Solo travelers are in for a treat in San Diego, a vast playground of world-class museums, fine global cuisine, craft beer microbreweries and wonderful wildlife. Not to mention the dozens of beautiful beaches, canyons and coastal trails to explore around the city. Pack a map, some sunscreen and a sense of adventure and leap in to our pick of the 10 best things to do alone in San Diego.
Sunbathe out Front of a San Diego Icon
Affectionately known as ‘The Del’, Hotel del Coronado is a San Diego Institution that has been hosting major celebs, royals and politicians since Victorian times. Its distinctive conical turrets inspired the Emerald City in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its said there’s even a resident spook stalking its grand corridors and halls. Throw down your towel on the hotel’s golden sands overlooking Point Loma and soak up some rays as the waves lap gently at the shore. Keep your eyes peeled for the local Sandcastle Man, a renowned sculpture artist who can often be found building his extraordinary masterpieces here on Coronado Beach.
Go on a Gaslamp Quarter Walking Tour
The Gaslamp Quarter walking tour takes place every Thursday at 1PM and is a great way to discover the history of this fascinating neighborhood – as well as making some new friends! You’ll visit many of the beautiful historic buildings on 5th Avenue, including the Louis Bank of Commerce, an impressive Baroque Revival confection with protruding turrets, and the Art Deco Yuma Building with its soaring twin spires. The tour also calls at the Gaslamp Museum inside downtown San Diego’s oldest surviving building. Here since the mid 19th Century, the Davis-Horton House also, of course, boasts its very own ghost.
Sightsee by Segway
Spread across a whopping 1,200 acres, Balboa Park has enough museums, gardens and hiking trails to exhaust even the fittest of walkers. Take the edge off by joining a Segway tour and zipping round some of the park’s top sights. You’ll get a chance to take selfies against a backdrop of glorious Spanish Colonial architecture along the stunning El Prado boulevard, as well as seeing artists at work in the Spanish Art Village. Other must-see sights on your tour include San Diego Zoo, the traditional century-old carousel, and the Air and Space Museum, its entrance flanked by supersonic Lockheed A-12 and Convair YF2Y-1 Sea Dart airplanes.
Take a Hike
Walking opportunities abound in San Diego, thanks to its varied landscape of canyons, cliffs and coastal trails. Strike out northeast of Downtown for the Mission Trails Regional Park, home of Cowles Mountain, the highest point in San Diego. Don’t let the word ‘mountain’ put you off though! The hike to the summit is a relatively easy 1.5 miles, making it a really popular route with walkers of all abilities and one of the best things to do alone in San Diego. The expansive 360-degree views across the city and San Diego County are more than worth the effort.
Have Lunch in Little Italy
You could spend weeks eating your way through San Diego’s wealth of great cuisines, from cute Tijuana-style taquerias to deli brunches and sizzling street food in the frequent neighborhood markets. Head downtown to Little Italy on market days to browse dozens of stalls selling art, flowers, local artisan jewelry and more before heading to India Street for the best pizza and pasta in town. Lively Sorrento and Isola serve up authentic Neapolitan-style thin and crispy pizza, while Civico 1845 is the place for traditional Calabrian favorites including pasta al forno and sweet cannoli.
Hop on (and off) the Old Trolley Bus
San Diego’s brightly colored green and orange trolley buses run a 25-mile loop around the city’s biggest attractions, with 12 stops along the way, including the Hotel del Coronado, Balboa Park, Little Italy, the Old Town, the Gaslamp Quarter and the harbor. An expert commentary provides the lowdown on San Diego, and you can hop on and off the trolley as you please along the route. It’s a great way for solo travelers to get to know the city.
Stroll Across the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge
Those with a head for heights will find much to enjoy on a wander across the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge, an impressive feat of 1912 engineering that spans the verdant Kate Sessions Canyon in Bankers Hill, just west of Balboa Park. The iconic landmark is beloved of San Diego locals and remarkably well concealed considering its 375-foot length. Enjoy commanding views across the canyon and brace yourself for a bit of a bumpy ride on windy days, when the bridge has been known to sway and shake. Steady shattered nerves with a beer in nearby Hillcrest’s brewpubs afterwards.
Hit the Art Trail
San Diego is chock-full of fab street murals. You need only take a short stroll through hip ‘hoods like North Park, Hillcrest and Ocean Beach to view great street art gratis. For public art on a truly grand scale, seek out La Jolla’s Stuart Collection, an assortment of larger-than-life sculptures dotted around the campus of the University of California in San Diego. Think giant teddy bears made out of boulders, a poetry-reciting tree and a cottage that teeters precariously atop a university building and you might start to get the general idea. Artists featured in the project include household names such as Robert Irwin and Ian Hamilton Finlay.
Scare Yourself Silly
Branded ‘the most haunted house in America’ by LIFE magazine, The Whaley House in San Diego’s Old Town is said to be built on the site of a former gallows. And its various inhabitants have certainly experienced their fair share of grisly deaths across the decades. Set your pulse racing on an evening ghost tour of the house if you dare. Or join a haunted bus tour of San Diego’s spookiest neighborhoods as your theatrical hosts regale you with bloodthirsty tales of former residents who have returned from the grave to stalk the city streets once more.
See Whales and Dolphins
If you’ve ever wanted to see majestic whales or sleek seals and dolphins up close, you’ve come to the right place! San Diego’s warm waters are prime territory for aquatic animals, with gray whales migrating to and from Mexico’s lagoons for calving season in winter and spring and blue whales often seen off the coast during summer and fall. Colonies of native harbor seals and pods of dolphins mean you rarely have to wait long before a sighting. Boat tours depart daily from Downtown and Mission Bay, with many guaranteeing a refund in the highly unlikely event you do fail to see anything.