Our 28 days of a roadtrip has finally taken us closer to home – finally reaching sunny California. We left Chandler, Arizona around noon on Day 17 of our trip and stopped off for gas before we hit the hot desert heat towards San Diego, California. The further we headed out of Arizona, the less cactus we saw, and the more mountains we started seeing again. These mountains were amazing – as most of them are what are known as the boulder mountains – boulders of rocks that formed mountains and hills. There was also a part of our drive where a highway sign instructed drivers to shut off their AC to prevent overheating of their radiators. For about 10 miles we were cooking in the car with no AC. Luckily for us, the temperature had already dropped a little due to cloud coverage otherwise we would’ve been melting even more!
After arriving in San Diego and checking into our hotel, we went to Coronado Beach, recommended by our friends. We were told this beach had super fine sand and that the Naval Base was situated there so we would see Black Hawks and perhaps people training. We didn’t reach Coronado Beach til after sunset so we didn’t see many people on the beach, but we did see a couple of Black Hawks flying by. The sand was super fine and soft, and the water was still quite warm. It turns out we were lucky to have known about this place! According to Wiki, Coronado Beach this year was ranked the best beach in the United States by the Laboratory of Coastal Research.
As it was dark and getting late, we took off in search of food. I wanted Mexican and Urbanspoon suggested Miguel’s Cocina, located on the hotel/restaurant strip of Coronado as the top rated in the area. Reviews mentioned they had really good fish tacos and grilled swordfish tacos. We were immediately seated as the restaurant was not that busy at 9pm and the server promptly brought us our glasses of water and a piping hot basket of tortilla chips with salsa and their signature jalapeno cheese sauce. We loved the chips with the jalapeno cheese sauce! The sauce was not too spicy and was super creamy. We ordered a plate of the Grilled Swordfish Tacos (Fresh swordfish fillets with red cabbage and shredded cheese, salsa fresca and ranch dressing in two warm corn tortillas), and a cup of Albondigas (Classic mexican meatballs in tomato-vegetable broth) soup. The Grilled Swordfish Tacos were delicious – especially if you put some jalapeno cheese sauce in it! The cup of Albondigas was not spicy, and the meatballs were tender.
After a filling dinner, we went back to the hotel and called it a night since the next morning would be Sea World and quite a busy day.
The morning of Day 18, we headed to Mission Bay area – where Sea World was located. However since Sea World didn’t open until 10am, we had breakfast at Pacific Beach, at a diner called Kono’s Surf Club Cafe. It’s a greasy hole-in-the-wall but the pancakes are quite light and fluffy and for $5.50 you get pancakes, eggs and either sausage or bacon. After breakfast, we souvenir shopped and walked along the pier and the beach at Pacific Beach. The sand is not as nice as Coronado Beach, but is very popular with surfers and runners.
After some morning ocean air, we had the energy to conquer a day at Sea World. We watched the One World Shamu show, the Dolphin show Blue Horizons, and the Sea Lions Live show. We went on the two water rides, Journey to Atlantis, and Shipwreck Rapids – both which got us wet, but we were prepared with poncho/rain jacket and quick drying clothes – unlike some people we saw that came off the rides! We also spent time checking out the various exhibits including the sea otter feeding, penguin encounter, shark tank, watch the polar bear sleep, etc. We ended up leaving the park around 4pm, already tired but feeling like a kid!
As we didn’t want to fight afternoon rush hour traffic from San Diego to Anaheim, we spent our Happy Hour rush hour at Phil’s BBQ. Urbanspoon ranks Phil’s BBQ as the most popular restaurant in the city. When we arrived, there was already at least 15 people in front of us in line. It turns out the lineup was short! We were greeted while in line by a friendly worker who told us that Phil’s BBQ has won many awards and offers the best baby back ribs in the city and maybe even in the US! He also mentioned that during dinner, the average wait time to order and get a seat is 45 minutes, so we were lucky to arrive early. We were eager to try what the fuss was about. As we weren’t too hungry, we ordered a 1/2 order of baby back ribs, which came with either 2 small sides or 1 large side, so we decided on 1 large order of coleslaw. We were glad we shared as it was quite a lot of slaw and ribs! What’s special about Phil’s BBQ is that they make the ribs out of their own special house BBQ sauce – and do not offer any other sauces. I found the sauce to be a tad too tangy for my liking, but the ribs themselves are juicy and fall off the bone! You can also taste the smoke flavor of the ribs. I loved their coleslaw as it was not overly saucy. I wouldn’t say they were the best BBQ ribs I’ve had, but I’m not surprised if they are #1 in San Diego! When we left, the lineup had wrapped around the building and was roughly 25-30 minute wait already!
With a full tummy, we made our way from San Diego to Anaheim, California along the I-5 freeway. It takes roughly 1 1/2 hours to make the drive and the traffic was still quite continuously busy on the busy freeway. When we arrived at our hotel in Anaheim, we were lucky to have caught the fireworks that were in action at Disneyland (which is located behind our hotel). Definitely a great way to start our two-night stay in Anaheim, and a great end to a busy day.
Stay tuned to our Disneyland adventures next!