How to Plan the Perfect Girls Weekend in San Diego

One of the most popular vacation destinations along the West Coast of the United States is San Diego, which has a lot to offer travelers.

Expansive beaches, a vibrant downtown, and world-class zoos and theme parks make America’s finest city a perfect fit for almost everyone, from singles to families alike (but, we’re here to talk about planning the perfect girls weekend in San Diego).

As the saying goes, girls just want to have fun and there is no better place for a fun-filled girls weekend than San Diego!

Trust me, I know – I live here.

There are countless San Diego hotels, spas, nightclubs and restaurants to keep women entertained. From the fresh-out-of-college crowd to seasoned cougars ready to pounce, San Diego has a scene for us all so, leave the boys behind and head to San Diego for a vacation you’ll hardly remember, but never forget!

Here’s how to spend the best girls weekend in San Diego!

Girls weekend in San Diego
San Diego pier

How to Plan the Perfect Girls Weekend in San Diego

Planning the perfect weekend in San Diego includes knowing where to stay and what to plan into your itinerary. We got a few great recommendations for you.

If you’re going to be flying in, check out these California airports.

Book the Ultimate San Diego Resort

The Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa encapsulates everything that we love about San Diego. It has a stunning location on Mission Bay putting guests within steps of the water and boardwalk as well as just a few minutes from the Gaslamp Quarter and beaches of Pacific and Mission Beach.

For single women looking for a little vacation romance, this location is ideal. Pacific Beach has a just-out-of-college bar scene with dive bars, nightclubs, and plenty of restaurants along Garnet Avenue whereas the Gaslamp Quarter caters to all ages with lounges, music venues, bars, and dancing.

If you’re looking for a more relaxing vacation in San Diego Hilton Resort and Spa has a full service spa with massages and facials, a beautiful waterfront pool, an onsite restaurant, and offers an array of activities from tennis to sailing.

Book here.

Enjoy a Cocktail with a View

What’s a girls weekend in San Diego without a few cocktails?

Altitude Sky Lounge is a swanky cocktail lounge located on the 22nd floor of the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter. Day or night, this location is unforgettable with a birds-eye view of Petco Park, the San Diego Bay, Coronado Bridge and the entire Gaslamp Quarter.

Altitude Sky Lounge is perfect for a happy hour cocktail before a fun night out downtown or a late night stop after dancing it up at the local clubs. Complete with a modern appeal, firepits, flashy decor, and beautiful patrons, it doesn’t get better than Altitude Sky Lounge in San Diego.

Grab a Bite with the Gals

It’s rare to ask a group of young San Diego locals where their favorite place to eat is and hear no mention of Cucina Urbana. This trendy Italian bistro has California flare, reasonable prices, out of this world food, an extensive wine list and over the top hipster decor.

Open for lunch, dinner, and happy hour, Cucina Urbana in Banker’s Hill is a thriving hotspot attracting locals and visitors from all over town. This favorite San Diego restaurant also offers wine tastings on Saturday afternoons.

Shop ’til You Drop

San Diego has every kind of shopping imaginable from boutique shopping and organic farmer’s markets to outlet centers and massive shopping malls. My personal favorite mall is Horton Plaza in downtown San Diego. This outdoor shopping mall has well-known upscale stores, an ice-skating rink during winter and is located next door to the Gaslamp Quarter. I also love the Carlsbad Premium Outlet Center in North County where you can find incredible deals on high-end brand names like BCBG, BEBE, Banana Republic, and Sephora.

Check out Balboa Park

San Diego’s Balboa Park is the United State’s largest urban cultural park. You’ll find numerous affordable and even free things to do in Balboa Park! Check out our guide on free things to do in Balboa Park.

Free things to do in Balboa Park, San Diego
Free things to do in Balboa Park, San Diego

Don’t miss Casa Guadalajara, Old Town San Diego for great Mexican Cuisine

Old Town San Diego is considered the “birthplace” of California. San Diego is the site of the first permanent Spanish settlement in California. It was here in 1769, that Father Junipero Serra came to establish the very first mission in a chain of 21 missions that were to be the cornerstone of California’s colonization. His mission was built on a hillside overlooking what is currently known as Old Town San Diego.

