Archana Ram
October 13, 2014

The strategy in this SoCal hub: spend as much time outdoors as possible.

Surf: Our favorite place to catch a wave? Black’s Beach, a secluded cove ideal for pros. Arriving is a thrill all its own: it’s a steep 10-minute hike from the road down to the water. Near 2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Dr.

Eat: Queue up with the locals at Oscar’s, a divey taqueria in north Pacific Beach where the smoked- fish tacos—a San Diegan obsession—come loaded with avocado and three types of house-made salsa. There are only 25 seats, mostly outdoors, at the flagship location, but you can walk a few blocks to the shore for an impromptu picnic.

Relax: Find your Zen where the monks do, and head to the beautifully manicured gardens of the Self-Realization Fellowship, in Encinitas. They’re lined with succulents, meditation benches, and koi ponds, all overlooking the Pacific.

See: Whether you walk along the coastal cliffs or settle down with a blanket for a picnic, there’s no wrong way to take in the spectacular evening vistas—and occasional dolphin sightings—at the 68-acre Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. Ladera St. near Sunset Cliffs Blvd.

Drink: With a prime location right on the boardwalk, Tower23 Hotel’s sleek bar, Jrdn, draws a perpetually stylish crowd. Find them sipping negronis and mango-chili margaritas from the early afternoon into the evening hours.

See all the winners of our annual America's Favorite Places survey, including which cities are rudest, best for pizza, and most stylish. Disagree with any of the results? Vote in the survey.

Also on Travel + Leisure:
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