.8707582!3e0?entry=ttu