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Aug 8, 2011 02:56 PM

Day trip from Los Angeles

My girlfriend and I are planning a trip to Los Angeles in a couple of weeks. All she really cares about are beaches, so i have planned our itinerary around sampling various destinations (one day at Santa Monica/Venice, one day Malibu and Santa Barbara, etc...) I would go nuts sitting on Venice Beach for five days but she would be happy as a clam.

She has never been to the West Coast so I wanted to take her to San Diego for a day trip, probably on a Tuesday if that matters. I figure we will leave our hotel near LAX mid-morning and drive south to Laguna Beach, Dana Point, and San Onofre. She can lay out at one of those for a while, then we will continue down to San Diego where she can check out OB, PB, or MB in the afternoon. We'll end the afternoon with a stroll around Seaport Village or Coronado. Then dinner somewhere in SD (Mexican in Old Town maybe) before heading back to LA

I'm thinking about a place for lunch on the drive down, mostly because I don't have a feel for the time and distances and where we will be. We both love seafood -- I lean more towards shellfish than fish, but she likes it all. Fish House Vera Cruz in Carlsbad was recommended, but from the Web site it looks a little upscale for us coming straight from the beach. We'd prefer a casual place, preferably beachside. We'd even enjoy a take-away place with picnic tables -- the beaches in Hawaii were studded with places like that but I don't know what to expect here.

Does anyone have any suggestions for places to stop for lunch anywhere along the way from Los Angeles to San Diego, given where we are likely to be in my above rough itinerary?


Fish House Vera Cruz
417 Carlsbad Village Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008

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  1. I'd suggest heading into La Jolla, stopping by Prepkitchen and getting your lunch to go. Once in hand, head over to La Jolla Cove - nice park with benches along the water and even a few "huts" you can sit in and watch the waves... If sand is what you want, take the strais down to the actual beach.

    Have fun!

    Oh, you might want to skip Old Town for Mexican Food. Pretty lousy. If Mexican food is what you want try Super Cocina (probably the best in town - cheap and in a colorful part of town), for higher end there is Candelas in the Downtown area. We're fans of El Comal and Cantina Mayahuel - both low/mid priced in non-touristy parts of town however.

    Super Cocina
    3627 University Ave., San Diego, CA 92104

    Cantina Mayahuel
    2934 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116

    El Comal
    262 3rd Ave, Chula Vista, CA 91910

    6 Replies
    1. re: zmirzlina

      Thanks for the suggestion. La Jolla seems way far down towards San Diego, but I'll definitely keep it in mind. It might be a cool place to do takeout and go sit and watch the seals on Seal Beach.

      1. re: 2roadsdiverge

        Not many seals this time of year, as it is not pup season, and they have the ropes down. Last weekend, the beach was full of people. I saw a few seals popping their heads out of the water, but that was it. I would not plan your trip around this.

        Even if the seals were there, there isn't really any place one can eat and watch them at the same time - too crowded in that area. You can eat *close* to there in Scripps Park, of course.

        1. re: RB Hound

          Darn, I was hoping to show her seals -- We weren't able to fit San Francisco into the trip. oh well. We were planning on a stop at Scripps Park, or La Jolla Cove, or Windandsea Beach or somewhere along there.

          1. re: 2roadsdiverge

            Usually are a few sea lions that hang out on the rocks just east of the Cove, along with a lot of birds. You probably can see a few seals near Children's Pool; you just can't depend on them being on the beach (and in fact, they probably won't be there). If the tide is low, you might see some on the rocks just off shore.

        2. re: 2roadsdiverge

          Ah, if you want to eat before San Diego (La Jolla is about 15 minutes north of Downtown) Bull Taco might fight the bill - this is a snack bar in a campground in North County but borders on being chow worthy and is situated on the cliffs above the ocean. Plus it serves Mexican so it kills two birds with one stone. Haven't been for some time but when I went it was excellent although reports have indicated the quality has gone downhill recently. You'll want the Cardiff by the Sea location. About 30 minutes north of Downtown San Diego, 45 minutes with traffic.

