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San Diego, California

With postcard-perfect beaches and year-round sunshine, San Diego is laid-back California at its best. Yes, surfing is big here, but San Diego is also a major city, full of Michelin-starred restaurants, world-class museums, and a strong craft beer scene. Snorkel with sea lions in La Jolla, then spend the afternoon shopping in historic Old Town. Definitely go to the San Diego Zoo but don't miss the rest of Balboa Park—there's tons to eat, see, and do (check out the Mingei International Museum). For dinner, head to Little Italy, where mainstay trattorias sit next to newer hotspots (and you can't go wrong with either). After, hopheads can hit up the breweries in North Park, while night owls can bar hop in the Gaslamp Quarter. There’s lots more where that came from—check out our recs below.

Travel Advice

Essential San Diego

How to do San Diego in 1 day

Sun-kissed beaches, vibrant neighborhoods, and lesser-known favorite spots
Read on

7 best outdoor activities in San Diego

As a San Diego native, SoCal’s wild landscapes have been my lifelong playground. You can often find me biking around Coronado island, hiking the coastal trails, or surfing at a pristine beach. In fact, it’s hard not to go outside when the weather is always beautiful—San Diego has 266 days of sunshine (fair enough for America’s Finest City!). Here are the nature adventures you won’t want to miss.
Chantae R, Suva, Fiji
  • Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
    3,806
    Lace up your hiking boots and admire the Pacific Ocean panorama atop the bluffs at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. For an easy walk, I enjoy the one-mile Guy Fleming Loop. Covered in cacti and wildflowers, it features fantastic scenic points (keep your eyes peeled for dolphins!). If you want to see the reserve from all angles, follow the two-mile Beach Loop Trail. Tip: Make sure you only go at low tide.
  • La Jolla Cove
    13,777
    The seals and sea lions of La Jolla Cove are endlessly entertaining—pups play in the water while elders bark orders. Rent a kayak for an up-close encounter with the pinnipeds, pelicans, and dolphins. I also like to scuba dive (or snorkel) among the cove’s kelp beds and search for reef sharks, octopi, rays, and garibaldi, California’s bright orange state fish. Prefer to stay dry? Snag a table on Brockton Villa’s deck overlooking the cove instead.
  • Coronado Island
    3,060
    There’s nothing like feeling the sea breeze against your skin as you bike around Coronado island. The six-mile lap takes you past one of my favorite hotels in San Diego, the Hotel Del Coronado. In its heyday, the hotel was a hotspot for glamorous Hollywood stars; today, it’s a fun resort to pull over for a lunch break. Even the journey to Coronado is gorgeous: The ferry boasts the best views of the city skyline.
  • Balboa Park
    13,108
    You can’t go to San Diego without visiting Balboa Park. Sprawling across 1,200 acres in the heart of the city, Balboa is an impressive compound of museums, theaters, and the world-famous zoo. However, its 19 underrated gardens are also worth your time. There are sections dedicated to lily ponds, cacti, roses, palm trees, and medicinal plants. The Zoro Garden—originally designed to be a nudist colony in the mid-1930s—is now a haven for butterflies and ficus trees.
  • La Jolla Shores Park
    2,718
    Surfing is a way of life for many San Diego locals. Learn how to catch a wave at the beginner-friendly La Jolla Shores Park. If you’ve come with kids in tow, they’ll love its mile-long stretch of sandcastle real estate and the large grass lawn with an oceanfront jungle gym. More experienced surfers can head north toward Scripps Pier and Blacks Beach (note: topless tanning is common here).
  • Torrey Pines Gliderport
    1,474
    Soar in the sky over the ocean with a tandem paragliding experience at Torrey Pines. The gliderport has been active for over a century, and you’ll find paragliders and hang gliders here whenever the weather is clear. If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground, it’s still a great spot to go for the bird’s-eye views and excellent coffee, served at the on-site café. Tip: Flights are first-come first-served.
  • Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
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    Sunset Cliffs is a prime place to look for marine life. Stroll along the edge of the bluffs, and you may be lucky enough to see pods of migrating gray whales breach and splash in the water below. As a child, I’d spend afternoons searching for crustaceans and anemones hiding in the tide pools at the bottom of the rocks. If the swell is up, surfers always paddle out—this wave is one of my grandfather’s favorites.

San Diego Travel Guide

Travelers' pro tips for experiencing San Diego

SDSpartan

Visit a local Farmer's Market if you can. Little Italy is a very good one on Saturdays.

mini

If you are into kayaking, La Jolla at sunset is very good. Look for the “green flash.”

bellize777

I love sunset cliffs. bring a blanket, a picnic if you want and go about 90 minutes before high tide so you can enjoy watching it come in.

JoAnna H

Year-round mild weather with plentiful sunshine and comfortable temperatures make the city particularly appealing.

parttimetraveler

There is enough adventure, nature, and sunshine to keep the young (and the young at heart) entertained.

Chris O

This is the green and leafy heart of the city where a multitude of activities and nearby attractions await.

What is the best way to get there?

flying

San Diego International Airport is the main commercial airport servicing San Diego. Shuttle buses run from the airport to nearby hotels, and cabs and rideshares are also available.

bus

Greyhound offers bus services to San Diego with a terminal on National Ave.

bus

Travelers driving to San Diego from Las Angeles usually approach the Strip off the I-5 Fwy. Those traveling from inland typically approach from the I-15 Fwy.

Do I need a visa?

If you’re visiting San Diego from overseas, use the State Department’s Visa Wizard to see if you need a visa.

When is the best time to visit?

Early spring and fall: This Southern California city is so nice you should visit twice a year: the first between March through May, and the second between September through November. That is when the temperatures are at their best and hover around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 Celcius).

Get around

train

Amtrak services San Diego and terminates at The Santa Fe Depot.

trolley

There are three trolley lines (Blue, Orange, and Green) that service the downtown San Diego. Trolley and bus fares run between $2.25 to $5 one-way.

taxis and rideshare

Taxis, Uber and Lyft rideshare services are readily available.

driving

There are many pay-to-park lots located around the city as well as metered parking.

pedicab

Pedicabs and horse-drawn carriages are both transportation options in San Diego’s downtown waterfront area, and in the Gaslamp Quarter.

On the ground

What is the timezone?

Pacific Time Zone

What are the voltage/plug types?

The standard voltage in the United States is 120 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz. The plug has two flat parallel pins.

What is the currency?

The U.S. Dollar

Are ATMs readily accessible?

Yes.

Are credit cards widely accepted?

Yes.

Is it easy to find a bank?

Yes.

How much do I tip?

Bartender

$1 a drink or $2 for a more labor-intensive cocktail

Restaurant

15-20%

Taxi/rideshare

15-20%

Bellhop

$1 to 3 per bag

Housekeeper

$2-$3 per night

Shuttle driver

$1-$2 per person

Tour guide

10-20%

Are there local customs I should know?

Drinking

The federal legal age for buying and drinking alcohol is 21 years old.

Walking

Walk to the right of the sidewalk and step off to the side of the sidewalk if you want to stop to check your phone, look up directions, or want to take in a view.

Public transport

Allow others to disembark before boarding, don’t take up more than one seat and stand to offer seating to pregnant women or someone with a disability.

Find more information about local customs and etiquette in the United States generally here.

Frequently Asked Questions about San Diego



San Diego is known for some of its popular attractions, which include:


If you're a more budget-conscious traveler, then you may want to consider traveling to San Diego between December and February, when hotel prices are generally the lowest. Peak hotel prices generally start between June and August.