Hidden Gems in San Diego: The Ultimate Guide to the Best Secret Spots

For the curious and the adventurous, there is no shortage of San Diego hidden treasures to discover.

Follow along as we do a deep dive into San Diego’s best-kept secrets!

When searching for top attractions in San Diego, you’ll typically find lists highlighting Southern California’s most loved experiences! However, for people who want to venture onto roads less traveled, we recommend taking a look at the best secret spots in San Diego.

These San Diego hidden places are not typically found in lists of San Diego’s top attractions. But that doesn’t mean they’re not worth seeing; it just means you may have the place to yourself! 

Read on to discover the best San Diego hidden gems!

9 San Diego Hidden Gems You Don’t Want to Miss

Black’s Beach in La Jolla

A visit to San Diego isn’t complete without checking out the city’s beautiful beaches! Black’s Beach is not typically found in a list of San Diego’s most popular beaches. However, black’s Beach in La Jolla is one of San Diego’s best-kept secrets.

Related Post: Upcoming San Diego Events and Festivals 

Looking for hidden beaches San Diego? You’re in luck! It is tucked away and is mainly secluded aside from the locals who hang out here to appreciate the beautiful rocky La Jolla coastline. Feel free to surf, lounge, or, if you feel extra confident, join the nudists at the clothing-optional area.

Fun Fact: Don’t miss out on the nearby SS Monte Carlo shipwreck!

photo credit: Anthony Ghiglia Photography via Facebook

Sunny Jim Sea Cave (La Jolla Sea Caves)

San Diego has some of Southern California’s most beautiful beaches and hidden getaways. And while San Diego’s beaches are worth a visit, discovering the city’s secret sea caves are a must too! Adventurers who venture into the La Jolla Sea Caves will find that Sunny Jim Sea Cave is one of the most stunning. 

Climb down over 140 steps that head straight down to the alluring La Jolla sea. For budding photographers, the cave opening and the tunnel on the way provide stunning photo opportunities.

Get to the La Jolla Cove Sea Cave by beginning your journey at the Cave Store.

photo credit: Shalika Weerasingha via Facebook

La Jolla Secret Swings + Hidden Bench

There is at least one hidden swing in La Jolla, but if you ask the locals who put them up, no one can tell you the answer! San Diego swings are not just a charming photo opportunity; they are also some of the best hidden spots to get breathtaking views of the La Jolla shore.

Related Post: 18 Activities That Should Be On Your San Diego Bucket List

The La Jolla hidden bench, meanwhile, is perfect for two! So settle down with a loved one as you wait for the most epic sunset view.

To find the hidden swing, park in the Birch Aquarium parking lot and follow the small trail that begins from the rear of the parking lot. You’ll cross over a small bridge and continue along the path until the swing comes into view.

photo credit: Secret Swings of La Jolla via Facebook

Liberty Station

Of the San Diego hidden gems on our list, Liberty Station may be the most inclusive! This complex has everything from restaurants to art installations, hotels to spas. What was once a Naval Training Center has transformed into an arts and entertainment district.

Related Post: 7 San Diego Landmarks You Can’t-Miss

As you browse the area, keep an eye out for glimpses of San Diego’s past! Those interested in the center’s history can also take an interactive walking tour to learn more.

photo credit: Liberty Station via Facebook

Encinitas Meditation Gardens

One of the best San Diego hidden gems allows you to take a step back, breathe deeply, and relax.

The Meditation Gardens at the Encinitas Temple are a tranquil oasis open to the public. This renowned garden offers the public access to koi ponds, secret hideaways, ocean vistas, and more, all with the goal of meditation and relaxation.

You’ll find this secret spot at 215 W. K Street (between 2nd and 3rd Streets). Please keep in mind the gardens are closed on Mondays.

Psst.. If you love gardens, don’t forget to swing by Balboa Park. It’s not a secret, but it is well worth the crowds!

photo credit: Rachel Kohler via Facebook

Harper’s Topiary Garden

Plant lovers! This stop is for you! Harper’s Topiary Garden proves that even regular houses can be the home of the most amazing gardens with the green thumb of committed gardening experts.

Related Post: A Weekend in San Diego: How to Plan the Perfect Trip

This garden, located in the Mission Hills neighborhood of America’s finest city, is one of the most unique places in San Diego. The sculptures are constantly evolving and make for a good photo opportunity! 

photo credit: Hidden San Diego via Facebook

Swami’s State Beach

For curious travelers, Swami’s State Beach is a prime destination. At low tide, explorers can see everything from starfish to octopus and lobster. Due to the abundance of marine life, the beach is included in the 12.65-square mile Swami’s State Marine Conservation Area. 

