I don`t know what it is that drives me back and back to California. It might be the beautiful memories from many family vacations, it might be the endless coastline of beautiful beaches, the generosity of the sun, the many creative people and free minds, the breathtaking sunsets or the sense of life – maybe it is a combination of them all.
From the rough cliffs in Big Sur to the relaxed surfer culture in the south, California`s coastline is as diverse and beautiful as it can only be. However, San Diego stands out to me. It is south enough to benefit from good weather throughout the year, at the same time it is not too big to attract the downsides of metropolises. The closeness to Mexico brings a Hispanic touch that can be felt not only in the vast number of Taco Shops. In this post, I want to share my favorite spots in and around San Diego. If it were Uber drivers from Puerto Rico, young people that just moved there or visitors from all over the world – everyone would agree that this is – the best place to be.
BETTER BUZZ COFFEE
BETTER BUZZ is a San Diego based Coffee chain, refreshing the existing coffee scenery with a concept that perfectly represents the needs of a dynamic young generation. I randomly came across a Better Buzz Coffee when I was strolling through the main street of Encinitas looking for a bite to eat. I was wondering what attracted so many young people and I immediately loved the refreshing atmosphere. The Café roasts their own coffee beans, which can be enjoyed in a variety of coffee and espresso specialties. But even if you do not share the coffee love, you can treat yourself with great smoothies, delicious toasts, acai bowls or pastry.
The coffee chain can be found in 5 locations in and around San Diego – the perfect stop for a quick lunch break or a healthy reenergize to go. My favorite is the one in Encinitas, where in the words of Better Buzz – I got BUZZED for the first time.
Encinitas.78 S. Coast Hwy 101, CA 92024.
Point Loma. 1480 Rosecrans San Diego, CA 92106.
Mission Beach. 3745 Mission Blvd San Diego, CA 92109.
Pacific Beach. 1909 Garnet Ave, CA 92109.
San Macros. 904 W. San Marcos Blvd, CA 92078. (Drive Thru and Walk up)
Café Gratitude is an organic, plant based vegan restaurant, which centers around health and overall well being. As part of their integral concept, they support local farmers and sustainable agriculture. Their extensive menu is heaven for any vegan or vegetarian – offering numerous exotic versions of healthy wraps, sandwiches, pastries, salads, smoothies or shakes.
Attention to the detail is not only paid to the presentation of the food, but also to the tasteful interior design. White and natural colors are giving a warm welcome. Inspirational quotes create an atmosphere that is nourishing to the soul. Most dishes are around 15$ and the price for a smoothie is about 9$. But if you want to give yourself a special treat and spend a nice evening with health loving friends, then I could not think of any place better.
Café Gratitude has created one of the best integrative concepts I have seen so far. Their mission is far more than being a stylish café, but to promote a lifestyle of gratitude towards ourselves, our planet – and life in general, as written on a black board “a celebration of our aliveness”. The Café has locations in a number of cities in California, check out their homepage for more information.
Café Gratitude. 1980 Kettner Blvd. San Diego, CA 92101
Local Mexicans might know more places, but Valentines is the best Mexican food I have had in San Diego so far. Located in the heart of the popular Gaslamp Quarter, Valentines is serving delicious tacos, burritos, tortas and many more Mexican dishes. On weekends it is open until 3 am, making it a popular stop for a midnight snack after clubbing. You then might get into a long line – but it`s worth waiting – for the best place to have a delicious burrito at 2 am in the morning.
Valentines Mexican Food. 842 Market Street, San Diego CA 92101.
Pokéz is a fancy Mexican eatery located about 10 minutes from downtown San Diego. A funky Aztec figure greets guests at the entrance of the restaurant. Colorful Graffiti paintings, bright ornaments, placards and stickers leave almost no free spot on the green and red walls. Che is looking from the ceiling, while Reggae music turns out of the duke box – no wonder that the service is absolutely relaxed and very friendly.
The restaurant offers Mexican dishes with a variety of options for vegans and vegetarians. Prices are so affordable that you might be surprised at the counter and feel guilty to give an extra tip. I can definitely recommend to have one of San Diego’s famous fish tacos here. – ES MUY DELICIOSO!
Pokéz. 947 E Street, San Diego CA 92101.
The popular Gaslamp Quarter centered around Market Street where one bar and club follows the other, is where San Diego gets crazy and one of my favorite places to go out. However, if you want to try something special that is not as pricy as some clubs in downtown, you should check out one of my favorite bars El Camino – a funky Mexican style restaurant in Little Italy that turns into a bar at night.
