Hiking San Diego: Guajome Regional Park

We love hiking San Diego, and we recently checked out Guajome Regional Park in the North County San Diego/Oceanside area. This park has lots to offer for all ages, and we both agreed it’s one of our best hikes in San Diego so far.

What you need to know

Guajome Regional Park offers 4.5 miles of hiking trails, plus 33 camping sites for those interested in camping San Diego. The park has something to offer people of all ages and abilities, including a small playground for children, basketball court, fishing ponds, and even wedding/special event facilities. The trails are easy to navigate and great for walking/hiking and biking.

If you love San Diego camping and want to add Guajome Regional Park to your summer vacation list, there are  cabins, partial hook-ups, and a caravan pavilion – we loved how shady and peaceful the campground was, and we definitely plan to camp there in the future.

Hiking Checklist – Gear to Bring:

  • The ponds at Guajome Regional Park add a beautiful ambiance to hiking there, but they also attract mosquitoes. We saw signs indicating that the area is treated for mosquitoes, but we’d also recommend bringing mosquito repellent, especially if you plan to camp.
  • The trails also have Poison Oak. The trails are well maintained and the Poison Oak is off trail, but if you’re hiking with children and pets, it can be easy for the Poison Oak to blend in with all the lush foliage. These Poison Oak cleansing towelettes can come in handy in case someone does accidentally brush up against Poison Oak.
  • Keep an eye out for rattlesnakes and hawks. We chatted with a fellow hiker who mentioned that a hawk on this trail tried to swoop down and scoop up his chihuahua – and since we just recently saw this happen to a rabbit in our backyard, we’re definitely keeping a close eye on our pets when they’re out in nature.

location and directions

Guajome Regional Park is located in the coastal community of Oceanside, about 8 miles from the Pacific Ocean.

3000 Guajome Lake Road, Oceanside, CA 92057
Park: (760) 724-4489
Camping Reservations: (858) 565-3600, (877) 565-3600


hours and fees

Camping Hours: Camping, 24 hours a day, 7 days per week
Check campsite fees and make a reservation.

Day Use Hours: 9:30 a.m. to sunset
Parking is $3 cash (Note: cards and pennies are not accepted at the machine)

the hiking trails

Guajome Regional Park offers 4.5 miles of trails that meander through diverse Southern California habitats including woodlands, chaparral, wetlands and mixed grasslands. The trails are an easy hike/walk for all ages and dogs, too (we’ve walked the trails with our chihuahuas and our nephews ages 5 and 7, plus a baby stroller with a 10-month old and everyone had a great time). We love how lush and green these trails are – so beautiful!

We’ll definitely be hiking Guajome Regional Park again soon, and hopefully camping San Diego this summer! What are your favorite places to hike/camp in San Diego? Tell us in the comments below! 🙂


Events: Carlsbad Street Fair

The Carlsbad Street Fair is one of our favorite FREE annual events in San Diego. In fact, we attended this event on a weekend getaway to Carlsbad at Ocean Palms Beach Resort and it’s one of the things that made us want to move to San Diego!

There are so many great things to do in Carlsbad and this event never disappoints, so make sure to mark your calendars for Sunday, May 7, 2017 from 8 am – 5 pm.  The Carlsbad Village Fair stretches 14 blocks and features more than 850 unique vendors with a little of everything: arts & crafts, antiques, unique clothing, items from around the world, and more. Children’s rides, an international food center, and an old-fashioned pancake breakfast. And, it’s dog friendly! Need we say more? There’s something for everyone at the Carlsbad Street Fair, so pack up the whole fam and head to downtown Carlsbad!

Here are a few of our favorite booths and purchases from previous years…

Our backyard is decked out in tikis (most of them from street fairs and a few from our travels), so this booth was a hit with us – we’re always game to add some more Hawaiian-style vibes to our yard!

We bought the third one in on the top row – so many fun options to choose from.

We love all the local artisans at the Carlsbad Street Fair. These hand-blown glass jellyfish caught our eye and we have one decorating the mantle on our fireplace now. And, with Mother’s Day just around the corner, the street fair is the perfect place to pick up unique, handmade gifts for Mom and support local San Diego business at the same time.

There’s a lot of walking involved at the Carlsbad Street Fair, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring your appetite. H-O-L-Y Guaca-moly, there are so many good things to eat.

And don’t forget to hydrate. It’s been very hot and sunny at the street fair in years past, but we hear rain is on the way this year. We loved refueling at the Naked Juice truck. Free green juice? Yes, please! They were also giving out free, custom-designed t-shirts.

