San Diego offers adventure seekers a vacation experience like no other. With varied terrain and an abundance of outdoor activities, adrenaline junkies can find a variety of ways to feel the rush in San Diego.
From indoor skydiving and hang gliding above the blue Pacific to four-wheeling in the desert and rock climbing in majestic mountains, here are the top 10 thrilling adventures for a heart-stopping San Diego vacation.
With nearly 100 years of flying history, Torrey Pines Gliderport , located north of the village of La Jolla, is America’s most popular coastal soaring site. Adventure seekers can take a tandem paragliding or hang gliding flight with professional, experienced instructors and enjoy a ride that is both thrilling and relaxing, as you soar off dramatic 300-foot cliffs above the Pacific Ocean and San Diego’s scenic coastline. Paragliders take in sensational bird’s-eye views of the magnificent cliffs, world-famous Torrey Pines Golf Course, neighboring Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve and the stunning mansion homes of luxurious La Jolla. Paragliding is the more prevalent of the two activities and allows guests to fly in lighter wind conditions.
San Diego is home to the longest zip line in California that is guaranteed to thrill adventure seekers of all ages. Set in the La Jolla Indian Campground within the foothills of Palomar Mountain, the La Jolla Zip Zoom provides riders with 6,273 feet of zip line excitement coupled with spectacular views of mountain peaks, lush green canyons and steep, rustic slopes. Adventure seekers can also go wild on the exciting Flightline Safari zip line adventure at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The “flight” covers approximately two-thirds of a mile, and riders soar 130 feet above the ground on two zip lines, while enjoying thrilling views of rhinos, giraffes and other exotic wildlife in the park’s savanna-like fields below.
Opportunities to "hang ten" abound up and down San Diego’s 33 public beaches. Made famous by the Beach Boys’ hit song “Surfin’ USA,” Swami's Beach in Encinitas is one of San Diego’s prime surf spots where big waves break off a narrow, cobblestone-strewn beach and challenge even experienced surfers. Daredevil surfers can also hit the waves at Sunset Cliffs, Black’s Beach and Windansea. For novice surfers, La Jolla Shores is a family friendly strip of beach with a sandy bottom and gentle waves. Tourmaline Surf Park and Coronado Beach are also great spots for beginners to gain confidence and get pointers from experienced surfers.
In operation since 1959, Sky Sailing in San Diego’s Inland North County offers instructional, introductory rides for one or two passengers in a sailplane or glider, soaring silently and effortlessly on the region’s warm air currents like a bird in flight. The exhilarating feeling of soaring over the ground coupled with amazing views of the region are sure to exhilarate all adventure seekers. Passengers can share a thermal with hawks and eagles while enjoying phenomenal views of nearby Palomar Mountain, the famous Palomar Observatory and picturesque Lake Henshaw.
For those wanting aerial adventures closer to land, iFLY San Diego delivers the dream of flight to thrill-seeking guests with San Diego’s first indoor skydiving wind tunnel, located in the heart of Mission Valley. Adventurers of all ages and abilities can experience human flight in a safe, comfortable and fun environment. The indoor skydiving facility is a marvel of engineering that replicates the experience of skydiving, creating conditions that allow guests to fly on a smooth cushion of air with the help of iFLY certified flight instructors.
Rock Climbing & Bouldering
With millions of boulders in San Diego County, bouldering is a local specialty, and rock climbers can free climb, sport climb, multi-pitch climb and trad climb among hundreds of vertical rocky paths. Santee Boulders in San Diego’s rural East County is a popular field offering a full-day of challenging climbs. With thick faces and mantles, taxing cracks and steep slopes, the most skilled and novice climbers can enjoy a good climb with nothing more than a sturdy pair of shoes. At an elevation of 3,000 feet, El Cajon Mountain, nicknamed “El Capitan,” offers challenging and steep climbs for adventure seekers with rewarding panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and scenic valleys below.
Cave spelunking combines rock climbing, hiking and exploring into one fascinating adventure. The Arroyo Tapiado mud caves in the Anza-Borrego Desert in San Diego’s rural East County are some of the most extensive mud formations worldwide. With 22 different caves to explore, only the most daring venture deep inside this unknown world of hidden canyons and crevices. Caving enthusiasts have mapped out detailed trails that take hikers inside bat caves, dead ends, narrow corridors, winding paths and rooms with 80-foot ceilings. This adventure is certain to bring to mind an Indiana Jones movie experience.
An experience of a lifetime, shark diving is most likely on the bucket list for many adventure seekers. San Diego Shark Diving offers certified and non-certified divers alike the opportunity to cage-dive amongst massive great white sharks. Only the brave embark on a 5-day live-aboard excursion to the waters surrounding the volcanic island of Isla Guadalupe, located approximately 170 miles west of Mexico's Baja California peninsula. Offered August through November when the great whites congregate at the island, daring divers encounter the apex predators as they come right up to the cages and look you in the eyes. All dives are hosted by certified and extremely knowledgeable staff who educate divers on the migratory habits and characteristics of these highly misunderstood sharks.
The spacious terrain of the Anza-Borrego Desert is also the perfect location for a different fast-paced activity. Adventure seekers can experience the thrill of off-roading and speed through sand dunes and zip around cacti in large SUVs or individual ATVs in this vast 600,000-acre desert playground. Local companies like California Overlandtakes guests on open-air jeep tours venturing out to remote locations complete with ancient Indian village sites, lush canyon oasis and mysterious geologic formations.
Sportfishing off the San Diego coast and in neighboring Baja California waters allows adventurer seekers to experience the thrill of the catch. Home to the world's largest sportfishing fleet, San Diego has more than 75 state-of-the-art fishing vessels ranging in size from 60-124 feet and outfitted with the latest fish-finding equipment and amenities. Charter options range from family friendly ½-day trips to 15-day excursions to Mexican waters for the hard-core enthusiast. Depending on the season, anglers fish for yellowfin, bluefin, yellowtail, albacore, mahi mahi (dorado), marlin and mako.
Happiness is calling in San Diego. For more information on San Diego’s offerings, including exciting vacation packages and valuable coupons for attractions, restaurants and more, visit the San Diego Tourism Authority's website at www.sandiego.org