If you’re looking to explore San Diego, Jay Jay Maniquis is a great tour guide. The local video creator + host can be seen discovering America’s Finest City — and other cities — on his YouTube channel Jaycation, where he currently has over 70,000 subscribers. Or, you may recognize him from his PBS show “Out of the Boondocks,” a docuseries exploring Filipino culture + creativity.
We caught up with Jay Jay to learn about his experiences in San Diego, why he started making YouTube videos, and how he always finds new places to explore.
Q: How did you get started making YouTube videos that explore San Diego?
A: Initially, my channel wasn’t even supposed to be San Diego-centric, it was supposed to be me discovering other parts of the world. But when the pandemic hit, I knew I wasn’t leaving San Diego indefinitely. I started noticing there was a need for people to see San Diego — either locals or tourists who love this place — so, I said, ‘What’s a safe way for me to start filming?’
Then I said, ‘Why don’t I do stuff outdoors — do all the beach towns? There’s 17 beach towns from Oceanside to Imperials Beach. What if I covered some outdoor things, maybe some spots to safely show this place and some businesses, because they need it right now — especially during 2020.’
So I started filming these and I started noticing people watching the channel and giving some feedback from locals who’d say, ‘Hey, you went to Coronado — next time check this spot out.’ And I thought that was really cool, because when I was working for the Chargers when they were in San Diego, I was kind of like a player concierge in a way. They’d always come to me and ask for restaurant recommendations, coffee spots — not just the players, but the whole staff. And they actually took my word for it. They’d come back and give me feedback and I said, ‘Hey, that’s cool, maybe one day I can do that on a different scale — in a different avenue.’ And that’s what YouTube provided for me, was being able to have that opportunity to showcase my hometown.
And I think we me being born + raised here, and just having all the experiences I’ve had within San Diego — and the community of friends and family that I have — I’m able to get a nice, knowledgeable grasp of what’s good, what’s hot, and what’s a classic spot, and have my San Diego finger pointed at the dial.
Q: In your opinion, what is one of San Diego’s coolest hidden gems?
A: A community I think is a hidden gem: South Park. I was blown away by parts of South Park + North Park — because it all kind of mends together, so you need to look at the borders. There’s a lot of great places over there: cafés, restaurants, there’s a Halal food truck by the Target. [It’s also by] Thorn St. Brewery — a really nice neighborhood brewery — that’s right by Grand Ole BBQ.
Q: If someone was spending their first weekend in San Diego, what three things would you recommend?
A: You gotta do a touristy thing, so sure, so you gotta go out to La Jolla Cove. Sea lion smell or not, it’s awesome to see the cliffs and that whole terrain + sunset over there is pretty unique. There’s some pretty awesome spots off Prospect Street + Gerard Avenue you could check out.
Obviously, you need to get a California burrito and try some Mexican food — whether it’s a quick taco shop or a sit-down place. You definitely gotta try the local Mexican food here.
The breweries and the coffee shops — I think those two are hand-in-hand — try to discover local coffee shops + local breweries.
Q: What about someone who’s lived in San Diego their whole life. What’s a different aspect of the city or community they should explore?
A: I think the Asian community — although it’s growing and has been here forever. Just recently the Convoy District was branded as the Convoy Asian Cultural District — they got their sign.
Explore the Asian cuisine and the cultures — the different types of cultures. You’ve got: Filipino, Vietnamese, Japanese, Laotian. There’s all different types of cultures around San Diego and the cuisine’s great. Like the Vietnamese food, especially in Mira Mesa, it’s phenomenal. Some of the best phở I’ve had. And the Filipino food — whether it’s in National City or here in Mira Mesa — is great. And in Convoy, you have all the different types, whether it’s Korean food, Chinese food, Japanese food — it’s all around that district.
So I would say, check out Convoy. People may think of Convoy as — that’s where you go to buy your car or go to do computer repairs, but it’s really like our Chinatown. It’s our hub — it’s the Asian cultural district.
Q: What is the biggest misconception people have about San Diego?
A: That it’s boring and slow, because it’s not boring and slow.
