1. The Secret Swings
The secret swings are hidden amongst the trees above Scripps Pier on the hillsides of La Jolla. By taking a small hike up from Expedition Way, you’ll be able to sit on a handmade seat (like a bench chair or tire swing) with a stellar ocean view.
2. The Spruce Street Suspension Bridge
In Banker’s Hill, you can conquer your fear of heights and give the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge a visit. Made in 1912, it rests above the treetops and moves from side to side as you walk along it.
3. The SS Monte Carlo Shipwreck
Just below the water’s surface in Coronado, with a visibility that varies depending upon the year, lies the shipwrecked SS Monte Carlo. This 300-foot ship was a gambling casino known as the “sin ship” and crashed on shore during a winter storm on January 1st, 1937.
4. The Meditation Gardens
The cliffside Meditation Gardens in Encinitas are free and open to the public. They rest on the grounds of the Self-Realization Fellowship Retreat and Hermitage – where you can explore the flowers, koi ponds and the Birds of Paradise all while finding your ultimate beach-side zen.
5. Sunny Jim Cave
Sunny Jim Cave is accessible via a hand-dug tunnel through a gift shop in La Jolla. It’s $5 for adults and $3 for children (with the added bonus of a plastic sea creature to take home). For a uniquely San Diego experience, you’ll venture down the narrow staircase of 145 steps until you reach a platform leading to an incredible ocean view — where snorkelers and kayakers drift by.
6. Harper’s Topiary Garden
In Mission Hills, behold the beautifully green art of Edna and Alex Harper’s hillside topiary garden. You’ll find exquisitely trimmed hedges in the shapes of perfectly groomed animals, like whales and elephants. They don’t call her “Edna Scissorhands” for nothing!
7. The Inn at Sunset Cliffs
Located in Point Loma / Ocean Beach, the Inn at Sunset Cliffs invites visitors to come swim in their outdoor heated pool for $10 a day. The bonus? The pool overlooks the expansive Pacific Ocean, and locals are encouraged to bring their beverages, barbecue and “come hang at San Diego’s best kept secret!”
8. Ho Chi Minh Trail
This secret surf trail for the adventure-seeker is home to slot canyons, sandstone edges and wooden planks. You can access the path by a walkway next to a home on La Jolla Farms Road, where you’ll see a sign for the trailhead between two green construction fences. Keep in mind, it can be steep and slippery — so avoid it after rainfall and please be careful on your quest to see those sweeping ocean views.
9. The Salt Mountains
In Chula Vista, you can find massive 40 foot mountains of salt along the shoreline. South Bay Salt Works salt factory is home to one of only two salt ponds in California and is San Diego’s second-oldest commercial business (behind the Union Tribune). They’ve been harvesting salt since the 1870s and are eligible to be placed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. (They’d pair well with a margarita mountain, too, we think.)
12. Swami’s State Beach
In addition to being known for its surf break,Swami’s is also home to a substantial reef formation that can be seen during low and minus tides. The perfect place for tide pool exploring, you can admire oyster fossils, crabs, octopus, brittle stars, starfish, sea cucumbers and sea hares.