Bonita is a low-key escape tucked away right in our own backyard. Visiting feels like a trip to the countryside; just 15 minutes south of downtown, its 5 miles of wide-open spaces, tall trees and green landscape along the Sweetwater River make it a true oasis in East Chula Vista.
Sure, you can drive down Interstate 5 and access Bonita that way, but you'd be missing the point of its namesake. Take the back way - especially if you're on a motorcycle or scooter - and enjoy the winding roads through East San Diego that eventually lead to the Sweetwater River Valley.
Whether you're into horseback riding, golfing or devouring the authentic flavors of Baja without crossing the border, opt for a day trip to Bonita the next time you have free time to explore this oft unsung, gorgeous San Diego enclave.
Sweetwater Summit Regional Park
This 500-acre park and campground is an ideal spot for lingering along the Sweetwater Reservoir. A popular back-up plan among campers who couldn't score a spot at the beach, staying here is the next best thing with peaceful, breezy afternoons and modern accommodations like hot showers, kitchen facilities, 15 miles of equestrian trails, and even an aquatic park feature for the kiddos. Heck, you can even camp with your horses here. 3218 Summit Meadow Road, Bonita, (619) 472-7572.
Before you go...
Stock up on the goods from Hans and Harry's Bakery. This European-style cake and pastry shop has been a fixture in Bonita since the early 90s; choose from dazzling display cases of fresh fruit tarts, strudels and whole, or individual slices of cake, perfect for any picnicking occasion. 5080 Bonita Road, (619) 475-2253, hans-harry.com.
No horse of your own? No problem. Take in the rustic charm of Bonita by way of horseback on a guided trail ride at Sweetwater Farms. Open year-round Tuesday through Sunday, rides run $45 per hour. For more information and to book rides, call (619) 252-5544. 3051 Equitation Lane, Bonita, sweetwaterhorses.com.
TJ Oyster Bar
San Diego is the undisputed fish taco capital of the United States, and this Bonita gem (now with two additional locations) serves what's widely considered the best tacos in town. The 99-cent fish tacos are perfection washed down with a Michelada; plus there's seafood cocktails, quesadillas and yes, fresh oysters on the half shell. Pro tip: Tuesdays are a madhouse, especially at the original TJOB location. Located just down the road, try the second location at 4410 Bonita Road instead. Original location: 4246 Bonita Road, (619) 267-4577, tjoysterbar.com.
Romesco Mex Med Bistro
Acclaimed chef Javier Plascencia's Mediterranean-inspired Baja fare is a category all on its own with dishes like gambas al romesco where sautéed shrimp in garlicky romesco sauce tops shoestring fries and "grandma's tacos" that come filled with spaghetti noodles, chorizo, fresh cream and salsa verde. Between down home braised meats for tacos, some Asian-inspired seafood dishes and a whole section of the menu dedicated to sharable, tasty tapas, you won't leave Romesco hungry. Though it may leave you pondering the origins of Mexican cuisine. 4346 Bonita Road, (619)475-8627, romescomexmed.com.