Sea Kayaking in La Jolla
Kayaking is such a fun way to experience an area from a different perspective! We were thrilled to learn about the Sea Cave kayak tour in La Jolla through Everyday California Adventures. We visited San Diego during “June Gloom” so after weighing the pros & cons of a morning v afternoon tour, we went with a 2pm tour with the hope that the marine layer would have burned off and we’d have warmer weather. We did have sunshine, but we also had choppy water and unfortunately, it was too rough to actually go in the sea caves. But, we still had a great time paddling through the water along the La Jolla shore and admiring the sea caves from the outside. Our guide stopped and shared some stories about one of the sea caves and how it was used during Prohibition. He also pointed out visible fault lines on the hill and told some harrowing stories about a diving board that was once placed at the top of the cliffs!
On our way back to La Jolla Beach, our guide gave everyone the opportunity to jump out of our kayaks and swim for a bit. Not everyone took him up on the offer, but of course my 10 and 13 year olds did!
La Jolla is a beautiful spot to check out. Behind the kids above is La Jolla Cove, Children’s Beach, and tide pools in the distance. There’s a gorgeous coastal walk to take in all the views, plus many great restaurants. We didn’t stop there this time as the kids were beat. Instead we stopped near our kayak launch point for ice cream at Scoops.
Ferry to Coronado Island
Rather than driving to Coronado Island, we decided to take the ferry from downtown San Diego. We caught the ferry at Broadway Pier which is right next to the USS Midway. We sat upstairs to enjoy the views for the quick 15-minute ferry ride across the bay.
Bike the Silver Strand
As soon as we arrived on the island we rented cruisers at Hollands Bikes. When I called ahead they were not taking bike reservations but told us if we arrived before 1pm they should have plenty of inventory (we were able to get 5 bikes around 11:30am). We rode along the Silver Strand Bikeway which hugs the coast most of the way except for a detour around a golf course. We rode to a friend’s house and then walked to Orange Avenue and got lunch at Burger Lounge. Then we continued on bike along the path by the Del (Hotel del Coronado) which was closed, but I saw enough to know I definitely want to come back and stay there!
There were tide pools and a sunken ship we wanted to find, but we had to return our bikes by 5. Before heading back on the ferry, we checked out the shops at the Ferry Landing and got more ice cream. Definitely a fun way to spend the day!
Cabrillo National Monument
The 2.5 mile Bayside Trail follows an old US Army roadway along the point past the remnants of the coastal defense system that protected the harbor during World War I and II. We enjoyed the panoramic views, mediterranean landscaping, and some cultural & military history.
Old Point Loma Lighthouse
This lighthouse was operational from 1855 until 1891. It sits atop the point 422 feet above sea level and was eventually retired because fog and low clouds often obscured the light from sailors. A new lighthouse was built at the bottom of the hill, but the original lighthouse still remains.
Cabrillo National Monument is run by the National Park Service and closes at 5pm. This made our late in the day visit slightly rushed, but still fun. We had about an hour, but I’d recommend at least 2-3 hours to hike the Bayside Trail, visit the tide pools, and learn a little bit about the history.
Potato Chip Rock
When I heard about this hike I knew we needed to go! Having great views or a point of interest on a hike is a must for us. It definitely helps to keep the kids engaged. Who doesn’t want to hike to a Potato Chip?
The trailhead is in Poway which was about a 45 minute drive from where we were staying in San Diego. According to Alltrails, this is a 7.6 mile out-and-back hike rated “hard”. There is also no shade on the trail so we aimed to start the hike early, but didn’t begin until 9am. Luckily, the cloud cover stayed over us until we reached the top. The first half is basically straight up with 2000 feet in elevation gain. Personally, I would rate this hike “moderate” because, while it is strenuous on the way up, the trail is paved almost the entire way making it a pretty smooth hike.
We had been warned that there might be a wait at the top to climb up on the rock, and there was! We waited about 30 minutes because there was one exceptionally slow group of college students who probably took hundreds of photos. Everyone climbed up but me since we were there during Shelter in Place and I didn’t want to pass off my camera to a stranger. And as a sidenote, everyone in line and most people on the trail all wore masks. We took them off for the photo!
I really enjoyed the way back down. Not only because it was easier (!!) but because the views were spectacular. We loved walking by the huge boulders and all the wildflowers and foliage. The potato chip was a highlight, but views made it all worth it!
