Best San Diego, CA Outdoor Activities - 2023 Recreation Guide
Every year, thousands of people take a vacation to the city of San Diego to spend as much time as possible in the California sunshine. Some people love it so much that they decide to purchase a home and make the SoCal city their new home. From pristine beaches to hiking trails on foothills overlooking the downtown San Diego neighborhood, there's no shortage of fun things to do outside. Read on for a list of a few of the most fun things to do outdoors in San Diego.
Water Recreation in San Diego
San Diego Water Recreation Opportunities
- Pacific Ocean
- Aquatica San Diego
- LEGOLAND and CHIMA Water Park
The sparkling waters of the Pacific Ocean promise an abundance of all-season water recreational activities in San Diego. From windsurfing and stand-up paddleboarding to scuba diving and whale watching, residents won't have any trouble finding aquatic fun.
There's plenty of water fun at Aquatica San Diego, where rides, slides, pools, and rivers offer hours of excitement. Hop aboard the Kiwi Curl for high-speed action or fly down the Taumata Racer water slide. For the ultimate in thrills, Woohoo Falls has riders sliding in the dark. At Big Surf Shores, ride 5-foot waves or leisurely float along the 1,250-foot river. There's plenty of water fun for little kids, like the slide and waterfall at Slippity Dippity.
About 30 minutes from San Diego in the city of Carlsbad, LEGOLAND Water Park and CHIMA Water Park will keep everyone entertained. The Imagination Station lets kids build bridges. At Build-A-Raft River, guests construct their own vessel to take down the river.
San Diego Hiking & Biking Trails
Popular San Diego Trails
- Mission Trails Regional Park
- Sunset Cliffs Coastal Trail
- Bayside Trailhead
- Telecote Canyon Natural Park and Nature Center
For hiking and biking enthusiasts, San Diego has miles of terrain to explore that provide a memorable adventure. At Mission Trails Regional Park, visitors can hike, jog, or walk along the scenic trails in the Fortuna Region, Mission Gorge Region, and Cowles Mountain Region. Trails range from 1-mile loops to 7.1-mile round trips. Trails here range between easy, moderate, and difficult, ensuring that there's something for everyone.
Sunset Cliffs Coastal Trail is a 1-mile trail that provides beautiful views while hiking the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Go later in the day to observe brilliant sunsets and possible whale sightings. At the Mission Trails Rim Trailhead, visitors can hike or navigate their mountain bike along the trail while taking in the views of San Diego.
The Bayside Trailhead presents a nice jaunt along dirt and gravel surfaces that feature sandstone cliffs and exceptional ocean views while traversing the 2.5-mile roundtrip trail. Along with views of the water, hikers will also see ships in the harbor, Ballast Point, the Coronado Island community, downtown San Diego, and Tijuana. Starting at the old lighthouse, signs posted along the trail describe the types of at-risk plants along the trail, vegetation, and the birds and wildlife that inhabit the area. The trail is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
Less than 15 minutes away from downtown San Diego is the Telecote Canyon Natural Park and Nature Center, where there are 6.5 miles of scenic trails for walking, running, or mountain biking. Leashed dogs are welcome to accompany owners.
San Diego Parks
Popular San Diego Parks
- Balboa Park
- Mission Bay Park
- Kate O. Sessions Park
Exploring San Diego's most popular parks is always a great way to get outdoors. Whether it's learning about wildlife at the zoo, enjoying scheduled events, participating in water activities, or walking the dog at the park, residents have access to an array of parks.
As the nation's most expansive cultural urban destination, historic Balboa Park offers hours of entertaining activities within its 1,200 acres. Choose walking or hiking trails, visit the Japanese Friendship Garden, spend time at the park's 17 museums, and watch live ballet and theatre performances. The park is also full of interesting attractions, including iconic landmarks, the Balboa Park carousel, miniature train, statues, impressive trees, artists at work, and the San Diego Zoo.
Mission Bay Park is situated on 4,235 acres, which offers plenty of space for various outdoor activities. Visitors have 19 miles of beach for sunbathing, swimming at designated areas, water skiing, and windsurfing. Sailboats and motorized boats are available to rent and explore the waterways. On land, peruse the park's 14 miles of paths on a bike, walk scenic paths, play volleyball or basketball, fly a kite, or watch the kids while they have fun at the playgrounds.
Kate O. Sessions Park offers a relaxing respite while enjoying outstanding views of the city, ocean, and Mission Bay. The park is a popular destination because of the on-leash dog walking areas, the playground, and the hiking trails.
Golf Courses in San Diego
Popular San Diego Golf Courses
- Encinitas Ranch
- Maderas Golf Club
- Riverwalk Golf Club
When it is time to take to the greens for a challenging game of golf, there are more than 80 public and private choices available within 50 miles of downtown. Homes in San Diego golf communities make it easy for enthusiasts to play daily.
While playing through at Encinitas Ranch, golfers enjoy postcard-perfect scenery and ocean views. The well-designed 18-hole par 72 course provides open fairways and strategically placed bunkers to challenge every player. Additional amenities include a putting green, driving range, sand traps, and a chipping area. Before or after playing, enjoy food and libations at the Ranch Grill.
Blue skies, rolling hills, and wide-open expanses of lush native plants and landscaping create a captivating atmosphere when playing 18 holes at Maderas Golf Club. Conveniently located a short drive from downtown, the course features a waterfall and lakes amid its detailed greens. The club has everything needed for a day on the greens, from club rentals to caddie service. For those interested in learning or perfecting their game, golf lessons are available from a PGA professional. Relax after a game at The Grille, where chef-inspired appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and main courses are served for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
Golfers can test their techniques at the 18-hole par 72 Riverwalk Golf Club, which was designed with strategy playing in mind. Players are challenged by more than 60 bunkers, sand traps, and water hazards placed throughout manicured greens. The public golf course also provides a night-lit driving range, golf learning center, golf shop, dining, and more.
Other San Diego Outdoor Activities
More San Diego Outdoor Activities
- Segway tour through Balboa Park
- GPS Talking GoCar tour
- Four-wheel Jeep adventure
- San Diego Zoo
- USS Midway Museum
- Trolly tours
The choices of what to see and do are nearly limitless for outdoor activities in and around San Diego. Guided tours are a popular way for residents and visitors to have a good time exploring the city. Take a Segway tour with a local guide through Balboa Park or go it alone and create your own route through the city with a GPS Talking GoCar. Get up-close and personal with the California terrain with a four-wheel Jeep adventure over challenging trails.
Bike riders can take an electric bicycle tour or test their skills with a ride along San Diego Bay on a one-wheel electric hoverboard. Visit the San Diego Zoo and its thousands of inhabitants, and learn about history with a visit to the USS Midway Museum. Trolley tours are another fun way to see the city's shops, restaurants, and historical sites.
Outdoor Fun Awaits Year-Round in San Diego
There are a number of fun things to do in San Diego, and there's no denying from sunny days to starlit nights, the weather in San Diego is almost always perfect for outdoor fun in particular. Catch a wave on the Pacific Ocean, unwind in a park, or hike a rewarding trail just outside the city. People moving to San Diego will quickly become familiar with the many ways to have fun outdoors.