The Best Shopping in San Diego

From small boutiques to a sprawling outdoor art mart showcasing local crafts, San Diego offers a variety of cool finds to complement hot weather. The area is home to many wonderful artists including glassblowers, painters, photographers, clothing designers, and jewelers.

3803 Ray Street
At this colorful corner store in North Park, Mexican handicrafts reign supreme. Pick up such gifts as hand-embroidered pillows and table runners, hand-painted wooden stools, glassware, and rainbow huaraches. This wholly original store is the brainchild of Elexia de la Parra, who grew up in Tijuana, studied culinary arts in San Diego, and then globetrotted a bit before turning her passions into a business. Her goal was to create a shop that both celebrated Mexico’s vibrant artisanal culture and supported its makers—a percentage of each sale is donated to an organization that provides no-interest loans to female entrepreneurs in Oaxaca. When de la Parra’s not at the shop, she’s leading trips to Oaxaca and San Miguel de Allende for lovers of market tours, cooking classes, and artisans’ studios. Dubbed Eat Drink Cook Mexico, the forays double as treasure hunts for her shop. Pro tip: Before you visit, check Artelexia’s events calendar for evening crafting workshops.
Liberty Station, San Diego, CA, USA
Built in the 1920s, San Diego’s onetime Naval Training Center began its transformation into a cultural and retail space in 2000, when the city bought this massive Spanish colonial revival complex to house galleries and shops as well as concert, movie, and lecture venues. The shopping is largely culinary here, with food hall–style purveyors of everything from coffee to pasta (don’t miss the vinegar tasting station at Baker & Olive). But there are also local accessory shops worth visiting: Down a small, out-of-the-way corridor, you’ll find the only wholesale outlet of Double Happiness Jewelry & Home. This San Diego–based producer of handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces is a favorite of celebrities (Oprah, Cindy Crawford, and Blake Lively, to name a few). The jewel-encrusted hoop earrings are especially hard to resist. Other Liberty Station accessories worth checking out: the rotating assortment of local home goods and accessories at Moniker General (look for Norden Goods candles and Bradley Mountain bags).
3036, 3039 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104, USA
Model, surfer, and designer Kahana Kalama co-owns this highly curated surf boutique in North Park, where he sells beach towels, surf gear, and some clothing. Many items are made in the United States, like Miansai leather bracelets and poppy-red Algae trunks from Miami, and Kalama’s menswear collection is produced entirely in his home state of Hawaii. Ranging from aloha shirts to walk shorts, his pieces bring edgy prints and tailoring to traditional Hawaiian apparel.
2225 30th Street
Gold Leaf cofounder Sonya Kemp worked at design collective SoLo in Solana Beach before fulfilling her lifelong dream of opening her own boutique. Now, she stocks her store with everything from kitchen utensils to kids’ toys, drawing inspiration from Zakka (a Japanese and Scandinavian movement that elevates everyday items). Shop for handblown glass lamps from France, midcentury modern furniture from Tijuana, and vintage clutches and jewelry. Then head next door to the Rose, the boutique’s neighbor here in the Historical 30th & Fern commercial center, for a glass of wine.
3801 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104, USA
Located in a renovated warehouse, this artsy gift shop is a dream for lovers of succulents and other cacti. In addition to pale-green air plants and coral-colored water bottles that match San Diego’s dusty color palette, merchandise runs the gamut from outdoor furnishings and locally designed children’s clothing to jewelry, cookbooks, and creative greeting cards. The boutique’s most popular attraction, however, may be the build-your-own terrarium or planter station, where staff members can help you select sand, pebbles, stones, greenery, and a container from which to fashion your own microcosm. Pigment has also opened locations in Liberty Station and Del Mar.
In Solana Beach’s Cedros Avenue Design District eight women—all with a keen eye for design—make up this collective in a converted warehouse. Each vendor is unique. Ruby Lang sells antiques and oddities; Christie Napier sells children’s toys and gifts; and Carole Carden, the collective’s founder, stocks books and stationery. Fans include architects, designers, and visitors looking for a unique trinket to take home. Among the unusual items you can expect to find include Japanese furnishings, vintage perfume bottles, and handmade jewelry made with silver from Taxco, Mexico. (The other businesses along Cedros Avenue are worth exploring, too: furniture stores, art galleries, and restaurants.)
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