4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Explore a Water Wonderland

100 Reasons to Love San Diego

Underwater hockey, also known as Octopush - Image by Adam Lau
Underwater hockey, also known as Octopush

Reader writers explore the elements of America’s Finest — water, air, fire, land.

Underwater hockey

Underwater hockey (sometimes called Octopush), has been around since 1954; it’s played in a couple of dozen countries. It involves, uh, whacking a puck around the bottom of a swimming pool. Teams of six battle each other in relays. It’s an “anaerobic” sport, of course, meaning you can’t breathe while you’re down there playing. There’s an active club here in San Diego. “People — men and women — should just come to the Mission Bay Plunge [at the Wave House, 3115 Ocean Front Walk, Mission Beach], Monday or Thursday evenings at 7:30, or on Saturday afternoons at 4:30,” says Jim Melrod, San Diego Underwater Hockey Club’s treasurer. “You need a mask, snorkel, fins. But we have all that, if you want to just try it out first.” Turn up, or contact the club’s president, Herb Baylon; [email protected]

Swim the cove

The La Jolla Cove Swim Club, an informal group of ocean-swimming enthusiasts, welcomes anyone to come swim with them. Every morning, all year long, groups of swimmers meet “on the deck” near the lifeguard hut overlooking the cove at 6:30, 8:00, 9:00, and 11:00 a.m. They swim in the protected waters between the Cove and La Jolla Shores; pre-set buoys mark distances. A few times a year, the group holds noncompetitive “social swims” followed by hot drinks, goodies, and socializing on the grass above the cove. Their most popular social event is the Polar Bear Swim on New Year’s Day. They also sponsor three yearly competitive events. Check the online calendar.

(Temporary) beachfront living

Few can afford a house on the beach, but almost all can afford to spend a few nights falling asleep to the sound of the waves at one of San Diego County’s state beach campgrounds. Skip San Onofre, where the sound of Interstate 5 drowns out the ocean. Much quieter are South Carlsbad and Cardiff’s San Elijo, both $50 per night. They’re near enough to shopping and food that you won’t have to cook if you don’t want to, and both feature hot-shower restrooms. Silver Strand State Beach is for RV campers only. It’s $50 for a beachfront parking spot. No hot showers. parks.ca.gov.

Place

Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve

12020 Black Mountain Road, San Diego

Waterfall in PQ Reserve

Peñasquitos Creek runs through the heart of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve. The waterfall is created by dramatic volcanic rock formations: peñasquitos means “little cliffs.” When the creek is flush, there are opportunities for rock-jumping and swimming, with several points of access along the Highway 56 corridor. To the east, hikers can park at Canyon Side Park, off of Black Mountain Road, or at the official reserve parking area (there’s a charge to park in the preserve’s lot). To the west, access is from the parking lot on Sorrento Valley Boulevard. Note that access to the preserve is closed after rainfall.

Place

Point Loma Sportfishing

1403 Scott Street, San Diego

Organize a fishing contest

It’s amazing how close the Pacific wilderness is, and how much life you’ll find right outside the harbor entrance. So why not organize a fishing contest with your friends? Spend half a day aboard, say, Point Loma Sport Fishing’s Daily Double. You’ll pay $45 ($73, with license, equipment, and tax), and head out at 9:00 a.m. While you’re fishing, organize the contest by weight, or, if you intend to release the fish, by length (weighing a flipping rockfish can be hell). The sea breeze, the sun, breakfast from the galley — it’s hard to beat the feeling. Boats return by 3:00 p.m. on weekdays, and at around 12:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on weekends. Watch out for sea lions, and take a hat.

Place

San Diego Maritime Museum

1492 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego

Soviet Sub

For this, first you’ve got to rent the movie Das Boot (“The Boat”), a gripping story of a hunted German U-boat during World War II. How those guys managed to eat, sleep, hunt, fight, repair leaks, and avoid depth-charge attacks is impossible to know, unless you come down to the Maritime Museum, get a $15 all-ship ticket, and head for the B-39, a Soviet-era sub that spent the Cold War shadowing U.S. and NATO ships. Turns out she’s an enlarged copy of Das Boot. You can relive those hellish scenes when the crew had to race forward so their weight would tip the bow down for an escape dive. With the tiny cabins, the bunks among torpedoes, and the periscope, you really get the feel of it (don’t go if you’re claustrophobic).

