72 Hours of Places to Explore and Eat in San Diego

I’ve been to San Diego when I was younger but only went to Sea World so when my one of my best friends decided to have her bachelorette party in San Diego, I was very excited. I know there were a lot of places that I didn’t get to see and food that I didn’t eat so this is my 72 hours in San Diego itinerary.

San Diego Zoo

As an animal and panda lover, the San Diego Zoo has been on my list for years. San Diego Zoo has over 12,000 animals with 650 different species located inside Balboa Park. When I got to the zoo, I looked for pandas on the map, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. After a quick google, I found out the two pandas were sent back to China back in 2019 after a 20-year loan. It was a big disappointment, but overall there are a lot of different animals to see. They also have a lot of shade which was great when it’s 70s/80s degrees outside.

Rating: 7.5/10.0
What Have I Learned: San Diego Zoo has an app so you can follow the preset walking paths or find directions to your favorite animal easily.
Cost: 62 USD
Hour: Mon to Sun: 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM

La Jolla

La Jolla is a seaside community known for its beaches. There are beaches where you can surf, areas to sunbathe, and there’s even a beach just for seals. We walked the trail along the coast and passed by a few beautiful beaches, cliffs, beach houses, and more. My favorite part was watching all the seals living their best life at the beach. We only stay for a bit, but I did get to go back two days later when my husband met up with me to start our two-week Cali road trip.

Rating: 8.0/10.0
What Have I Learned: A 10 USD tour at the Cave store will allow you to walk down the stairs to Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave. Hours: Mon to Sun: 9 AM to 5 PM
Cost: FREE
Hour: Open 24 Hours

Balboa Park

This 1,200-acre park has several gardens, museums, theaters, and the San Diego Zoo. We took about 30 minutes to 1 hour to walk around the Old Globe, Plaza De Panama, and Botanical Gardens Building area. There are other places to check out such as the San Diego Museum of Man, San Diego Automotive Museum, San Diego Air and Space Museum, Japanese Friendship Garden, Museum of Art, Speckels Organ Pavilion, and Fleet Science Center.

Rating: 7.5/10.0
What Have I Learned: The Botanical gardens building is a 7-minute walk from the San Diego zoo so I would combine the zoo and Balboa park into a one-day itinerary. You can pack a lunch before heading to the park or just eat at the park to avoid traveling back and forth.
Cost: FREE
Hour: Open 24 Hours


Gaslamp Quarters – This neighborhood is known for its nightlife where you have endless options of dive bars, lounges, and clubs. The first night I came here, I was surprised by how packed the bars and streets were on a Friday night even with the increase of delta variant cases. We walked down the busy 5th Avenue (closed to cars) and ended up at a table outside at Henry’s Pub for the night.

Little Italy – This place is packed with great bars, cafes, and restaurants. We stopped by Ballast Point Brewing Little Italy to tried a few of their beers but due to its proximity to the airport, you may hear multiple planes fly by. Little Italy Mercato Farmers’ Market also occurs every Sat from 8 AM to 2 PM and Wed from 9:30 AM to 1:30 PM. You can find everything from fresh produce, pastured eggs, poultry, meat, nuts, honey, fish, olive oil, bread, sauces, and more.

Old Town – This town is where the first European settled in California which makes it the oldest settled area and the birthplace of California. You can find numerous restaurants, shops, and even one of the most haunted houses in America, the Whaley House. Old Town State Historical Park has multiple historic buildings dating from the 19th century. Some exhibits to see while you’re in the park are Steeley Stable and Livery, The Colorado House, the Wells Fargo Museum, and even a stand that gives one free fresh tortilla per person (they do ask you to tip).

USS Midway Museum – It is a longest-serving historical naval aircraft carrier museum that carries 29 restored aircraft. Admission also includes a self-guided audio tour. You can walk through and see everything from the kitchen to the engine room to where everyone sleeps and more.
Cost: 26 USD Adult
Hours: Mon to Sun: 10 AM to 5 PM

Sunset Cliffs Cave – You won’t believe this is in California. I wish I knew about this place before I went to San Diego. If you do go, please make sure to check for negative numbers in the tide schedule here. It’s important to do your research because it can be dangerous if the tide is too high or if it comes in quickly while you’re in the cave. It’s also not easy to get to the cave according to others so do plan to get wet even if it’s negative tide.


