Vacation Recap – California pt. 3

I promise this is the last post about our vacation to California! So much happened that I wanted to break it up into three parts so it wasn’t the longest post ever. If you haven’t already, please check out parts 1 and 2 here and here.

California Vacation Day 7 – May 17

After exploring the beaches of California the day before, we decided to visit the San Diego Zoo. This was one of the other locations that I was super excited to visit mainly because of the movie Madagascar. Melman the giraffe made reference to the San Diego Zoo when they first landed in Madagascar and I knew that one day I would have to go there.This was easily the largest zoo I’ve ever been too and it did not disappoint!

I highly recommend going on the bus tour when you first get to the zoo. It is about a 30 minute ride throughout the zoo and it gives you a basic overview of the different areas.

Before we got on the bus for the tour, we met a lovely redhead from Canada, Lindsey. She had just flown in and was waiting for her hotel room to be ready and decided to hit up the zoo. We all sat up on the top deck of the bus in the sun and it was perfectly sunny and warm. We went around the zoo and saw a bunch of animals. Elephants, leopards, hippos, lions, tigers, and bears! Oh My!

San Diego Zoo Details

I’m not going to go into too much detail because I don’t want to ruin it for when you go, but expect lots of walking, lots of hills, and lots of awesome animals to see!

We walked the entirety of the zoo and got to see nearly every animal. I was disappointed to not be able to see the polar bears or the hippos up close, but I got to see koalas and that made my entire day. I never thought that I would be able to see a koala so close. My favorite thing from the zoo was seeing a baby giraffe. When we were at the zoo there was a 2 week old male giraffe! He was just so cute and definitely not tiny! I think he was 6’4” when we were there.

You can tell the difference between the baby (middle) and a fully grown giraffe

After visiting the zoo, we decided to take the scenic route through La Jolla back to our home in Carlsbad. We just rested and relaxed after our day of walking and prepared for our next day adventure in Mexico!!!

California Vacation Day 8 – May 18

This was another one of those “let’s see where the wind takes us” days. So we got up and ate breakfast and headed for the border.

View from South of the Border

In my previous post, I mentioned that where we were staying in California was only about 60 miles north of the border to Mexico and we traveled down as close as we could without actually crossing. This time we actually crossed!

Once we got to the San Ysidro border, we didn’t really know what to expect. We had never crossed the border in a vehicle so we were prepared for the longest process. It was actually really quick and painless. We stopped twice for the screening photos and continued on our way through Mexico.

Beaches of Tijuana

As I stated before, we had no plan. We were just driving until we found a spot to settle. We decided to drive over to the beaches of Tijuana.

Let me tell you, they did not disappoint! The water was absolutely stunning and the houses on the water were to die for. We spent about an hour on the beach before we got back in the car to continue our Mexico adventure. I looked on the GPS and saw that Estadio Caliente was nearby. Estadio Caliente is where Club Tijuana, who play in Liga MX, Mexico’s top league, plays.

Driving through Mexico almost felt like we were driving through the streets of the Bronx or Brooklyn in New York. They were dirty, but full of life with all of the people walking the streets and popping in and out of the stores.

Galerías Hipódromo

Once we arrived to where Estadio Caliente was, we found a huge shopping mall called Galerías Hipódromo. They had a lot of American stores such as Walmart, Sally Beauty Supply, GNC, MAC, and they even had a Starbucks! The location was absolutely stunning too! The perfect place to spend a Saturday evening.

The first thing we did was look for a place to exchange our money or at least an ATM to get money out. We found a money exchange and ATM and got out some money for dinner and for parking. My friend, Cameron, took out some money with the ATM and when he saw his balance in pesos he thought he was the richest man alive. Mexican money is so pretty. It’s so bright and colorful. I felt like we were going to play Monopoly with the money.

This menu made me feel like I was ordering at a fancy restaurant because of the prices.

We decided to go to one of the sports bars called, La Terraza, drink some cold beers, eat some good eats, and take in all of the great views. Once we were seated, we noticed that there was a soccer match on TV. Little did we know, Tigres and Monterrey were playing their second leg of the Clausura Liga MX semifinals. With their goal, Tigres was sent to the Final. So it was a pretty big day in Mexico.

I enjoyed a Dos Equis Ambar and tuna ceviche tostadas. Cam had a Tecate and marlin and shrimp tacos. Everything was delicious and we enjoyed our Mexican adventure.

Enjoying a nice, cold Mexican brew

We crossed back over the border and headed back home to Carlsbad.

Border Crossing Details

SN: to those that don’t know border patrol has two lanes for reentry to the US. One is for regular entry and the other is the SENTRI lane. The Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States.  We got in this lane not knowing that it was a special lane. They allowed us back over without any issues since it was our first time, but if you are a repeat offender they can charge you up to $10,000 per person for using this lane.

California Vacation Day 9 – May 19

We had to check out of our beautiful resort by the sea and make our way back to LA so we could go back home. It was very bitter sweet. I loved our little place and the time we spent there.

We left bright and early to go back. We had a few housekeeping things to take care of before we could continue our adventure for the day. After we took care of those we just drove. We drove to the UCLA medical facility where Cam was born. He was able to have his moment of going back to the place he was born. We continued driving north until we got to Malibu.


There had to have been at least 6-10 dolphins out there. Probably more

Malibu is absolutely gorgeous. If I could live anywhere, it would probably be in Malibu. As we were driving, we saw signs on the side of the road for a man selling fresh strawberries, mangoes and coconuts and we had to stop and I’m so glad that we did. The fruit was so fresh and yummy. We were able to just sit on the sit of the road and enjoy the wind, waves, and sunshine. We even got to see a pod of dolphins frolicking around in the water. It made our last full day in California epic! We drove the entire 21 miles of Malibu.