Even if you don’t plan to buy anything at the Carlsbad Street Fair, it’s a great opportunity to get out and explore all that Carlsbad has to offer. Plus, you’ll see all kinds of interesting things. Last year we even saw a pet pig on a leash. 🙂 The Carlsbad Street Fair is now in its 43rd year and it attracts people (and animals!) from all over Southern California and even other states.

“The Carlsbad Village Faire is a celebration of Southern California culture and our community,” said Ted Owen, president and CEO of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce. “Carlsbad recently took the top spot in Men’s Journal list of Best Places to Live in 2016. We are privileged to host this amazing community event that showcases over 100 local businesses and gives fairgoers a day to enjoy quality time with loved ones, relax, enjoy live music and create cherished memories.”

Food, music, art, family, friends, and lots of laughter – we can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday in San Diego! Hope to see you there!

Tips for attending the Carlsbad Street Fair:

  • Go early before the crowds (the event gets very crowded mid-day!)
  • Take advantage of the free shuttle
    Parking for the Carlsbad Street Fair is very limited. The first time we attended the fair, we were staying at Ocean Palms Beach Resort in Carlsbad, and it was the PERFECT location. Walking distance to everything downtown, including the fair. If you’re not staying at a hotel in Carlsbad that has parking, don’t even try to drive downtown and get a parking spot. Also, Grand Avenue from Carlsbad Boulevard to Jefferson Street, and all of the cross streets in between, are closed for the event. There is limited amount of handicap parking throughout the event.
  • Complimentary shuttles run to and from the faire every 15 minutes. The shuttle pick-up locations are at the northwest corner of Sears at Shoppes at Carlsbad Plaza Camino Real (Highway 78 and Jefferson) as well as at the Poinsettia Coaster Station (Poinsettia exit off of I-5).

Have you been to the Carlsbad Street Fair before? If so, tell us your favorite booths so we can check them out. If not, we hope to see you there! 🙂

Looking for someplace to stay in Carlsbad? Check out our weekend getaway at Ocean Palms Beach Resort – Pet Friendly Hotel Carlsbad CA.

Hiking San Diego: Lake Calavera Carlsbad

Spring is the perfect time to explore the great outdoors and go hiking in San Diego. The weather is beautiful, there are tons of trails to choose from and, best of all, it’s usually FREE. Lake Calavera Carlsbad is one of our favorite hikes in San Diego – it’s the largest of 13 city-owned, dedicated and managed nature preserves in Carlsbad. It’s easy to get to (just off the 78 freeway), there’s plenty of free street parking, and it’s rich with wildlife and beautiful foliage (this year especially, thanks to all the rain we’ve had!). And, it’s dog friendly. We brought our pups, Tiki and Kaia, along for the adventure.

What’s unique about this nature preserve? You can explore a volcano here (it’s now extinct, of course). Mount Calavera is actually a 22-million-year-old volcanic plug – and one of only three volcanic plugs in Southern California. We hear there’s an awesome view of the ocean from the top of the trail on a clear day, but we didn’t make it that far.

There are over four miles of trails at Lake Calavera and six trails to choose from – it’s one of the more extensive trail networks in Carlsbad and connects to other trails – and our chihuahuas’ little legs can only carry them so far. Our walks usually end up like the photo above – with me carrying both of them. I’m not sure who’s really walking who here. 🙂

If you bring your pups to Lake Calavera, make sure they’re leashed and be sure to watch out for rattlesnakes. It’s very common to see them on the trails in spring and summer – in fact, there was one on the trail last time we were there (and we had a snake in our backyard just a few weeks ago, which our dogs were very eager to inspect), so make sure to keep an eye out for local wildlife crossing the trail.

Speaking of wildlife, Lake Calavera is home to twelve animal species – including everything from rattlesnakes to egrets, herons, ducks and more. We even saw a turtle swimming around in the lake. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday, if you ask us. This guy decided he wanted to pose for some photos…

Lake Calavera also has more than four plant species and 17 native vegetation communities on site, including Diegan coastal sage scrub, southern mixed chaparrel, freshwater marsh and more. It’s really amazing what we have in our backyard just a few miles off the freeway. There’s lots of nature to see, and the hills were alive with green when were there. Almost made us feel like we were on vacation, even though this nature preserve is right in San Diego’s backyard.