The Taco Stand ($) – Our first food stop was this taco chain in San Diego. They have multiple locations in San Diego and there was one about a 5-minute walk from our hotel. I ordered 3 tacos (al pastor (2.99 USD), carne asada (3.79 USD) & grilled pescado (3.69 USD)) and shared carne asada fries (8.89 USD)with 3 other girls. I finished my tacos but we barely ate half of the fries. I recommend the carne asada fries and baja taco (2.99 USD) with the chipotle sauce.
Rating: 7.8/10.0
Hours: Sun to Thur: 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM/Fri to Sat: 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM

Barbusa ($$) – This restaurant has over 2,000 reviews and 4 stars on Yelp. Luckily, we were able to easily make a reservation for 10 because the place was packed at 8:30 PM. We were seated right away and another best friend, Susie, and I decided to order two dishes to share. We originally wanted to order their two most famous dishes, Granchio (25.93 USD, with soft shell crab) and Gnocchi (17.97 USD, with pistachio pesto sauce), but the waiter told us they were out of the Granchio so we ended up ordering the Gnocchi and Aragosta (25.92 USD, with lobster and clams pieces). They were also out of a bunch of other dishes so go to this restaurant early. The Gnocchi with the pistachio pesto sauce is a must-try but you can skip the Aragosta.
Rating: 7.8/10.0
Hours: Mon to Fri: 4:00 PM to 10:00 PM/Sat to Sun: 11:30 AM to 11:00 PM

Shorehouse Kitchen ($$) – You can join their waitlist on Yelp when you are nearby so you don’t have to wait as long. I love their Angus Short Rib & Hash Brown Potato Cakes(15.25 USD) and Mango Pancakes with Housemade Granola & Guava Syrup (Short Stash (2) – 12 USD). The rest of the bridal party also liked their salad if you’re looking to order something lighter but keep in mind the salad is huge.
Rating: 8.5/10.0
Hours: Mon to Sun: 7:30 AM to 2:30 PM

The Blind Burrito – This was the last dinner I had with the girls in San Diego. We started the trip with tacos and ended the trip with more tacos. I ended up swapping one of my carne asada taco (17 USD for 2 tacos) for one of Susie’s battered fish taco (18 USD for 2 tacos). Why have one taco when you can try two, right? The tacos were okay but if you’re part of a large party, this restaurant is huge and easy to make a reservation. We did love their Strawberry Smash drink and churros so I would go there for drinks and some bar food.
Rating: 6.8/10.0
Hours: Sun to Thur: 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM/Fri: 11:00 AM to 12:00 AM/Sat: 10:00 AM to 12:00 AM

Kuma Cafe – Most of the girls from the bridal party needed their morning coffee so they chose this spot to get a quick breakfast sandwich and coffee/tea. I didn’t get any drink but I did order a ham, egg, and cheese sandwich. I am not sure if I was hungry or what but their freshly pressed hot sandwich hit the spot. I think the bride had two of their ice coffee that morning so I take it she was a fan of their coffee.
Rating: 8.0/10.0
Hours: Mon to Fri: 7:30 AM to 3:00 PM

Phil’s BBQ – The only thing you need to order from this restaurant is their beef ribs. Their beef ribs were flavorful and juicy. I think I paid over $30 for one beef rib in NYC and they’re charging $34.49 for the full beef rib only (5 bones). Their ribs are a tad smaller compared to the NY one but you can’t get a better deal than this. I would skip the onion ring (over fried) and El Toro (super dried).
Rating: 8.0/10.0
Hours: Sun to Thur: 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM/Fri to Sat: 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM

Puesto – If you plan to go to this restaurant, make sure to try their guacamole & chip and frozen horchata (5 USD). You can make it a Horchata Loca with Real McCoy 5yr rum (15 USD). I was looking forward to try their famous filet mignon taco but sadly all the tacos we ordered were super salty.
Rating: 6.0/10.0
Hours: Sun to Thur: 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM/Fri to Sat: 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM

Werewolf – We arrived before it got crowded so service was good and food came quick. We loved the Pork Belly Benedict and Chicken Fried Steak. The benedict comes with a potato cake instead of bread which was different in a good way. I love pork belly and am surprised that this might be my first pork belly benedict.
Rating: 8.2/10.0
Hours: Sun to Thur: 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM/Fri to Sat: 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM


How many days do you need in San Diego? 2 to 3 days
How long did it take to get to San Diego? 5-hour flight from New York City (JFK)
Where did you stay? Hotel Republic San Diego (8.0/10.0) – Rooms was clean and spacious. 10 to 20 minutes walk to Gaslamp Quarter and Little Italy. Just avoid walking by the San Diego County Jail (2 to 3 blocks away from hotel).
Is San Diego expensive? $$
When did you go to San Diego? July 2021

  1. Very happy to read the start of your California series! San Diego is considered a great city in my home state, and I’m glad you got to enjoy a piece of it. La Jolla is beautiful, and I’d also recommend Torrey Pines in that area for hikes with views of the beach from below. San Diego is also famous for its fish tacos, and Oscar’s is a beloved chain that I’d recommend. Glad to see you had fun, and I look forward to the rest of your California series, should you publish more!


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