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San Diego Travel Guide

About San Diego

Life in SoCal’s second city, San Diego, has a more laid-back edge than its frenetic northern neighbour. Shake up historic neighbourhoods, terrific eateries and the Pacific Ocean, and you have an irresistible cocktail of urban hip and beachside utopia.

Surfboard-wielding dudes, skinny-jeaned hipsters and Gucci-wearing stylistas converge on the southern-most corner of California's coastline to enjoy never-ending sunshine, unspoilt beaches and a lifestyle most people only dream of.

Downtown’s distinctive neighbourhoods are the epicentre for all that's cool and hip in San Diego. You can amble around the shops and cafés of the historic Gaslamp Quarter, pick up one-of-a-kind artworks and coffee in Little Italy, or climb aboard historic ships in the Embarcadero District. Across the bridge from Downtown, the island of Coronado has small-town charm by the bucket load, with glittering beaches, the iconic Hotel del Coronado, and a beachfront boardwalk for two-wheeled coasting. Hillcrest, meanwhile, is San Diego’s LGBT hub, a walkable neighbourhood crammed with indie restaurants, vintage stores and wine bars.

But what most people come for is San Diego’s 110km (70 miles) of coastline. Upmarket La Jolla (think: luxury hotels, fine dining and championship golf courses) attracts surfers in droves to its phenomenal beaches. At Mission Beach, you’re more likely to spot crowds of youngsters flaunting their stuff on the boardwalk, or windsurfers, kayakers and waterskiers whizzing across Mission Bay.

San Diego isn’t short of stellar attractions away from the beach either. Balboa Park is super close to Downtown and home to 15 museums and a clutch of performing arts venues amid 500 hectares (1,200 acres) of beautifully landscaped gardens. Whether you’re into space, natural history, art or cars, this park has it covered. Also in the park is the fabulous San Diego Zoo, where you can tuck into breakfast with the koalas in the Australian Outback or encounter cheetahs and rhinos in the Urban Jungle.

Thirsty? San Diego is churning out new craft breweries at a lip-smackingly delicious rate, so grab yourself a hoppy ale and plot a way to stay here for good.

Key facts

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Featured Hotels


Sofia Hotel

One of the oldest hotels in San Diego's Downtown has been transformed into a chic boutique inn with 212 rooms that have the feel of urban studios with efficient Wi-Fi and access to Currant, one of lower downtown's most happening cafes. Some rooms are dark and noisy - ask to see a few before unpacking.

Hard Rock Hotel San Diego

Set smack at the foot of Fifth Avenue, across the street from the San Diego Convention Center at the edge of the Gaslamp Quarter, the 12-story Hard Rock attracts awe-struck sightseers ogling The Rock Shop (collectable Hard Rock gear), Nobu (chef Nobu Matsuhisa's entree into the SoCal dining scene), Maryjane's diner-style coffee shop and the Sweetwater Saloon - a sidewalk bar by day and happening dance club at night. Guests in the 420 rooms and suites are greeted with their choice of music drifting from speakers on the flat screen HDTVs. Red leather chairs and low white couches, swirly patterned rugs and square showerheads in the ceilings set a fun-loving mood, enhanced by Sleep Like a Rock beds.

Tower 23

Named for the lifeguard tower it faces, this ultra-hip Pacific Beach hotel has 44 slick rooms with rain showers, Egyptian cotton bedding, LCD screen TVs and H2O toiletries. Some suites overlook the boardwalk and beach and have private balconies. Wi-Fi is available throughout the property - checking your e-mail from a cafe table by the sand is just about as SoCal techie as you can get. The hotel's JRDN restaurant serves the freshest regional seafood and produce in a casual setting.

Town and Country Resort

The resort features 1,000 guestrooms, four swimming pools and whirlpool, five restaurants and three lounges, in addition to 16 hectares (40 acres) of beautifully landscaped grounds. There is also a spa, salon and fitness centre. The 27-hole Riverwalk Golf Club and Mission Valley Regional Conference Center are adjacent. Premier shopping is also available nearby.

Inn at the Park

This historic hotel in San Diego, formerly the Park Manor Suites Hotel, occupies a gorgeous seven-storey Italian Renaissance style building in the heart of Balboa Park, adjacent to the Hillcrest neighbourhood. The structure was built in 1926 and designated a historical site by the City of San Diego in 1991. It is situated on the west edge of Balboa Park and offers sweeping views of San Diego Bay, Downtown and Hillcrest. All suites come with full kitchens and dinettes. Deluxe continental breakfast is on offer every morning.

Omni San Diego

A sky bridge connects the tasteful Omni with Petco Park's baseball stadium and a nearby pedestrian crossing makes the walk from the hotel to the Convention Center easy. Baseball memorabilia fills display cases in public spaces. Corner rooms on the east side have a spot-on view of the ballpark; others overlook the Convention Center and bay. The 511 rooms are sensibly and comfortably designed and the outdoor pool with fireplace is the favourite hangout. A McCormick & Schmick's restaurant serves decent seafood.