Place

Hotel del Coronado

1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado

Body surfing and cocktails

Arrange for your dozen best friends to meet on Coronado’s Central Beach, below the Hotel Del, some warm afternoon when the waves are up (but not too far up) and the wind is down. Then hold a body-surfing contest. Equipment? Your bods. The guy/gal who travels the farthest on one wave wins. Have towel-holders at the ready, dry off, and change in the Hotel Del changing rooms, preferably into gear that’s as near to the Great Gatsby as you can manage. Then, head to the firepits of the Hotel Del Coronado. Blow $10–$20 each on a really decent drink, like a “French and Italian” (sweet and dry vermouths mixed, with a splash of gin). Present the body-surfing champion with a dinner at the Sheerwater, and watch the sun head for Hawaii.

Pocket Beach

At the end of Santa Clara Avenue in Ocean Beach, down a flight of stairs, you’ll find Pocket Beach, a hidden gem known mostly to locals. Show up early enough — say, before 11:00 a.m. — and you’ll find the sands virtually empty. The location is picturesque, great for photo-ops. Brave beach-goers jump from the surrounding headlands: one cliff is large and scary, the other small and manageable. Be careful, there are no lifeguards on duty.

Place

Ice-plex Escondido

555 N. Tulip Street, Escondido

Curling

Learn how to play one of the quirkiest Winter Olympic sports at the Escondido Iceoplex’s monthly Learn to Curl Clinic. United States Curling Association–certified instructors teach each workshop. Intended for beginners, the two-hour course ($25) covers the fundamentals of the game: ice safety, delivery, and sweeping. At the end of class, attendees participate in a practice game. All equipment is provided by Curl San Diego, so no need to get crazy and buy actual curling gear, because, really, where would you find such things? The folks at Iceoplex ask that you wear tennis shoes and comfortable, layered, semi-warm clothing. Pre-registering online is a must as participation is not guaranteed to drop-ins. curlsandiego.org.

Place

Dishwasher Pond

10995 Avenue Playa Veracruz, San Diego

Dishwasher Pond

Located in the middle of Tierrasanta, Dishwasher Pond can be found while hiking on the Greenbelt Canyon trail. It’s a small pond, ideal for fishing and great for dogs. Bring some bread and feed the ducks. (If, however, you see anything metal, don’t touch it: the area was once part of Camp Elliott, a Marine Corps training area.) To get there, take Route 52, exit at Santo Road, heading south. At Remora Street, one block before Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, turn left. Park on Remora Street and walk a short way north on the sidewalk of Santo Road to the Greenbelt Canyon trailhead. You can also get there via Interstate 15, exiting at Clairemont Mesa Boulevard. Head east, then turn left on Santo Road and right on Remora Street.

Free fishing: saltwater edition

We have an ocean. We have public piers. There are fish out there, and you don’t need to drop a dime on a license. So grab a pole, buy a frozen mackerel, or the bait sold at many piers. You can choose from the old Coronado Ferry landing, Crystal Pier, Embarcadero, Imperial Beach, Ocean Beach, Oceanside, and Shelter Island. Expect to land perch, mackerel, sculpin, and, if you’re lucky, maybe a halibut, but when the sun begins to set, the romance of light dancing on the water is worth heading home empty-handed.

Place

Green Tara Floatation Center

1622 Diamond Street, San Diego

Place

Float Spa San Diego

9520 Padgett Street #106, San Diego

Sensory Deprivation Tank

Sensory deprivation, also known as Floatation Therapy, aims to slow down the bombardment of constant sensory input. The chamber offers quiet solitude, devoid of light. You lie in body-temperature water mixed with epsom salts, rendering you buoyant. It is thought that when sensory information is reduced, the logical left side of the brain gives way to the creative right side. Some people report re-experiencing long-forgotten dreams. Float at the Green Tara Floatation Center in Pacific Beach ($40 per hour) or Float Spa San Diego in Kearny Mesa (one hour for $75, 90 minutes for $95).

