Four Ways to Explore Hispanic Culture in San Diego

Spice up your life in this California hot spot

Photo by Lisa Field/

From a brand-new, $6.2-million replica of a 16th-century Spanish ship to cutting-edge Latino cuisine and artwork, San Diego features a variety of dynamic Hispanic-themed highlights. Here are four ways to check them out.

Visit the historic sights

You can explore the city’s far-reaching Hispanic roots at several of its historic attractions, including the much-anticipated San Salvador, which is available for dockside viewing as it nears completion at the waterfront Maritime Museum of San Diego. Launching for onboard passengers in spring 2016, the San Salvador is a full-scale reconstruction of the 200-ton galleon ship captained by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, the first European ever to set foot on the U.S. West Coast in 1542. (Also be sure to visit Cabrillo National Monument to see the Portuguese explorer’s statue and the picturesque Old Point Loma Lighthouse.)

Other sights to see include the 1769-founded Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá, which was the first Catholic mission in California, and Balboa Park, which has stunning Spanish Colonial Revival architecture along El Prado, its central boulevard.

Dine on great Mexican cuisine

San Diego is known for its excellent Mexican cuisine, and the latest hot spot for Cali-Baja food is Bracero Cocina de Raiz. Specialty cocktails, a raw seafood bar, and inventive dishes like cauliflower tortita tacos lure diners to this bustling two-floor location.

Meanwhile, Casa Guadalajara, on the edge of Old Town, always satisfies with traditional Mexican fare, mariachi music and festive decor. Or, if you’re in the mood for designer tacos, try the upscale-yet-relaxed Puesto (don’t miss the “perfect guacamole” with chunks of Parmesan) or Galaxy Taco, a convenient lunch spot following a sea kayaking expedition with neighbouring Everyday California.

Take in the local artwork

Vibrant Hispanic art is everywhere in San Diego—you can see it in museums, galleries, shops and even street-side. At exuberant Old Town stores like La Paloma, you can shop for authentic Mexican hats, pottery, and Day of the Dead memorabilia. Or take a day trip to Barrio Logan’s Chicano Park, where you can view more than 70 colourful Mexican murals under freeway overpasses.

For something a little different, head to the Birch Aquarium to see marine ecology professor Octavio Aburto’s spectacular “Mexican Seas” photo exhibition, which depicts everything from yellowtail surgeonfish in Cabo Pulmo to an American alligator’s gaping jaws in Banco Chinchorro.

Attend a festival

If you love checking out local festivals, San Diego won’t disappoint. The city hosts lively, heritage-rich events all year long. Don’t miss the annual San Diego Latino Film Festival (March 10 to 20)—one of the largest in the United States—for film screenings from Latin America, Spain and the U.S. The National City Mariachi Festival & Competition (March 13) and the mouth-watering Latin Food Fest (Aug. 12 to 15) are just a couple of the other upcoming events that showcase Hispanic culture in California’s second-largest city.