I’ll start off by saying I’m pretty biased when it come to San Diego. And as mentioned in a previous post, it was my second visit to the city, that I already fell in love with the first time I was here. It was all about the beaches this time, and beach life in San Diego in particular. I’m not really – a lie on the beach for hours – type person, but I do like to work on my tan, mostly so people know I’ve been abroad. I also love to swim, and with extremely – and out of the ordinary – hot temperatures in San Diego this time ’round, I was able to cross both things of my list.
Our first visit to the beaches of San Diego (our – being me and my girlfriend), was on Coronado Island, just south of downtown San Diego. We were staying at a hotel close to Old Town in the northern part of San Diego, so Coronado was a good 20 minute car ride from the hotel. And it was hot. I mean extremely hot. What I like about San Diego is their wonderful climate. The weather is pretty much great all year ’round. Not too hot, and not too cold. But our visit came at a time where a rare heat wave stopped by the southwestern part of the lower 48, and brought scolding temperatures with it. It hit 102 degrees F (39 Celsius), when we arrived at Coronado Island and a piece of wine gum that I placed on the dashboard of the car – don’t ask why – actually melted, got all sticky and impossible to clean – sorry Dollar Rental. It was a beautiful drive to Coronado. Especially crossing the Coronado Bridge, with ocean blue water, and blue cloudless skies as far as the eyes could see. We decided to drop the top on the Ford Mustang, so we could feel and act like proper Californians, despite our Scandinavian alabaster like skin. We had drowned ourselves in sun block, SPF 30 and above, so we felt ready for the task at hand.
When we parked our car we headed straight for the beach. The beautiful Coronado beach, with it’s shiny white – but very hot – sand, clear greenish blue water and the majestic Hotel del Coronado overlooking the ocean. We decided just to take a walk up and down the beach and dip our toes in the surprisingly cold Pacific Ocean. It was simply too hot to lie on the beach, with no shade what so ever. Even the locals stayed clear off the beach on this hot day. Afterwards we took a closer look at the gorgeous Hotel del Coronado. The sheer size of the hotel made our “regular” Best Western hotel look like a small shack, by comparison. The Hotel del Coronado had definitely been a more luxurious choice of accommodation, but at four times the rate, at least I was satisfied with our own hotel, even if my girlfriend looked like she would have happily blown our budget for a couple of nights at The Coronado. “Next time” I assured her.
We sat down by the main street in Coronado, to get a little shade and something to eat and drink. I don’t know if it was the heat – but I ended up with water and a salad. Not really my typical sort of meal, even for lunch. In all fairness it was a Caesar’s salad, and it was surprisingly good, and a huge portion as well. Tender and juicy pieces of chicken, a nice dressing, crumbly salty cheese and bread croutons. A good and filling lunch, and not something I would mind ordering again. After lunch we drove back to our hotel and took a much-needed and refreshing dip in the pool.
On the second day we headed to Ocean Beach in the northwestern part of San Diego. We had gone there the night before, and found the main street Newport Ave. brimming with life. There was a market – of sorts – with food stalls, live music and vendors selling all kinds of stuff. We liked the laid back vibe and wanted to see how Ocean Beach looked in daylight. In daytime the main street was still busy, but the market had closed down and people were either just hanging out or shopping. We headed straight for the beach as the weather was far more lenient on this day. The beach wasn’t as nice looking as Coronado. The sand was more grayish and there was a lot more seaweed lying around. There was no rocks though, not in the sand nor in the water, so the beach was fine for both sunbathing and taking dips in the icy water. And it really was icy. Listen – I’m from Scandinavia, we’re used to cold water, but not used to the weather being as hot as it was, and the water being soooo cold. I can understand an enormous body of water like the Pacific Ocean takes a while to heat up, but still. We went in though – both of us. When you get a chance to dip your head in the Pacific (and you have to at least get down to your shoulders or it doesn’t count), you take it. It was a short dip but thankfully it didn’t take long to dry.
We soaked some rays, and did a little people watching, as well as watching some surfers looking for the next wave, and went back to Newport Ave. to check out the stores and find some lunch. One thing we noticed straight away walking on Newport Ave., was the hostel located in between random stores and restaurants. The building was painted in all colors of the rainbow and had a giant peace sign on the roof. It felt as if a tornado had picked up the hostel from the San Francisco hippie enclave; Haight-Ashbury, and dropped it straight down in the middle of Ocean Beach. Still – it did not feel out of place. Ocean Beach really was a hub for all kinds of coolness and weirdness. Maybe not as much weirdness as the aforementioned part of San Francisco, and certainly a lot prettier and less sketchy, but still a place for a surfing and very laid back community.
The burger hotspot Hodad’s definitely didn’t feel out of place in Ocean Beach either. Their motto: No Shoes, No Shirts -No Problem, could just as well been the slogan for the entire Neighborhood. A hodad is apparently a person that doesn’t surf but still hangs out at the beach. So back in the earlier days when surfing became popular in the states, you were either a surfer or a hodad. Hodad’s was a burger joint as classic as they come – with a limited menu, but we didn’t really need more. They made me an amazing bacon cheeseburger. Probably the best classic style burger in the entire state of California. There, I said it! I got mine with a side of killer onion rings and I was in burger heaven. If burgers are not your thing (seek immediate medical attention.. just kidding), the atmosphere and the decor in Hodad’s is worth the trip alone.
Afterwards we went back to our hotel, but could think back on a couple of great – but very different – beach experiences. That’s exactly what makes San Diego a great beach destination – the diversity of their beach neighborhoods. So no matter if you’re a surfer, a hodad or somewhere in between – San Diego has something for you.
Without a doubt one of the most romantic spots in San Diego is Sunset Cliffs. There is a beach there as well, but most people come and sit on the sheer cliffs overlooking the ocean, and for watching the sunsets (hence the name). It’s the perfect place to bring a date or your loved one before dinner for example. It’s beautiful beyond the belief and a definite popping the question worthy spot. Just mind your balance when you get down on one knee. Falling off a cliff tends to ruin the occasion (and no, I’m not speaking from personal experience).