Beautiful Malibu

After our stop in Malibu, we decided to go to the iconic Santa Monica Pier and have our last bit of fun before settling into the hotel for the evening.

Santa Monica Pier

Once again, we decided to take the kid route and bought the wristbands to ride all the rides at Pacific Park. It was worth it! We rode just about every ride that we were allowed to ride as grown adults and easily had the best day ever!

Santa Monica Pier

After riding all of the rides, we walked down to the end of the pier to take in our final California sunset. It was everything I could have asked for and more! We got celebratory drinks at Mariasol Cocina Mexicana, which is directly on the pier towards the end, then walked back to our car to book our hotel. (Yes, we didn’t plan that ahead either)

We ended up staying at the same hotel that we stayed at the first night we got to LA (H Hotel Los Angeles, Curio Collection by Hilton) because it was super close to the airport and we would be able to sleep in a little the next day to catch our 1:30 flight.

We checked into our hotel, got some much needed food, and called it a night.

California Vacation Day 10 – May 20

We had to go back and home and I was not happy about it in the slightest. I feel like this California vacation helped refocus me and make me more motivated to be able to take trips like this again.

We got up, dropped off the rental car, and made our way to the airport.

Los Angeles International Airport

Once at the airport, we got through security and showed up at our gate to be told that we were not allowed on our flight because we were late and all of the seats were taken. (This was not true as the ticketing lady was still trying to figure out some standby passengers ahead of us. But this is a story for another day)

We were able to get seats on the next flight to Atlanta so we weren’t worried. It fit in with our “let’s see where the wind takes us” vibe we had our whole trip. Luckily we didn’t get on that first flight because I was able to spot Steven Tyler in the airport and Killer Mike, the rapper, was on our flight home!

Overall, we had a really awesome vacation to California that we’ll never forget. If you have any questions about anything we did, please ask in the comments or reach out to me on any of my social media sites.

Thank you so much for reading and following along our California vacation. You all seriously rock! If you have any idea for posts you want to read next, please let me know. I’m always open for new ideas!

(25) Comments

  1. Justin says:

    Good grief you two did a ton! Plus, managed to NOT be fined $10,000. Mission accomplished.

    1. I’d say it was a huge win for us! Thanks for reading!

  2. fluxingwell says:

    You packed a lot of fun into your trip. Thanks for the travel tips and ideas.

    1. We sure did! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Seriously take me with you next time lol you did so much on this trip it’s amazing ! I loooove the zoo. I need to know how you managed to do all these things how long were you saving lol.

    1. So I had been saving for about 3-4 months. That was literally just putting aside $100 a month so by the time the trip came around I had at least $300-400. We didn’t have to pay for housing because Cameron’s parents paid for it since we used their timeshare. Everything else we just split between the two of us. Gas, food, drinks, souvenirs, car rental. Oh! and we only have to pay $100 out of pocket for the Disney tickets because I got a gift card from my boss.

  4. Bonafide Nikole says:

    I want to visit the San Diego zoo for the same reason!! I’m glad you enjoyed California

  5. You managed to do so much on this vacation! You’re going to need a vacation from this vacation!

    1. I definitely felt like I did need another vacation after we got back! Thanks for reading and commenting! ♥

  6. Sounds (and looks) like you had an incredible vacation. Your photos are absolutely gorgeous – I would love to see those views first-hand!

    1. The views were out of this world! I didn’t take a lot of pictures because I was just taking it all in. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  7. nerdparents says:

    Aww the zoo! The San Diego zoo is on my bucket list. I’ve been wanting to go to that one for years!
    And oh my gosh your pictures of the beaches! So pretty. Sounds like you had an amazing trip and lots of fun. I really like the idea of just “seeing where the wind takes us” vibe you had your whole trip.

    1. The San Diego Zoo was my absolute favorite thing to do! It’s easily one of the largest zoo’s I’ve ever been to and we only did the main zoo and not the Safari Park!! Thank you so much for reading and commenting! ♥

  8. maagnificentlife says:

    Sounds like an incredible trip! I’m definitely not the “let’s see where the wind takes us” type, but I love the idea of it!

    1. I wasn’t that type of person until this trip and it was the best way to explore California for us. I may not do it again at a different destination. I’m too much of a planner. Thanks for reading and commenting! ♥

  9. linathao says:

    That is one epic trip! You packed in so much!

    1. We sure did! We had a great time! Thanks for reading and commenting! ♥

  10. Wow! Your post has definitely inspired me to go to Cali soon! Possibly even this year :).
    Thanks for the tip about crossing the border. I’d be the one to get into the wrong lane too lol!

    1. You should definitely go! There’s something to do for everything there. The people in line waiting to cross were so helpful and obviously it isn’t commonly known information so I figured I would share! Thanks for reading and commenting! ♥

  11. I’m ready to pack my bags and head to Cali today! That lion statue was pure art! I love all of the images with the sun and sea as well. Did you take all of these images with your phone?

    1. Yes, I took all these photos with my iPhone XR. Thanks for reading and commenting! 💜

  12. Seems you have a lot of fun, Jackie! It’s so easy to save for vacation when you don’t have to haul a family around. Pictures are awesome and very informative and helpful! Thanks for sharing!

    1. You are definitely right about it being easy to save when you don’t have a family. I’m so fortunate. We had a ton of fun! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  13. I loved the zoo!

    1. Jackie Espada says:

      It is such a great zoo!

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