Related Post: 12 Best Tide Pools in San Diego

Plus, the beach is considered a world-renowned surfing destination due to the size and frequency of the waves. Try to visit in the off-season for fewer crowds. This is a hot spot for local residents and they know all the best places to hang out. 

Pro Tip: While the beach isn’t one of the top San Diego beaches, it still can get quite crowded during peak beach seasons. Arrive early in the day or later in the afternoon to avoid crowds. 

Wide shot of Swami State Beach covered in shells on a sunny day in San Diego, California, USA
photo credit: Helen Quail via Facebook

Scripps Coastal Meander (Scripps Pier Sunset Alignment)

Twice a year, something magical happens in the city and creates one of the top San Diego hidden gems for travelers, photographers, and nature lovers. If you organize your trip just right, you may have the chance to witness the Scripps Pier sunset alignment.

This phenomenon happens only two times each year and naturally creates a window of sorts to the sunset. For many travelers, it’s a San Diego bucket list item!

Psst.. need a little help keeping the kiddos engaged? Check out this free Old Town Sam Diego scavenger hunt!

photo credit: UC San Diego via Facebook

Spruce Street Suspension Bridge

If you’re up for a quick adventure and aren’t afraid of heights, check out the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge. Also known as Japanese suspension bridge La Lolla. This bridge was built in 1912 and connects Fourth and Fifth Avenues and the surrounding neighborhoods over a massive canyon.

Those who enjoy hiking can also explore the canyon below. This scenic spot offers a great travel story, incredible views, and a bunch of fun. If unique bridges are your style, be sure to swing by the musical bridge on 25th street!

Craving more time outdoors? Check out our In-Depth Guide to the Best Hikes in San Diego!

photo credit: Secret San Diego via Facebook

Tips for Visiting San Diego’s Secret Spots

Know Where You’re Going

The secret spots in San Diego are rightfully coined. Many of them are so hidden that it’s difficult to spot for those unfamiliar with the county subdivisions in San Diego. Be sure to map out where you’re going to save time on your hunt for hidden spots San Diego.

Related Post: San Diego Nightlife: Local Bars by Neighborhood

Plan Transportation Modes

Unlike Gaslamp Quarter, some of the hidden gems in San Diego cannot be reached via bus or trolley. Without your own vehicle, the best mode of transportation is ride-sharing apps like Uber or Lyft. Especially if you find yourself driving a couple of hours to see the Coronado Sand Dunes. 

Check out Everything You Need to Know About How to Get Around San Diego and discover what you need to know before you go!

View of a surfer walking through the rocks at False Point La Jolla in San Diego, California, USA
photo credit: Arne De via Facebook

Pack Appropriately

Depending on which hidden San Diego gems you choose to discover, you may need to pack different items. For instance, if you’re heading to the beach, pack a picnic, sunscreen, and other beach essentials! If you are partaking in guided tours, you’ll need comfortable shoes!

Related Post: What to Pack for San Diego: The Ultimate List

Packages For Your Hidden Getaways in Southern California

With time on your hands and if you plan your vacation just right, it’s possible to visit several of San Diego’s top attractions and San Diego secret spots. Plan ahead with San Diego Vacation Packages on Tripster.

Get discount tickets to the attractions you want to visit as well as discounted rates for your choice of hotel.

Where is Your Favorite San Diego Hidden Gem?

Did we miss any of the best San Diego hidden treasures? Leave us a comment below!

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Written by Nicole King

There are only two things that make Nicole really happy–books and travel! When her head’s not buried in a book, she’s most likely...

1 comment about “Hidden Gems in San Diego: The Ultimate Guide to the Best Secret Spots”

Phyllis M Cundiff

October 24, 2022 at 7:33 am

My husband and I recently visited San Diego to see family. I did not want to be a tourist so we opted for more natural surroundings and activities. We were able to take in the best vacation sites we had ever experienced: 3 hikes, a visit to Torrey Pines Beach, a trip to the LA Brea tar pits, a science center near Cardiff by the Sea, a play( and Henri’s), Thai and Vietnamese eateries, and a trip to the outside bar /beach at Coronada. Oh. and Midway complete with a navy pilot explanation of landing and the 30 min video about the battle of Midway made the trip complete.

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