Lake Calavera Preserve was established as part of Carlsbad’s Habitat Management Program to protect the rich diversity of plants and wildlife in San Diego County. Not only is Lake Calavera a beautiful place to go for a hike, but you can also volunteer for trail clean-ups and special events, or participate in the Adopt-a-Trail program and help construct new trails, foot bridges and more. Kaia is ready to volunteer for pup clean-up.

If you’re looking for something unique, there’s also a super Solar System walk that’s great for families – the walk consists of 10 interpretive signs along a 1-mile trail that represent each plant, the Sun and Pluto. The project was created by a local Eagle Scout to demonstrate the relative distance between the Sun and all the planets in our solar system. Great option for families who want to get outdoors and do something fun and educational.

Lake Calavera is a good option for a variety of activity levels. The six different trails make for a fun “choose your own adventure” – this is a place we love consistently coming back to because there’s so much to explore. You can go the “easy” route on the 1.9 mile loop that goes around the lake (our favorite with the dogs), or you can go on a more “difficult” route and take the trail uphill to Mount Calavera (it’s a 513-foot-high summit for those looking for something a little more adventurous) – one day, we’ll make it up to the top to see that ocean view. 🙂 You’ll find everyone from families pushing strollers to joggers, mountain bikers, couples doing workouts, and more at Lake Calavera – there’s really something for everyone. The area is expansive enough (110 acres) that it never really feels crowded.

This has definitely become one of our favorite places to hike (aka walk) in San Diego. Here are a few tips if you want to check it out!

Tips for Hiking in San Diego – Lake Calavera Carlsbad:

  • Parking
    Lake Calavera is located off Tamarack Avenue in Carlsbad. There are a couple entrances to Lake Calavera, and we recommend the entrance off Tamarack. The easiest way to find parking at Lake Calavera is to head East on Tamarack Rd. You’ll see the lake right away when you arrive,  and free street parking is typically readily available. The Tamarack entrance has a restroom, drinking fountain, maps, and pet waste bags/receptacle. This is also the best, most accessible entrance if you want to take a leisurely stroll around the lake.

The other entrance (off of College Blvd./Sky Haven Ln.) has a super cool “bamboo forest,” and sculpture garden, which are definitely worth checking out – we love the variety of this hiking spot! The Sky Haven Ln. entrance is usually your best option if you want to to take the more active trails.

  • Hike in the mornings
    The trails can get pretty hot in the afternoons during the spring and summer, so we recommend going before 10 am if you can to avoid the heat.
  • Carry a map
    The trail system at Lake Calavera can be a little confusing – make sure you grab one of the maps at the Tamarack entrance so you can see all your options before you head out on the trail. Or, you can just bookmark this blog post and get the map here.Trails available include:
    Lake Loop Trail – 1.9 miles (our favorite)
    Oak Riparian Loop Trail – 1.4 miles
    East Loop Trail – .9 mile
    Monkey Flower Trail – .9 mile
    Serpentine Trail – .7 mile
    Solar Trail
  • Bring plenty of water
    Make sure to stay hydrated – and if you’re bringing your pups, make sure to bring enough to share! We love to bring collapsible dog bowls on hikes – they’re easy to store in a backpack and get out when your dog is thirsty. This pack comes with a set of four sizes and is BPA free and dishwasher safe. We found this chihuahua cup at Big Lots and couldn’t resist getting it (don’t worry, the tea was for humans only)! 🙂

What are your favorite spots to hike in San Diego?

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Photo Tour: San Diego Zoo Safari Park World Gardens

One of our favorite places to relax in San Diego is the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. I know, you might be wondering how we can find one of San Diego’s most popular tourist destinations “relaxing.” While the 3,500+ animals at the park are definitely a main attraction, there are also some lesser trafficked areas of the park (like the World Gardens) that are great for relaxing, reflecting and recharging your batteries amidst nature’s beauty.

As with most attractions, the best time to visit the park and take advantage of these peaceful points of interest is on a weekday when there is typically less foot traffic. We recommend getting a San Diego Zoo Membership for easy admission to both the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Safari Park. Last time we visited the Safari Park it was the middle of the day on a weekend and, after an exhaustive search for a spot in the crowded parking lot, we still found the World Gardens pretty peaceful.

This guy was ready to check in to the Caravan Safari.

We headed to the World Gardens area of the park, which includes the Baja Garden, California Nativescapes Garden, Bonsai Pavilion and more.

Don’t feel like making the drive to Anza Borrego to check out the Super Bloom? There are plenty of wildflowers right in San Diego’s backyard at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. In fact, The Safari Park’s Nativescapes Garden is a testament to that fact, with more than 1,500 individual plants representing 500 species, all of which historically call Southern California home. We just love all the vibrant colors that are popping up at the park now that it’s spring.

