10 ways to avoid spring break in San Diego

Can you smell the Coppertone? OK, technically that happens all year round in San Diego. So let me be more specific: Can you smell the Coppertone laced with youthful indiscretion and a hint of disorientation? It must be spring break! College-aged tourists have landed in San Diego and they're already tipsy and headed west in an Uber. Oh, and then there are the families. Parents love taking advantage of their kids' school break and making the journey to SD with their triple wide stroller (*shivers*).

The bad news is the most of the beach is a no-go zone for a few months in the spring. The good news is you can avoid the spring-break swell and have a good time without winding up covered in Tecaté and regret (or stuck behind a family of 5 on the boardwalk). Here are 10 ways to have fun in San Diego during spring break without losing your ever-loving mind.

1. Trade your surf board for a kayak
La Jolla sunset at The Cove with beach and lifeguard stand at twilightEducation Images via Getty Images

Mission and Pacific Beaches will be packed to the gills with visitors, so you'll be lucky to find a parking spot let alone have a wave to yourself. Save surfing for another trip to SD and go to La Jolla Cove instead. Kayak tours take you away from the crowds and into mysterious caves only accessible by tiny vessel. It's not for the claustrophobic, but neither is standing in a pack of fraternity brothers on the beach, so just trust me and climb into the kayak.

2. Take an epic food tour
Bathing suit body? What's a bathing suit body? Pack on a few extra pounds on a tour of the million or so new restaurants popping up in North Park. Begin your day at Breakfast Republic and wind up at One Door North for lunch. At the latter, you're treated to a meal under a faux safari tent. The only animal in sight is the occasional rogue spring breaker yelling "You guys got blood Mary's here?" and I trust you can silence him without a tranquilizer dart (but won't judge you if it comes to that).

3. Get a facial
Your skin will be soaking up lots of vitamin D, so it needs some extra TLC. Go for a sugar scrub or body massage at the Catamaran Spa or Alleviating Whispering Waters Day Spa, and you'll forget about your harrowing encounter in the Fashion Valley parking lot.

4. Run for the hills
Well, it's more like drive to the hills. This is Southern California, after all. But once you get there, you'll find nothing but the warm sun and fresh air and the occasion rattle snake to keep you company. Mt. Woodson is home to the famous potato chip hike. Sadly, it's not the promise of a crisp, salty snack brings athletes here. But there is a rock the shape of a potato chip at the top where you can take a good picture for your Instagram account — you gotta keep your 43 followers happy.

5. Cross the bridge
If you must get your toes in some sand on vacation, at least have the wisdom to cross the Coronado Bridge and find a patch of imported white sand on the other side. You can also take the ferry from downtown and then grab a ride share to the beach. The coast is much wide in Coronado and frankly visitors are always surprised it exists, so there is less elbow throwing involved in finding a place to put your towel.

6. Head to the top of the world
San Diego Hiking Path in Point Loma San Diego Near Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego, Southern Californiashutterstock

Just south of Ocean Beach at the tip of Point Loma you'll find the best views in the city. From the top of the Cabrillo National Monument Park you can spot downtown San Diego, Mexico, and plenty of deep blue sea. The lighthouse can get crowded, but abscond to the tide pools at low tide and you can hop across the rocks looking for star fish in peace. There's no cell service down there, so don't think about going Facebook Live, though.

7. Stop and smell the tulips
If you drive about 25 minutes north of the city you'll land in the beachside haven of Carlsbad. While everyone else is making a beeline for the outlet mall, you'll be on your way right to The Flower Fields. Rows and rows of bright bulbs are open to the public between March and mid-May.

8. Go to South Park...
... just don't expect to run into Cartman. This South Park is a sleepy neighborhood near Balboa Park where independent bookstores and dive bars have settled in quite nicely. There is no better place to eat than Eclipse Chocolate Bar & Bistro where they put chocolate in ever.y.thing, and no better place to have a pint than at local treasures like The Whistle Stop.

9. Look for hops, hops, everywhere

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Oceanfront patios are divine, but they will be crowded as you-know-what during spring break. Grab a stool at one of the many, many (MANY) local brew houses instead. Up north, Karl Strauss Brewing Company is tucked away in a commercial area and set in a Japanese Garden. At Bay City Brewing Company, the beer flights will give you the confidence to ask the hipsters at the bar if you can twirl their mustaches.

10. Cycle around the bay
Seaport Village is quaint and the tacos are alright, but it is sure to be filled with families who got the bright idea to take their holiday card photo here while on spring break. So steer clear. Rent a bike instead and sail right past the makeshift village on a tour of the San Diego Bay. Get a bell in case the path is crowded, or just yell "Beep, beep, motherfathers" as you pass them on the left. Your call.

Lara Vukelich is a freelance writer in San Diego who recently discovered activated-charcoal mimosas.