Cheers to the weekend! Is it just me, or does coffee taste even better on the weekends when you have more time to savor it? It really is the simple things in life! In today’s post, I’m excited to highlight the final days of our seven-day California road trip to San Diego.
But first, in case you missed the recap of our previous five days exploring some of California’s greatest coastal towns, I’ve linked them here:
Day 1 in San Jose, Santa Cruz & Monterey
Day 2 in Monterey, Big Sur & Pismo Beach
Day 3 in Pismo Beach & Santa Barbara
Day 4 in Santa Barbara, LA, Venice & Santa Monica
Day 5 in Santa Monica, Laguna Beach & San Diego
As we took this road trip prior to COVID-19, the hotels, restaurants and attractions featured in my post may not currently be open. It’s also possible that some may be offering limited service. If you use this post to plan your own trip, please verify these important details directly. Also, for those traveling now or planning a getaway in the very near future, please wear a mask to protect the locals and your fellow travelers. We’ll get through this pandemic together!
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Day 6: San Diego & Coronado
Morning in Coronado
It was incredible waking up to the gorgeous view of the San Diego Bay from our room at the Manchester Grand Hyatt. We could have happily lingered in the room for a bit but we had planned on catching one of the early ferries over to Coronado. After grabbing Starbucks coffee in the Hyatt lobby, we walked down to the Convention Center to catch the ferry. The ferry leaves from there every half hour and it’s only $10 round-trip. How’s that for a bargain?! We were able to get right on and enjoyed the picturesque, fifteen minute ride over.
The ferry landing in Coronado is very cute and welcoming. Waterfront restaurants and shops greet you as you debark, and the San Diego skyline just behind you is beautiful. Josh and I checked out a couple of shops and debated renting bikes to head towards Coronado Beach. However, we had only planned to stay on the island for a few hours so wanted to maximize our time. So instead, we opted for the city bus that had us at the beach in less than 15 mins. We ended up sharing the bus with a group of fellow Bostonians who were a total hoot, which made for a fun ride.
We were dropped off at the historic Hotel del Coronado, a stunning and historic property on Coronado Beach. To say the hotel had extremely beautiful grounds and a million dollar view is an understatement. What a fun place it would be for a girls beach weekend! We walked the beach with our feet in the water and wished we could have spent a full day here.
After a couple of hours, we walked a few miles back towards the Coronado ferry landing. Josh was starving, so when we stumbled across the Burger Lounge we made a quick stop. Good burgers (all grass-fed) and fast service, despite how busy it was.
San Diego – A Perfect Hiking & Donut Spot!
After lunch, we jumped back on the ferry to head back to San Diego. We made a pit stop at the Hyatt to change our clothes. From there, we jumped in the car to head up to La Jolla. A hike at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve was on our “must do” list and it ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. I could have sat on top of the cliffs all day just soaking in the views. The natural beauty of the landscape was stunning. Not to mention the soft, late afternoon sun and the ocean breezes felt like pure heaven. I didn’t even want to think about leaving this beautiful coastal city that next morning.
After we wrapped up our hike at Torrey Pines, we stopped for donuts since that’s what everyone does after a good calorie burn. Ha! San Diego’s Donut Bar is one of those places with a cult following. They have huge lines in the morning and typically sell out. However, on Friday and Saturdays they open back up from 5-10:30pm for donuts and beer. The staff will help you pair a donut with their selection of beers to ensure the flavors compliment each other. I passed on the beer this time around, but Josh went for the full experience! The donuts were so, so good and it’s definitely worth checking out. I believe their flavors change daily.
After that gluttony, we headed back to our room at the Hyatt and decided to lay down for a few. Well, we both fell asleep and woke up at about 8pm. Oops! I think the full week of being on the go had finally caught up to us!
Our initial dinner plan earlier in the day was to head to Old Town for Mexican. You can never have enough tacos, am I right?? After our accidental nap, we decided to stick closer to our hotel since Old Town is about a fifteen minute Uber. So we trekked over to the Gaslamp Quarter again with a plan to grab a couple of apps for dinner. Wait times were running at least an hour or more at most places and the bar areas were full. We were both exhausted from being on the go all week, and didn’t feel like waiting so we called in a to-go order at the Cheesecake Factory. We don’t normally eat at chains when we travel and prefer to eat at local spots. However, the Factory was right next to our hotel and at that point we wanted something quick and easy.
Day 7: San Diego to Boston
This was our final day of our California road trip, and we had a late morning flight back to Boston. Since we’d be traveling all day with little chance to eat, we went to the Hyatt’s Seaview Breakfast Buffet. A bit pricey, but there are tons of options and the food was very good. We then checked out of the Hyatt, dropped off our rental car and then caught our flight home!
Post-Trip Thoughts & Recommendations
What a blast this California road trip to San Diego was, and it was so great to experience all of these beautiful coastal towns in a single trip! For us, the highlights were definitely Santa Barbara and San Diego. The weather, the natural beauty, the food, the people and the laid back vibe of these cities made us want to sell our house and move West!
The time we spent in each place was relatively short. So while we only experienced a fraction of what these cities truly have to offer, it gave us an idea of which ones we’d like to return to for a longer stay. However, San Diego truly stole my heart within minutes. Part of it may be due to the city’s Mexican influence. I mean the tacos and margaritas, two of my most favorite things, are incredible there! Or maybe it’s the constant sunshine and warm temperatures? That certainly does make it easy to take advantage of their 70 miles of coastline. The beachside bars and nightlife offer something for everyone, and I just love the casual style and the friendliness of the locals.
Our very first day of our road trip got off to a late start and the last day was a travel day So in reality, we covered about 600 miles over the course of five and a half days. If you were to take this same road trip, I’d recommend a minimum of 7-10 full days. Two weeks would probably be ideal, especially if you start in San Francisco and end in San Diego. Josh and I felt rushed at times and were often watching the clock to ensure we fit in everything we wanted to see and do, and to ensure that we left for our next destination on time.
We barely scratched the surface in terms of exploring each town, and we would have loved extra time to hike Big Sur and see the waterfalls, to take in more of the beaches, to shop, and to take advantage of the pools and other amenities at some of the hotels that we stayed at. We woke up super early every day to ensure we could pack in as much as possible, and since it was go-go-go the entire time we were exhausted by the end (hence our last dinner being a to-go order from the Cheesecake Factory next to our hotel. Ha!). However, we made amazing memories, explored a whole lot more of the Pacific Coast, met some wonderful and fun people along the way, and it was well worth it! Definitely one of our most favorite trips!
Would Love Your Feedback!
I’d love to hear what you think about these California Road Trip posts. My ultimate goal was for these recaps to serve as a helpful planning tool for your own Pacific Coast Highway road trip. As always, post any comments and your questions below and I’ll be sure to read and respond to each one.
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Hi! I’m from California and used to live in San Francisco and San Diego. Beautiful photos!
When it comes to road trips, you are totally right about taking your time. It’s the best way to explore.
Alex, California is such a gorgeous state! I’m so glad we took this bucket list trip and finally saw more of it. My brother lives in San Francisco (i’ll actually be there next week visiting him and his family), so I’ve seen a lot of the city – including a ton of gorgeous off-the-beaten path spots. However I hadn’t been any more south than Half Moon Bay or north of Sonoma during our visits. I just knew I would fall in love with San Diego and I did! One of my most favorite cities in the country! I’d actually love to do this trip again because there’s SO much more I’d love to see!