Neon colors in pink, red, green and blue create a bright decor in Frida Kahlo style. The atmosphere at El Camino is grungy with burning candles spread all over the place and a white skeleton cackling from the stained wooden walls. Among relaxed and laid-back people, you can dance to old school, Hip-Hop, Reggae or Latin music.
Due to the closeness to the airport the main attraction is the outside patio, where chains of lights illuminate the night. Enjoy a Corona under the open sky – while airplanes are flying above your head close enough to reach.
El Camino. 2400 India Street San Diego CA, 92101.
La Jolla is an affluent seaside community located in the north of San Diego. Hilly roads wind alongside beautiful houses. Getting closer to the ocean, La Jolla`s jewel unveils – a stunning coastline, which varies greatly from family beaches like the Shores to La Jollas famous cove. My personal favorite beach, however, is WINDANDSEA. The view to the horizon is scenic and the protruding rocks reveal some of the most beautiful sunsets. Looking down from the high coast to the aqua blue ocean, seeing all the surfers riding waves and taking a deep breath – you can not inhale more of California.
A place I always come back to is Encinitas, a surf town about 40 minutes north of San Diego. The many young people, surfers and artists render this a vibrant, but relaxing town with neat boutiques to shop and small restaurants to dine at. Encinitas has attracted a number of famous residents among them professional surfers and skateboarders. You can find beautiful beaches here with a stunning high coastline and fresh waters.
One of my favorites is PIPES BEACH, located in south Encinitas. It is a very popular spot among local surfers who are crossing the street with their surfboards and wet suits as soon as the tide gets stronger. Since the beach is located at the outskirts of Encinitas it barely gets crowded – making it the perfect place to lay back, enjoy beautiful sunsets and jump into salty waters.
SELF REALIZATION TEMPLE
Every first time visitor of Encinitas will wonder what is hidden behind the huge walls of the prominent white building. The golden domes and oriental architecture look like out of a 1001 night fairytale. As in my case, one might be relieved to learn that this is not the temple of a sect, but a peaceful religious organization called Self Realization Fellowship. The spiritual community was founded by Paramahansa Yogananda, a famous Indian teacher of meditation and father of western yoga.
Behind the huge stonewalls are hidden beautiful gardens that are open to the public. Self Realization Fellowship could not have chosen a better place to practice meditation and spirituality – I have barely seen a more peaceful, scenic view of the vast ocean that renders every visitor speechless in grace of nature.
PACIFIC & MISSION BEACH
The boardwalk connecting Pacific and Mission Beach is one of my favorite places to go for a run in the evening. These two vibrant beach towns are popular among young people and college students rendering them the most youthful communities in San Diego.
When the sun is about to go down and people are skating, riding bikes, running, walking, strolling hand in hand or simply relaxing – the boardwalk turns into a cinematic experience. The bright fireball at the horizon glows more and more intense, illuminating the sky, the waves and house facades. Witnessing the beautiful spectacle when the sun plunges everything in warm orange and red before it drops behind the ocean is almost meditation like. You can barely feel the presence of life more intense than in this moment.
Every time I came back for a run, the scenery was different. The clouds appeared in different formations, the intensity of the sun altered, the tide of the waves varied. But no matter when I arrived, there was one constant – A senior in a blue shirt skating along the boardwalk of Pacific Beach.
While listening to music, he was gliding in slowest motion, performing balancing acts on one leg as if he was batman. I was fascinated by him, because he was spreading good vibes to everyone, but at the same time he obviously deviated of any form of normality. First, when I read about him in a hotel guide of San Diego, I found out that “Slomo”, as he calls himself, is in fact a famous, well known institution at Pacific Beach. Moreover, his extraordinary life story is even the subject of a NY Times documentary.
“Slomo”, whose real name is Dr. John Kitchin, had been hard working and living a life according to the standards of society – just like everybody else did – when he found himself lost in a rational world that was lacking any spirituality beyond the accumulation of wealth. As he realized that his vision started to blur and he could not recognize faces any more, he decided to quit his medical career and to pursue his passion – skating along the boardwalk of Pacific Beach.
Slomo`s story might be extreme, but the essence of it is so crucial. Sometimes we just have to free ourselves from the standards of society and follow our heart, our intuition, our gut or however you want to call it – and it will lead us the right way.
Everybody has the capacity to dream up and believe anything he wants to.
– Slomo –