Didn’t make it to the Balboa Park Japanese Garden for the Cherry Blossom Festival? You can check out these gorgeous blooms at the Safari Park too.

The Bonsai Pavilion is truly a work of art. Bonsai, which is a combination of two Japanese words meaning “tree planted in a tray” has become a popular hobby and art form among gardeners since the late 1880s, when the miniature plants were first displayed outside of China and Japan.

And our favorite spot at the Safari Park to relax is this pond. Even on a weekend, this area was quiet enough for us to relax on a bench, enjoy a snack and take in this beautiful view for about half an hour without being disturbed. We probably could have stayed longer. This setting almost makes you feel like you’re at a spa – isn’t it gorgeous? Spa treatment for two, please…

What are your favorite places to relax in San Diego?



La Jolla Tide Pools: False Point

If you’re looking for a low-key weekend activity that will take you outdoors in San Diego without having to spend lots of money, we highly recommend a few hours of adventuring  at La Jolla tidepools. We’ve explored the La Jolla Cove tidepools before – one of our favorite places to visit, and we never get tired of watching the amusing antics of the La Jolla Cove sea lions. How adorable is this baby lounging on a rock? Wouldn’t mind trading places with this little pup right about now.?

Since we go to La Jolla Cove often, we thought we’d check out someplace new. After checking out Yelp, we headed out to False Point and we were met with this beautiful sight.

I mean, how gorgeous is this???

The Birch Aquarium at Scripps offers guided tidepool tours at False Point and we were hoping to catch one of those, but we were last minute in making our reservation and they were already fully booked for the day. Todd and I both work varying schedules, so it’s hard to commit to plans in advance for the weekend. Plus, there’s something about “schedule” and “weekend” that just doesn’t belong in the same sentence (anyone else agree???). Here’s how Todd feels about that…?

Anyway, when we both ended up free for the day, we decided to DYI our own tidepool tour and it did not disappoint. During low tide, you can see everything from purple sea urchins, giant green sea anemones, and sea slugs…even an octopus, if you’re lucky. A fellow tidepooler discovered this octopus underneath a rock and was nice enough to let us get a look up close and snap a pic. He also happened to be a marine biologist , so he told us all about the marine habitats of tidepools and gave us tips on what to look for.

If you want to get a glimpse at San Diego’s sea life up close in a natural environment, we highly recommend checking out the tidepools at False Point. Here are a few tips and details that might help with your tidepooling adventure.

False Point is located at Sea Ridge Drive and Linda Way in La Jolla California (it’s a little over 2 miles and less than 10 minutes from downtown La Jolla). Maps took us on a detour on La Jolla Scenic Drive and, wow, was this one time we were glad Siri led us astray. The view from the top = amazing. Probably one of the best views in San Diego. We were too awestruck to take a picture, but we’ll have to go back and snap some shots for you. Worth the drive just for that view.

Once you get to False Point, street parking is available (free during certain hours – make sure to check signs before you park). It can be limited, so we recommend going during off-peak hours. Weekdays are usually always a good time explore San Diego without the crowds. We lucked out and happened to score a spot on the weekend.

What We Liked
One of the things we really liked about False Point La Jolla is that it’s easy access – once we found a parking spot, it was just a quick jaunt down a set of stairs and we’d arrived. No Billy Goat tendencies or rock climbing skills required for this adventure. There’s also a bench at the top of the stairs in case you go with anyone who isn’t up to adventuring, or just wants to relax and enjoy the view. There are also TONS of tidepools to explore. Even if there are a lot of people, there’s plenty of room for everyone to have their own personal, private tidepool adventure during low tide. On a sidenote, we were excited to see that dogs are also allowed here during certain hours (again, make sure to check signs).

We both love marine life (Todd is an avid scuba diver and underwater photographer) and we really enjoyed this adventure. It’s someplace we’d definitely visit again. We’d love to do one of the guided tours with the Birch Aquarium sometime to learn more about all the sea creatures from the aquarium’s trained naturalists.

Until then, we’re all for exploring on our own when we get the chance, and we hope you do too – you never know what you might uncover.