At the base of the hill in 1820’s, a small Mexican community of adobe buildings was formed and by 1835 had attained the status of El Pueblo de San Diego. In 1846, a U.S. Navy Lieutenant and a Marine Lieutenant, raised the American flag in the Old Town San Diego Plaza. 

Bazaar Del Mundo Shops are what you will see first when you get to the corner of that street. Garish Latin-themed gift stores, operate this Mexican restaurant situated a block away from Old Town State Historic Park. Not only is Casa Guadalajara better than what you’ll find along that area, it’s often less crowded than its counterparts (though having to wait for half an hour or more is not unusual on a Fri & Sat night). Mariachi tunes played by strolling musicians enliven the room nightly, and you can also dine alfresco, in a picturesque courtyard occupied by a 200-year-old pepper tree.

Birdbath-size margaritas start most meals, while dining ranges from simple south-of-the-border fare to more gourmet items like tequila lime shrimp and mango chipotle chicken — but the extensive menu features all the fajita and combo plates most people expect.

Begin with an appetizer or three, especially the nachos supreme done with crispy blue corn, yellow corn and chipotle tortilla chips and the special nacho sauce; the chipotle chicken taquitos and some of the best guacamole dip in town. You can order tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tamales and chili relleno a la carte, but the combinations served with rice and beans and specialty dishes lure you to Casa Guadalajara. Breakfast is also served on weekends.

This place (like the Bazaar) is touristy, but out-of-towners looking for old California ambience and reliable Mexican food will find it here. First time all week, we had respectably HOT and SPICY chili and so I was pretty happy with the meal! However, Mexican is rather heavy and I doubt that this would be the kind of cuisine I would look for on a regular basis! A nice experience all in all!

Visit the San Diego Beaches: What you Need to Know

In the summer, it seems like the entire world flocks to the San Diego beaches for fun in the sun, so here are a few tips to make your experience a little better.

June Gloom

Most vacationers arrive expecting a bright summer sun at the beach all the time. However, at the beaches in San Diego, that is not always the case. June Gloom is a Southern Californian expression for the low clouds that hand over beach areas in late spring and early summer. June Gloom can carry on well into July and, on occasions, even into August. May Gray, No Sky July, and Fogust are monikers that San Diego residents are very familiar with.  

It can be maddening for those who booked a beach vacation who only see the sun for one day out of their whole trip. To avoid this, as best you can, schedule your trip in mid to late August or early September.

The Stingray Shuffle

If you frequent San Diego’s beaches in the summer months, you will most likely hear someone mention the “Stingray Shuffle”.

Stingrays love to hang out in warm, shallow water and, when stepped on, deliver a painful sting to ankles or feet. Unless you want to spend your day at the lifeguard tower in immense pain with your foot in a bucket of hot water, you need to learn the dance.

Shuffle your feet when entering or exiting the water to alert the rays that there are people near by.

No Alcohol on Beaches

Yes, it’s true. There is a ban on alcohol consumption on the beach in San Diego, punishable by a $250 fine.

More than likely, however, lifeguards will simply force you to empty out any alcoholic beverages the first time they catch you. Also prohibited are smoking, glass containers, littering, and overnight camping.

No matter what kind of girl you are and what kind of vacation you’re looking for, San Diego has it all.

For young women looking for a wild time to moms looking for a break from the kids, San Diego has natural beauty, luxurious hotels, great restaurants and fun nightlife to satisfy even the weariest of travelers.

We hope you enjoy the perfect girls weekend in San Diego!

Looking for more girls weekend trips? Check out these guides:


Hiking Along the San Andreas Fault in Southern California

Southern California is full of amazing hiking opportunities, but perhaps few are as interesting as those that run along the San Andreas fault in the Colorado Desert of the Coachella Valley.

