We were so close to the humpback when it rose dramatically out of the water, we could smell its fishy breath. This was no normal whale-watching trip, but a thrilling, high-speed ocean safari on a six-seater RIB (rigid inflatable boat) that sped us between frequent sightings of the leviathans out in the fishing grounds off San Diego's coast.
As a regular visitor to California's second largest city, I've amassed a host of powerful memories of San Diego. The gorgeous bayside setting, best appreciated on a boat tour that takes in basking sea lions and an array of US warships, is a knockout. There are, of course, miles of Pacific coastline, Balboa Park — an ensemble of pink Spanish Renaissance-style buildings housing museums and art galleries — is as lovely an urban park as I have ever visited, and its famous zoo is definitely the most enjoyable I've ever set foot in.
I've cycled along the boardwalk of the laid-back communities of Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, hopped between trendy rooftop bars in the Gaslamp Quarter and caught great theatre. I've tucked in to the gargantuan Sunday brunch at the historic Hotel del Coronado (it's a thing of beauty with everything from sushi and crab to gourmet cheeses and charcuterie) and enjoyed a leisurely round of golf while my wife shopped.
But every time I go back to San Diego, there's something different to experience and somewhere different to explore. Hardly surprising given that the sunny metropolis is made up of over 100 distinct neighbourhoods, each with its own personality. Here are four of the most colourful to explore, from downtown's fashionable East Village to the luxury enclave of La Jolla.
Way to go
British Airways flies to San Diego from London Heathrow once a day. Flight time: about 11 hours.
Join the Executive Club and earn up to 27,346 Avios when you fly Club to San Diego (return). Or redeem your Avios: you only need 50,000 to get to San Diego. (World Traveller return, excluding taxes, fees and surcharges.)
Book now at ba.com