Last weekend my friends and I planned a last-minute road trip to Southern California. This was my first time doing a SoCal trip with friends and actually getting to explore San Diego and Los Angeles. As a kid I traveled south to go to Disneyland or visit family, but I never got to shop, go to beaches, or do site seeing. The main focus of this trip was beautiful views and lots and lots of good food.

The hills and beaches in SoCal are so breathtaking, and one of the highlights of San Diego was catching the sunset on a Torrey Pines cliff. I wish we had an actual hike or beach day there, but due to limited time, we just drove to the top of the hill. The other San Diego beach we visited was La Jolla Beach, which was in an affluent neighborhood surrounded by trendy shops and tasty eateries. 

For day two we drove up to LA and spent most of the day at Venice Beach. While La Jolla had many high-end shops, like Ralph Lauren and White House Black Market, Venice had unique art stores and fashion labels. The atmosphere also felt more young and vibrant, since it was filled with music, graffiti, and street artists. Unfortunately, we had to leave mid-day for the long drive back, so we only got to walk the beach and drive through the shopping strip.

It was bittersweet that the trip only lasted two days, but the 20 hours of driving was well worth it. We jam-packed as many people and places into our schedule as possible, so it was a very fulfilling trip. We caught up with many old high school friends, and I also got to meet some of my friend’s San Jose State friends. Most importantly, we ate a lot during our stay, and I was not disappointed by any of the food we tried. In case you need help planning a SoCal getaway, below is a list I compiled of all the cafes and restaurants we visited.



Tacos el Gordo – You can’t go wrong with authentic Mexican food. If you need something cheap and fast, then I highly recommend going here. This restaurant is popular for its wide selection of tacos. Depending on the day, it’s open until 2 or 4am, so it’s perfect for midnight munchies.

Bobboi Natural Gelato – This gelato shop is on a strip along La Jolla Beach. It’s a mom and pop store that sells unusual, organic flavors, like cacti, rosewater, and vanilla charcoal. The shop has rustic vibes with wood, cacti, and chalkboard decorations, and there is also nice outdoor seating.

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters – Here I ordered the iced latte and tried some of my friend’s cold brew. Unlike some other coffee shops, like Starbucks and Peets, this place sells quality coffee that isn’t overly sweet or watered down. The store has plenty of space for getting work done, and there is a lot of interesting artwork along the walls.

Kogi BBQ – Like all Korean barbecue joints, this stuff will fill you up, so come with an empty stomach. Also make sure to go with someone who knows their shit because I had no idea how to order or prepare the meat. I’m not a huge meat eater, but their meat was so fresh and juicy. Even their side dishes, like egg soup and cheesy corn, were really good.

Kung Fu Tea – Most bubble tea places I go to don’t have a public restroom or a lot of seating, but this place has both. This is a good hangout spot for friends, since it has a bunch of tables that can seat large groups of people. The menu also has so many flavors to choose from, so there’s always something new to try.



Café Collage – This is a small café one block away from Venice Beach. The dark roast cold brew was the only thing I tried, but it was definitely one of the best cold brews I’ve ever had. Although I didn't order any food, there was a lot of sandwich and salad options, and their pastry cases were filled with gourmet desserts. 


Photography | John Tran + Dana Nguyen