After you've followed the previous two itineraries, spend your third day touring the Embarcadero, contemplating the ocean vistas from Point Loma or Torrey Pines, and exploring another spectacular beach (as well as a bevy of outdoor dining venues and high-end boutiques) in La Jolla. If you have kids in tow, consider visiting the theme park you didn't choose on Day 2.
1. The Embarcadero
Along the Embarcadero, downtown San Diego's waterfront, you'll find harbor tours, a ferry to Coronado, and historic vessels such as the aircraft carrier USS Midway and the Star of India, the world's oldest active ship. Both are now floating museums; also close by are the downtown spaces for the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. There are plenty of restaurants and shops at Seaport Village, a maritime-themed retail area, as well.
2. The Great Outdoors: Cabrillo National Monument or Torrey Pines State Reserve
You don't have to go far to find stunning natural environments in San Diego. The two best and closest are Cabrillo National Monument and Torrey Pines State Reserve. Hours can easily melt away at either of these magical spots, so you'll have to select just one.
Cabrillo National Monument is at the end of Point Loma, a slice of land jutting into the Pacific just southwest of downtown San Diego. This 144-acre park features a statue of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, the Portuguese explorer who landed in San Diego in 1542; a restored 1855 lighthouse; museum installations and a bookstore; bayside trails; tide pools; and a 422-foot-high lookout. This is an excellent vantage point to see migrating Pacific gray whales in winter; year-round, you'll enjoy awesome views of San Diego's harbor and skyline, and the rocky Pacific coastline. When skies are clear, you can also see Mexico in the distance.
Just north of La Jolla, Torrey Pines State Reserve is one of San Diego's most treasured spots. The 1,000-acre reserve is home to the distinctively gnarled tree that gives the place its name (and which is found only here and on an island off the coast). Trails range from flat and easy to steep and narrow, but all provide breathtaking views of the ocean, lagoon, canyons, sandstone formations, and the famed Torrey Pines Golf Course. Take a hike or just head down to the beach.
3. Fish Tacos & Desserts
Stop for a snack or lunch at the harborside Point Loma Seafoods, 2805 Emerson St. (tel. 619/223-1109), a fish market (with outdoor picnic tables) offering sandwiches, sushi, salads, and tasty fish tacos. In La Jolla, sweet and savory options are available at Michele Coulon Dessertier, 7556 Fay Ave., Ste. D (tel. 858/456-5098). If you need something more substantial than sweets, the menu at this small restaurant goes way beyond amazing desserts. Try the onion soup, Belgian endive salad, or a quiche, along with a slice of flourless chocolate Cognac cake.
4. La Jolla
End your day in La Jolla, San Diego's swanky neighbor to the north. This town is upscale, exclusive, and home to some of the area's priciest real estate. Take one look at the pristine coastline, and you'll instantly understand the allure. The main shopping and dining venues are clustered along or near Prospect Street, but La Jolla's most spectacular spot is the bluff above La Jolla Cove. Stroll along Coast Boulevard for the most scenic views. With its calm, crystal-clear water, the cove is also great for swimming. In the tide pools at its small, sandy beach, you can glimpse marine life such as starfish, sea anemones, and sea urchins.