This is America - you'll need a car. Especially if you want to get out of the city and cruise the Pacific Coast Highway.
With just one runway, San Diego International Airport (+1 619 231 2100; www.san.org) isn't the major hub that it's name suggests. Bar a couple of flights to Canada and Mexico, you can only fly to other US destinations from here. Fly to LAX (+1 310 646 5252; www.lawa.org) and take a connecting flight to its downstate neighbour.
Amtrak (www.amtrak.com) connects San Diego to other US cities. The main terminal is at Santa Fe Station at the west end of Broadway.
Country code for the US: 1. The area codes for San Diego are 619 or 858.
The Winter of Frankie Machine by Don Winslow is the story of a retired San Diegan mafia hitman struggling to come to terms with the ghosts of his past. For a more futuristic vision, sci-fi novel Rainbow's End by Vernor Vinge is set in the city in 2025.
Do go / Don't Go
Spring and autumn are good times to visit the city, as they're warm without being too hot. December and January may see less of an emphasis on the beach scene, but everything's a bit quieter, and reservations at the top hotels and restaurants are easier to come by.
The enormous concentration of Asian eateries here is testament to the fantastically fresh seafood on offer, while Californian cuisine with its requisite fusion of pan-Pacific aromatics and great 'proteins' abounds.
Taxis are a good way to get around the city - you can hail them on the streets so long as they're displaying a light. If you want to book one in advance, try San Diego Cab (+1 800 368 2947) or USA Cab (+1 619 231 1144). Be prepared for the driver to impart his or her life story as they take you to your destination.
In the US, anything less than 20 per cent on a food bill means you've been seriously vexed by the service. It's also normal to tip a dollar for every drink in a bar. You can get away with a 10 per cent tip for taxi drivers.
US dollar ($).
Bring a good camera to capture those ocean views, and make sure your party shoes are comfortable as well as stylish - once you're out and about, the zinging bar and nightlife scene will inspire you to cover some ground. Earplugs will also come in useful if you're in San Diego over the weekend - things can get pretty loud.
The San Diego Museum of Art (1450 El Prado, Balboa Park; +1 619 232 7931; www.sdmart.org), home to an enviable collection of paintings by the likes of El Greco and Georgia O'Keeffe, organises hip events such as 'Culture and Cocktails' and 'Inside the Wave', which attract San Diego's young 'it' crowd. The Balboa Theatre (868 Fourth Avenue; +1 619 570 1100; www.sandiegotheatres.org) and the San Diego Opera (1200 Third Avenue; +1 619 232 7636; www.sdopera.com) are well-respected cultural heavyweights.
To unearth some retail gems, head to Kettner Boulevard in Little Italy, and wander its tree-named cross streets - Fir, Elm, Date, Cedar, Beech and Ash - which are lined with independent lifestyle boutiques. We particularly love Niche Boutique (621 West Fir Street; +1 619 615 0782), Station (414 West Cedar Street; +1 619 544 1100) and Steady (801 West Hawthorn Street; +1 619 234 1670). The area around Prospect Street in La Jolla is the place to go for more high-end fashion. We liked Elizabeth's Closet (1274 Prospect Street; +1 858 459 4673), Miss Trendy (1298 Prospect Street; +1 858 353 4895) and Rumours (7835 Giraud Avenue; +1 858 454 5845), which is great for unusual American labels. For vintage clothes, head to either Frock You (4121 Park Boulevard; +1 619 220 0630) in the Hillcrest district, or to Wear It Again Sam (3823 Fifth Avenue; +1 619 299 0185) and Flashbacks (3849 Fifth Avenue; +1 619 291 4200) in the University Heights area.
Head up to the vertiginous heights of rooftop bar Altitude (660 K Street; +1 619 696 0234), a colourful, waterfall-flanked space on top of the Marriott Hotel, from where you can see the entire city spreading out beneath you.
Entry is free to the California Surf Museum (223 North Coast Highway, Oceanside; www.surfmuseum.org), which has some great displays of surfing artefacts and memorabilia, as well as a shop stuffed with collectors' items. The two Museums of Contemporary Art (www.mcasd.org), on Prospect Street in La Jolla and Kettner Boulevard in Downtown, offer free entry on the third Thursday of each month. As well as their vast collections of post-1950s art and media, both have great views of the ocean.
March The 10-day San Diego Latino Film Festival, currently in its 15th year, comes to town, giving popcorn gobblers the chance to watch more than 140 films. April The Kettner Nights season (www.taddsd.com), which continues throughout June, July, September and November, begins. Billed as a progressive evening event featuring art, design and interiors exhibitions, it is a celebration of all things urban. April also sees the start of the city's Film Out film festival (www.filmoutsandiego.com). May The Adams Avenue Roots & Folk Festival (www.adamsaveonline.com) and the San Diego Zydeco & Blues Festival (www.sandiegofestival.com) bring music to the summery San Diegan streets. July The Annual Red Dress Run is a fun event - participants wear red while running and drinking copiously.