Navy SEAL Academy

The Navy SEAL Academy in Encinitas has programs to challenge the physically and mentally tough. The basic Navy SEAL Physical Training (PT) Challenge Phase 1 course (five 2 ½ hour sessions on Sunday mornings) includes Log PT, Boat PT, Team Competitions, and an introduction to surf passage. Phase 2 builds on your growing skills, with Grinder PT, Combatives Training, and Basic Knife Fighting Skills. Things get gnarly with the advanced programs. The four-day Basic Underwater Demolition School Prep Course offers a taste of Hell Week — a grueling, nonstop 24-hour physical endurance phase on Day One; water skills (underwater knot-tying, combat sidestroke) on Day Two; pistol and carbine marksmanship, rappelling, close-quarter combat on Day Three; and Final Training Exercise, which includes a mock assault and “downed helicopter” pilot rescue, on Day Four. Prices from $199 to $2195. navysealacademy.com.

Place

SeaWorld

500 Sea World Drive, San Diego

Cirque de la Mer

Most people are familiar with the Circus of the Sun, but what about the Circus of the Sea? Visit Amphibia, Sea World’s water realm “filled with amazing acrobatic creatures, delightful characters, and other mysterious sights and sounds,” with the gorgeous bayside as backdrop. As with all Cirque shows, you can expect imaginative costumes, plenty of exhilarating demonstrations of strength and discipline, and “specialized, painstakingly honed skills.” After each show, you’ll get a chance to meet the performers outside the stadium. Single day admission $73 for adults, $65 for kids, “fun cards” and length-of-stay tickets available. 619-226-3901; seaworldparks.com.

Old-school whale watching

Bring a picnic, and even your own wine (beer and wine are also sold onboard) and sail the whale superhighway off our coast aboard the historic yacht America. Maritime Museum of San Diego and Next Level Sailing have partnered to offer wildlife tours on the 139-foot yacht that won the first America’s Cup. Commencing in June, their Blue Whale Sunset Sale is offered daily from 3:00–7:00 p.m. ($65 for adults, $35 for kids, includes admission to the museum). Though nothing is guaranteed — nature can be capricious — chances are good you’ll see not only whales, but dolphins, sea lions, sunfish, and seabirds such as brown pelicans, blue herons, and cormorants. 619-234-9153; sdmaritime.org.

Place

Birch Aquarium at Scripps

2300 Expedition Way, San Diego

SEA days at Birch Aquarium

SEA stands for Science, Exploration, and Adventure. Every month, ocean explorers of all ages delve into a different cutting-edge topic with help from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. A SEA Day involves hands-on exploration, sometimes taking you into the field for special activities and a chance to interact with Scripps Oceanography scientists. Sample topics include “Birds of the Sea” (adaptations of ocean birds, “amazing migrations,” and best bird-watching spots), “Wonders of Wind” (from energy to sailing), and “Breathing in Climate Change” (experiments demonstrate the link between pollution and climate change). Programs included with admission: $14 for adults, $9.50 for kids 3–17; senior, student, and military discounts.

Sailing

Get American Sailing Association certified at Learn to Sail San Diego on Harbor Island with a three-day package starting at $2125 (for two people), or spring for a week-long cruise to Catalina or Ensenada for a smooth $3975–$4525. Additional friends and family are welcome, but those without certification will be charged $200; learntosailsandiego.com. For something lighter, breeze over to Action Sports Rental (one dock on Coronado, three on Mission Bay), where, for $30 an hour, you can choose from a few sizes of Capri, Catalina, or catamaran. Take a skipper along to show you the ropes — that’s “sheets,” landlubber.

Navy vacation

If you’re in San Diego for more than a day and you haven’t yet befriended (or aren’t related to) someone in the Navy, you need to meet more people. Once you get the right connect, book a stay at the oceanfront Navy Lodge for a romantic getaway or family staycation, and enjoy a beautiful, sparsely populated stretch of beach in Coronado inside the North Island air station. Within walking distance are the Sea N’ Air Golf Club, Beach Restaurant, and, of course, the Pacific Ocean. Right on base, you can visit a movie theater, bowling alley, and more. Call for pricing; 619-545-1011.

Invite a mermaid to your next party

Rent a mermaid

From children’s parties to weddings to yacht excursions, a real live “mermaid” adds magic and mystique, whether your event is held in a land-locked location or beside the sea. They can swim to beach birthdays, surprise guests, then disappear back into the ocean, or take children to a “magical story land of imagination.” These lovely lady-fish also offer pirate themes, fire dancers, belly dancers, acrobats and animal-menagerie acts (elephants, llamas, and ponies...) through nomadartz.com. Prices range from $500 to $2500. mymermaids.com.

