Content originally written for the Let’s Go: USA & Canada Guide by our researcher-writer, Graham Bishai.
La Jolla Cove
1100 Coast Blvd., La Jolla; (619) 221-8899; www.sandiego.gov/lifeguards/beaches/cove
Ever made friends with a sea lion? Can’t decide whether seals are adorable or make you squeamish? Well, get both taken care of at La Jolla Cove, a locally-adored gem on the coast just a little ways north of the city. Here, surrounded by gorgeous coastline and cliffs, you are truly sharing the beach with seals and sea lions. They’re not there so that the cove can be a fun little tourist spot, and they aren’t just stopping by. You are in their habitat, and they’re nice enough not to kick your ass out. Walk on the rocks where they bask in the sun and watch as they roughhouse, as mothers put out fights between their children, and hear the deafening call they make every five seconds. With tons of space to explore freely, you really are in an incredible natural playground. This is indeed real life, but with one cool fictitious twist. In Scripps Park, right next to the cove, you can go spot the tree that inspired Dr. Seuss to write The Lorax.
4500 Ocean Blvd.
PB, as its called, is the coolest address for beach party life in San Diego. Frequented by surfers and college kids, it’s filled with nightlife and food shack-style eateries where friends go and chill the hell out. Vibrant street art abounds, completing the area’s young and reckless energy. With its waves, stacked up and looking like giant ripples rolling in, it’s a surfers’ watering hole, and dozens of people are in the water at a given time. And of course, catch a sunset there if you can. The sight of the sun shimmering down the water like a detective’s flashlight is one of a kind. On the PB streets, grab tacos and a beer, as skateboarders pass by. Hang out, chill out, and let your thoughts go. You probably won’t even have to try. It’s what people do here.
4501 Ladera St.
Sunset Cliffs is a spot where you go sit on cliffs to watch the sunset. Groundbreaking! But in all seriousness, it’s actually incredible. Forty foot cliffs just drop off, inches from the streets, and waves slam into the cliff faces below you. The waves eventually turn into a marble sea on the horizon. The cliffs are raw and unspoiled. But that also means nothing separates you from a 40-foot plunge that will not end well, so be careful. Get there 30 minutes before sunset, so you can spend some time exploring before finding a spot to watch the sun dip below the horizon. It happens faster than you think, so keep your eyes pinned on that pinkish ball as its descends. One of the joys of the West Coast is that the sun sets, rather than rises, on the ocean. This is a great spot to take advantage of this beautiful natural phenomenon.
Graham left behind the stressed-out chaos of Cambridge for the laid back life on the West Coast. A refreshing change of pace, he assumed, until the line for coffee on his first morning took 2 mins longer than he’s used to, and the Northeast nasty jumped out. Starting in Vancouver, Graham meandered south, toning his calves being a pedestrian on San Francisco’s hills and by navigating the monstrosity that is Los Angeles using just his feet and public transit (only resorting to Uber twice!) Graham’s love for the West Coast life only increased as he sat by the Puget Sound in Seattle, sipped kombucha in the crunchy cafes of Portland, climbed into a waterfall in Yosemite and stayed in an abandoned opera house in Death Valley. By the time he hit upper 80s sun of San Diego, buff calves and sun tanned, the words “West Coast, Best Coast,” almost slipped out of his mouth. Identity crisis looming, he figured it was time to go home.