Visitors’ Guide to Hidden San Diego Gems

There are countless amazing reasons to visit San Diego. Our museums, theme parks, incredible weather and world-class restaurant scene draw millions of visitors every year. Still, “America’s Finest City” also has its fair share of well-kept secrets — off-the-beaten-path treasures that locals cherish, but that don’t always show up on “must-visit” lists. If you’re interested in discovering some of the city’s most intriguing undercover attractions, Here are a few of the best hidden San Diego gems.


The Hidden Swings (multiple locations)

(Photo: @eddie_v_az)

San Diego is home to a series of classic playground-style tree swings that afford truly stunning views of local areas. Nobody knows who put them up. Sometimes they vanish, or move locations. It’s a mystery locals love, since the scavenger hunt of tracking down these delights is as fun as pointing your toes at the sky and feeling the wind in your hair once you do. Indulge your sense of childlike wonder — the swing’s the thing! 


Sunny Jim Cave (4.5 miles away)

(Photo: @thecavestore)

Originally hand-dug beneath the home of miner Gustav Schultz in 1902, the Sunny Jim Cave was initially mined for minerals before being turned into a bootleggers’ smuggling passage during the Prohibition era. Today, the cavern sits beneath The Cave Store, a popular La Jolla gift and souvenir shop. The store offers self-guided tours of the cave by reservation, so be sure to call ahead and set up a time to go spelunking during your visit.

1325 Coast Blvd. La Jolla, CA 92037, USA


Harper’s Topiary Garden (8.7 miles away)


Alex and Edna Harper have created an amazing sight at their home in Middletown. Topiary is the practice of shaping shrubbery into whimsical forms, and the Harpers have turned their front garden into one a showcase of this botanical art. Their display includes countless bushes trimmed into the form of animals, geometric shapes, human figures, and more. Visitors are welcome to stop by — as long as they respect the Harpers’ space.  

3549 Union St, San Diego, CA 92103


Spruce Street Suspension Bridge (9.8 miles away)

(Photo: @wildaus)

Tucked away in the Banker’s Hill neighborhood, this pedestrian-only footpath spans nearly 400 feet across Sessions Canyon, and sits 70 feet above it. The bridge was built in 1912 in order to connect a newly built trolley stop to a residential area. It has remained in place as a favorite spot for locals to take a gently swaying stroll above the treetops. This secret span is an adventure and a destination in one, so you’ll want to pay it a visit. 

W Spruce St, San Diego, CA 92103


The “Sin Ship” Wreckage (16 miles away)

(Photo: @charlatte711)

Coronado Island is home to one of the only shipwrecks in the Americas that’s observable without diving gear: the SS Monte Carlo. The Monte Carlo was an infamous gambling and party vessel that operated offshore during the prohibition era. It was destroyed by a storm just off the coast of Coronado. It remained buried for decades before being revealed by shifting tides years later. Today it remains moored where it was destroyed.

North Pacific Ocean, Coronado, CA 92118


Potato Chip Rock (35.6 miles away)


Hiking is a popular San Diego pastime. The variety of terrain, the spectacular views, and the always-perfect weather are just some of the reasons why. Sometimes the reward at the end of a solid hike is a singular sight, like Potato Chip Rock. Named for its unique shape, this slim outcropping on Mt. Woodson Trail is a favorite spot for locals. Once you behold it for yourself, you’ll no doubt see why. Be sure to bring your camera along! 

Mt. Woodson Trail, Ramona, CA 92065


The Carlsbad Flower Fields (26.6 miles away)

(Photo @the_flower_fields)

Head just a bit up the coast to Carlsbad, and you’ll be able to take in one of the most jaw-dropping views southern California has to offer: the sweeping beauty of 50-plus acres of vibrantly colorful flowers stretching out as far as the eye can see. The Carlsbad Flower Fields are a popular destination for graduation, engagement, and celebratory pictures, and provide the perfect way to add a pop of color to your camera’s photo reel.

5704 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA 92008


Anza-Borrego Desert Sculptures (79 miles away)


The nearby Anza-Borrego desert is a worthwhile day trip for many reasons. The landscape is truly breathtaking. An annual superbloom covers the desert floor with an explosion of colorful wildflowers. And if you know where to go, you’ll discover some truly jaw-dropping public art. Many local craftspeople have created impressive metal sculptures that dot the sand with massive dinosaurs, robots and other figures. 

200 Palm Canyon Dr, Borrego Springs, CA 92004 


Discover the Hidden Side of San Diego

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