Place

Chollas Lake

6350 College Grove Drive, San Diego

Place

Lake Jennings

9535 Harritt Road, Lakeside

Free fishing: freshwater edition

You’d rather be fishing. Do it for free with the kids (15 and under) on Sundays, 10 a.m.–2:00 p.m. with the Lend-A-Rod program at Chollas Lake. The program is sponsored by San Diego Fly Fishers. Head over to the south side of the lake with a picture ID, and they’ll lend your child a rigged rod. After that, kids get to scoop live worms from a bin; casting lessons are available, if needed. Fish anywhere along the edge of the 16-acre man-made lake, and if you catch a big one, you might get your picture added to the lake’s Big Fish Book. More training is available at the Lake Jennings Fishing University in Lakeside. Free classes every Sunday at 1:00 p.m. cover both equipment and technique: sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/centers/chollas; lakejennings.org.

Place

SeaWorld

500 Sea World Drive, San Diego

Manta

Experience the thrill of a roller coaster with a 54-foot drop, then journey through a 100,000-gallon marine-life habitat. This new “mega-attraction” (opening May 26, 2012, at Sea World) will offer guests an “amazing underwater view of more than 60 bat rays and other marine-life” and a shallow pool where people can touch and feed the rays. The coaster itself is shaped like a giant manta ray and travels up to 43 mph. “Gliding, flying, and diving through more than a dozen twists and turns, riders will feel as if they are a ray, taking flight from sky to sea.”

Kava and yoga at Mystic Waters

  • 3811 Ray Street, 619-255-6475, mysticwaterkavabar.com
  • NORTH PARK

Yoga is the new Shake Weight, and it’s sweeping the nation like a zen swarm of chiller bees. Studios have been popping up all over town, but for a unique twist on the ancient practice, roll up your mat and grab a stool at Mystic Waters Kava Bar and Yoga Studio on the Ray Street art strip in North Park. The sedative kava drink ($5.50–$7) is made from Pacific Island root and tastes like dirt. Your mouth will go a little numb, and it will help you relax into your postures without knocking you on your asana.

Place

La Jolla Indian Campground

22000 Highway 76, Pala

Floating the creek at La Jolla Indian Campground

Any spineless half-wit can float the lazy river at Soak City, but the stretch of San Luis Rey River (read: creek) meandering through the La Jolla Indian Campground in Pauma Valley separates the boys from the men, with treacherous drop-offs and ass-mangling rocks that hide just beneath the surface. A night at the campground will put you back $30 per car and will likely be sleepless — the place has a reputation as a haven for drunken unsavories — but so what? Grab a can of Bud Light (no glass) and join your rowdy neighbors for a round of Kid Rock sing-a-longs. $10 per day tube rentals.

Improvised fountain tour

Take a cup of joe to the fountain at the corner of Fay and Prospect in La Jolla. Marvel at the rock sculpture or just people-watch. Then head down to Little Italy for another favorite at the corner of Fir and India, where the water flows from a pretty blue globe; you can relax at a nearby umbrellaed table. Balboa Park might be the next stop; if your feet become tired from wandering the museums, take a seat on the edge of the Bea Evenson fountain, near the footbridge over Park Boulevard. For a quieter perch, cross the footbridge and try the fountain at the Rose Garden. Traveling with rowdy kids? Head down to Otay Ranch and let them run wild through the fountain near the food court at the Town Center Mall. They’ll love the intermittent spray coming out of the ground from a couple of dozen spouts. Be warned, however: they’ll need a change of clothes when they’re done.

Kiteboarding in Enchanted Cove, Fiesta Island

Catch some air in Mission Bay on a kiteboard. a fusion of wakeboarding and kiting that gained popularity in the ’90s. West Coast Kiteboarding offers 2–3 hours ($169) on a training kite, or, if you have experience surfing or wakeboarding, take a 3–4 hour lesson ($229) on a full-size kite and lines. After kite training, get in the water for 2–3 hours ($169) and then perfect your technique with a 2-hour evolution clinic ($149). Manta Wind and Water Sports offers 4-hour group ($179) and private lessons ($299), or 5-hour private packages ($359).

