Hidden Gems: San Diego Travel Guide

So pumped to have Mariah from Food, Booze and Baggage here with a guide to sunny San Diego! So jealous of that sunshine right now… 

Hidden Gems: San Diego Travel Guide // Feast + West

I’m still a newbie to San Diego, having lived here just over a year, but I have made it my mission to eat, drink and experience all that San Diego has to offer. And it has a ton to offer — you name it and you are bound to find it here. San Diego offers adventures from the mountains to the sea, and plenty of sunshine and mild temps to make the outdoors inviting year around.

Hidden Gems: San Diego Travel Guide // Feast + West
La Jolla Cove

San Diego is the craft beer capital of the west, boasting over 100 local breweries, so after your fun in the sun it’s not far to a refreshing beverage. With all it has to offer and the laid-back vibe, it’s easy to see why so many people say, “once you move to San Diego you don’t leave”.

Click through to see Mariah’s San Diego hidden gems!

Hidden Gems: San Diego Travel Guide // Feast + West
Nomad Donuts
Hidden Gems: San Diego Travel Guide // Feast + West
Dark Horse Coffee
Hidden Gems: San Diego Travel Guide // Feast + West
Polite Provisions


San Diego has no shortage of great places to eat and drink. I’m constantly adding new places to my must try list. I feel like I’m reading about a new restaurant opening every week! Here are a few of my favorites, I tried to share a few that are not going to show up on the best of list, but are certainly “hidden gems.” This category was hard to narrow down.

A great way to start off your day is at Bean Bar. This East Village spot boasts some of the smoothest coffee in town. Make sure to ask about their seasonal lattes, while not advertised, they are available and they are amazing.

For locally roasted beans stop by Dark Horse, our personal go-to spot for whole beans, they offer two locations, North Park and Normal Heights.

Want a sweet treat to start your day? Nomad Donuts is a must! This is not your typical donut shop, they offer a unique menu that changes daily (except Tuesdays, they are totally closed).

Hidden Gems: San Diego Travel Guide // Feast + West
Shoreline Kitchen

For a more relaxed start to your morning, brunch is HUGE in San Diego. We are a brunch it up kind of town. Some of my favorite spots:

  • WhiskNLadle in La Jolla. I’ve loved everything I’ve tried on their menu and make sure to check out their cocktails. They have my favorite Michelada in town and other yummy creations.
  • Urban Solace in North Park. Two words, cinnamon bun, just get it.
  • Shoreline Kitchen in La Jolla. The best orange juice in town, just go ahead and order the liter. One of the dishes we keep ordering over and over is the Crispy Parmesan Risotto & Honey Cured Bacon Benedict, the name really says it all.
Hidden Gems: San Diego Travel Guide // Feast + West
Hidden Gems: San Diego Travel Guide // Feast + West
Cantina Mayahuel

For later day bites and evening adventures try:

  • Ironside in Little Italy. While the lobster roll and oysters shine, this is actually my favorite spot for cocktails. Hands down the best cocktails in town. Squeeze in early afternoon to grab a cocktail and take advantage of their $1 oyster happy hour from 4-6.
  • Juniper & Ivy is not a hidden gem, but had to go on my list. This is Chef Richard Blais’ (Top Chef) San Diego restaurant, and has an interesting menu and lovely decor. Request a seat at the chef bar to watch the action.
  • Cantina Mayahuel is the true hidden gem of my list, it’s a very small, hole in the wall, Mexican cantina tucked away on Adams Ave. The tacos are AMAZING as well as the pinto beans (yes pinto beans). If you can’t get a table, you can always go across the street to Polite Provisions for a cocktail, and check back. Don’t want to wait, try at Jaynes. It happens to be across the street from Polite Provisions too, just on the other side. Jaynes describes themselves as a gastropub, but it’s not bar food or atmosphere. High quality homey dishes in a relaxed setting.
Hidden Gems: San Diego Travel Guide // Feast + West
Tiger! Tiger!
Hidden Gems: San Diego Travel Guide // Feast + West
Duck Foot Brewing

As I mentioned San Diego is the mecca of craft beer on the West coast. We boast many big name breweries such as Green Flash, Stone, and Ballast Point, but have so many other lesser known breweries that should not be missed either. My recommendations are:

To try a great selection of local brews without having to brewery hop, head to:

Hidden Gems: San Diego Travel Guide // Feast + West
Balboa Park


While I personally could spend a good day in San Diego on a bar stool, you should get out and soak up some of that wonderful California Vitamin D.

