Year-round sunshine? Check. Miles of sandy coastline? Check. An oceanic playground for boarders, boaters and swimmers? Check. Perched on the southernmost tip of California, the only challenge San Diego poses to visitors, is finding the top spots to splash around it. The best place for water-lovers of all ages to begin the day is about 15 minutes north of downtown San Diego at La Jolla Shores.
With a full day of aquatic activities stretching before you, a healthy breakfast is in order. The Cottage in La Jolla offers outdoor seating, good coffee and breakfast that’s as easy as it is tasty. Choose an omelet, which will provide the perfect amount of protein to keep energy levels up for a day exploring this outdoor playground.
After breakfast, head to Bike and Kayak Tours, Inc., or, a few blocks down on Avenida de la Playa, to Hike Bike Kayak. These are but two of the many competitive kayak rental and tour services in the area. Either is a great choice for a guided kayak tour through the La Jolla Caves. Both offer rentals of single and tandem kayaks, as well as tours that provides interesting information on the caves and wildlife, making it well worth the extra money.
The kayak tour begins with a brief instruction and safety lesson, making it acceptable for paddlers of all ages and skill levels. The group then heads down to the La Jolla Cove before taking off for seven caves. Paddlers should dress to get wet-you never know when a wave might spray a bit into the kayak. Guides carefully direct groups through the caves, minding waves and the tide, while pointing out marine life visible from the kayaks such as the orange garibaldi fish. Kayakers can grab hold of one of the billowing stalks of kelp that extend to the surface of the water. It’s not uncommon to see a seal pup pop up, playing in the kelp beds. Demanding your attention are the barking-and much larger-sea lions that sun themselves on the cave ledges.
Paddling out of the cove is always fun, but getting back in is arguably better. Once shallow water approaches, keep your eye out for leopard sharks that can be spotted by looking for dark shadows close to the ocean’s floor. Follow your tour guide’s tips on surfing in a wave on your kayak for an exhilarating finish.
If you are still feeling adventurous after handing over your kayak and paddle and want a closer look below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, snorkeling in the cave is a great way to experience the ecological reserve and the reefs of the cove. Both kayak companies offer snorkel rentals and tours.
Or hop in the car for a quick drive down Route 5 to Mission Beach-a few stretches of shore south of La Jolla-and give surfing a try. In Mission Beach, Cheap Rentals can be found on the main drag of Mission Boulevard-just look for a colorful array of rental boards and bikes set up out front. One block from the Pacific Ocean, Cheap Rentals hands out soft-foam boards for only $5 an hour and fiberglass boards for $10 an hour.
It is impossible to watch the lazy glistening waves on the San Diego horizon speckled with surfers and not give it a go yourself. While there are plenty of surf schools and camps in the area, Cheap Rentals offers a free instructional printout for first-timers to read over. In addition, they offer on-land demonstrations of how to get up on your board.
After an afternoon exploring San Diego water activities, troll down the boardwalk toward the easily spotable Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, which is still open for business. Sitting right off the boardwalk is Cane’s restaurant. Head to the upper level for outdoor seating and a view that overlooks the ocean and the boardwalk. It’s the perfect spot to grab a bite to eat and people watch. Their mahi-mahi fish tacos, a San Diego favorite, are a good choice, keeping with the aquatic theme of the day.
Stick around until after sundown, and head over to the bay side of Mission Beach. Around 8:30 every spring and summer evening, SeaWorld sets off a fire work display for all of San Diego to enjoy. Watching the colors explode over the bay is the perfect end the day.
What and Where:
The Cottage (7702 Fay Ave., La Jolla, 858-454-8409)
Bike and Kayak Tours, Inc. (2222 Avenida de la Playa, La Jolla, 858-454-1010)
Hike Bike and Kayak (2246 Avenida de la Playa, La Jolla, 858-551-9510)
Cheap Rentals (3689 Mission Blvd., 858-488-9070)
Cane’s Bar and Grill (3105 Ocean Front Work, 858-488-1780)