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Underwater hockey, also known as Octopush - Image by Adam Lau
Underwater hockey, also known as Octopush

Reader writers explore the elements of America’s Finest — water, air, fire, land.

Underwater hockey

Underwater hockey (sometimes called Octopush), has been around since 1954; it’s played in a couple of dozen countries. It involves, uh, whacking a puck around the bottom of a swimming pool. Teams of six battle each other in relays. It’s an “anaerobic” sport, of course, meaning you can’t breathe while you’re down there playing. There’s an active club here in San Diego. “People — men and women — should just come to the Mission Bay Plunge [at the Wave House, 3115 Ocean Front Walk, Mission Beach], Monday or Thursday evenings at 7:30, or on Saturday afternoons at 4:30,” says Jim Melrod, San Diego Underwater Hockey Club’s treasurer. “You need a mask, snorkel, fins. But we have all that, if you want to just try it out first.” Turn up, or contact the club’s president, Herb Baylon; [email protected]

Swim the cove

The La Jolla Cove Swim Club, an informal group of ocean-swimming enthusiasts, welcomes anyone to come swim with them. Every morning, all year long, groups of swimmers meet “on the deck” near the lifeguard hut overlooking the cove at 6:30, 8:00, 9:00, and 11:00 a.m. They swim in the protected waters between the Cove and La Jolla Shores; pre-set buoys mark distances. A few times a year, the group holds noncompetitive “social swims” followed by hot drinks, goodies, and socializing on the grass above the cove. Their most popular social event is the Polar Bear Swim on New Year’s Day. They also sponsor three yearly competitive events. Check the online calendar.

(Temporary) beachfront living

Few can afford a house on the beach, but almost all can afford to spend a few nights falling asleep to the sound of the waves at one of San Diego County’s state beach campgrounds. Skip San Onofre, where the sound of Interstate 5 drowns out the ocean. Much quieter are South Carlsbad and Cardiff’s San Elijo, both $50 per night. They’re near enough to shopping and food that you won’t have to cook if you don’t want to, and both feature hot-shower restrooms. Silver Strand State Beach is for RV campers only. It’s $50 for a beachfront parking spot. No hot showers. parks.ca.gov.

Place

Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve

12020 Black Mountain Road, San Diego

Waterfall in PQ Reserve

Peñasquitos Creek runs through the heart of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve. The waterfall is created by dramatic volcanic rock formations: peñasquitos means “little cliffs.” When the creek is flush, there are opportunities for rock-jumping and swimming, with several points of access along the Highway 56 corridor. To the east, hikers can park at Canyon Side Park, off of Black Mountain Road, or at the official reserve parking area (there’s a charge to park in the preserve’s lot). To the west, access is from the parking lot on Sorrento Valley Boulevard. Note that access to the preserve is closed after rainfall.

Place

Point Loma Sportfishing

1403 Scott Street, San Diego

Organize a fishing contest

It’s amazing how close the Pacific wilderness is, and how much life you’ll find right outside the harbor entrance. So why not organize a fishing contest with your friends? Spend half a day aboard, say, Point Loma Sport Fishing’s Daily Double. You’ll pay $45 ($73, with license, equipment, and tax), and head out at 9:00 a.m. While you’re fishing, organize the contest by weight, or, if you intend to release the fish, by length (weighing a flipping rockfish can be hell). The sea breeze, the sun, breakfast from the galley — it’s hard to beat the feeling. Boats return by 3:00 p.m. on weekdays, and at around 12:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on weekends. Watch out for sea lions, and take a hat.

Place

San Diego Maritime Museum

1492 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego

Soviet Sub

For this, first you’ve got to rent the movie Das Boot (“The Boat”), a gripping story of a hunted German U-boat during World War II. How those guys managed to eat, sleep, hunt, fight, repair leaks, and avoid depth-charge attacks is impossible to know, unless you come down to the Maritime Museum, get a $15 all-ship ticket, and head for the B-39, a Soviet-era sub that spent the Cold War shadowing U.S. and NATO ships. Turns out she’s an enlarged copy of Das Boot. You can relive those hellish scenes when the crew had to race forward so their weight would tip the bow down for an escape dive. With the tiny cabins, the bunks among torpedoes, and the periscope, you really get the feel of it (don’t go if you’re claustrophobic).