Balboa Park. If you google San Diego tourist attraction this is going to be at the top of the list, and there is a reason for that. It’s huge and there is tons to do, the park contains over 10 museums, the zoo, multiple gardens, and miles of space to wander around. Brave the crowds and at least take a walk through the rose and cactus garden.

Torrey Pines State Reserve. Get a little hiking in with a beautiful view of the ocean. I recommend the Guy Fleming Trail for a more leisurely walk or the Perry Grove Trail for a bit more of a workout.

San Diego Beer Week. Did I mention that San Diego is all about the beer? If you are too, then scheduling your trip around San Diego Beer Week (November) will make all your beer nerd dreams come true. I would 110% recommend getting tickets to the Beer Garden Event, it is amazing.

It’s super hard not to be drawn into the outdoor culture of San Diego, don’t fight it, just go for it and try out kayaking or paddleboarding.There are TONS of providers to get you out on the water and enjoying the SoCal lifestyle. Everyday California provided us a great kayaking experience and I had a ton of fun trying out paddleboard yoga with San Diego Paddle Yoga.

Hidden Gems: San Diego Travel Guide // Feast + West
La Jolla

If you take my recommendation for brunch at WhiskNLadle you should walk off those calories and say hi to the sea lions, by taking a stroll along La Jolla Cove. To cool off after, head to Bobboi for some of the best gelato ever. The coconut is my go-to flavor.

To really sink your toes into the sand, head over to Coronado. The beach at Coronado is wide and clean, plus plenty of free parking.

If you are here in San Diego during baseball season, think about taking in a Padres game at Petco Park. The park is newly built and beautiful. Great beer and food will make this an enjoyable outing, even if you are not that into baseball.

Hidden Gems: San Diego Travel Guide // Feast + West
Coronado Beach


Pigment.  A store with everything you want but nothing you need. Need your own succulent garden? Brass jigger? It’s basically like Instagram explored in the store 🙂

Head to the South Park area and take a little shopping stroll.  Graffiti Beach is always one of my stops. After your shopping adventure stop into Eclipse Chocolate and treat yo’self with a relaxing hot chocolate or buy a few of their unique chocolate bars to take with you.

Simply Local, as the name implies its focus is on local, featuring over 55 local brands/artists, from food items to clothing, and tons in between.

I like cheese, and if you do too then make sure to add Venissimo Cheese Shop to your tour of San Diego, they have multiple locations and offer samples!

San Diego has a ton of Farmers Markets and you can find one almost any day of the week. My personal recommendations are Little Italy on Saturdays or Hillcrest on Sundays. Both not only have a variety of vendors, they also host a number of varied and yummy prepared food vendors/trucks.

Hidden Gems: San Diego Travel Guide // Feast + West
Cuyamaca State Park
Hidden Gems: San Diego Travel Guide // Feast + West
The drive to Julian


Head towards the mountains, and take a drive up to Julian. The hour and a half drive in my opinion is better than the destination. Julian is fairly touristy but the drive is beautiful and the pie is pretty good once you get there. You could make the trip shorter and stop off in Cuyamaca State Park for some pretty amazing hiking. There are more than 10 trails to choose from of various distances and difficulties. This is one of our favorite places to head for a hike.

Or head to the desert and take a trip to Palm Springs. Palm Springs is about a two and a half hour drive to three hours, depending on traffic. It’s very retro, and can be laid-back or party central depending on when and where you go. Pack your swimsuits!

Are you burned out on beer (I’ll pretend you didn’t say that) and looking for some California wine. Head about an hour north to Temecula. Temecula has over 30 wineries to explore!

Mariah Tompkinson MARIAH TOMKINSON // hg-facebook hg-facebook hg-instagram  hg-pinterest

Mariah is the voice behind Food, Booze, & Baggage, where she blogs about life adventures, most of them eating and drinking related. She also writes about choosing to be childfree, trying to live a greener/less toxic life, beer and anything else that pops into her head. She is currently exploring all that San Diego has to offer along with P (the husband), Sam (the dog), and Eddie (the cat). Though Eddie doesn’t leave the house much. 🙂


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  1. Erika says

    I have got to make it down to San Diego for a brewery tour one of these days. There seem to be so many great local beers down there!

  2. April Yap says

    remember when my dad bought me one of the best donuts in the world and biscotti from Nomad Donuts last month.
    He also tell me about their menu that changes everyday. This is so interesting!

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