          1. re: zmirzlina

            I'm not committed to eating anywhere in particular. i just know she is going to want to stop and lay out in the morning. I'm guessing that will happen around Dana Point or Oceanside. So I was thinking lunch around there would be best. But the whole drive is only a couple of hours, so really anywhere along the way is useful.

            Bull Taco sounds perfect! They also have an Oceanside location in case we are still up that way when we get hungry. Noted!

      2. I would suggest stopping at Bear Flag Fish in Newport Beach. Really delicious and it's halfway down to SD.

        3 Replies
        1. re: gator28

          Thanks for the suggestion! We love fish tacos and were hoping to find some good local ones. Newport beach is halfway to SD, from LAX? Seems really close on the map. We may be past there by lunch time, but I've added it to my Google map!

          1. re: 2roadsdiverge

            Yes, it's about halfway from LAX I would say...give or take. Love their poke!

            1. re: gator28

              Another option is Chronic Taco in Newport. Their tacos are awesome and it's very casual so you can come straight from the beach and fit right in!

        2. Admittedly I'm no longer the authority on OC restaurants that I once was, but I remember having some nice grilled seafood entrees at the Harbor Grill in Dana Point.

          As far as stopping at the beach in Dana Point, I think that would be a mistake unless you mean stopping at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel. They have an amazing beach there that you won't want to miss.

          On your timing, I think you would need to leave before "mid-morning" if you're going to stop at each beach along the way. Traffic will quickly slow you down and you won't make it to SD in time to enjoy the beaches before needing to head back to LA.

          For Dinner, definitely stay away from Old Town. What is your price range? Since your girlfriend is really into the beach/ocean you might want to go to some of the places in SD with nice views as you eat. Are you committed to Mexican or are you willing to try other things?

          2 Replies
          1. re: karaethon

            Re Dana Point: It was just on my map in case we were going to go whale watching or visiting Catalina instead of San Diego. We won't stop at a beach there.

            As far as the timing, we don't need to stop at every beach on the way to SD. I am just a planner, whereas she doesn't like to plan anything. I just want to be prepared for whatever we decide to do, and know where all the beaches are, and which ones are best for laying out or walking around or people watching or whatever. So we aren't wedded to Mexican for dinner, or anything at all. But San Diego is pretty easy. There's a ton of info here and we have lots of options. She is not a foodie and is happy pretty much anywhere -- she'd be fine at Wahoo's for fish tacos.

            I only mentioned Old Town because in all my times I've visited SD, I've never been and people keep telling me I have to go. It seems to be a stop on every itinerary I see. But I am glad to pass if it is all tourist traps and BS. My gf won't mind at all. I remember a pretty nice meal at Fish Market on Harbor Drive. That's always an option.

            1. re: 2roadsdiverge

              Try Point Loma Seafoods - it has some of the freshest seafood in town, and sits right on the bay. I'd then hit Coronado for dinner because the views from the Ferry Landing are amazing and the food is good enough.

              Point Loma Seafoods
              2805 Emerson St, San Diego, CA 92106

          2. You don't want to stop at San Onofre, it is a state park and therefore more expensive to get into, a long drive from the gate to the beach and unless you surf, there is no point in going there.

            OB, MB & PB are all south of La Jolla so you could stop in La Jolla for lunch.

            But what time do you plan to leave LAX? Laguna Beach is at least an hour south of LAX, more depending on traffic. How long do you plan to lay out? The main beach in Dana Point is also a state park and parking is $15 (San Onofre is also $15). Why not look at Huntington Beach or Capistrano Beach? But how long do you intend to stop there?

