10995 Avenue Playa Veracruz, Tierrasanta
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.
1622 Diamond Street, Pacific Beach
9520 Padgett Street #106, Kearny Mesa
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.
500 Sea World Drive, Mission Beach
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.
2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla
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.
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.
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.