Diamond Valley Lake plays a critical role in the well-being of Southern Californians. When major droughts befall the region, the reservoir is among the first emergency resources to be tapped for fresh water, and it can sustain Southern California's 18 million inhabitants for up to six months.
Otherwise, the lake is much more about having fun, and Diamond Valley Marina helps people do just that. Though bodily contact with the water is not permitted, visitors can rent a boat from the marina and cruise across the 7-square-mile body of water surrounded by red hills. The fishing alone is reason enough to make a visit to Diamond Valley, and many do every year to try and haul up the black bass, bluegill, rainbow trout, and catfish that live beneath the waters, brazenly breaking the clearly stated no-body-contact laws. Nonfishers, meanwhile, can be content with relaxing on a rental pontoon from the marina or hiking or riding horses on the trails that rim the lake edge.
Mad Maui BBQ Fusion patrols the streets of Oceanside in its mobile food truck, rolling over hunger by slinging a slew of barbecue creations. The Mad Maui burger combines a sweet-chili-marinated beef patty with tropical fruit salsa, grilled onions, sesame seeds, blue cheese, and red cabbage, perfect for backyard games of edible Frisbee ($8). Diners can snack on two salsa-coated pulled-pork tacos ($5) or munch on Volcano nachos ($7), made with chipotle cheese and kalua pork. The cooks also dispense orders of sweet-potato fries or pineapple poppers to bolster meals and match behemoth appetites ($2.50 each).
Carlsbad Lagoon's on-water adventures take place at a private beach area lined by palm trees. Here, wakeboards, waverunners, and water skis speed across the water?s surface, bouncing into the air with each wave. The fleet also boasts more leisurely watercraft, such as kayaks and aqua cycles?oversized, buoyant tricycles that fulfill the dream of every child who drove his big wheel into the bathtub.
Of course, Carlsbad Lagoon doesn?t leave its customers to paddle hopelessly in circles. The staff includes instructors, who teach the basics of the various on-water activities. The aquatic educators also run a children's camp.
The nonprofit Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation serves as a bridge between curious visitors interested in conservation and 400 acres of coastal wetlands home to a variety of wildlife. The Discovery Center hosts exhibits and outreach activities that explore the historical and environmental aspects of the lagoon. The Foundation also encourages sustainable recreation on the water, welcoming hikers, boaters, and fishermen as long as they follow the laws and signage to preserve the lagoon's health.
First String Sportfishing sails the open seas off of Southern California, taking passengers on both fishing voyages and educational marine tours. Its largest boat, First String, can hold up to 149 people for its whale-watching tours. On board the 93-foot boat, you’ll find two 9-ton fish holds, two radars, a large-screen television, and a dolphin-to-English dictionary. First String Sportfishing’s other boats depart for both Californian and Mexican waters on fishing excursions. These trips typically yield shallow-water rockfish such as Sculpin and Whitefish and larger varieties including yellowtail and barracuda.
Dana Wharf Whale Watching's expert crews and skippers glide their watercrafts on the open seas so visitors can soak up sunshine while searching for rare and endangered whales as they migrate south to avoid tax season. Expert captains steer crafts through frothy spumes and narrate each trip, educating passengers on the abundant life beneath the glassy waters. Voyagers can either venture into the boat's full-service galley for a hot meal or bring their own food and nonalcoholic drinks to stave off hunger and resist eating the ocean's jagged, hamburger-shaped coral.