10 things to do in San Diego (that do not involve animal exploitation)

If you’re planning a trip to San Diego, you’ve likely come across guides to our city and lists of fun activities. At the top of almost every list are places that exploit animals (i.e., SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo). While we’d love to share lists created by others that capture some of the limitless activities available in San Diego, we cannot–in good conscious–share lists that include animal exploitation. So, we created our own.

We hope you enjoy this list of 10 things to do in San Diego that are vegan and vegan-friendly. We’ve taken the liberty to indicate nearby vegan options, and you can find our map of San Diego county’s vegan options at the bottom of this page.


1.  Observe wildlife

San Diego is home to lots of wildlife, and some prime wildlife locations are accessible to humans with minimal disruption. Visit the “Children’s Pool” in La Jolla to observe seals sunbathing with their new babies during the annual pupping season from December 15 to May 15. Learn more about the seals on the Seal Conservancy website. Stop by the Tijuana Estuary in Imperial Beach to see where the river meets the sea and enjoy being surrounded by the sight and sound of birds enjoying this nature preserve. The Whale Watch Overlook at the Cabrillo National Monument is a great spot to observe migrating grey whales in January and February.

Vegan options nearby: Trilogy Sanctuary, Veggie Grill, Plant Power Fast Food, Happy Life Organics Veggie Deli


2.  Enjoy miles of beautiful beaches

Take a day trip to one of San Diego’s beautiful beaches and enjoy swimming, surfing, sunbathing or walking along smooth sand. Ocean Beach is a fun spot for taking your dog to enjoy the north inlet called Dog Beach, or stick to the south side by the pier for surfing or watching the waves crashing with your family.

Vegan options nearby: Plant Power Fast Food, Peace Pies, OB People’s Organic Food Market, OB Garden Cafe, Native Foods Cafe Encinitas and Point Loma, Cinnaholic


3.  Visit local museums and Balboa Park

San Diego’s famous Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre cultural park with plenty of open space, beautiful gardens, more than 15 museums, nearby vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants, and of course a wonderful dog park. (One word of caution, the zoo is in this area, too.)

Vegan options nearby: Donna Jean, Evolution, Panama 66, La Taqueria Vegiee, Kindred


4.  Check out bars and breweries the Brewery Capitol of the U.S.

If bars and breweries are on your list, San Diego is the right place for exploration. Many of San Diego’s bars offer vegan options, and some are even fully vegan–like well-known bar, Kindred! Modern Times Beer is an all-vegan beer brewed right here in San Diego (with “vegan” on the label, too!), as well as accidentally vegan Fall Brewing Co. Vegan-friendly pillars Tiger! Tiger! Tavern and Blind Lady Ale House are partially owned by two vegans and offer delicious vegan options including pizza.

Vegan options included.


5.  Old Town

San Diego’s Old Town is world famous and billed as the “birthplace” of California in 1769, but beneath the current town lies rich history dating back 10,000 years. Old Town hosts a California State Park Visitor Center, museums, shops, restaurants, live entertainment and cultural events. Heritage Park makes up part of the east side of Old Town and was created to preserve Victorian-era homes and the city’s first synagogue, relocated from Downtown San Diego. Catch a ghost tour through the surrounding neighborhood, with stops at Pioneer Park (and cemetery), the El Campo Santo Cemetery and finally the Whaley House.

Vegan options nearby: Nibble Chocolate, Casa de Reyes, Old Town Mexican Cafe, Harney Sushi


6.  Seaport Village and USS Midway

Take a walk along the bay from Seaport Village to the County Waterfront Park in Downtown San Diego, and visit the ships along the route. Seaport Village is a hub for tourist shops, located at the edge of the bay across from Coronado. Walk north along the Embarcadero to enjoy fresh ocean air, and make stops at the military ships along the way, including the famous USS Midway. If you keep walking north, you’ll wind up at the County Administration Building, home to the Waterfront Park.

Vegan options nearby: Civico 1845, Cafe Gratitude, Pokez Mexican Restaurant, Napizza


7.  Star Gazing in one of the World’s International Dark Sky Communities – Borrego Springs, CA

Borrego Springs is a world of its own. This quiet desert town is completely surrounded by California’s largest state park and accounts for 1/5 of San Diego County. Escape the city and enjoy the peace; this town has zero stoplights, and residents prefer it that way. Summertime temperatures can reach upwards of 125 degrees, and wintertime lows average down to the 40s. Enjoy miles of free hiking, camping and unaltered, natural habitat (please, take plenty of water and do not hike during the summer). State Park laws apply, so “take only photographs and leave only footprints.” But when the sun goes down, the stars take advantage of their time to shine. During the extremely hot summer months of August and September, catch spectacular views of The Milkway. You can even catch a nightsky photography lesson from Astronomer Dennis Mammana. For tourism information, please stop by the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center or the Anza-Borrego Foundation storefront.

Vegan options nearby: Kesling’s Kitchen
Vegan options on the way: Lemongrass Thai Food and Vegetarian, Juliantla Chocolate, Jeremy’s on the Hill, Wynola Pizza


8.  Visit San Diego’s farmer’s markets

San Diego has excellent farmer’s markets with plenty of vegan options. Make a point of stopping by the weekly Hillcrest Farmer’s Market on a Sunday to catch some awesome vegan options. Otay Ranch, Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, Oceanside, Escondido, Little Italy, Poway, Vista, Carlsbad, SDSU, and Leucadia are also known to be vegan-friendly—check the San Diego County Farm Bureau website for weekly schedules and times.

Vegan options: Anthem Vegan, Bite, El Veganito, Peace Pies, Maya’s Cookies, Nibble Chocolate, DOH!, Olive Oil, Bitchin’ Sauce, fresh produce and more!


9. Visit San Diego’s Farm Animal Refuge 

Farm Animal Refuge is located in San Diego’s East County town of Campo. Opened in 2016 by a group of local vegans, Farm Animal Refuge is home to several pigs, cows, goats, roosters, and other animals who were in need of a safe home before winning the destiny jackpot and being adopted in to the Farm Animal Refuge family. The farm offers donation-based interactive tours on weekends, by appointment only.

Vegan option on the way: URBN El Cajon (about 1 hour away)


10. Explore the great outdoors

One of San Diego County’s most enduring features is year-round nice weather. Mild winters and warm summers make outdoor adventures across the county easy and enjoyable. There are tons of State, County and City parks across the entire county for plenty of hiking, mountain biking, camping, picnics and more.

Vegan options: visit our interactive map of San Diego County’s vegan options throughout the county, and compare it to wherever adventure finds you!


We hope you’ve found this short guide helpful. We’d love to hear about YOUR favorite things to do in San Diego that are respectful of animals.


  1. CJ

    Very well done! I will have to try some of these soon!

  2. Mary

    Hi! Please include San Diego Farm Animal Rescue (San Marcos) in your list! Thanks!

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