For discerning travelers looking for a long weekend escape, San Diego offers just the right mix of luxury resorts, an innovative food scene, perfect beaches, and rich cultural experiences. Because the city has such a temperate climate, it practically begs visitors to get outside. This 4-day itinerary offers suggestions for what to do and where to go, but also allows time for travel improvisation.
There are two picturesque luxury hotels for you to choose from: the Hotel del Coronado on Coronado Island, or the Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, north of San Diego. Both offer outstanding access to the Pacific Ocean, top-notch dining experiences, and numerous outdoor activities. The Hotel del Coronado first opened in 1888, and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1977. Today rooms across various buildings are modern and luxurious. At La Jolla’s Lodge at Torrey Pines, the design is Craftsman-style and guests enjoy priority tee times on the world-renowned golf course.
After unpacking and strolling around the grounds of your hotel, head to Balboa Park, San Diego’s 1,200-acre urban park. There are 17 museums and cultural institutions here, in addition to numerous gardens and walking trails. Take a private tour with the Balboa Park Conservancy. Afterwards, grab a cup of tea and a seat on the patio of the Tea Pavilion at the Japanese Friendship Garden.
Later that night, hit Juniper & Ivy, one of the city’s hottest restaurants. The Little Italy eatery is helmed by Richard Blais of Top Chef All Stars fame, and features American food with a twist. Don’t miss the semi-secret menu item, the In-N-Haute burger, made from a special blend of beef.
If you’re staying at the Hotel del Coronado, wake early for breakfast at the hotel and a walk along the beach. If you’re at the Lodge at Torrey Pines, get some early-morning exercise by taking a walk along the La Jolla bluffs. Then it’s time to return to Balboa Park for another day in paradise.
After the Botanical Building, head over to the San Diego Zoo—one of the largest and most renowned zoos in the country. On an “Inside Look Tour,” you’ll explore the zoo with a private guide, zipping from one habitat to another in the comfort of a golf cart. Depending on which tour you sign up for (Penguins and Friends; Elephants and Friends; Monkeys and Friends), the guide will take you behind the scenes at one of a handful of exhibits and give you access to parts of the zoo that other visitors don’t see (like the penguin beach and nesting area).
When the private tour is finished, continue exploring on your own. Take the Skyfari Aerial Tram from one side of the zoo to the other for a bird’s-eye view. Wander through the Africa Rocks! Exhibit, which opened in 2017 and is home to penguins, leopard sharks, velvet monkeys, lemurs, ibex, and meercats (to name a few).
Finish the day with dinner at Ironside Fish & Oyster, an innovative—and stunning—seafood restaurant and bar in Little Italy. Order cocktails and platters of shellfish to share.