“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”Neale Donald Walsch
I love this quote from Neale Donald Walsch, an American author, actor, and screenwriter. Why? Well, first, it’s so very true. And second, because there’s no better place to get out there, challenge yourself, and find some exciting action-packed adventures in San Diego. These 12 San Diego adventures will definitely get your adrenaline pumping and give you that exhilarating rush!
We are blessed to have some of the best weather in the world. And our landscape makes for the perfect setting to enjoy some thrilling outdoor activities. Admire the incredible views these action-packed activities provide–at no extra charge.
Whether you live in San Diego County or are planning a visit to our beautiful city, here are our favorite action-packed outdoor activities and San Diego adventures – something for every comfort level. These land, sea, and sky adventures offer a myriad of ways to fall in love with our stunning outdoors.
So, why not choose something super fun…or better yet, challenge yourself to an activity that’s just a step or two outside your normal comfort zone? You’ll be so glad you did…and guarantee, you’ll remember it forever!
Best Action-Packed San Diego Adventures
Kayaking the La Jolla Caves
Ocean kayaking is a fabulous experience, and as an added bonus, it’s great exercise.
Our La Jolla kayaking experience was amazing! We paddled through the La Jolla Ecological Reserve’s kelp forest filled with fascinating marine life. Barking sea lions, basking harbor seals, and gracefully cruising leopard sharks were our constant companions as we navigated the cool waters of San Diego Bay. Wet suits are optional but highly recommended in the winter months.
The La Jolla Caves have piqued the interest of curious onlookers since 1902 when the first of seven caves were discovered here. Waterborne access to the caves is permitted only by guided tour. Expert guides from Bike & Kayak Tours lead kayakers along the 75-million-year-old sandstone sea cliff to the caves providing stunning views of these magnificent formations.
La Jolla Cave Kayaking Tours:
- La Jolla Sea Caves Kayak Tour
- Original La Jolla Sea Cave Kayak Tour for Two
- La Jolla Whale Watching Kayak Adventure
It’s an epic adventure. And the views are to die for. Go Parasailing San Diego offers amazing excursions that include a boat ride and sky flight taking riders 600 to 800-feet above the ground. The Wild Ocean Safari tour heads to the Pacific coast in search of whales, dolphins, sea lions, and other marine life.
If you’ve never paraglided, the experience is utterly exhilarating. Even for someone like me who has some fear of heights, the ride felt very safe. Participants are slowly reeled out in their belted seats from the flight deck on the stern of the boat and after an unbelievably picturesque flight over Mission Bay, are slowly reeled back into the vessel.
Snorkel with Leopard Sharks at La Jolla Cove
Another fascinating way to discover La Jolla Cove is by donning wetsuits, masks, and fins, and then snorkel through this impressive protected ocean sanctuary. If you don’t have snorkel gear, you can rent it here for less than $10/day! Rent snorkel gear here>>
We not only saw schools of colorful fish, octopus, lobster, a stingray, and crabs hiding among the rocky reefs of the La Jolla Shores, but we got a close-up glimpse of friendly leopard sharks inhabiting these waters.
La Jolla is home to the largest annual aggregation of leopard sharks in the world. And from mid-June to early December, these beautifully spotted non-threatening marine creatures have no problem sharing the waters of the cove with sea lions, swimmers, divers, and snorkelers.
Paragliding at Torry Pines Gliderport
Those who haven’t paraglided should try it here in San Diego at Torrey Pines Gliderport. Situated on steep sea cliffs of Torrey Pines in La Jolla, where Charles Lindbergh took his first maiden flight, the Gliderport services aviators of varying experiences.
Paragliding is similar to parasailing except it’s freestyle (no towboat) and land-based. Even novice fliers can enjoy the thrill of paragliding by flying in tandem with one of the Gliderport’s certified instructors.
Gliders take off and return from a picturesque bluff offering spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, the Torrey Pines cliffs, La Jolla shores, and the city of La Jolla. The aerial journey carries aviators over both land and sea. There isn’t a person who returns without a huge smile on their face! For those not 100% sure they’re yet ready to take on this adventure, you’re welcome to be an on-the-ground observer.
