When Joey and I first met, we played 20 questions just like the rest of you (if you’re scoffing at this, I know you secretly played this game with your sweetheart, too! No shame here!). One of the questions we asked, oddly enough, was where our dream honeymoon destination would be. And surprise! The answer was NOT California! It was Italy. But alas, we had a rather swift engagement (3 months to be exact) due to family circumstances, and by then, our dreams of an Italian rendezvous in September (peak season and therefore PRICEY) were in the distant past. I had heard of that magical West Coast glow that seems to blanket the skies every. single. night. Naturally, my photographer, beach girl heart was drawn to Cali. If I couldn’t enjoy my first week as a wife sipping a cappuccino along the Amalfi Coast, Cali would do justtttt fine.
Over the next couple of months, we hunted for the most cost effective, romantic, coastal honeymoon options like Costa Rica or a tropical cruise. My younger sister, Maddy, even made an entire spreadsheet filled with hotels and prices and all the pros and cons of every option. Yet still, we couldn’t shake the thought of heading west. Funnily enough, Joey’s old band released a song right at the start of our friendship with a line that says, “Let’s drive out to California, just me and you”. While we didn’t drive (thank you, Jesus, for airplanes), we did end up heading to San Diego, CA, just him and I (p.s. you’re going to want to add that song to your playlist, so I linked it here! Doesn’t Joey have an insane voice?!).
While we were sick nearly all of our honeymoon and didn’t get to do/see/eat as many things as we’d hoped, we were still SO blessed to visit so many gorgeous places and drink lots of yummy coffee (maybe too much). So for all you lovers out there, here’s a few of our must-see spots, why we loved them, and the shops we went to around that spot!
Pacific beach is one of the more popular spots in San Diego. Surrounded by an eclectic mix of restaurants and shops, this public beach is definitely a bit of a tourist attraction. BUT! It is also teeming with locality and culture. Perched upon one of the hills overlooking the ocean was a group of people that I would affectionately call hippies, engaging in quite impressive yoga and welcoming perfect strangers into their “Zen Palace”, which was appropriately outfitted with colorful floor cushions and free hugs. Surfers gathered toward the north end of the beach, while families set up camp along the shoreline for an evening dip. I’m a hardcore people-watcher, so for me, this experience was a perfect introduction to sweet San Diego!
Food: Breakfast Republic | Tacos Mimi
Coffee: Coava Coffee Roasters
Shopping: Wild Dove Boutique
The name says it all. I’ve never witnessed such perfect, golden, clean sunset light in all my days as I did that night we visited Sunset Cliffs. Actually, earlier that day, I took a quick trip to the emergency room after my body freaked out for no good reason (literally…the docs had no explanation). I was determined to regain a bit of strength so we could actually enjoy what we came all the way to Cali for—the ocean and the sunlight (and yes, to spend time together as newlyweds relaxing, of course). While the moon rose over our shoulders, the sun kindly said goodbye for the day right in front of our eyes. Growing up on the east coast, I had never seen a setting sun over the horizon, and I’m so glad my first experience of said event was here. I remember there being a tangible feeling of peace and thankfulness in the air that night. Couples had set up romantic picnics on the edges of cliffs while the more adventurous wandered down a steep staircase to surf one last time. While I love these photos, I really don’t even feel like the truly represent the beauty we saw that night.
Food: OB Noodle House
Coffee: Heartwork Coffee in Mission Village
LA JOLLA COVE
Remember how I said we wanted to travel to Italy so badly for our honeymoon? Welp, I believe we found a piece of it in SoCal. La Jolla is the cutest posh seaside town you ever did see, and I felt like I was MADE for that place. We had heard of La Jolla Cove, home to many sea lions (which are rather disgusting creatures, I might add) and some natural “caves”. What we weren’t expecting was the bougainvilleas that blanketed the buildings, the cutest Italian gelato shop right near the cove (they had accents, okay), or the European charm this little town had. I really wish we would’ve had more time in this town, but this was our stop right before Sunset Cliffs, and I knew I didn’t want to miss out on seeing a sunset there. Still, La Jolla is DEFINITELY worth a trip or two!!
Food: Bobbi Natural Gelato
The only connection I have to LA is my fascination with the podcast, To Live and Die in L.A., and while I did make Joey drive me around to all the spots mentioned in that podcast, venturing to L.A. was Joey’s idea entirely. Touristy things aren’t something I’m too fond of, and visiting the L.A./Santa Monica Pier is about as touristy as it gets. And still, this was one of my favorite evenings in California. We hopped on the West Coaster just after taking these photos, and that did some good for my roller coaster loving self. Once again, the sunset was unmatched, but this time it radiated orange and purple hues I had only dreamt about. Joey looked SO CUTE standing there and made me look like a real great photographer 😉 P.S. Did you see those homes literally on the beach in the above photo?! Yeah that’s my new dream.
Coffee: Neat Coffee | Daydream Surf Shop | Common Room Roasters
These images have been some of my most repinned on my Pinterest, and for good reason. I mean let’s be honest—the Griffith Observatory is just sort of really truly iconic. Ever seen La La Land? Yep! They filmed that magical planetarium scene here. Unfortunately, the day we visited was the last day of some planetarium renovations, so we didn’t get to have a Mia + Sebastian moment. The exhibits inside are fascinating and so beautifully executed. Visiting the Griffith Observatory was the perfect stop before heading to Santa Monica. With it’s beautiful Art Deco inspired architecture and unbeatable views of Downtown L.A. and the Hollywood sign, this is a must see if you’re in the area!! **Warning: the air is dry up there and it’s deceptively hot, so be drinking lots of water!! Joey had to sit down at one point because he felt so woozy (true, we were already sick, but still).
Oh I almost forgot to tell you!! We LOVED visiting the San Diego Zoo! Although I opted not to bring my film camera (or any camera for that matter) for obvious reasons, I couldn’t sign off without HIGHLY recommending taking a day to explore that park. Well worth the money! We also enjoyed eating at Underbelley Japanese in Little Italy, grabbing coffee from James Coffee Co. and Copa Vida (my personal fave!) in downtown San Diego, and taking the ferry over to Coronado Island.
After honeymooning here, I’m oddly protective over San Diego now. I feel like it’s supposed to be reserved just for Joey + I, but then reality slaps me in the face and I remind myself that no, Michela, you are not the queen of Southern California. Or all of California. Or of any region. SO! If you are looking for a cost-effective, easy going and still adventurous honeymoon experience, just do it—go to San Diego!! You’ll want to bottle up that refreshing, balmy weather and carry it back home just like I did 😉 I can’t wait to hear about all the things you see and do and eat!!