How to Plan the Perfect Day in San Diego

January 26, 2018

You’ll see everything from the coast to some of San Diego’s iconic landmarks, all in the course of a single day.

When you only have one day to spend in San Diego, you’ll need to hit all the highlights in just under 24 hours. Although it may seem impossible to fit San Diego’s top destinations into one day, the perfect day in San Diego awaits you when you follow our itinerary.

Breakfast at Harry’s Coffee Shop

Start your day in La Jolla, CA with a cup of coffee and a scrumptious breakfast at Harry’s Coffee Shop. Since Harry’s opens at 6:00 am, arrive early! This allows you to have a relaxed breakfast and still have plenty of time to explore San Diego in one day.

In addition to coffee, Harry’s Coffee Shop has a small, but delicious breakfast menu with items including:

  • French Toast
  • Fried Egg Sandwich
  • La Jolla Scramble
  • Breakfast Burrito
  • Eggs Benedict
  • And More

Once you bite into the food from Harry’s Coffee Shop, you’ll see why it’s been a San Diego staple for decades.

Close up of two bacon wrapped hotdogs in buns with a runny eggs on top and breakfast potatoes from Breakfast Republic in San Diego, California, USA

photo credit: Breakfast Republic (East Village) via Facebook

La Jolla Tide Pools

After breakfast, head to the coast to check out the La Jolla Tide Pools. The best place to explore the tide pools is at La Jolla Cove. Depending on the tide, you may even see the legendary La Jolla sea lions and seals basking in the sun.

When viewing the marine life in the various tide pools, be respectful. The tidepools are their homes! During your exploration, you’ll likely come across the following marine animals and plants:

  • Sea Anemones
  • Hermit Crabs
  • Sea Stars
  • Barnacles
  • Spanish Shawl

Remember, for your safety and the safety of the animals within the tide pools, do not take an animal or plant out of their habitat. Observe only! And, be aware of the ocean at all times. You don’t want to turn your back during high tide.

Close up view of a tide pool with lots of green and pink sea life growing in it at Dana Point in San Diego, California, USA

photo credit: Alesha Gibson via Facebook

Old Town San Diego

Once you’ve concluded your tide pool expedition, it’s time to visit Old Town San Diego. Known as the birthplace of California, Old Town is a historic neighborhood lined with shops and restaurants for visitors to peruse.

While in Old Town, eat lunch at Casa Guadalajara. This authentic Mexican restaurant features the finest cuisine, traditional folk art, and exceptional hospitality. A perfect day in San Diego must include traditional Mexican cuisine!

After fueling up, go ahead and take some time to roam through Old Town San Diego. You’ll find everything from the historic state park to America’s most haunted house, the Whaley House Museum. If you’re the type of traveler who loves to purchase souvenirs, you’ll find one in Old Town!

Balboa Park

Conclude your afternoon in San Diego at Balboa Park. Balboa Park has 17 museums, numerous performance venues, botanical gardens, hiking trails, and so much more. While you could easily spend more than a day experiencing all that Balboa Park has to offer, you’ll have to be a bit selective during your perfect day in San Diego.

Some of Balboa Park’s top attractions include:

  • San Diego Zoo
  • Fleet Science Center
  • San Diego Art Institute
  • Cabrillo Bridge
  • Japanese Friendship Garden
  • Zoro Garden
  • Starlight Bowl

Select the Balboa activity, museum, or attraction that sparks your interest and visit it!

Distant ground view of California Tower and The Old Globe in Balboa Park on a sunny day in San Diego, California, USAHotel del Coronado

For dinner, make reservations at one of the many restaurants at the Hotel del Coronado. Due to the history and popularity of this iconic San Diego hotel, it is best to make your dining reservations as far in advance as possible.

Restaurants at the Hotel del Coronado include:

  • 1500 Ocean
  • Sheerwater
  • ENO
  • Sun Deck
  • Babcock & Story Bar
  • Sunset Bar

The famous hotel also hosts a wide range of activities including shopping, a spa, events, and more. If you have the time before or after your dinner reservation, walk around the hotel and take in its magnitude.

Exterior ground view of Hotel del Coronado along sandy beach in San Diego, California, USA

photo credit: Hotel del Coronado (1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA) via Facebook

Gaslamp Quarter

End your perfect day in San Diego at Gaslamp Quarter. Gaslamp Quarter is San Diego’s nightlife capital filled with restaurants, art galleries, clubs, bars, and so much more. Some of the most popular bars in the neighborhood include:

  • Barleymash
  • Prohibition
  • La Puerta
  • The Tipsy Crow
  • Gaslamp Tavern

With so much to do and see in Gaslamp Quarter, there’s no better place to end a day in San Diego.

What Does Your Perfect Day in San Diego Look Like?

If you were to spend one day in San Diego, what would you do? Let us know by commenting below!

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