So imagine this. You’ve never even touched a surfboard until an hour ago. And yet you, drenched in the cold salt waters of the Pacific, just managed to ride a crashing wave all the way to the shallows. Just yesterday, you were down in Mexico eating octopus street tacos while sipping unpronounceable craft microbrews from a balcony overlooking Avenida Revolución. And tomorrow’s itinerary includes a sunset stand-up paddleboarding trip around Mission Bay, complete with a bonfire on the beach to round out the last of my Airbnb E.
But what exactly is an Airbnb Experience, you ask? Quoted directly from Airbnb’s site, “Airbnb Experiences are activities designed and led by inspiring locals. They go beyond typical tours or classes by immersing guests in each host’s unique world. It’s an opportunity for anyone to share their hobbies, skills, or expertise without needing an extra room.”
From a day spent on the beach with rescue dogs to a farm-to-fork cooking class with a chef, there are dozens of eager hosts willing to share their very best version of San Diego with visitors. But of all the amazingly awesome endeavors, three caught my fancy:
Day Trip Across the Border
But border towns are dangerous, you say. Although not the most glamorous destinations to come to mind, especially with the latest news coverage, don’t let fear be your first emotion. With a little effort and the right guide, safely unearthing stellar artistry and culture among these political hotbeds makes them undoubtedly worth a visit. Especially Tijuana. Home to over 2 million people and the largest border crossing in the world, Tijuana exudes a vibe both complimentary to San Diego and yet altogether unique.
Ricardo, our local guide, greeted our small, intimate group at the Chula Vista Trolley Station. Following introductions, we piled into his shuttle van for a short trip to the International border crossing of San Ysidro. After parking and escorting us through the pedestrian border crossing, Ricardo hailed 2 Ubers which whisked us all off to Avenida Revolución. Here we marveled at the ornately arched facade of the El Foro Antiguo Palacio Jai Alai. Once a grande sporting arena for the high-octane sport of jai alai, this palace now serves Tijuana as an ornate concert hall. Continuing along, we strolled past Caesar’s Hotel, of the now famous Caesar Salad.
From there we descended upon the vibrant open-air market of Mercado Hildago. An absolute feast for the senses, the air carried a myriad of aromas emanating from the clay vessels mounded high with exotic spices, stacks of salt dried fish, and buckets of handmade caramel. Vendors passed out freshly sliced cactus, bright pink hairy fruit called rambutan, and decadent chunks of a dessert containing coconut and tequila.
All that walking builds up a mighty thirst so we stepped into a favorite local brewery for a beer and small plate of nachos before catching another Uber to the famed Tijuana Cultural Center. Visited by more than 1.5 million people a year, a third of which are children, the Tijuana Cultural Center boasts a theater, IMAX dome, the Museo de las Californias, a botanical garden, an aquarium, and more.
Before heading back stateside, we made our way to Tijuana’s famous Telefonica Gastropark to try Baja-Med fusion cuisine. Composed entirely of world-class food trucks collected around a craft brewery, this gastropark features everything from sweet vegan tacos to smokey handmade sausages and meats. Beneath the rainbow of umbrellas and strings of lights, the savory scents of grilled meats and fiery sauces rolling out of each truck made making a culinary decision almost impossible.
Certified Surf Lessons
Although the act of wiggling into a clingy wetsuit may be undignified and mildly exhausting, the thrill of conquering your first wave more than makes up for any embarrassing wetsuit-induced noises one might produce. But before plunging headfirst into the churning Pacific, novices, such as yours truly, must undergo some basic training. From of the shores of Mission Beach, the instructors of Surfari Surf School cover everything from understanding surf jargon to the proper way to plant feet when standing on the board.
After going through the paces numerous times, we take to the water. The frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean quickly fade from the strenuous effort of wading out to the breakers with a 10-foot surfboard in tow. Holding the nose of the board, the instructor then signals to paddle! Two big paddles and suddenly the board is hurdling towards the shore. Through the sheer childlike giddiness of skimming across the surface of the water, one might forget they should attempt to stand up (guilty).
With the practiced motions learned only moments before, I move from laying-to kneeling-to standing-to surfing! Even if just for a few seconds. Wave after wave, I paddle, kneel, then stand. Sometimes making it all the way to the shore, other times, not quite. But who cares?!? I was really, genuinely surfing! After an hour of instructor-led surfing, students have the option to continue surfing for another hour. That is…if you can still feel your extremities.
Paddle Board Sunset Glow Tour
After a week of gorging on fish tacos, exploring every inch of Balboa Park, and delving into the mines of the Pala Gem Mining District for an upcoming article for Lost Treasure Magazine (yes, that’s a shameless plug), a relaxing evening on the water sounded divine. As the endlessly sunny skies of San Diego shifted from bright azure to a rosy peach, Jason, of Glow Tour host and owner of WanderSurf Board Company, quickly walked us through the ins and outs of standup paddle boarding. Once the LED lights were attached to the boards, we pushed off across the still waters of Bonita Cove.
Illuminated by the soft blue lights, stingrays glided beneath us as small silvery fish darted back and forth. We slowly and steady maneuvered toward the Mission Bay Channel leading to the ocean. Lobster divers showed off their catches as we paddled by, while the guttural grunts of sea lions carried across the water from a nearby fishing dock. For two hours we leisurely circumnavigated the bay before heading back to the shore. With the San Diego skyline glimmering behind us and the Pacific waves crashing next to us, we crowded around Jason’s beach bonfire for a nightcap before saying goodbye.
After experiencing such amazingly authentic adventures curated by passionate locals and supported by Airbnb, I hope you will give Airbnb Experiences a try. I’d love to hear all about it! Already tried one? Share it in the comment section below!