If you go, be sure to leave early to beat the sun, especially in the summer. And bring lots of water – we hike with individual camelbacks that hold at least 2L of water each.
San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo remains one of my favorites. I love winding through zoos on hilly terrain where each animal exhibit seems hidden from the next. Lots of animal variety (including pandas!), plenty of play areas, and it’s right in Balboa Park.
We’ve taken the kids to Legoland several times, but the last time they were all there together was 2011. Our oldest was a Lego-fanatic for years completing complex sets faster than we could buy them – so naturally we thought he’d love Legoland. Even if you don’t have a Lego enthusiast, it’s still a fun place to take younger kids. The Lego cities are impressive to look at, plus there are rides, a waterpark, and places to stop and build Legos. One of the highlights for our kids was earning their Legoland Driver’s Licenses.
We stayed at the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort which has a private back entrance to the park. The hotel has a great pool and is very kid friendly. Legoland is definitely geared towards younger kids. Our youngest, now 10 years old, is probably at the upper age range (I’d say 12 & younger would be most likely to enjoy the park).
Other Things to Do
- USS Midway Museum – a historical naval aircraft carrier museum located in downtown San Diego at Navy Pier. It was closed when we were there in June 2020, but remains on my list of San Diego places to visit. We enjoyed visiting Pearl Harbor and the USS Yorktown & USS Laffey in Charleston. Seeing how the vessels are used and what’s it like to live aboard a working aircraft carrier, battleship, or submarine is fascinating.
- Mission Bay – I went running here one morning, but it would also be a great way to spend the day! It’s a human-made saltwater bay perfect for water activities: kayaking, swimming, paddle boarding, jet skiing, etc. Plus there are miles of trails that surround the bay (I ran an 8-mile loop around). The bay is sheltered making it a perfect place for kids.
- Zoo Safari Park – We never made it here with our kids and I haven’t been since I was in middle school, but I think they would have loved it! If you’ve got animal-loving kids, this 1800 acre wildlife sanctuary is sure to be a hit.
Where We Stayed
We traveled in June 2020 during COVID-19 and chose to stay at an Airbnb to minimize our exposure to others. Availability was low and we ended up staying in Point Loma where we had never been before. It was conveniently located near the airport, Downtown, and Mission Bay. La Jolla was 15 minutes north.
We drove from the Bay Area (~7 hours) so we did not have to deal with airports & flying, and had our own car to get around. Then we drove from San Diego to Palm Springs more on that soon!
We ate most breakfasts & lunches at home – though we did stop for Dunkin’ Donuts on our last morning (Father’s Day). We cooked dinner at home twice, got take out pizzas at Pummaro, and dined-in at Ketch and Miguel’s Cocina. It was our first time eating at a restaurant in 4 months. We ate outside and both staff & patrons wore masks (unless seated at a table). I feel like this was the riskiest thing we did on the trip, but we felt like the restaurants & patrons were following good protocol or we wouldn’t have stayed.
San Diego is one of our favorite places to visit! I think you hit most of the places we love too – La Jolla, Cabrillo, Coronado, the zoo. Next time, try staying bayside on Mission Beach. It’s one of our favorites, calmer (and less expensive) than oceanfront, and gives you a beautiful home base for exploring.
Thanks, Alison! We’ll definitely look into that the next time we stay in San Diego!
San Diego and lots of ice cream?! Can I go with you next time! I’ve never heard of Potato Chip Rock! We’ll have to check that out next time we’re down there!
Definitely check out Potato Chip Rock the next time you’re there – it’s worth a trip!
San Diego is amazing! We traveled there years ago with just one child, a toddler at the time. The weather is nearly perfect, and the things to do are endless. The San Diego Zoo was top notch (of course). We also loved Legoland as well.
The whole time we were there, we kept asking ourselves “why don’t we live here?” Perfect weather, beautiful city & so much to do!
As a San Diego native, I approve of this list- some of my favorite places! Next time you are near La Jolla Cove be sure to stop by the Cave Store and walk down into Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave. It’s $10/adult and $7/kid- definitely worth it!
Thanks, Katie! I don’t think the store was open when we were there, but it sounds so fun and such a unique experience! Will add it to our growing list for next time!
I really want to go to San Diego! It’s been on my bucket list for years so I’m hoping to get my family out there next year. Thanks for the tips!
San Diego is one of my favorite cities! I hope you’re able to make it there!