The southern California city of San Diego has so much to offer both tourists and locals alike. With its scenic harbor, pristine beaches, and unbeatable cuisine, the city is the perfect place for a fun and relaxing vacation.

Whether you choose to soak up some sun on Mission Beach, take a hike through Balboa Park, or simply kick back and enjoy a craft beer, San Diego has you covered.

01Visit Mission Beach and Pacific Beach

Mission Beach, San Diego Art Wager / Getty Images

If you’re planning a trip to San Diego, then spending an entire day on Mission Beach and Pacific Beach is a must. The two beaches connect to form one long coastline that's full of sunbathers and surfers all year round.

If you need a break from working on your tan, the boardwalk has plenty of cute shops and restaurants. As a bonus, Belmont Park is an amusement park located on the boardwalk right in between the two beaches. Take a ride on the 100-year-old wooden roller coaster, grab some food, and soak up the SoCal vibes.

02Explore Balboa Park

Balboa Park, San Diego dancestrokes / Getty Images

Despite its name, Balboa Park is so much more than just a park! It's full of gardens, hiking trails, museums, performing art spaces, and more. Aside from all of the educational and recreational attractions that call the park home, the walking trails are particularly fun to explore. Pack some energy bars and spend the afternoon walking through San Diego’s beautiful nature, and cultivated wildlife. The park covers over 1,000 acres, and it’s the perfect place to spend a few hours getting lost.

03Head to the museums

USS Midway, San Diego paule858 / Getty Images

Apart from its natural beauty, San Diego is also full of impressive museums and fascinating institutions. The San Diego Museum of Art is located in Balboa Park and features a huge collection of permanent and rotating fine art exhibitions with an emphasis on Spanish art. Another museum in Balboa Park is the Natural History Museum, which is one of the oldest scientific institutions on the West Coast.

Located a few miles away along the harbor, the USS Midway Museum is an aircraft carrier that first began serving the US military in 1945. Visitors are given a full tour of the vessel by people who used to serve on it. Educational and exciting, the Midway is more than worth a visit, but get there early to avoid the long lines!

04Soak up the sun on Coronado Beach

Coronado Beach, San Diego f11photo / Getty Images

While Mission and Pacific Beach are full of fun, Coronado Beach is filled with beauty. For a different kind of coastal vibe, locals and tourists flock to the mesmerizing Coronado Beach. The waves are calmer, there are fewer people, and the mile-long shoreline is exceptionally clean. Come with friends and family or take a few hours to relax in your own company. Walking the length of the beach is a great way to take in all of the surrounding beauty.

05Check out the San Diego Zoo

Giant panda, San Diego Zoo ike505 / Getty Images

The San Diego Zoo is one of the best and largest in the country! Spread out over 100 acres in Balboa Park; the zoo is home to countless species of animals from all over the world. In fact, the San Diego Zoo houses more rare and endangered animals than anywhere else on the planet. Pick a trail and see giant pandas, elephants, koalas, and more on your walk. The zoo also offers daily shows and encounters where you can see the zookeepers and trainers interact with the animals!

06Spend the day at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Art Wager / Getty Images

Spend the day exploring the 2,000 acres of the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. Located just north of La Jolla, this park is one of the wildest stretches of coastline in California. Pack a picnic and take in the local wildlife. Depending on the season, you’ll be able to spot bobcats, foxes, cacti, and even whales in the distance. The park is also home to the rare Torrey pine, an endangered species of pine that only grows in this area.

07Stroll along the Embarcadero

The Embarcadero, San Diego DianeBentleyRaymond / Getty Images

The Embarcadero is San Diego’s famous harborfront. Walk along the pedestrian-friendly waterfront and check out the numerous shops, restaurants, and cafes. Enjoy some window shopping while taking an evening stroll or spend the afternoon getting some serious retail therapy. When you need a break, there are plenty of places to have a coffee while looking out across the beautiful bay. The Embarcadero is also the perfect place to go with kids. There are plenty of fun fountains and interactive playgrounds to explore!

08Take a trip to Point Loma

Point Loma, San Diego Ron and Patty Thomas / Getty Images

The western peninsula that makes up Point Loma is rugged and charming. The community offers visitors delicious seafood, intriguing history, and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the San Diego Bay. Spend the day visiting the history exhibits and walking the nature trails before cooling off in one of the many tide pools. To make your day extra special, visit the Old Point Loma Lighthouse in the early evening and watch as the sun sets over the water.

09Enjoy the finer things at La Jolla

La Jolla, San Diego JodiJacobson / Getty Images

The name La Jolla translates into English as The Jewel, and for good reason. This San Diego neighborhood has some of the best beaches in the state. Beachgoers can expect fine dining, European-style cafes, and a nearly perfect seaside experience. The area has cliffs offering spectacular views, quaint coves with mysterious sea caves, and seals sunbathing on the rocks. If you visit in the summer, you can even enjoy free concerts on the beach! Book a hotel in the area and spend a few days enjoying some of the most popular destinations in California.

10Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Fish tacos grandriver / Getty Images

San Diego’s close proximity to Mexico means that it has some seriously delicious food. Perfect fish tacos are just the beginning, and people come from all over the country to eat in the numerous iconic restaurants of San Diego. Pick a world cuisine, and you’ll find a restaurant or food truck, making the best of the best in this foodie city. As an added bonus, many of the ingredients that make up the most popular dishes are super fresh and locally grown. To wash it all down, spend your trip sampling the tasty craft beer from the many award-winning local breweries.