By Trip Styler, on July 25, 2013

Beach 101 in San Diego

I’m beach-obsessed. I live for sand in my toes, salt in my hair, and sea in my midst – a world where lifeguards are rock stars and surfers are celebs (cue the Baywatch theme song). On the flip side, I also love a good city scene, which is why San Diego’s easy, breezy beach life, splashed in cosmopolitan cues, reaches a high in my tide chart. 

You don’t have to look very far to find a swath of sand in San Diego. If the shore beckons, simply follow the throngs of cars with surfboards strapped to the roof. Doing so, I get distracted. It’s 10:24 a.m. and I haven’t eaten, so I swoop into Bird Rock Coffee Roasters in La Jolla, an upscale coastal community in San Diego’s northern city limits, where corporate types wear wetsuits in the a.m. and business suits in the p.m. Teeming with surfers sporting still-wet hair topped in half-on beanies, I order a coffee and a cookie – breakfast of champions – savoring the scene from a wooden bench running the length of the storefront.

Wearing my bathing suit under my clothes, I’m ready to try the tides and conquer a corner – or two – of the city’s 70+ miles of coastline. First stop: the nearby Palisades Park, a green space tumbling over California’s iconic beach bluffs bordering North Pacific Beach. Spreading my blanket over the grass and cracking my book, I think of my friends who love the beach life, yet hate the sand – go figure. Best of both worlds at Palisades Park.

Viewfinder Tip: Always carry a beach towel in San Diego, you never know when you’ll want to hit the shore.

Since a coffee and cookie only go so far in the fuel department, I make up for my morning nutrition-fail at the Fig Tree Cafe, and fill my stomach with a big-enough-for-two eggs benny accompanied by parmesan-truffle-arugula-roasted potatoes. Dining under the shade of a massive ficus tree, midbite I spot more evidence of beach life, this time in the form of bathing suit-clad sun seekers riding cruiser bikes to the seaside. Check please!

Once again I follow like a not-so-stealthy beach bum searching for the nearest break. I find it at Pacific Beach. Perched above lifeguard tower 25, all I can see is sand and sea. At that moment, 30 Pelicans do a fly-over in a perfect linear formation – the universe must be welcoming me to my muse. Walking down the wooden, sun-bleached steps to the hot sand, I spend the afternoon basking in the ocean breeze, rising only to spy on surfers – I mean sip water!


Pacific Beach

Beach buffs of the world: stay at Pacific Beach. Lined with lifeguard stations you wish you could call home, and a host of San Diego hotels, this buzzy beach spot is bathed in local flavor. If you’re searching for coastal cool, check into Tower23 Hotel, the oceanfront’s chicest shack, encased in glass and gallery whites. A stroll away, the Pacific View Inn’s throwback exterior and spruced-up interior is a little lighter on the wallet and includes breakfast and WiFi.

So much sand, so little time; the beach-capades must go on! I stop in for $1.50 fish tacos from Marisco’s German taco truck (one of the city’s top-rated) while it’s still light outside, and venture to Coronado Beach for power hour – sunset! I plug the meter with $0.25, thinking I’ll get six minutes of time, but then an hour pops up! I’ll take a $0.25 sunset any day, thanks.

Coronado Beach

Watching the sun fade into oblivion from Coronado’s white ribbon shoreline, swimmers and surfers catch the last length of light. Lost in the moment, I find myself humming the Baywatch song – SO embarrassing! – while running down the beach in slow motion. Oh my, are you as beach-obsessed as I am?

What seaside towns do you visit in search of the easy, breezy beach life?