Place

Hotel del Coronado

1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado

Body surfing and cocktails

Arrange for your dozen best friends to meet on Coronado’s Central Beach, below the Hotel Del, some warm afternoon when the waves are up (but not too far up) and the wind is down. Then hold a body-surfing contest. Equipment? Your bods. The guy/gal who travels the farthest on one wave wins. Have towel-holders at the ready, dry off, and change in the Hotel Del changing rooms, preferably into gear that’s as near to the Great Gatsby as you can manage. Then, head to the firepits of the Hotel Del Coronado. Blow $10–$20 each on a really decent drink, like a “French and Italian” (sweet and dry vermouths mixed, with a splash of gin). Present the body-surfing champion with a dinner at the Sheerwater, and watch the sun head for Hawaii.

Pocket Beach

At the end of Santa Clara Avenue in Ocean Beach, down a flight of stairs, you’ll find Pocket Beach, a hidden gem known mostly to locals. Show up early enough — say, before 11:00 a.m. — and you’ll find the sands virtually empty. The location is picturesque, great for photo-ops. Brave beach-goers jump from the surrounding headlands: one cliff is large and scary, the other small and manageable. Be careful, there are no lifeguards on duty.

Place

Ice-plex Escondido

555 N. Tulip Street, Escondido

Curling

Learn how to play one of the quirkiest Winter Olympic sports at the Escondido Iceoplex’s monthly Learn to Curl Clinic. United States Curling Association–certified instructors teach each workshop. Intended for beginners, the two-hour course ($25) covers the fundamentals of the game: ice safety, delivery, and sweeping. At the end of class, attendees participate in a practice game. All equipment is provided by Curl San Diego, so no need to get crazy and buy actual curling gear, because, really, where would you find such things? The folks at Iceoplex ask that you wear tennis shoes and comfortable, layered, semi-warm clothing. Pre-registering online is a must as participation is not guaranteed to drop-ins. curlsandiego.org.

Place

Dishwasher Pond

10995 Avenue Playa Veracruz, San Diego

Dishwasher Pond

Located in the middle of Tierrasanta, Dishwasher Pond can be found while hiking on the Greenbelt Canyon trail. It’s a small pond, ideal for fishing and great for dogs. Bring some bread and feed the ducks. (If, however, you see anything metal, don’t touch it: the area was once part of Camp Elliott, a Marine Corps training area.) To get there, take Route 52, exit at Santo Road, heading south. At Remora Street, one block before Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, turn left. Park on Remora Street and walk a short way north on the sidewalk of Santo Road to the Greenbelt Canyon trailhead. You can also get there via Interstate 15, exiting at Clairemont Mesa Boulevard. Head east, then turn left on Santo Road and right on Remora Street.

Free fishing: saltwater edition

We have an ocean. We have public piers. There are fish out there, and you don’t need to drop a dime on a license. So grab a pole, buy a frozen mackerel, or the bait sold at many piers. You can choose from the old Coronado Ferry landing, Crystal Pier, Embarcadero, Imperial Beach, Ocean Beach, Oceanside, and Shelter Island. Expect to land perch, mackerel, sculpin, and, if you’re lucky, maybe a halibut, but when the sun begins to set, the romance of light dancing on the water is worth heading home empty-handed.

Place

Green Tara Floatation Center

1622 Diamond Street, San Diego

Place

Float Spa San Diego

9520 Padgett Street #106, San Diego

Sensory Deprivation Tank

Sensory deprivation, also known as Floatation Therapy, aims to slow down the bombardment of constant sensory input. The chamber offers quiet solitude, devoid of light. You lie in body-temperature water mixed with epsom salts, rendering you buoyant. It is thought that when sensory information is reduced, the logical left side of the brain gives way to the creative right side. Some people report re-experiencing long-forgotten dreams. Float at the Green Tara Floatation Center in Pacific Beach ($40 per hour) or Float Spa San Diego in Kearny Mesa (one hour for $75, 90 minutes for $95).

