San Diego: Sunny Beaches and Classic Charm

Flowers bloom in the foreground while across the water the city skyline rises up.

San Diego as seen from Coronado Island gardens. Photo © Ioana Davies.

San Diego is less a place and more a state of mind. Something about the constant sunshine, the sandy beaches, and the friendly people makes for a laid-back atmosphere that is as inescapable as a wave’s pull to shore.

If there is one lesson to learn from the locals, it is that San Diego is meant to be enjoyed leisurely.Located in the southwestern corner of the United States, the sprawling city is part of an even more expansive county of the same name. Topping out at 4,255 square miles, San Diego County is a rambling maze of geographical diversity. The sun rises over the vast Anza-Borrego Desert, the largest state park in the contiguous United States. It traces over the peaks and valleys of the San Marcos and Laguna Mountain Ranges and sets on the 70 miles of shoreline stretching up the San Diego coast.

The region is certainly one of many personalities. It is at once a sleepy navy enclave and a bustling nightspot. It is a sanctuary for the arts and a surfing mecca. Locals wear flip-flops to the opera, but won’t hesitate to spend a mint to get their hair done flawlessly. Rather than creating a cognitive dissonance, these contrasts only serve to accentuate the area’s colorful uniqueness.

The region’s claim to fame is its temperate weather, and nothing makes it stand out so well as the bodies of water that sparkle under all of that sunshine. At every turn, there are enough bays and beaches to give even the biggest water enthusiast their fill with places to sail, fish, swim, and paddle. But no recreational activity is quite as definitively San Diego as surfing. To say San Diegans like to surf would be shortchanging the impact that the sport has on the region. Surfing isn’t just a sport in San Diego, it is a way of life, permeating the culture all the way into the vernacular. You’re as likely to hear a buttoned-down boardroom exec use the word “dude” as a tow-headed beachgoer in board shorts.

But don’t let the easygoing nature of the residents fool you. The always-casual atmosphere belies the region’s deep intellectual, philosophical, and religious roots, roots that reach as far back as the 16th century.

If there is one lesson to learn from the locals, it is that San Diego is meant to be enjoyed leisurely. The majority of the area’s residents are transplants, visitors that never quite got around to leaving. So don’t pack too lightly, because you might find so much to do in San Diego that you become one of them yourself.

Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon San Diego.

Maps of San Diego

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