Best Free Hidden Gems in San Diego

by | Nov 7, 2022 | Destinations, Travel Bucket Lists, USA

Although San Diego does not sound as bright as its neighbors like Los Angeles or San Francisco. There are actually a lot of best places that are worth visiting which many people do not know about and are less visited by many visitors. More importantly, they are free to visit! What are those places? Check out this blog’s best and free hidden gems in San Diego!

What are the best free hidden gems in San Diego?

  1. Dave’s Rock Garden
  2. Zoro Garden
  3. Black’s Beach in La Jolla
  4. Scripps Coastal Meander
  5. Harper’s Topiary Garden
  6. Coronado Sand Dunes
  7. Roberts Cottages in Oceanside
  8. Palm Canyon
  9. Broken Hill Trail
  10. Mar Scenic Trail

Dave’s Rock Garden

dave's rock garden hidden gems in san diego
Copyright: Hidden San Diego

Do you know that Dave’s Rock Garden used to be a weed and full-of-garbage vacant lot? Then, the generous man called Dave Dean started to clear out the trash from this state-owned area. As a result, the lot becomes a garden full of drought-resistant floras such as bromeliad, cactus, and many other low-maintenance vegetations.

With this initiation, the vacant lot is now popular as one of the most beautiful hidden games in San Diego. The best thing about this garden is it is free to visit. So, you can enjoy exploring the painting rocks and meditating in this tranquil adorable little garden. 

Zoro Garden

zoro garden hidden gems in san diego
Copyright: Wikimedia Commons

One fact about Zoro Garden is that this garden is named after Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism. Back in 1915 to 1916, the garden was a part of the Panama-California Exposition. In 1935, this place was renovated to accommodate the California Pacific International Exposition and was home to a nudist community.

Now, the garden has become a serene adorable garden, where you can see many kinds of butterflies such as swallowtails, monarchs, and sulphur butterflies swinging by the flowers there. The decoration in the garden is also enchanting, with tiny pools in the rocks and many kinds of plants completing the beauty of the garden.

Black’s Beach in La Jolla

black's beach hidden gems in san diego
Copyright: bc131072

Black’s Beach is one of the free hidden gems in San Diego that you must never miss out on. For your information, it is not easy to go to this beach. Thus, the beach is very quiet, making it a good space for you to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Due to its remoteness, it is also a perfect place for those who love to go for outdoor adventures. Additionally, you may also want to know that Black’s Beach is also popular as a nudist beach. However, it is clothing-optional, so you can still wear your clothes if you want to.

Scripps Coastal Meander

scripps coastal meander hidden gems in san diego
Copyright: Theresamcgee

There are actually a lot of best-hidden gems in San Diego you can find in La Jolla, and one of them is the Scripps Coastal Meander. You can just walk along the wooden boardwalk and enjoy the beautiful sunset in this area.

This boardwalk is also a good place for you to go for a jog. Imagine yourself jogging with the serene scenery of the sunset here. Sounds so interesting, doesn’t it?  Some people also go paragliding in this place.

Harper’s Topiary Garden

harper's topiary garden hidden gems in san diego
Copyright: Wikimedia Commons

If you are looking for an Instagrammable spot in San Diego, you should visit Harper’s Topiary Garden. This stunning garden is home to a masterpiece work of art of plants, which are shaped as different figures. You can find figures of a dinosaur, a Buddha, a surfer, and other menageries of animals there.

The best time to visit this hidden gem in San Diego is during the springtime. The plants are still green so it is perfect for your Instagram pictures. Besides its uniqueness, we recommend this place because it is free to visit! However, the garden is in a private residence, so you need to be respectful.

Coronado Sand Dunes

coronado sand dunes hidden gems in san diego
Copyright: Derick McKinney

In Coronado Island, there lies one of the best-hidden gems in San Diego. That is the famous Coronado Sand Dunes. Many movie stars and politicians have spent their time visiting this island. Yet, the sand dunes are very little known, making it serene and a good place to meditate.

So, why not enjoy your spare time going to Coronado Island for your weekend getaway trip? There are also many iconic beaches and resorts where you can relax. The best way to enjoy your trip here is also by vacationing with your family on this island

Roberts Cottages in Oceanside

robert's cottages hidden gems in san diego
Copyright: Robert’s Cottages

Do you know that besides the Harper’s Topiary Garden, there is another Instagrammable hidden gem in San Diego? Yes, there is, and that place is Roberts Cottages, located in Oceanside. Moreover, these cottages directly face the beach! So, expect to get beautiful scenery there. 

This cute little neighborhood is very aesthetically pleasing. You can take pictures outside the pink and pastel-colored cute little vintage cottages. Alternatively, you can also rent the cottages for seven days minimum. So, do you want to give it a try?

Palm Canyon

palm canyon
Copyright: SoCali

Located in Balboa Park, Palm Canyon is probably one of the best-hidden gems in San Diego that you will never forget. Palm Canyon has a serene trail that runs in a canyon between many trees and palm trees. This is probably one of the most beautiful and green landscapes you will ever get to see from San Diego.

Thanks to the horticulturist Kate Sessions, who established this true gem, you can also learn about different kinds of plants that are thriving in this fresh greenery. Moreover, with the little-known shortcut and dozens of palm trees decorating the winding paths., many people call Palm Canyon a tropical oasis.

Broken Hill Trail

broken hill trail
Copyright: Sapan Patel

Broken Hill Trail is one of the best outdoor hidden gems in San Diego that you must visit. With many Torrey pine trees decorating the coasts facing the Pacific Ocean, the place is one of the best spots to seek sunset scenery.

The best part of this trail is that it is relatively easy to navigate. Thus, this hiking trail is suitable for beginners. So, there is no reason not to try hiking on this tranquil trail. You can still exercise yourself and, at the same time, enjoy the beautiful natural scenery.

Mar Scenic Trail

mar scenic trail
Copyright: Nina Irawati-Krause

The Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Extension is an underrated destination in terms of natural wonders in San Diego. As a matter of fact, the natural reserve hosts a very worth exploring area to discover, such as Mar Scenic Trail.

Compared to Broken Hill Trail Loop, Mar Scenic Trail is probably a bit more challenging to explore. However, as the name suggests, the trail offers a very scenic view of San Diego’s rich nature. Besides, there is also a competition to take pictures of the ocean views. So, do not forget to bring your camera and snap some stunning photos of the Mar Scenic Trail!

So, those are the best and free hidden gems in San Diego that are worth visiting. Some places are underrated yet offer a good deal of travel experience. If you want to explore more hidden gem destinations for your next trip, go to JoinMyTrip! There are many travel itineraries for you to choose from. Our dedicated TripLeaders will also guide you through your journey to the end. So, what are you waiting for? Book a trip with JoinMyTrip now!

Welcome to JoinMyTrip

At JoinMyTrip, we bring together travelers from around the world.

Find your next small group travel adventure to unique destinations with JoinMyTrip.

subscribe now and get a €20 discount