Dear San Diego,
This is a love letter that will not end with a goodbye.
You are home to cacti, massive seaweed and beautiful cliffs. Only the hippest call you their home. You were first put on my radar by a vegan food vlogger, Rawvana. She showed herself hiking, running by the beach and eating at beautiful, plant-based restaurants. I wondered… What is this mecca that has both city and nature? You have comfortable year-round temperatures, usually between 58 and 70 degrees. Just 2.5 hours away you’ll find ski slopes at Big Bear Mountain, and the same day you can return to a beach littered with barking seals. Frankly, San Diego, you seem too good to be true.
While normal people go about their lives in peace, I am here constantly fretting about WHERE in the world I’m going to “settle down” one day. It seemed like an impossible feat to find a city that had everything on my list. But now I’m starting to think dreams do come true.
My brother, Tyler, and I started our trip off right by grabbing some late-night vegan grub at Kindred. Luckily their kitchen is open till 11pm, and they even serve drinks till 12am. Tyler and I ordered two Wizard Bowls and came back another day to order the Beet Risotto and Caesar Salad. All of the dishes were delicious, but I have to warn you that the service was a bit relaxed. In their defense, I think everyone is relaxed because they’re having a good time. The San Diegans seemed to be just all-around happy people. We encountered so many smiling faces that we were waiting for the other shoe to drop. How is it that everyone is so kind in a city of this size?
The following days were spent visiting the tourist sites, talking to locals and feeling out the city in general. We went to El Prez, a rooftop bar on the beach a local told us to go to. The bartender there told us they are the most popular day-drinking locale in San Diego. We devoured three amazing tacos that were both authentically Mexican and vegan. As we got a glass of wine and went to the climb the stairs to the roof, we were met with a closed sign. Apparently, all rooftop bars in the area are required to close their terrace at 10pm!!! Yes, I wrote that correctly, 10pm. Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed. In the future, I’d recommend eating here during the day and catching incredible views of the sunset around 7.30pm (in the summertime).
Like the good tourists that we are, we visited La Jolla and Sunset Cliffs- both should not be missed! La Jolla is a beautiful cove that houses all the fat seals. The cove has a cave in its side, where the ocean violently splashes against its walls. All noise inside the cave is amplified, so the seals inside sounded like they were barking through megaphones. About a 25 minute ride from here you’ll find Sunset Cliffs. The best photos from our trip were taken here. Free parking is available on the side of the road and everyone, tourists and locals, walk out to the cliffs edge to see the sky light up in hues of bright red, yellow and orange. The golden hour also illuminates the side of the cliffs, creating the picturesque landscape that this spot is justly famous for.
We also walked through the less impressive but equally touristy Balboa Park. Here you will find rose and desert gardens, as well as coy ponds and activity centers. The park would be much more charming on a cooler winter day, when the sun is less determined to bake you alive. Another activity that should be done in cooler weather is the hike to Potato Chip Rock. There are no shady spots and the hike is a strenuous incline, but you’ll never capture a better photo sitting on a potato chip in your life.
After you work up an appetite while hiking, head on over to Café Gratitude. This vegan restaurant will replenish you both emotionally and physically. The concept behind the restaurant is to build self-love and gratitude for life. Each meal is named after a positive word, like “Gracious” or “Wonderful”, then when you order you’re supposed to say “I AM” before your choice of food. When the waiter comes back with your food they affirm, “You are wonderful”. It feels surprisingly good to hear that coming from a stranger. The positive experience continues when you taste the wholesome yet delicious food. Not to mention, their French toast is FIRE.
Café Gratitude is in Little Italy, not too far from the historic Gaslamp district. Here you will find decent shopping and retro vibes. Mission Beach, one of my favorite places we visited, also has these retro vibes, though the two are not the same form of retro. At Mission Beach, you’ll find a never-ending boardwalk along the beach. The active life here is tangible as you will undoubtedly see most people biking, surfing or playing volleyball. If they’re not there to be active, then they’re there to dine or thrill seek at the amusement park along the beach. We unwound here, spending the majority of our day strolling the boardwalk and taking photos.
Our trip was short-lived, and after loads of research and speaking with locals, I know that San Diego has so much more to offer than these few tourist activities. So, San Diego, I’m leaving with a feeling that I will be back very soon. There must to be a part two to our love story!