Sunset and surfer on Cardiff State Beach

Judi Travel Caricature I already told you about my fun and relaxing weekend at Hilton Grand Vacations at MarBrisa in Carlsbad, California. Now I’m going to share details about the second half of my vacation in sunny San Diego. My sister N (who was my traveling companion) and I had such an amazing time. It was sunny every day and a perfect 70 -75 degrees.

Solana Beach

We spent the second part of our San Diego vacation in Solana Beach

Picture-perfect cottage in Solana Beach

“This cottage is so adorable,” said N. “I feel like I’m in that film, The Holiday,” I replied. We thought we had landed on a movie set when we arrived at our AirBnb rental. The decor was comfy chic with a fluffy white pillow couch in the living room and a fully equipped  kitchen with beautiful tiled counters. It had a loft with a king-size bed and an extra dressing room downstairs right by the bathroom. Shaz, the owner, allowed us to use the backyard and offered us use of the hot tub and pool too. An on-site parking space was included, which is very important when you rent a place in Solana Beach, or any San Diego beach community. There really isn’t any on street parking in these neighborhoods.

Solana Beach Airbnb Cottage

Our picture-perfect AirBnb rental

Solana Beach is about 20 minutes from Carlsbad and 30 minutes into downtown San Diego. There are many pluses to this beach town including beautiful beaches along the coast and the hip and cool Design District on Cedros Avenue.

A fun day at the San Diego Zoo

We spent Tuesday at the famous San Diego Zoo. The Zoo is located in downtown San Diego in a section of Balboa Park. (I’ll tell you more about the entire Balboa Park in an upcoming blog post when I share highlights from our Balboa Park Tour.)

Gorilla statue at San Diego Zoo

A warm welcome from the gorillas at the San Diego Zoo

The Zoo is home to over 12,000 rare and endangered animals, representing more than 650 species and sub-species. The Zoo is also an accredited botanical garden, with more than 700,000 individual plants.

Our senior discount tickets at $25 per person were well worth the price. N and I opted out of the free trams and buses and walked the park instead. We hiked up and down the streets navigating our way around the 100-acres of wildlife. We saw Urban Jungle with the rhinos and giraffes, Africa Rocks with the baboons and Elephant Odyssey, where we watched the elephants parade their trunks. We visited Outback where the koala bears hang out. Ooh,ooh, ooh, koalas are my favorite.

Koala Bear at San Diego Zoo

The Koala Bears were my favorite animal at the San Diego Zoo

There were some steep hills to climb and bridges to cross to get to Lost Forest where the tigers roam and the hippos play. We strolled along Treetops Way to view the gorillas and marvel at the birds in Parker and Owens Aviary.

After 2.5 hours our legs were weary and our bodies tired. We headed for the car only to end up walking almost the entire parking lot to find our auto. The lot had been empty when we arrived early in the morning and now it was so full that parking lot 1 seemed to go on forever. “Where did we park?” I said to N as I surveyed the entire lot. Finally we found our car. Word to future zoo-goers, make sure you know exactly where you park your car. Lot 1 is much larger then it appears.

An awe-inspiring visit to picturesque La Jolla

The end of the week we drove about 30 minutes down the coast to La Jolla, a San Diego jewel with one of the most unique locations in all of San Diego County. La Jolla is situated on a seven-mile stretch along the Pacific with breathtaking panoramic ocean views.

Seals in La Jolla Cove

I could sit and watch the seals at La Jolla Cove all day

While there are posh boutiques in the Village of La Jolla (and fine dining establishments) after a quick stop in and out of a few of the shops, N and I headed to La Jolla Cove to watch sea lions and seals in their natural habitat. It was fascinating to see these creatures wriggle in and out of the water and hear their barks as they swam around and climbed on the jetty. Several times they came quite close to humans who were swimming at Cove Beach.

The best part about this area in La Jolla is that you can sit there all morning or afternoon and be entertained and it’s absolutely free. As the tourism website says: “The simple beauty of La Jolla’s natural landscape is one of its main attractions. Definitely a “must see” on any vacation to San Diego.

View of ocean in La Jolla

Magnificent views were all around us in La Jolla

Cruising down California’s Highway 101

Beyond La Jolla, there are many more breathtaking beaches along Highway 101 on the San Diego coast.

If you’re a beach lover like me, you’ll want to make a stop at Swami Beach, where all the hip and cool surfers go. Sitting atop the mountains it’s fun to look down the reef and watch experienced surfers catch the waves as they attempt balancing acts on their boards. Swami Beach is internationally known and located in Encinitas, another coastal beach town right next to Solana.

Sunset and surfer on Cardiff State Beach

Sunsets and surfers on Cardiff State Beach

On our last day N and I went to Cardiff State Beach to relax and take in the ocean views. It was a beautiful beach as well and within walking distance (a long walk) by our cottage. We went back at dusk to watch the sunset. Wow-o-wow, what a way to end a week of vacation in San Diego. I’ve gazed at quite a few sunsets during my travels around the world and would rank San Diego sunsets on the top of my “best-ever” list.

The beaches are free except for parking, so definitely partake in these attractions while you’re on vacation in sunny San Diego.

More to come…

There’s more to share about my San Diego vacation week. Coming soon: I’ll tell you about our fantastic tour of Balboa Park and in a separate post I’ll preview all the restaurants where we dined. For now, enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday. And if you need a break from busyness, maybe plan a trip to San Diego for 2022.