The Most Instagrammable Places in Beautiful San Diego
Upon arriving to sunny San Diego, I was thrilled to find the airport is located in the heart of the city! With downtown skyscrapers on one side and an ocean view on the other, I immediately felt excited to explore this city for a long weekend. I hadn’t been to San Diego in YEARS so it was extra fun to get to wander this laid-back beach city as an adult. It also confirmed that 1. I could totally live here (I actually almost took a job last year that fell through at the last minute) and 2. Yikes, the cost of housing is expensive! I guess I’m now at the stage in my life where I look at real estate every time I travel, but I half blame it on watching one too many Fixer Upper episodes.
For my weekend trip, I stayed in North Park - which is a trendy, growing spot with lots to do! Full disclosure: I was here for a weekend workshop, so I only ventured out of North Park on a couple afternoons. I’m hoping to visit SD again in November, so if that works out I’ll be sure to update this blog with even more spots!
That being said, read on for plenty of recommendations to enjoy this sunshine city.
San Diego is a colorful city with lots of local shops! One thing I was delightfully surprised by: tons of murals outside of shops. I jotted down a few mural locations in phone after reading this blog, but there are so many it’s inevitable you’ll find plenty to admire just wandering around. Here’s a few of my favorite pretty shops I popped into:
Okay… I’m not exaggerating here, I think Pigment is the best curated gift store I have EVER step foot in. It took incredible self-control not to buy everything in the store. I love that it’s a mix of local designers and bigger brands. If I lived in San Diego, this would absolutely be my go-to spot to buy gifts for friends and family. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s gorgeous with multiple gram-friendly spots like a pink mural and several succulent walls. Bonus: if you visit on a Thursday, you might catch the Thursday Night Farmers’ Market right across the street to snag some fresh fruit and flowers after shopping.
This is a natural beauty shop curated with spa services in the back! Pop in for some lovely lipsticks or wellness products and don’t forget to peep at the mural on the side of the shop on the way out! I had the pleasure of hearing the founder speak at the workshop I attended that weekend and I love her mission to create a shop of natural products that prioritize beauty and healing at the same time. They have really strict standards for ingredients so you can easily shop without worrying about what crazy chemicals are lurking in a pretty bottle. They also have an online store and are opening up a second location soon. Love seeing female-owned companies with a purpose doing really cool things in their community.
This is Mexican gift shop with colorful textiles, art, jewelry, and houseware. There’s so much wonderful influence from Mexico with San Diego being so close to the border and this shop is a perfect example. They also have weekly craft classes if you can manage to squeeze one in during your trip! And again, this shop also has a fun mural but this one happens to be inside!
This is a floral shop with a sweet little mix of gifts, cards and jewelry. I was tempted to buy a bouquet to bring back to my airbnb as a splurge, but the timing didn’t work out. Maybe next time. Still a great spot for some local goodies! If you’re local in SD, they do pretty affordable flower deliveries.
This is a bright and airy minimalist coffee shop that serves up surprising coffee flavors like rose, turmeric and cardamom. This was my go-to spot for squeezing in afternoon laptop work because it had very chill vibes. I love a good understated coffee shop that let’s the coffee do the talking. Order the Rose Latte or La Vie Rose Cappuccino!
I’m extremely devoted to matcha and have it almost every morning, so a place like Holy Matcha was like the holy grail for me. They actually serve super high-quality ceremonial grade matcha if you want something traditional or you can grab one of their infused lemonades for a tangy treat. The decor is basically a Millennial day dream of #plantsonpink everywhere. My suggestion? Get there earlier in the morning to avoid the Instagrammers. I loved starting my mornings here catching up on email and the staff was super sweet!
Coffee and flowers? Yes, please. I literally can’t think of a more appealing coffee shop concept - half floral shop, half coffee shop and all of it is incredibly beautiful. There’s a good amount of seating indoor and out, so it’s the type of coffee shop that’s easy to spend hours in. There’s even a plant nursery next door that’s delightful to wander through. I ended up visiting here twice on my trip - once to meet with my biz consultant and another time just because.
Better Buzz Coffee
This is a San Diego staple with lots of locations scattered throughout the city. I stopped into the Hillcrest location which is closest to the airport and enjoyed a coffee and breakfast sandwich. I honestly didn’t love what I ordered, but I blame it on myself - I hear their Best Drink Ever is delicious and I plan to get that next time. Also, I ran into a baby frenchie who’s apparently a regular there if you need a little more incentive to visit. ;)
One $20 Uber ride later and I was in La Jolla for the morning! First stop: Parakeet Cafe - a relatively new coffee and tea shop with an emphasis on organic ingredients. With pretty decor and expert baristas, it was an excellent choice for a wake-me-up. I loved my not-too-sweet matcha latte and orange cinnamon bun that I enjoyed along the beach. It’s central to lots of shopping too!
I was walking down University ave and I saw a sign with a pug and tacos so knew this was my kinda place. It was an excellent call - they have such yummy and creative taco combinations like fried avocado and loads of unique sauces. Plus, what’s more San Diego than tacos and beer? Simple perfection.
Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream
This ice cream shop is known for its flights of mini cones, but apparently I can’t stop with matcha flavored things and opted for a scoop of matcha with sprinkles. I did sample a handful of flavors and they were good, but not crazy inventive. I think I’d still prefer Salt & Straw over this place, but if you’re craving ice cream, this is an ideal spot with friendly employees and plenty of Instagrammable walls.
I was introduced to Tocaya Organica through the workshop I attended and their food was sooo good!! The restaurant itself is gorgeous too - definitely plan on making a stop on my next trip. The food is as delicious as the restaurant is pretty - a rare feat in my experience. Can’t wait to go back!
Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre urban cultural park with tons of places to walk, gardens to explore, and museums to visit. There is a ton to do, so you could easily block off an entire afternoon and still not see everything. It’s super laid back, so it makes for easy wandering. I especially loved the botanical garden because #plantlady.
La Jolla Cove
As per the recommendation of one of my Lyft drivers, I headed to La Jolla Cove for some much-desired beach time. The best part of La Jolla (in my book) is all of the adorable seals by the cove. I watched them for an hour and they’re so freakin’ cute. There are some great restaurants nearby and lots of fun (you guessed it) murals. I regret not making it to Sunset Cliffs for another killer beach view, but that’s just an excuse to head back soon!
I know this list just scratched the surface, but have you been to any of the above spots? What are some of your favorite places to visit in San Diego?