One of my favorite hikes along the fault is Pushawalla Palms Loop.

This hike offers different and amazing landscapes that were formed by earthquakes and tectonic plate movement along the fault.

Quick Primer on the San Andreas Fault Network

Scientists have learned that the Earth’s crust is fractured into a series of “plates” that have been moving very slowly over the Earth’s surface for millions of years. Two of these moving plates, the Pacific Plate and North American Plate meet in western California; the boundary between them is the San Andreas fault. This fault forms a continuous narrow break in the Earth’s crust that extends over 1,000 km from northern California southward to the Mexico border. Usually, these plates slowly collide, separate and grind past each other at a rate of about 50 mm per year. However sometime the plates lock in position until the stress created by the plates overcomes the strength of the rock. At that point, the rocks fracture along the fault and seismic waves radiate in all directions, causing the Earth to vibrate and shake. An earthquake occurs as the plates move feet or tens of feet in just seconds.

Since this scenario has been repeated time and again over 40 million years, it’s easy to understand that land on either side of the fault have slid in opposite directions over 450 km since the plates first came in contact with each other. Over the millennia, these quakes have pulverized rocks, changed the flow of rivers, ground down mountains, and created new mountains, hills, canyons, and valleys. Here’s a close-up view of the San Andreas fault area. The red line marks the San Andreas fault, and the small black circle shows the location of the hike.

General Desert Hiking Safety

Even though this is a relatively short hike, remember you are in a desert environment. Being prepared will increase the chance that you have an enjoyable excursion.

Here are a few basic safety tips if you are new to desert hiking:

  • Start early. Don’t hike during the hottest part of the day.
  • Know the weather forecast. You don’t want to be hiking in the desert during a thunderstorm due to flash flood concerns.
  • Stay hydrated; drink a lot of water. General rule of thumb is 4-6 liters/person/day
  • Know the signs of heat stress.
  • Cover your skin. Dress appropriately in light weight loose fitting clothes, hat, and proper shoes/boots.
  • Watch for plants and wildlife and keep your distance. Remember this is rattlesnake territory. Also, removing cactus needles isn’t pleasant and something you want to avoid.
  • Carry a trail map. Consider downloading an app such as AllTrails or MapMyRun or even better a GPS app to track your path.
  • Bonus Recommendation: Keep extra water and snacks in your car. Even hot water is better than driving home thirsty after a long desert hike.

Pushawalla Palms Loop Trail: 5 miles

Pushawalla Palms Loop is a well-marked trail located within the 17,000-acre Coachella Valley Preserve Area near Thousand Palms, California. The trailhead is located less than 15 miles from Palm Springs on Thousand Palms Canyon Rd. There’s plenty of parking on the main road but be prepared for crowds on weekends. The trailhead is open year-round and there are no fees or permits required.

The trailhead is the starting point for several area hikes, so make sure to follow the Pushawalla Palms trail signs. For the first 0.5 km, the path winds its way through a dry stream bed know as a wash. During the brief fall and winter rainy season, washes like this provide drainage channels for surrounding hills and mountains. These rains help to disperse wildflowers seeds which root in the sandy soil as the water slowly evaporates. Come spring when the grounds warms, the seeds sprout and the trail is lined with purple, yellow, and white wildflowers. This is not the image most people have of the desert. The wildflowers draw large crowds in the Spring, but fortunately, most people only hike a short portion of the trail to view the wildflowers.

After walking through the wash, the trail begins climbing Bee Rock Mesa. This mesa and the surrounding hills are wedged between two faults that have squeezed and uplifted the rocks and gravel to create this straight line of sharply defined hills along the fault.

The trail winds its way along the ridge of the mesa. Although this is not a knife edge, be careful since there is a 90-100 meter drop off on either side of the trail. Enjoy your walk on the mesa; take in the sweeping views knowing that 3+ miles directly beneath your feet is the San Andreas fault.