Navy SEAL Academy

The Navy SEAL Academy in Encinitas has programs to challenge the physically and mentally tough. The basic Navy SEAL Physical Training (PT) Challenge Phase 1 course (five 2 ½ hour sessions on Sunday mornings) includes Log PT, Boat PT, Team Competitions, and an introduction to surf passage. Phase 2 builds on your growing skills, with Grinder PT, Combatives Training, and Basic Knife Fighting Skills. Things get gnarly with the advanced programs. The four-day Basic Underwater Demolition School Prep Course offers a taste of Hell Week — a grueling, nonstop 24-hour physical endurance phase on Day One; water skills (underwater knot-tying, combat sidestroke) on Day Two; pistol and carbine marksmanship, rappelling, close-quarter combat on Day Three; and Final Training Exercise, which includes a mock assault and “downed helicopter” pilot rescue, on Day Four. Prices from $199 to $2195. navysealacademy.com.

Place

SeaWorld

500 Sea World Drive, San Diego

Cirque de la Mer

Most people are familiar with the Circus of the Sun, but what about the Circus of the Sea? Visit Amphibia, Sea World’s water realm “filled with amazing acrobatic creatures, delightful characters, and other mysterious sights and sounds,” with the gorgeous bayside as backdrop. As with all Cirque shows, you can expect imaginative costumes, plenty of exhilarating demonstrations of strength and discipline, and “specialized, painstakingly honed skills.” After each show, you’ll get a chance to meet the performers outside the stadium. Single day admission $73 for adults, $65 for kids, “fun cards” and length-of-stay tickets available. 619-226-3901; seaworldparks.com.

Old-school whale watching

Bring a picnic, and even your own wine (beer and wine are also sold onboard) and sail the whale superhighway off our coast aboard the historic yacht America. Maritime Museum of San Diego and Next Level Sailing have partnered to offer wildlife tours on the 139-foot yacht that won the first America’s Cup. Commencing in June, their Blue Whale Sunset Sale is offered daily from 3:00–7:00 p.m. ($65 for adults, $35 for kids, includes admission to the museum). Though nothing is guaranteed — nature can be capricious — chances are good you’ll see not only whales, but dolphins, sea lions, sunfish, and seabirds such as brown pelicans, blue herons, and cormorants. 619-234-9153; sdmaritime.org.

Place

Birch Aquarium at Scripps

2300 Expedition Way, San Diego

SEA days at Birch Aquarium

SEA stands for Science, Exploration, and Adventure. Every month, ocean explorers of all ages delve into a different cutting-edge topic with help from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. A SEA Day involves hands-on exploration, sometimes taking you into the field for special activities and a chance to interact with Scripps Oceanography scientists. Sample topics include “Birds of the Sea” (adaptations of ocean birds, “amazing migrations,” and best bird-watching spots), “Wonders of Wind” (from energy to sailing), and “Breathing in Climate Change” (experiments demonstrate the link between pollution and climate change). Programs included with admission: $14 for adults, $9.50 for kids 3–17; senior, student, and military discounts.

Sailing

Get American Sailing Association certified at Learn to Sail San Diego on Harbor Island with a three-day package starting at $2125 (for two people), or spring for a week-long cruise to Catalina or Ensenada for a smooth $3975–$4525. Additional friends and family are welcome, but those without certification will be charged $200; learntosailsandiego.com. For something lighter, breeze over to Action Sports Rental (one dock on Coronado, three on Mission Bay), where, for $30 an hour, you can choose from a few sizes of Capri, Catalina, or catamaran. Take a skipper along to show you the ropes — that’s “sheets,” landlubber.

Navy vacation

If you’re in San Diego for more than a day and you haven’t yet befriended (or aren’t related to) someone in the Navy, you need to meet more people. Once you get the right connect, book a stay at the oceanfront Navy Lodge for a romantic getaway or family staycation, and enjoy a beautiful, sparsely populated stretch of beach in Coronado inside the North Island air station. Within walking distance are the Sea N’ Air Golf Club, Beach Restaurant, and, of course, the Pacific Ocean. Right on base, you can visit a movie theater, bowling alley, and more. Call for pricing; 619-545-1011.

Invite a mermaid to your next party

Rent a mermaid

From children’s parties to weddings to yacht excursions, a real live “mermaid” adds magic and mystique, whether your event is held in a land-locked location or beside the sea. They can swim to beach birthdays, surprise guests, then disappear back into the ocean, or take children to a “magical story land of imagination.” These lovely lady-fish also offer pirate themes, fire dancers, belly dancers, acrobats and animal-menagerie acts (elephants, llamas, and ponies...) through nomadartz.com. Prices range from $500 to $2500. mymermaids.com.

