20210530_093600Views of Torrey Pines beach and the bluffs (May 2021)

As the world slowly began opening up last year, I decided to spend the long, Memorial Day weekend in San Diego. Granted, it was a day trip, but it was still much-desired opportunity to get out of town and check out another part of California. I hadn’t been back to San Diego in over 20 years, so I was keen on revisiting it from an adult perspective.

We woke up early to make the drive down. From Los Angeles, it’s about 120 miles/193 kilometers, and it takes about two-and-a-half hours. However, we were starting at a point closer to San Diego, so we only drove about one-and-a-half hours before we reached its vicinity.

First stop of the day was at the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, a coastal state park that includes its eponymous beach and several miles of hiking trails that take you up and down the bluffs through its natural reserve, where you can spot plenty of fauna and flora native to the land. Technically, Torrey Pines is located in La Jolla, which is 14 miles/22 kilometers north of San Diego– we made a stop here for a quick, brisk hike and stroll along the beach before reaching San Diego.

Torrey Pines during Memorial Day weekend was packed— there are only limited free spaces near the beach, or you’ll otherwise have to pay a whopping $25 at the paid lot. Since we weren’t staying long, it didn’t make sense to pay $25 just for a couple of hours– luckily, we found spots about half-a-mile from the beach that only cost $3-4, so we did just that. I would encourage anyone who goes to Torrey Pines on such a crowded day to park a bit further and pay less to access the natural reserve– just be mindful to time exactly when you’ll return, as parking enforcement is ruthless and will fine you if you’re back even a minute late!

20210530_084327Badland-like bluffs with flowers on our hike

We did a quick loop through some of the trails along the bluff, where we got views of the milky-blue ocean and the famous Torrey pine (the namesake of the reserve). It was an overcast day, but it was cool weather that made the hike pleasant. We eventually descended to the beach where we came across the Flat Rock (literally, a large, flat boulder) where some Instagrammers were getting their photos taken next to and on the rock. It was then a matter of strolling the packed, dark sand littered with large pebbles back to the entrance of the beach. The sand, a gray-ish, almost black hue, reminded me of the black sand beaches of Vík in Iceland– coupled with the cloudy skies and stormy waves crashing beside us, it felt like I was transported back to the Nordic country.

20210530_090110Strolling the beach

After a couple of more photos on our way back to the car, we made it 10 minutes before our parking expired– again, I saw parking enforcement watching each vehicle like a hawk, ready to give out citations to the less-fortunate ones. Memorial Day must’ve been a lucrative time for these officers, as it’s definitely an easy way to meeting their quota! We drove on to San Diego, after spending two-and-a-half hours in Torrey Pines.

More on my San Diego adventures coming soon. Stay tuned!

— Rebecca

38 thoughts on “Destination: San Diego, California (Part 1)

  1. Great to hear about this little place I hadn’t known a thing about before your article. I love the name Torrey Pines and my what moody skies you were treated to that day. Nordic feels about right. The bluffs and the views they host are really impressive too. Not a bad “stop” I’d say.

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    1. San Diego (and Torrey Pines) isn’t necessarily considered “little,” as it’s actually quite large and populous, haha! Weather wasn’t in our favor that day, but I plan to head back this year– hopefully, it’ll be sunnier then!

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      1. Ha ha I’m aware that San Diego isn’t small. I was rather referring to the beach and the bluffs. Torrey pines has a population of just under 40.000 right? Not too bad, though as you have referenced it clearly gets a huge amount of foot and car traffic on any given day. I always get dreamy looking at California. One day, we really have to go and do it.

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  2. It’s beautiful. I find it crazy that 120 miles for you is a day trip – that’s a 2 night stay minimum for us in the UK. My parents live 50 miles away and that is the maximum day trip we would take 🙂 I guess the UK and US are measured on totally different distances! San Diego looks beautiful, thank you for sharing your trip.

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    1. Driving long distance is normal in the US. I also think infrastructure plays a big part in getting around easily: there is an extensive network of highways and smaller roads that makes for accessibility to major cities in California (San Diego included), so it makes for a convenient trip over. However, to really experience SD, a few days is ideal!

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    1. Yes, perhaps a part of it! If you like the Great Ocean Road, I’d actually recommend Big Sur in central/northern California– it looks VERY similar!

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  3. The coastal road between LA and San Diego is apparently one of the most beautiful in the US, and I can understand why! The flowers on the hiking trail are so beautiful, and even on a cloudy day the views seem spectacular!

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    1. Yes, the drive down to San Diego from LA is gorgeous and bucolic, eventually giving way to the beautiful blue of the Pacific. Cloudy views offer a unique view of the coast, but I also hope to go back when it’s sunnier!

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