After hiking 1.6 km, the Horseshoe Palm grove appears on the right-hand side of the trail at the base of the hill. This long string of palm trees extends over 1.5 km. These palms flourish in the middle of the desert because the fault beneath us has pulverized the bedrock allowing groundwater to seep close to the surface and nourish these trees. It’s not uncommon to see a straight line of palm trees or other vegetation growing along sections of the San Andreas fault.

The path follows the ridgeline for 2.5 km. By now the crowd will have significantly thinned out with most people returning to their cars. Unfortunately, these people assume the wildflowers in the wash are the best part of this trail – they are so wrong.

Over the next 1.25 km, the trail begins a gradual descent to the floor of the Pushawalla Canyon. A section of the trail has been heavily eroded by recent rainstorms. This isn’t a difficult area to navigate but it does require more careful footing.

After 3.2 km of hiking, you emerge on the floor of Pushawalla Canyon and are almost immediately surrounded by a lush green environment. In both directions, for as far as the eye can see, there are the Pushawalla Palms. Why is it called Pushawalla? Legend has it that Pushawalla was the name of a local Native American who lived to be over 100 years old. Allegedly he died when a summer cloudburst flooded the canyon he was in and swept him away. The canyon where he was found is called Pushawalla Canyon.

The California Fan Palms are the only palm tree native to the United States. The telltale sign of the California Fan Palm is the “skirt” of old dead palm fronds that cascade downwards around its trunk (rather than dropping off like other palms). Be careful walking around the fallen palm fronds. They’re often used by rattlesnakes for cover and shade; snakebites have been reported in the Pushawalla Palms area. It’s worth repeating, respect desert wildlife.

You can explore Pushawalla Canyon in both directions. Underground fissures caused by the San Andreas faults provide groundwater in the canyon an easy route to the surface. You’ll notice a small stream flowing on the ground. The stream often mysteriously disappears into the sand and then reappears further down on the trail. Be on the look-out for rabbits, coyotes, and all kinds of birds who are drawn to the water.

Often it feels more like you are walking through wetlands with tall grasses and vegetation encroaching on the trail. It’s strange that this beautiful desert oasis was created by faults and earthquakes that we normally only associate with damage and destruction.

After exploring the palm oasis, it was time to head back. There are several options you might want to explore. For our return we chose to climb out of the canyon via the rock gully that we had used to descent from the ridge and then follow a trail to the base of the hills. Walking on the desert floor provides a new perspective of the terrain. As we passed the Horseshoe Palm grove, we had a clear view of several people hiking on the ridge trail above us.

As we hiked further away from the hills, the vegetation became sparser. But remember, the interesting thing about the desert is that it hides its beauty so well.

If you are hiking in the late winter or spring be sure to move slowly and look carefully. You will find a variety of small and large flowering plants and maybe even a lizard or two along the trail.

After hiking on the desert floor for slightly more than 1 km, we climbed back up to the ridge and made our way to the car.

For this hike we logged 10 km, but various maps indicate typical lengths ranging from 6-8 km. Our excess mileage was due to our extensive exploration of Pushawalla Canyon. Even with a stop for lunch and photos, we completed the hike in 3.3 hours. In the satellite image below, the red dot marks the trailhead, and the green dot marks the intersection where we rejoined the ridge from the desert floor on our return route.

Hiking along the San Andreas Fault in the Coachella Valley is not about finding the “giant crack in the ground”. Millions of years of erosion have piled upwards of 3 miles of gravel and rock debris on top of the fault. Although the fault is buried, you know now that it’s easily visible by following the strip of green vegetation that runs in a straight line against an otherwise bare series of hills and brown desert washes. Hopefully, this information will encourage you to explore the San Andres Fault and Pushawalla Palms on your next visit.

Additional Resources

Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve

Places to Stay

There are countless resorts, boutique hotels and Airbnbs to stay at in the Greater Palm Springs area. Except during the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals in April, obtaining a booking should not be a problem.

Places to Eat

Because the Greater Palm Springs area is such a tourist draw. There are eateries to meet any need.

Here are a few of our favorite spots to enjoy an after-hike dinners: