With warm sunny days, miles of beautiful beaches, one of the country’s most underrated restaurants scenes and luxurious spas, San Diego is an ideal getaway for ladies. You can shop, spa and take care of your health and wellbeing by day and flirt with surfers over cocktails in Little Italy by night. Let this be your guide for a girls’ weekend in San Diego.
The Guild Hotel is the coolest new spot to stay downtown, within easy walking distance of Little Italy’s nightlife and the beach. The historic landmark was originally built in 1924 as the Armed Services YMCA and the exterior architecture, courtyard and stairway from the lobby have been preserved. Rooms are minimalist and unisex with Maison Margiela toiletries that smell like cocktails and cigars, inspired by a jazz club. Lounge in the courtyard sipping an iced oat milk latte while plotting adventures for the day.
If you’re looking for more opulence, the Fairmont Grand Del Mar is a grand 400-acre estate that delivers everything you could possibly need for a relaxing vacation without ever leaving the property. There’s Michelin-starred dining, four pools, tennis courts, lawn games, a par-72 golf course and arguably the best spa in San Diego all wrapped up in one sprawling Mediterranean villa. Don a bathrobe for leisurely champagne breakfast on the terrace before a relaxing bath in your gilded marble bathroom with Le Labo bath salts. Nearby, Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve has 37 miles of trails to hike or bike.
SPA + SHOP
The Fairmont Grand Del Mar’s world-class Center for Wellbeing is a Forbes five-star spa with all the signature accoutrements (whirlpools, wet and dry saunas, relaxation pools) along with truly unique holistic healing therapies. For example, the slow and gentle Between Two Worlds massage traces nerve pathways to induce deep sedation. Valenica orange, rosewood and vetiver essential oils and a warm Alpine hay compress help calm anxiety and reduce stress. You’re almost guaranteed to fall asleep from your therapist’s steady, hypnotic strokes.
Nearby in Carmel Valley, One Paseo is the coolest new place to shop in the city, with a collection of local brands unique from a typical luxury mall. Many of the homegrown retailers cater to women with a focus on wellness, beauty and art including contemporary fine jewelry at Marrow Fine, home décor and flora at Pigment and bohemian California fashion at Van De Vort and Whisky x Leather.
For beauty mavens, the highlight at One Paseo is the neatly curated selection of clean wellness, skincare and beauty brands at Shop Good. Founder Leah Kirpalani carefully vets each product so you don’t have to worry about greenwashing. Many of these smaller labels are ones you haven’t heard of before, like Sausalito-based Botnia, which Shop Good uses in all of their apothecary style facials. Bespoke masques are mixed to order for maximum freshness and efficacy, with boosters like lymphatic drainage, high frequency and gua sha tailored for bio-individuality by compassionate expert estheticians. These are thee best facials in San Diego. Who knew plants could be so powerful?
With a similar ethos of holistic health, Saffron & Sage offers an array of yoga, cleansing meditation, and sound bath classes along with acupuncture, fire cupping and energy therapy. There’s no better place to relax and take some time for yourself. This local gem has a strong membership base of locals but welcomes out-of-town visitors to drop in for a class and you’ll instantly feel like part of the community.
Start your day in the healthiest fashion at Parakeet Café with magic mushroom matcha or an immortality latte if you’re craving an upgrade from your regular coffee and tea. Coconut yogurt bowls, matcha waffles, hibiscus lettuce cups and baked pistachio millet falafel sandwiches are just a few choices on the colorful menu that caters to all diets – vegan, keto, paleo or gluten-free. Husband-and-wife team Carol and Jonathan Goldwasser have three locations of their superfood café now – in Little Italy, One Paseo and La Jolla – and their passion for healthy eating translates into a fun and welcoming neighborhood hangout.
For something more indulgent, carb load with soufflé pancakes and cheesy khachapuri on the sunny rooftop at Morning Glory just kitty-corner from Parakeet’s Little Italy location. Their silky French omelet is perhaps the best on this side of the Atlantic. Enjoy breakfast until 3 pm every day at this fun and irreverent spot by Consortium Holdings, the same group behind hotspots Born & Raised and Ironside Fish & Oyster Bar, both great dinner options depending on if you’re feeling more carnivorous or pescatarian on any given day.
Jenue et Jolie is 30 minutes north of San Diego in Carlsbad, but so worth the drive for French food with intricately layered global flavors. Affable servers glide effortlessly from the open kitchen with plates of escargots, seafood towers and flash-fried frog leg lollipops tossed in fermented chili glaze and served with fish sauce tahini. The menu is full of winners but the succulent scallops with sunchokes and glazed miso black cod in brown butter bouillon are standouts. Indecisive diners can select the carte blanche tasting menu for experimental seasonal specials.
In downtown San Diego, just a few blocks from The Guild, Animae is the most glamorous and ambitious new restaurant in the city. Pan-Asian flavors and Gatsby-esque interiors pay homage to Hollywood’s first Chinese American movie star, Anna May Wong. Chef/partner Joe Magnanelli has been known for Italian food most of his career, but he translates that splendidly with a new palette of Asian ingredients. Melt-in-your-mouth hiramasa crudo is dressed with pink peppercorn, yuzu and cocoa nibs while creamy burrata is surrounded by a halo of tom yum mushrooms. Playful flavor combinations and large feast plates like conveniently deboned whole fried snapper and wagyu porterhouse with miso butter encourage family-style sharing.
San Diego’s newest Italian restaurant, Il Dandy, by Calabrian-born brothers Dario and Pietro Gallo, focuses on a lesser-known region of Italy. If Italy is a boot, then Calabria is the toe and although the Southern region may be one of Italy’s poorest, it’s rich in culinary tradition with great seafood, chilies, ‘nduja, citrus and sweet Tropea onions. Taste the famous Tropea onion in the vibrant rappa rossa salad with beets, radicchio, red cabbage and berries, and in sorbet form accompanying thinly sliced lobster carpaccio. Most seafood is sourced locally, except for the fantastic charred Mediterranean octopus, and paired with a nice selection of Italian wines.
For dessert, San Diego is home to more than a dozen artisan ice cream shops and luckily it never gets too cold here to indulge in frozen sweets. If you don’t have time to try them all, An’s Dry Cleaning and Stella Jean’s are the two best. This year, An’s will be creating a new flavor each week, so there’s always a freshly churned experiment – like sweet corn with lemon zest – in the Ponzetti cylinders to try. Silky smooth canvas (olive oil and rosemary) is still one of the best. At Stella Jean’s, plant-based favorites include mango sticky rice and matcha pistachio, but if you’re cool with dairy, try the s’mores, which folds a just-torched fluffy marshmallow base with coconut ash and dark chocolate covered graham crackers.