Hidden Gems in San Diego: The Inside Scoop

For the hipsters, the adventure seekers, and those who continually seek spots off the beaten path, this article is for you.

Sure, there’s always the San Diego Zoo or the golden beaches to spend an afternoon. But there’s so much more this city in Southern California has to offer. From lowkey food scenes to a bit more understated destinations, take a look at these specially-selected San Diego hidden treasures that live away from the top ten Google recommendations. Being experts in San Diego tours, we’ve found the best of the best hidden gems that this city has to offer.

Forks Out | A San Diegan’s Guide to Noms

Let’s be real. Food is the centerpiece of all plans. Thankfully, San Diego has no shortage of delicious eateries to test out. However, in the world of Yelp and Instagram, you might be hard-pressed to find a place with a shorter waitlist than a university’s easiest general education course.

So, put down those organic sea salt potato chips and save your appetite. We won’t leave you hungry and in despair with these secret selects from your favorite San Diegan.

Brunch or Bust

San Diego pulls no punches when it comes to brunch. Albeit a little biased, we’re quite confident that you won’t find another city that goes this hard for the world’s most revered mealtime. 

Little Lion

Photo Courtesy: Little Lion

Head here for the quintessential, quaint brunch spot in Sunset Cliffs. This restaurant is affiliated with the San Diego gastronomical icons: Belgian Lion Restaurant and Marie Coulon bakery. 

Little Lion has the classic fare, perfectly poached eggs and eggs benedict, as well as excellent plant-based dishes. Complete your love affair with a great selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. There probably will be a wait, though it’s totally worth it—trust us.  

  • Tip: Try their turmeric latte to start your day off with a burst of anti-inflammatory energy.

Lazy Hippo

Courtesy: Lazy Hippo

Gaslamp Quarter, located in downtown San Diego, is a hotspot of attractions, so you might as well eat close to all the action. At Lazy Hippo, you can have the best of both worlds, according to San Diego’s specialties. What does this mean for your menu? Mexican food and brunch.  

Some can’t-go-wrong recommendations include: 

  • Enfrijolodas Loaded
  • Lemon Ricotta Waffle
  • Peanut Butter Banana French Toast
  • Breakfast Enchiladas
  • Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

If you’re coming around for lunch, give their Chorizo Burger a chance. You’ll be wondering why no one else has caught onto this magical pairing. 

Is it Lunchtime Yet?

If you’re that one friend who is ready for round two right after brunch, make your way to one of these San Diego restaurants for a hearty lunch to get you through a jam-packed day. 

  • Mitch’s Seafood Point Loma is a historic fishing neighborhood, so it’s a no-brainer for seafood fans. The waterfront dining offers locally-sourced catches to create its motto: Fresh is best! And the ocean views aren’t too bad either…
  • Panama 66 Located in Balboa Park in an open-air sculpture garden, this restaurant focuses on locally-sourced and hand-crafted cuisine. Make your way through their local craft beer taps and channel your inner art critic.

It’s 5’o’clock Somewhere

Did that mention of beer above put a sparkle in your eye? For the 21+ crowd, get your leisure and liquor on at one of the following watering holes.

Mister A’s

Photo Courtesy: Mister A’s Restaurant

Just a pit stop at Mister A’s. Refuel during their happy hour and enjoy stunning views of downtown San Diego, Banker’s Hill, and Coronado. Come for the magical sunset, Pacific Gold oysters from Morro Bay, and their Burnt Orange Old Fashioned. Stay to try out the rest of their cocktail menu. 

Note: Yes, we admit, Mister A’s doesn’t exactly hit the “hidden” gem mark; although their fantastic Happy Hour is not talked about enough!

Anyone seeking the perfect San Diego sunset, save yourself the energy with our list of places for the best sunset in San Diego. Just make sure to arrive with plenty of time to spare to truly enjoy the ocean views… and to sip cocktails, of course.

Vin de Syrah

Photo Courtesy: Vin de Syrah

For wine connoisseurs (or those content with any Trader Joe vintage), this wine bar in the Gaslamp Quarter may be right up your alley, especially if you’re looking for a great date activity. Decorated according to an Alice in Wonderland theme, Vin de Syrah is a whimsical place to start your evening and one of our favorite date ideas in San Diego. Although, one heads up: it might have you wishing you could be off with your head the next morning. 

If any of the following pique your interest, then set your next outing soon:

  • Beer
  • Charcuterie
  • Dessert wine
  • Mezcal
  • Red wine
  • Specialty cocktails
  • Whiskey
  • White wine

Vin de Syrah also has happy hour specials and flights, so you don’t have to pick just one to try.

Keep it classy and discover a couple of speakeasy bars in San Diego as your next stop. The speakeasy scene epitomizes hidden gems in San Diego! 

Let’s Get Physical

Okay, fine, you might not be able to eat all day. Build that appetite up again and take in all that San Diego has to offer. 

Ho Chi Minh Hiking Trail

Photo courtesy: SportRX.com

It’s true. San Diego has it all. In addition to sandy beaches, you can find several trails to hike and truly appreciate San Diego’s natural beauty. The Ho Chi Minh is only 0.6 miles and ends up at Blacks Beach as a reward. 

Although short, be careful because this trail can be dangerous, especially after recent rainfall. Before your hike, take a few pointers:

  • Due to the difficulty of the trail, it is not recommended that you bring dogs, children, or clothes you care too much about.
  • Park along the road for free (two-hour time limit).
  • Be cautious on slippery surfaces, especially after recent rainfall.
  • Scrambling around rocks might be necessary, but don’t hesitate to sit and scoot to safer ground.

Spruce St. Suspension Bridge

Photo Courtesy: John Teo

This area is not an outright tourist destination. With an eye on your navigation app, you still might make a wrong turn. Take some advice on getting to this beautiful lookout. 

For visitors unafraid of heights, of course, this bridge is picture-perfect. You’ll get to enjoy a lovely stroll and update your social media. Or, maybe just run out, snap a quick pic, and head to the safety of solid land.

Looking to flaunt for the ‘Gram and unafraid to show it? We’ve already compiled a list of the most Instagram worthy backdrops in San Diego.

Little Italy

Photo Courtesy: Little Italy

Does your idea of building up an appetite exclude dirt and insects? Perhaps the only sweat you’re willing to break for is an exceptional sale? Well then, give your credit card a workout and treat yourself in Little Italy. Enjoy a relaxing stroll to boutiques for fast fashion finds. 

Need a directory? See what you’re working with here. If you need some starting points, stop by these San Diego hidden treasures:

  • Be Boutique 1501 India St.
  • Stroll Boutique – 2360 India St.
  • Valmare Boutique – 1840 Columbia St.
  • Bluza Boutique – 1501 India St. (Ste. 106)
  • Rosamariposa – 611 West Fir St.
  • Vocabulary – 414 West Cedar St.
  • The Shops at Jame’s Coffee – 2355 India St. 

Because whoever said that holding eight bags at a time, walking up and down the street wasn’t a workout?

Spots That Will Hit the Spot

With all the hidden places in San Diego you’ve been provided, you can quickly build a unique itinerary. Food, scenery, and activities? Check, check, and check! Whether you’re solo exploring all San Diego has to offer or planning a group outing, there won’t be any complaints and drones of “what should we do” when you check out So Diego Tours!

Want to be extremely thorough? Maybe have someone to impress? Check out our daytime date ideas in San Diego for even more suggestions, hand-picked for two in mind.