Place

Chollas Lake

6350 College Grove Drive, San Diego

Place

Lake Jennings

9535 Harritt Road, Lakeside

Free fishing: freshwater edition

You’d rather be fishing. Do it for free with the kids (15 and under) on Sundays, 10 a.m.–2:00 p.m. with the Lend-A-Rod program at Chollas Lake. The program is sponsored by San Diego Fly Fishers. Head over to the south side of the lake with a picture ID, and they’ll lend your child a rigged rod. After that, kids get to scoop live worms from a bin; casting lessons are available, if needed. Fish anywhere along the edge of the 16-acre man-made lake, and if you catch a big one, you might get your picture added to the lake’s Big Fish Book. More training is available at the Lake Jennings Fishing University in Lakeside. Free classes every Sunday at 1:00 p.m. cover both equipment and technique: sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/centers/chollas; lakejennings.org.

Place

SeaWorld

500 Sea World Drive, San Diego

Manta

Experience the thrill of a roller coaster with a 54-foot drop, then journey through a 100,000-gallon marine-life habitat. This new “mega-attraction” (opening May 26, 2012, at Sea World) will offer guests an “amazing underwater view of more than 60 bat rays and other marine-life” and a shallow pool where people can touch and feed the rays. The coaster itself is shaped like a giant manta ray and travels up to 43 mph. “Gliding, flying, and diving through more than a dozen twists and turns, riders will feel as if they are a ray, taking flight from sky to sea.”

Kava and yoga at Mystic Waters

  • 3811 Ray Street, 619-255-6475, mysticwaterkavabar.com
  • NORTH PARK

Yoga is the new Shake Weight, and it’s sweeping the nation like a zen swarm of chiller bees. Studios have been popping up all over town, but for a unique twist on the ancient practice, roll up your mat and grab a stool at Mystic Waters Kava Bar and Yoga Studio on the Ray Street art strip in North Park. The sedative kava drink ($5.50–$7) is made from Pacific Island root and tastes like dirt. Your mouth will go a little numb, and it will help you relax into your postures without knocking you on your asana.

Place

La Jolla Indian Campground

22000 Highway 76, Pala

Floating the creek at La Jolla Indian Campground

Any spineless half-wit can float the lazy river at Soak City, but the stretch of San Luis Rey River (read: creek) meandering through the La Jolla Indian Campground in Pauma Valley separates the boys from the men, with treacherous drop-offs and ass-mangling rocks that hide just beneath the surface. A night at the campground will put you back $30 per car and will likely be sleepless — the place has a reputation as a haven for drunken unsavories — but so what? Grab a can of Bud Light (no glass) and join your rowdy neighbors for a round of Kid Rock sing-a-longs. $10 per day tube rentals.

Improvised fountain tour

Take a cup of joe to the fountain at the corner of Fay and Prospect in La Jolla. Marvel at the rock sculpture or just people-watch. Then head down to Little Italy for another favorite at the corner of Fir and India, where the water flows from a pretty blue globe; you can relax at a nearby umbrellaed table. Balboa Park might be the next stop; if your feet become tired from wandering the museums, take a seat on the edge of the Bea Evenson fountain, near the footbridge over Park Boulevard. For a quieter perch, cross the footbridge and try the fountain at the Rose Garden. Traveling with rowdy kids? Head down to Otay Ranch and let them run wild through the fountain near the food court at the Town Center Mall. They’ll love the intermittent spray coming out of the ground from a couple of dozen spouts. Be warned, however: they’ll need a change of clothes when they’re done.

Kiteboarding in Enchanted Cove, Fiesta Island

Catch some air in Mission Bay on a kiteboard. a fusion of wakeboarding and kiting that gained popularity in the ’90s. West Coast Kiteboarding offers 2–3 hours ($169) on a training kite, or, if you have experience surfing or wakeboarding, take a 3–4 hour lesson ($229) on a full-size kite and lines. After kite training, get in the water for 2–3 hours ($169) and then perfect your technique with a 2-hour evolution clinic ($149). Manta Wind and Water Sports offers 4-hour group ($179) and private lessons ($299), or 5-hour private packages ($359).

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Regarding, Explore a Water Wonderland article, as far as I can tell, there is NO Santa Clara Ave. in Ocean Beach.

May 6, 2012

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