Yeah, I’m a local San Diegan. I was born here. I grew up here. I know what’s up. I may love the tourism industry in my town, but my purpose for getting involved is to promote the real San Diego. The San Diego we locals know. That’s why I started a tour company called So (Soooo) Diego Tours. Here is a brief local’s guide to San Diego highlighting four of my favorite aspects of this city. You won’t find this information on any visitor’s guide, so read on!
1) Mexican Food
Downtown San Diego is not even 18 miles away from the Mexican border. That means I can drive my car into Mexico in just under 25 minutes! Mexican food, people and culture are all around us. I may be biased, but I believe we have the best Mexican food in the entire U.S., and the closer you get to the border, the better it gets.
Chula Vista: This neighborhood is the largest city within San Diego County, and is just south of Downtown. Don’t be surprised if you go to a Mexican restaurant here, and they start speaking to you in Spanish. The Mexican population supersedes any other demographic. You’ll find traditional Mexican restaurants, and my favorite ones are: Aqui es Texcoco (lamb barbacoa), Tacos el Gordo (originally from Tijuana, MX, and known for the carne asada street taco), and Mariscos German (Mexican Seafood).
You can also grab your passport and head south of the border to get lobster at Puerto Nuevo, a small lobster fishing town right on the water in Baja California, Mexico (45 minutes from Downtown, San Diego), or to the Food Garden in Tijuana: a food hall with different counters offering up an array of tasty treats.
2) Bathing Suit Shopping
San Diegans love the beach. We love to surf, fish, kayak, SUP, lay out in the sun, and work out on the Pacific. Bathing suits are a staple in every local’s closet, and some (myself being one) reserve a whole section of their closet to the necessary beachwear. Don’t waste your time heading to the mall or a department store to find the latest fashion in bathing suits—you’ll want to go to the beach. Mission and Pacific Beaches have great bathing suit shops for men and women. The best part is you can wear your new out the door and head straight for the beach! I love these stores: Pilar’s Beachwear, Gone Bananas, Sun Diego, Sun Splash Swimwear.
3) Sunset Watching
West Coast living provides us with incredible views of the sun sinking into the ocean at the end of the day. I’m not exaggerating when I say that watching the sunset in San Diego on a clear and sunny day (80% of the time) is the most remarkable and humbling experience you can have. There are so many colors, a gentle ocean breeze, and surfers, seagulls, and high cliffs to compliment the scene, and near perfect weather every day. And if you’re lucky, you may just catch the “Green Flash.” My favorite spots to watch the sunset are: Sunset Cliffs, Sun Deck Bar and Grill at The Hotel del Coronado, The Med at La Valencia, Tin Fish on the Imperial Beach Pier.
4) Dessert Eating
San Diegans are known for being fit, active, and loving kale, but a decadent dessert is in order every now and again. We take dessert pretty seriously, and I would hate for you to not indulge in at least one of these sweet spots. Donut Bar, The Baked Bear (ice cream sandwiches), Yogurtland, Extraordinary Desserts, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Chocolat (gelato and crepes), Gelato Vero Caffe.
I’m not going to lie. It’s tough being a San Diegan. There are far too many options for great Mexican food, beachwear, sunset spots, and delicious desserts. It’s exhausting trying to figure out where to spend my time and money. Since it’s taken me a couple of decades to figure out the best in town, now you won’t have to stress out about where to go. I hope you enjoy my town the way my friends and I do!
Bianca is a San Diego native, and prides herself on her knowledge of her city. As a professional tour guide, she offers food and drink tasting tours through her company: So Diego Tours. With 8 years in the tourism industry, she brings you updates on how to make the most out of your time, money and energy in her city.