If you’re a nature enthusiast who gets cabin fever during the frigid winter months, San Diego may be the answer to your travel woes. With average winter daytime highs of 65 degrees, a sweatshirt and windbreaker will see you through most outdoor activities. Unlike many other winter vacation destinations, San Diego offers world-class culture and gorgeous scenery to complement its ocean, mountain, and desert nature wonderlands.
What to Do
From mid-December through mid-March, more than 15,000 gray whales will travel from Alaska to Baja, Mexico. Hornblower Cruises offers a nature tour to see dolphins, sea lions, harbor seals, aquatic birds, and whales. (Adults $35, children $17.50.)
Monarch Butterfly Overwintering
Monarch butterflies fly more than 2,000 miles to arrive at their overwintering spots, and San Diego just happens to be one of them. One of the best places to view them is on the UCSD campus, specifically at La Jolla Shires Drive and Azul Street.
Cabrillo National Monument offers the best tide pooling in San Diego. During low tide you are likely to see a variety of fish, crabs, starfish, sea anemones, and even octopi. The wind off the surf can be cool, so be sure to grab a jacket and wear non-slip shoes. There is a $5 per vehicle charge to enter the park.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a two-hour drive northeast of San Diego and offers a great day trip option. It is home to the endangered peninsular bighorn sheep. The 5-mile hike to the palm oasis and waterfalls through Hell Hole Canyon is a wonderful way to enjoy all the desert bounty.
Where to Eat
The Old Town Mexican Café
Offers classic Mexican food and full drink menu. Located in historic Old Town San Diego.
2489 San Diego Ave., San Diego, CA. 619-297-4330. Hours: 7 a.m.-2 a.m. daily.
Kansas City Barbeque
Offers Kansas City-style BBQ. Famous for being the restaurant where the bar scene in “Top Gun” was filmed. Located in downtown San Diego.
600 W. Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA. 619-231-9680. Hours: 11 a.m.-1 a.m. daily.
Point Loma Seafoods
Offers some of the best seafood in San Diego. Casual with outdoor seating available.
2805 Emerson St., San Diego, CA. 619-223-1109. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Where to Stay
Island Palms Hotel & Marina
Located on Shelter Island just minutes from downtown San Diego. Offers waterfront views, a fitness center, spa, two pools, tennis courts, free parking, and more.
3051 Shelter Island Drive, San Diego, CA. 619-222-0561.
Hard Rock Hotel
Located in the historic Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego. Offers roof-top pool, spa, 24-hour room service, and more.
207 Fifth Ave., San Diego, CA. 619-702-3000.