Tips for Exploring La Jolla Tidepools at False Point:

  • Check the tides
    Make sure to visit the tidepools during low tide – that’s the best time to explore and have the chance to see lots of sea creatures. 🙂 The best season for tidepooling is November – March when minus tides make the beaches wider and tend to reveal more sea life.
  • Wear sturdy shoes
    We loved that these tidepools were easy access, but the rocks are still covered with algae and a little slippery. Todd slipped and twisted his ankle, but he and his sandals survived to see another day of tidepooling.
  • Bring a mini First Aid Kit
    Especially if you’ll be adventuring with kids. The rocks are sharp and it’s easy to get cut just by picking them up and turning them over – you don’t want an injury spoiling the fun.
  • Be patient and leave no rock unturned
    We got lucky and saw a TON of sea creatures on the day we visited. It’s pretty easy to spot anemones, but it can take a lot of turning over rocks and luck to see something like an octopus. And, of course, it’s best not to touch the marine life and leave that up to the guides and experts, like the marine biologist we met.

Have you been tidepooling in San Diego? What are your favorite spots?


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Balboa Park Japanese Garden

Spring is one of our favorite “seasons” in San Diego. Balmy, 70-degree weather, sunny skies…what’s not to like?? It’s a great time to head outdoors and explore all that San Diego has to offer. We recently stopped by the Balboa Park Japanese Garden to check out the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, and the weather was on point.

The Balboa Park Japanese Friendship Garden hosts the annual Celebration of the Cherry Trees, which boast those beautiful pink blossoms you see above. The festival includes cultural performances, Japanese street food, unique local vendors, and a children’s corner, making it a great outdoor activity for children and adults alike.

This year’s fest featured everything from “healthy”Japanese pancakes, to a beer and tea garden. I sampled a variety of Japanese teas, which offered much needed refreshment after the 1.5 miles we walked to get there (it was probably more than that since we got a little lost). Guests can also partake in Hanami, the traditional custom of picnicking under the cherry trees and, as you can see, this was a popular choice among many…

The Garden’s design is based on centuries-old Japanese techniques adapted to San Diego’s climate – it really is gorgeous! We loved exploring the 12 acres of koi ponds, water features, sukiya-style buildings and beautiful landscape.

A few tips if you plan to attend the Cherry Blossom Festival…

Purchase your tickets online.
We’ll let you in on a little secret: there’s a separate entrance for online ticket holders so you can go right into the gardens without having to wait in crowded lines. Who doesn’t like a fast pass??

Go on a weekday.
The Cherry Blossom Festival is usually a three-day gig – we highly recommend going on Friday rather than Saturday or Sunday to avoid crowds. We were there on both Friday and Sunday – yes, we’re hard core cherry blossomers. Actually, on Friday, we’d brought our dogs and – note for pet owners, dogs aren’t allowed into the gardens (for understandable reasons, and our dogs proved why that day).

Both Kaia and Tiki have major small-dog complex (they are chihuahuas after all) and decided to bark at everything that moved, so Balboa Park was not a good idea for them. We took them out for an afternoon at dog friendly Hotel Del Coronado instead, where they were both happy as can be…

When we returned to the Cherry Blossom Festival on Sunday, there was a line of cars at least a mile long waiting to enter Balboa Park. We ended up parking about a mile and a half away and walked. I may or may not have rounded down the distance and told Todd it more like a mile – haha. I mean, it was a gorgeous day for a walk. Just ask him about the time I took him on a “short” 7+ mile walk in Hawaii…oops. 😉 Anyway, he was a trooper and, despite getting a little lost, we made it. Plus, we got to see all kinds of cool sights along the way, like the many Balboa Park museums…

Sometimes it’s about the journey, not the destination, right?

Anyway, if you really want to avoid crowds at the Japanese Friendship Garden, we’d recommend going Monday – Thursday. While you’ll miss the activities of the Cherry Blossom Festival, you can still see the cherry blossoms in bloom and you’ll get to enjoy the peaceful solitude of the gardens.

The Japanese Friendship Garden is also open to San Diego residents at no cost on the third Tuesday of every month as part of Residents Free Days aka “Balboa Park Tuesday.”

Check for updates and view the latest schedule of free attractions at Balboa Park here.

There’s also a really cool Tea Pavilion outside the Japanese Friendship Garden that offers imported teas and food – we plan to try that out next time when it’s a little less crowded.

We hope you’ll check out the Japanese Friendship Garden, enjoy a cup of tea and savor the beauty of spring in San Diego!

In the meantime, here are some links that might help you plan your trip to the Balboa Park Japanese Friendship Garden:

What are your favorite spring activities in San Diego?

And if you’re a visitor and haven’t been to San Diego yet, what activity do you want to try first?