            Once you leave south Orange County it is another hour (with no traffic) to La Jolla and that puts you still north of PB, MB & OB. Stopping at all three beaches because of traffic and parking could take another hour. There is no easy way from MB to OB, you have to leave the beach area, drive inland and then drive back to the beach again.

            And then depending on when you get out of the beach area, you are now looking at a three to four hour drive back to LAX because of traffic.

            As to eating, Fish House Vera Cruz is very average. Super Cocina is great, but way out of the way from the beach areas.El Nopalito in Encinitas is on the coast and not bad.

            But, I would seriously get on Google Maps and look at the trip you are thinking of. It sounds like a very long day with lots of windshield time to me.

            Fish House Vera Cruz
            417 Carlsbad Village Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008

            Super Cocina
            3627 University Ave., San Diego, CA 92104

            2 Replies
            1. re: scottca075

              I think the day trip proposed is way too ambitious. The traffic will be exhausting. While I love SD, Coronado and so on, If you are only going to commit to day I would consider only going as far south as La Jolla. It really does not sound like food is the primary focus-rather chilling in coastal S. Cal seems to be standing out. Driving all day is not going to give you a real feel for laid back enjoyment of the area.

              The other thing is if you where to come on a Wed instead of Tues, you could hit the Ocean Beach farmers market-and check out near by sunset cliffs, lay out, get some tasty eats, and soak up the goofy beach atmosphere.

              But if you did this I would skip Old town, Seaport village etc. Too much for one day.

              1. re: lyn

                OK, well, now I'm getting all kinds of conflicting suggestions. Google Maps says La Jolla is only two hours from LAX. I guess it doesn't understand traffic -- I don't want to drive 3-4 hours like scottca075 says. I was hoping there wouldn't be too much traffic on a Tuesday evening. I was basing my plan on this Road Trip web site:


                I also didn't realize the fees for the beaches were so high. Maybe I'll rethink this all and take the discussion off the Chow boards. I just wanted to let her see a variety of different beaches without going out of my own mind with boredom, heh. We weren't planning on seeing all of those beaches (certainly not OB, MB, and PB). I just wanted options for wherever she deiced she wanted to pull over.

            2. I third the concerns w/ your trip through 3 southern CA counties, mostly b/c traffic is heinous out of LA, into OC, possibly into SD and then back up to LA all in 1 day? You could easily spend your entire day on the 405 and 5 freeways and never lay on the beach. We've done a one day trip into OC, then the San Gabriel Valley and then back down to SD in 1 day and I swore we would never do that again b/c it was so exhausting.

              Personally, I would split your trip into half. Do OC on one day, stay overnight in south OC and then drive south to SD and spend the day down here. Otherwise, you'll end up rushing from place to place and/or sitting in traffic. Unless sitting in traffic on the freeway is part of the West Coast experience you're looking for.

              3 Replies
              1. re: daantaat

                Thanks. I'll scratch this idea. We won't be able to overnight in San Diego and I just didn't want to go out of my mind spending all 4 days of our trip in Santa Monica. I love a road trip, and was hoping to incorporate some beach time and eats to cover both of our passions. I was basing the trip on Google Maps saying it was 2 hours from LAX to San Diego. I was thinking an hour to Oceanside, a couple of hours on the beach, plus lunch, then another hour to San Diego, a couple of hours on Pacific Beach, and two hours back. But I guess that's optimistic in the famous California traffic.

                I was basing my plans on a suggestion from thie Web site:

                But this is above and beyond the scope of Chowhound. I appreciate the advice. We'll stick to Malibu, Long Beach, and Santa Monica.

                1. re: 2roadsdiverge

                  Also consider Laguna Beach if you decide to go as far south as Orange County.

                  1. re: 2roadsdiverge

                    Google doesn't compensate for bad'll be able to get lots of good eats on the Westside, so no worries. Plus, you'll be more relaxed on the beach if you're not trying to rush around in traffic on the 405 and 5.

                    Westside Cafe
                    912 S Redwood St, Escondido, CA 92025