A Day Trip to San Diego from Orange County

This is a mini itinerary for my day trip to San Diego itinerary, the southernmost city in California — known for its great weather, coastline and beaches, and slower pace of life.

Getting to San Diego

I love a good road trip!

San Diego is as far south as you can go in California before hitting the Mexican border. Fun fact: Tijuana is only 20 miles away from San Diego. At the time of the trip, I was doing a month living in Orange County. The drive from Orange County to San Diego was about 1.5 hours. If you are coming from Los Angeles, it would take approximately 2-2.5 hours, depending on the time of day and traffic conditions. It can easily be a worthy day trip from Los Angeles.

We got in the car, grabbed our coffees to go, and then we were off to San Diego!

Start the Day in La Jolla

La Jolla was the first thing that came to mind when I started to think about planning a day trip to San Diego. It was on the top of my list for visiting San Diego. I was simply taken by the idyllic scenery of the neighborhood. This seaside town is known for its beautiful beaches, sea lion + seals sightings and some good food. Not to mention, the coastal community is just super aesthetic. I came with two items on my must-do list: explore La Jolla Cove and try Harumama. I left everything else up in the air for the day.

Lunch at Harumama (La Jolla)

Adorably cute bao buns at Harumama San Diego

I can’t remember where I first saw a photo of these cuties, but I immediately looked up Harumama’s menu and bookmarked it. There are currently 5 locations in California, 3 in the city of San Diego, including the one in La Jolla, which shares the space with Blue Ocean. If you are in the mood for some great sushi and Asian comfort food, this is fantastic option where you can order from both notable restaurants from your table.

We ended up ordering an assortment of their character bao buns, each with different kind of fillings. I believe they also have seasonal characters, depending on the holidays and such. For appetizer, we ordered the Screaming Yellowtail, as per our server’s recommendation. He definitely did not steer us wrong! It was full of umami flavor.

Screaming Yellowtail appetizer at Harumama San Diego

I also need to mention the view from our table was right over La Jolla Cove! It gave us a little sneak peak of the day to come.

Stopped by La Valencia Hotel

After lunch, we started to walk over to the cove. These iconic pink hued buildings stopped me in my tracks and we had to spend some time exploring the grounds. I couldn’t resist such an aesthetic photo worthy location!

Exploring La Jolla Cove

Iconic rugged coast of La Jolla Cove

Here’s the main attraction for me on this day trip to San Diego! La Jolla Cove is absolutely scenic with the rugged coastline, abundant marine wildlife and gorgeous cerulean waters. As an East Coast city girl, these kind of beaches and shores really excite me. Plus, sea all the sea lions and seals this close would excite any animal lover, young or old!

They say that seals are basically ocean puppies. If you respect their space and observe from a distance, you can witness how playful these guys really are. Others could not be bothered at all. I saw one laying on the rocks, taking a little siesta. It took one look at me and went straight back to its nap.

I highly recommend adding La Jolla Cove to your day trip to San Diego itinerary!

Heading into the Downtown San Diego

We drove closer to the downtown area in search for our next point of interest (food). The drive is very scenic and photo-worthy since you can see the city skyline of all the high-rise building. It’s also great way to spend the rest of the afternoon in San Diego. Get out of the car, talk a walk alone the water and snap some photos for the memories.

Ironside for Seafood Dinner in Little Italy, San Diego

I found Ironside Fish & Oyster place on Yelp and it had amazing reviews. As a certified seafood lover, I just had to try it out. It’s no secret that my friends and I love doing oyster happy hours back on the east coast, so I had to also give it a go here on the west coast.

Ironside is in the neighborhood of Little Italy. We got a table outside to enjoy the last hours of sunshine and be in the middle of it all. I love sitting and people watching back home. You can feel the energy of the city this way. I felt like I was having a meal back home in NYC on this bustling street.

As for our food selections, I felt we needed to try some west coast oysters, clam chowder fries, clam chowder (lol), lobster roll and the local catch at the time. Food and vibe was a 10/10.

Having seafood when visiting a coastal city was the perfect ending to my first day trip to San Diego. I feel like it totally goes hand-in-hand, as we do when visiting the Hamptons in the summer and even when going up to the Northeastern coastal cities for lobster bakes and such!

We intentionally didn’t fill our itinerary up with too many things to do because we didn’t want to feel too rushed. We moved rather slowly and casual on this day trip to San Diego. It’s a great destination for a relaxing getaway. Something about sunshine and being by the beaches makes me want to pause more often and take in the moment.

Next time I am taking a day trip to San Diego, I definitely want to do more things, like visiting the gorgeous Balboa Park.

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