Planning your trip to Southern California? I’ve put together 8 places to visit when you go.
Even if you don’t have your California adventure planned out, it’s worth checking out these potential places to visit.. ya know, for when you do make it out West.
Seriously though, you should go. The ocean is very healing and relaxing . Let’s get started-
In July of 2016 I had the amazing opportunity of spending 2 weeks living in Oceanside, California and was able to explore much of the Southern California Coast Line.
Here is a list of 8 great places to visit in Southern California.
1. Oceanside Pier
Okay. So to be real, Oceanside wouldn’t be my first choice in beach towns (Sorry OS) but it was where I was house sitting so I took advantage of it. I guess you could give it props for having a “seedy charm” which caters to tourists, skateboarders, surfers, and the folks at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. The Oceanside Pier, however is a pretty nice place to spend an afternoon if you don’t mind overcrowded beaches with rather ferocious waves. You can swim, boogie board, and surf all in designated areas so that no one gets a surf board in their face while trying to swim. The pier is really beautiful at sun set and surfers tend to put on a show around that time. Hey, maybe the waves are best at dusk? I don’t know but I wasn’t complaining.
2. Davina’s Cabo Grill
Since you are already invested in the greasy vibes of downtown Oceanside, you might as well fill your insides with grease too at Davina’s Cabo Grill! It has a huge upstairs patio that hosts reggae bands on select nights ( the one we saw was a killer 3-man-jam-band), and serves big, greasy bar food, great Happy Hour specials, and a young energetic atmosphere. Kids are welcome there.
3. Carlsbad Beach
Awh, Carlsbad. The snobbier upper middle class neighbor to Oceanside. Carlsbad provides a more refined crowd and atmosphere to the rough and tumble feel of Oceanside.
Carlsbad beach offers a more natural setting to swim and lounge at. It was less occupied than Oceanside beach when I went there and has a more natural terrain. You can park right off Carlsbad Blvd which runs parallel with the beach and walk down to the ocean. There are lots of pretty stones, succulents, sandy cliffs, and birds to watch. I preferred swimming here over the Oceanside beach because the waves felt more tame (this may have been due to the time of day) and there were less people in the water.
Side note: when swimming at most of the beaches along the SoCal coast, you will have to wade through a patch of rocks before getting back to a sandy bottom about 15-20 feet into the water. Also, remember to dive under the waves so that they don’t beat you up!
4. Downtown Carlsbad
Carlsbad offers a more sophisticated downtown with stylish restaurants, hip bars and cute boutiques. I went to downtown Carlsbad to find a dress for my cousin’s wedding and I found one at Ragz Dressware, which, by the way, has a really friendly staff who are dying to dress you up like a movie star.
The dress was under $40. Thanks ladies!
5. The Barrio
I ate at The Barrio, a hip Mexican/American place that serves complementary homemade tortilla chips and salsa, both of which were excellent. I got a chicken quesadilla with just the right amount of crispness and juicy chicken inside. There is indoor and outdoor seating with an energetic and friendly staff and a bright color scheme. I would highly recommend eating here if you visit Carlsbad.
Where to start with this magical land. Balboa Park was first built to house the exposition that introduced the new Panama Canal in 1917. Today you can still see the stunning architecture, some of which was built for that exposition, along with gardens, museums, and the famous San Diego Zoo.
The park’s architecture will draw out the history buff in you…
And the Monet in you…
It is a public space that is enjoyed by all walks of life,
And a land of strange vegetation.
If you are anywhere near San Diego, don’t miss your chance to visit Balboa Park.
The day I was there, Pokemon Go had just come out. There were crowds of young people all over the park glued to their smartphones! I was as equally glued to my camera snapping pictures of the phenomenon…
If you are poor like me, you can relish in the gardens and architecture for free! If you do have some money to spend, however, there are numerous museums to peruse and the famous San Diego Zoo is worth checking out, or so I’ve been told by locals. Moving on…
7. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
That is my friend Laura who came to visit while I was staying in Oceanside. We went here after snorkeling at La Jolla Cove (there wasn’t a lot to see under the water but it was a great first snorkeling experience! we rented gear from La Jolla Water Sports).
It is a lot better to park in a neighborhood and walk to the beach rather than pay something like $12 to park there. Just sayin’.
The water was great for swimming. The cliffs reflected the yellow glow of the sunset. Awhhh..how romantic…
I found it to be the most peaceful and relaxing beach I visited in SoCal. It is more of a walking beach than a lay-out beach as the sand is covered in seaweed.
8. Huntington Beach
What I really loved about Huntington beach is that it was buzzing with young energy and had the real Southern California surfer feel. It is the home of the Van’s US Open of Surfing.
It is the kind of town that you may have visualized while listening to the Beach Boy’s “Surfin’ Safari”. I visited a friend from high school who had moved out there a year ago and when I got there, the town was setting up tents for the upcoming Van’s Open Surf competition. He described Huntington beach as a college town without a college. It has a happenin’ night life that caters to tourists and 20 somethings. If you want a place to go out drinking and see some surfers, HB is the place to be.
We ate at Fred’s Mexican Cafe and Cantina. I have to say, asking for a spot on the balcony overlooking the beach was excellent. Especially at sunset. The margaritas were YUM!
Well, folks, I’ve exhausted the list. That’s about all the hot spots I can think of that I’ve been to. Always feel free to contact me with questions.
So lastly I want to just say- go to SoCal.
It’s beautiful and will inspire you and the waves will beat you up and you’ll get an awesome tan and there will be sand all over everything. You will come back home feeling refreshed and renewed, ready to peel your old California skin off and start your life with a newer fresher perspective.
That’s it for now! Peace and amor,
All Photos Copyright 2016 by M. Stant