Surfing the Pacific
How about hanging ten and catching a wave?
San Diego has the warmest water and some of the best surf breaks on the California Coast. Its 70 miles of open ocean coastline beckons visitors and locals alike to paddle out to catch the big one. And they do…by the droves.
From south Imperial Beach to north Oceanside and lots of sand stretches in between, San Diego can be surfed year-round. Local wave-riders all have their favorite San Diego Beaches like Black’s Beach and La Jolla Shores, Ocean Beach, Del Mar, and Swami’s in North County Encinitas.
If you’ve never surfed but would love to give it a go, San Diego has numerous surfing schools for all age groups and experience levels. Participants can even choose between private, semi-private, and group lessons. A few years back, we signed our middle-school-aged granddaughter up for private surf lessons. The instructors at San Diego Surf School had her up on the waves during her first session, and she loved it! Book your surfing lesson here>>
High Speed Jet Boat Ride
Guaranteed there will be screams, speed, and lots of splashes when you board a jet boat and head out to the waters of the San Diego Bay.
There are several companies providing high-speed jet boat riding excursions, including Flagship Cruises which features the red, white, and blue Patriot Jet Boat. This entertaining, turbo-charged thrill water adventure not only offers high-energy, gut-twisting turns in the water, but the 30-minute boat ride sports incredible views of the U.S.S. Midway Aircraft Carrier, the Coronado Bridge, North Island Naval Air Stations, Star of India and the Maritime Museum, and the San Diego skyline.
You can also rent your own mini-jet boat if you prefer to ride yourself. This group tour lets you play captain for 2 hours, even if you have no boating experience. You can see some of San Diego’s top attractions up close, including the U.S.S. Midway, the Cabrillo National Monument from the bay, and the playful San Diego Sea Lions.
Boat guides aptly warn boaters that “you will get wet”. If it’s a warm day in the San Diego Harbor, no problem. If not, you can always don a rain poncho. Either way, you’ll love this breathtaking bayside thrilling escapade.
Book your Jet Boat Ride here:
- San Diego Bay Jet Boat Ride (Patriot Jet Boat)
- San Diego Harbor Speed Boat Adventure (ride your own boat)
Pro Tip: Also check Groupon! They often have deals on this ride. Check prices on Groupon here>>
Rent a Jet Ski
Wave runner. Jet ski. They’re basically the same, and they both provide a fast, fun, and safe way to get some hands-on water action while taking in some great San Diego, Mission Bay, and Carlsbad Lagoon views and you can rent them all over San Diego. Groupon usually has some great deals for jet ski rentals, so check here first. Click here for Groupon Jet Ski Deals>>
Wave runners are easy to operate and riders can choose single and double-rider skis. They’re so popular here in San Diego that several companies offer rentals from half-hour to full-day water adventures.
They’re a blast for friends, couples, and families and a great way to get some “fly time” around our Pacific Coast waters. And it’s pretty awesome to see beautiful landmarks like charming, picturesque Seaport Village from the water.
Fighter Pilot Experience
Who doesn’t remember the famous fighter pilot movie Top Gun filmed right here in San Diego? We all loved the tale of Maverick, a top Navy aviator played by Tom Cruise pushing the envelope as a daring fighter pilot dueling with his nemesis, Iceman, aka Val Kilmer.
Though we can’t hop in a cockpit with either one of these iconic figures, we can still take to the skies on an exhilarating three-hour flight with a professional fighter pilot. Imagine the thrill of mind-blowing acrobatic maneuvers and the tug of powerful g-forces while flying over Southern California’s mountains and valleys.
An added bonus is viewing landmarks like Point Loma, our impressive Navy ships, Petco Park in the Gaslamp Quarter, and Balboa Park, all from a bird’s eye view. Book your San Diego Fighter Pilot Flight here>>
Want to slow it down but still enjoy the same view?
