The Kumeyaay used to live on the mesas surrounding what today we call the Sweetwater Valley. They called this area Apusquel and the Spanish called it La Purisma. When in 1868 Frank Kimball bought the land (along with what today is National City), he created a dam and a small reservoir. He referred to the water mass as Laguna Bonita. Thereafter a wealthy landowner named his ranch Bonita, meaning beautiful in Spanish.
Why Bonita? Because It’s Beautiful
An unincorporated community of about 12,000, Bonita was once filled with lemon groves. Farmers moved in and owned successful dairy & poultry farms. Ranchers raised horses, enjoying the open space. During the 1960s through the 1980s suburban track homes began to fill the hills until the County came in during the 1990s and designated much of Bonita as parkland. Today, Bonita has hiking & equestrian trails as well as two golf courses. For those who enjoy the rustic side of art & culture, here’s how you can spend a lovely Saturday or Sunday.
Breakfast At Donny’s
Start at Donny’s Cafe on 3901 Bonita Road. This building was once a winery. The architecture is Spanish mission style.
After a jolt of coffee and muffin, bike over to the serene Glen Abbey Memorial Park Cemetery where you can visit the adorable Little Chapel of the Roses, dedicated in 1930 and inspired by the Somersby Church in England (where poet Alfred Tennyson was baptized).
Next head over to the Bonita Museum & Cultural Center, which hosts a variety of art exhibits throughout the year. They have a gift shop and in the front they have displays about Bonita’s history.
Take Your Pick: Golf, Equestrian or Scuba Diving
Hit a few golf balls at one of three places:
Or head down Bonita Road, take a right turn and rent a horse for an hour at the Sweetwater Horse Camp.
If you like scuba diving, you can take lessons at San Diego Scuba Center. It’s tucked away in a grand home where the owners have a large swimming pool and pirate decor. They also host a bed & breakfast for out-of-towners.
Now For History, Culture & Food
Tea time means stopping at Hans & Harry’s Bakery for a pastry snack. They’ve got every kind of sweet baked goods from Europe you can imagine.
Make sure to enjoy the parkland by heading over to Rohr Park and checking out the Old Adobe. The opulent home next to it points to how rich these ranchers became. Several erected mansions along the hills built by illustrious architects such as Irving Gill.
You’ve got to head over to the Sweetwater Reservoir next where you’ll enjoy the sight of the old dam. Frank Kimball helped erect this dam, which significantly changed the landscape in these parts. You’ll still be able to catch glimpses of coyotes and other animals here. (If you like camping, you can spend the rest of your day here and overnight.)
Otherwise, don’t forget to stop by the Bonita Fruit Trees farm where you can peruse several hundred varieties. The owner will tell you how to properly grow specific trees and he might even show you his rare collection of birds.
Dinner & A Night Cap
Now it’s time to eat once more. You must make reservations beforehand and then enjoy Romesco Mexiterranean Bistro, voted one of the top ten San Diego Restaurants of 2013. They also invented the Cesar’s salad.
If you need a night cap, you can walk down a little ways and order a pint of beer as well as a Middle Eastern hookah at the All American Sports Bar.