Adventure & Wellness Trips
Surrounded by ocean, mountains, and desert, San Diego's prime location makes quick getaways to commune with nature a snap. For organized tours of the region, two great resources are the San Diego Natural History Museum and the Birch Aquarium at Scripps. Each offers guided outings, such as day hikes or grunion hunts, as well as multiday excursions, including trips to the desert or to the Pacific gray whale breeding lagoons in Baja California.
In the Anza-Borrego Desert, California Overland will guide you through otherworldly landscapes on trips lasting anywhere from a few hours to 2 days. They provide all the gear and do all the cooking on the overnight trips -- all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the campfire and the spectacular display of stars overhead.
For an unforgettable immersion in Baja wilderness (but with plenty of creature comforts), check out Baja Airventures (tel. 800/221-9283; www.bajaairventures.com), which will fly you in a small plane from San Diego to remote parts of the Baja peninsula for personalized tours that can encompass fishing, surfing, snorkeling, kayaking, or just snoozing in a hammock.
Stateside, Hike Bike Kayak is a one-stop shop for outdoor activities in San Diego. You can arrange everything from a surfing lesson to exploring La Jolla's sea caves via kayak (you can even set up a full-day, three-sport combo package).
The region is also home to a number of wellness spas, including Rancho La Puerta, which was founded in 1940 just across the border in Tecate, Mexico. This groundbreaking venture pioneered the concept of the destination spa, where feel-good massages take a back seat to mind-and-body workouts.
Holistic guru Deepak Chopra has also set up shop in San Diego with his Chopra Center for Wellbeing, located at La Costa Resort and Spa. Here you'll find an array of classes and treatments, as well as a gift shop. At Warner Springs Ranch in the Cleveland National Forest, you can soak in the healthful mineral water, and also enjoy horseback riding, golf, and hiking (all at a fraction of the cost of the upscale wellness resorts).
Food & Wine Trips
San Diego is adjacent to two prolific wine regions: Temecula Valley to the north, just across the Riverside County line, and to the south, the Valle de Guadalupe, where you will find Mexico's most important wineries. Either makes for an easy day trip, with plenty of overnight options, as well. You can also sample some of San Diego's renowned beers without having to worry about a designated driver. Brew Hop and Brewery Tours of San Diego can guide you to the city's top brewers.
San Diego's rising foodie profile can be experienced firsthand via wine and cooking classes at the Balboa Park Food & Wine School (tel. 619/557-9441; www.balboafoodwine.com). This top-notch operation is located at the gorgeous House of Hospitality in the heart of Balboa Park and is operated by the folks who run the Prado restaurant. If things get too hot in the kitchen for you here, you can just step out onto the terrace with its wonderful views of the park.
The San Diego Wine & Culinary Center, 200 Harbor Dr., Ste. 120 (tel. 619/231-6400; www.sdwineculinary.com), is conveniently located just across the trolley tracks from the Convention Center. It offers a variety of classes, as well as food and wine events. To top it off, there's a wine bar and jazz club here, as well.
Great News!, 1788 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach (tel. 888/478-2433 or 858/270-1582; www.great-news.com), has been a fixture in San Diego since 1977. Cooking classes in the state-of-the-art kitchen run the seasonal and ethnic gamut; plus they sell just about any piece of cookware or food gadget you could ever want.
Escorted tours are structured group tours, with a group leader. The price usually includes everything from airfare to hotels, meals, tours, admission costs, and local transportation.
Collette Tours (tel. 800/340-5158; www.collettevacations.com), Globus (tel. 866/755-8581; www.globusjourneys.com), and Tauck World Discovery (tel. 800/788-7885; www.tauck.com) each offer California coastal tours that hit the state's highlights, from San Francisco to San Diego.
San Diego's distinct neighborhoods lend themselves to exploration by foot, and there are plenty of options for guided walking tours, many of them free.
You can learn the history of the vibrant Gaslamp Quarter with a Saturday morning tour from the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation, while Walkabout International offers dozens of free walking tours all across the county, including wilderness hikes. The San Diego Natural History Museum is another great resource for free guided nature hikes; and at sublime parks such as Torrey Pines State Reserve, Cabrillo National Monument, and Mission Trails Regional Park, rangers also lead regularly scheduled walks.