See San Diego in a Day by Land and Sea

San Diego harbor

When I set off on my US West Coast Adventure I knew I wanted to had to go to San Diego to visit the World famous San Diego Zoo, but to be honest I had no other ideas about what to do and see in San Diego.  So, when I stumbled upon a kiosk along the bay selling packaged ticket deals for two tours I thought, ‘why not’.  I know many people hate the notion of pre-packaged tours and prefer to hit the streets on their own, but I actually enjoy tours and have been on some incredible ones from Walking Tours to the epic Golden Circle Tour in Iceland and even a stroll around Pompeii.  I enjoy tours for the ease of transportation, the insightful information you learn and the fact that it’s a great starting off point to seeing a city and I can choose where I want to explore deeper on my own after I’ve seen the overall picture of a place.  So, I signed up for the two day Trolley Tour and Seal Tour combo on my first day in San Diego, little did I know then that these tours would end up blowing me away!  If you don’t have much time to explore than see San Diego in a day by land and sea with these tours!

sea lion

The first part of the tour was the Seal Tour portion that takes you by land and sea from the sensational Seaport Village around the harbor and into it in a Hydra Terra (an amphibious vehicle).  My guide on the tour was Tomi – and boy was she a firecracker of interesting information and entertaining antics.  As the Hydra Terra settled into the harbor they started playing the theme song to Gilligan’s Island and Tomi pointed out cast members like Gilligan and Dr. Howell in the crowd of tourists and I couldn’t help but laugh when she pointed to me (the gal with the long mane of big, curly hair and large sunglasses) for Ginger – the movie star!  In the picturesque waters with Point Loma, lounging California sea lions and the downtown as our backdrop we learned all about San Diego’s rich military history, which normally isn’t my thing but I was interested to learn of their work with animals like sea lions and dolphins.  Can you imagine in 50 years and 150 dolphins – only one dolphin has gone AWOL?!  The navy employees dolphins to detect underwater mines and sea lions to find torpedoes, both can even detect enemy divers.  Just goes to show you how amazingly intelligent these animals are.

Trolley Tours

Gaslamp Quarter

Gaslamp Quarter

The Trolley Tour was extensive and you could even jump on and off at certain stops to explore that area and than get back on the next Trolley.  It takes you all over San Diego from downtown to Old Town and from Balboa Park to Coronado Island.  The Trolley Tour explores the Gaslamp Quarter, a 16 block National Historic District that’s home to most of San Diego’s Victorian-style buildings dating from the late 1800’s, full of shops, restaurants, bars and so much colourful and stunning architecture, I strongly recommend a stroll around.  Touring around the Embarcadero Marina with it’s larger than life iconic Home Coming Statue of nurse and officer kissing after the war in NYC Time’s Square and Horton Plaza, you’ll learn of San Diego’s history and its players like Alonzo Horton who was an integral part of creating what San Diego is today.  Cruising through Little Italy, at a whopping 56 square blocks, you’ll definitely want to get off to stop and mangia some perfect pasta or enjoy a refreshing gelato and if you’re lucky to visit on a Saturday check out their Mercato Farmers Market with over 70 booths lining Date Street.

The tour also takes you over the Coronado Bay Bridge, over 250 metres above the bay, to Coronado Island, an affluent resort city.  Coronado is Spanish for ‘the crowned one”, so it’s no surprise to note the movies filmed here and stars and starlets that have graced the halls of it’s World-class Hotel del Coronado.  The Hotel del Coronado is a gorgeous complex built in 1880 from redwood trees.

Botanical Building and lily pondOff the island you’ll head into San Diego’s beautiful Balboa Park, the home to museums, a Japanese Garden and the San Diego Zoo.  Then you’ll head to the last stop, Old Town, the birthplace of California and where you’ll enjoy live music, over 150 shops, award-winning restaurants and historic sites like the haunted Whaley House.

Don’t be afraid to be a tourist and a great way to see the sites and learn about a city is to take a local tour, its a great starting point especially if you have little knowledge of the city or your time is limited.

Do you take tours of cities you’re visiting, or do you prefer to explore it alone?


I'm a Canadian gal with a passion for wildlife, the great outdoors and travel and hope to inspire others to feel the same way! Travelling mostly solo I love to explore Ontario Gems in my own backyard as well as exotic cities around the world.

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