It’s just a matter of you doing the research and taking it into your own hands, and doing what you want to do with your itinerary. You can have a great time here in San Diego — everyone has their own perception of a great time. Yes, we are casual. Yes, we are a beach town — not a sleepy beach town, I’ll tell you that, we’re only two hours from Los Angeles, we get a little bit of that fast pace. It’s not slow and boring, but if you wanna be slow and slow things down, you can. There are places you can go and feel relaxed.
Q: Food plays a big role on your channel. What’s one restaurant you recently discovered + loved?
A: During the pandemic, one place that’s been around for a long time is Mitch’s Seafood, right next to Point Loma Seafoods. And I only went to Point Loma Seafoods since I was a kid, and I decided to give Mitch’s a try — I kept hearing my viewers say: Go check out Mitch’s, they have different types of sandwiches, tacos, and fresh catches of the day. And I think I had the monchong fish — they put it in a sandwich, and it was just to die for. Ever since then, I was like, alright, I need to go to Point Loma Seafoods, but gotta go to Mitch’s.
Q: If you were talking to someone from out of town, what would you say makes San Diego different from other cities?
A: In San Diego, you can have the beach if you want — but you can also have the mountain living or the desert living if you want — and you can also be in the suburbs. It’s a very versatile city. And I think people don’t understand how many different communities are around San Diego. You have all the way up to Fallbrook, and you’ve got Oceanside. Then you’ve also got San Ysidro all the way to Otay. There’s just so many diverse communities in San Diego.
I guess the misconception is: San Diego’s not just one thing. It’s not fast, it’s not slow — it’s definitely a melting pot.
Every now + then I get in the comments section, ‘That’s not San Diego.’ Well, look on Google Maps. Oceanside is in San Diego County. Escondido is San Diego County. Julian is San Diego County. I don’t just focus on the metro city — I focus on the county itself.
I haven’t even begun to start discovering other parts. I still haven’t gone up to Fallbrook yet, I haven’t done stuff like Vista — for my channel at least. But, eventually we’ll get there.
Q: You have hundreds of videos — how do you keep finding new things to do in the city?
A: It’s really about finding an entertaining topic, something that people would want to see, and just going out and making the content. Sometimes people will say, ‘I have an idea,’ and never express it or get it done. When I get the idea and I think it’s time to make it happen, I’ll make it happen. Like when I did the best coffee spots in San Diego video, I started asking my friend, my family, the community, where the best spots were, and I came up with five — and we’re at one right now [doing this interview]
Right now, I know it’s time for me to do another barbecue video. The first one was so popular that there’s other places I didn’t cover in the first one that I want to cover now — so that’s coming up.
San Diego is an ever-changing landscape. A lot of businesses opening, a lot of businesses unfortunately go away, but I like these places and want to give them their just due.
Q: A lot is happening in the city. What makes you excited for the future of San Diego?
A: I’m really curious to see what happens over in the Seaport District. I know that’s a highly debatable project, but I feel like, if you can build around Seaport Village and build it up, there’s so much more opportunity around San Diego Bay + the Port of San Diego, that Embarcadero area. San Diego’s already a tourist destination, but if you add more parks with man-made beach areas, it would kind of be like a little Waikiki area or something like that. With modern [additions] around that whole area, I’m really excited to see what they do with the Seaport District.
Q: What do you think San Diego will be known for in 10 years that’s different from today?
A: I think San Diego County itself is growing, more of the [cities] that are out of the boundaries like Fallbrook, like Otay Ranch, they’re going to keep growing. And there are going to be more local businesses over there that are going to pop up — you know, little cafés, or Mexican food spots, or Filipino spots — they’re all going to pop up in San Diego. In 10 years, you’re not going to think of San Diego as just the downtown area, you’re going to think of it more as a county.
And that’s kind of where my vision is with my channel, it’s to cover the whole county.
Q: Just for fun: What’s the biggest giveaway that someone is a tourist?
A: Someone that’s wearing a bubble jacket in the summer. Someone who comes off the plane and brought all jeans — no shorts, no flip flops. They need to go to one of these stores and buy a pair of shorts + flip flops.