Biplane rides are more than just flying in an airplane. The great news for me and my fellow San Diegans is that we can actually take to the skies from San Diego’s Montgomery Field for this unique experience thanks to San Diego Sky Tours.
It’s like taking a step back into aviation history with Midwest barnstormers (many who were in my family). Fliers don a flight suit, leather helmet, and goggles and board an open cockpit biplane with an experienced ex-military pilot. Four different tours include a Beach Run, Bay Tour Beach Cruiser, Sunset Biplane, and Aerobic Thrills Adventure.
In order to celebrate her 50th milestone birthday, a friend of mine did something she’d always wanted to do—skydive.
Securely harnessed to an expert instructor skydiver, 13,000-feet above the ground, she experienced the thrill of a lifetime, jumping from a plane. She even got to pull the ripcord opening their parachute.
Free-falling at over 120-mph provided the ultimate adrenaline rush. Then serenely floating around in the air for a bit provided some spectacular eagle-eye views of our most iconic San Diego sites. Book your San Diego skydiving adventure here>>
For those with a fear of heights and not quite ready to jump out of a perfectly functioning airplane, iFly provides a selection of indoor skydiving adventures. A powerful wind tunnel gives participants a total weightless feeling as though you’re truly free-falling from an impressive height, even when you’re not. Book your iFly indoor skydiving adventure here.
Whale Watching in San Diego
There’s nothing like heading out to the open ocean to get up close and personal with some of the most fascinating marine creatures—our magnificent whales.
From December through April, Gray Whales depart their summer feeding grounds in Alaska and migrate south along the West Coast to the isolated lagoons of Baja, Mexico. It is here they mate and give birth, and then return back north to Alaska. Because whales tend to stay near the coastline during their migration, these gentle giants are often spotted just a few miles offshore.
May through November draws hungry Blue Whales and Fin Whales who come to our bountifully rich Southern California Pacific waters to feed. Regardless of the season, Fin Whales, Humpbacks, and Minke Whales are often spotted off the San Diego coast.
If it’s not exciting enough to spot a spouting or breeching whale, it’s equally fun to run across a playful pod of dolphins, sea lions, sea turtles, and other fascinating marine life along the ride.
Several companies throughout San Diego offer these tours typically lasting about three hours. Usually narrated by a certified marine biologist, these outings are both fun and educational. Read our full review with all tips on San Diego Whale Watching Tours here>>
Our Top San Diego Whale Watching Tours:
- Check Groupon for Flagship Cruise Deals
- Check Viator for Flagship Whale Watching Tours
- Whale Watching on a Historic Sailboat
- La Jolla Whale Watching Kayak Adventure
Hike the San Diego Trails
San Diego is a fabulous hiking destination. Guaranteed there’s a trail to meet the whims and needs of hikers of every level. Because of its spectacular vistas, one of our favorites is Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
The state park’s well-maintained meandering wilderness paths lead to breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Lofty cliffs overlooking miles of magnificent coastal beach – what could be better? Surrounded by stunning sandstone formations, the Reserve offers multiple winding trails of varying lengths and difficulties. The trails are lined with rare picturesque pines, desert succulents, and colorful wildflowers.
A rite of passage for more experienced hikers is taking on Mount Woodson trail in North County. The final destination is the fascinating outcropping known as Potato Chip Rock. Massive boulders line the 6.4-mile zigzagging trail. This challenging hike leads to one of the highest peaks in the county. Enjoy the stunning panoramic views of Lake Poway and Palomar Mountain.
Sunset Cliffs is a relaxing and enchanting urban hike in San Diego, showcasing the vast beauty of the coastline with 1.5-miles of majestic sea cliffs, tide pools, and an abundance of sea life.
So, whether you’re a local looking to add some spice and adventure to your hometown experience or you’re coming to our beautiful city on one of your San Diego vacations (because you have to visit more than once), make it a point to choose one or more of these amazingly fun action-packed adventures. As the Nike slogan says “Just do it!”
San Diego Aventures – Pin for Later:
Last Updated on September 21, 2021 by Maria Haase