The Ultimate San Diego Travel Guide

san diego travel guide

As one of the premiere leisure destinations in the country, San Diego attracts visitors from all over the world for its pretty coastline, stunning natural wonders, and a lively downtown area. Here is a practical guide to getting around, things to see and do, and local expert travel tips.

Travel: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

  • Taxis

Like most major cities, you’ll find taxi stands at airports, hotels, and popular attractions. The rates are pretty standard: $2.80 for the first1/10 mile, $3 for each additional mile, and $24 per hour of waiting time.

  • Cars

As long as you avoid rush hour, a rental car is a great way to fully explore the sprawling metropolis. Plus, most attractions are easily accessible via I-5 and I-163. In urban areas, meters typically run Monday thru Saturday from 8 to 6pm and free parking outside those hours and on Sunday and holidays.

Pro Tip: Parking at the beach is free, although finding a spot might be a challenge on a sunny day.

  • Public Transportation

Visit the “Trip Planner” section of to plan your next outing. Unlimited day passes are available for $5 or a one-way fare for $2.50. A ride on the classic red trolley is $1.50 to $3 and a fun way to see downtown.

  • Trains

For breathtaking coastal views, head to downtown to the Santa Fe Depot at Kettner Boulevard and Broadway to catch the Amtrak that takes passengers to Oceanside and beyond.

Acclimate: Here’s the weather you can expect when you arrive:

  • Average rainfall: 43 days of precipitation per year
  • Average temperature: High: 69.8 F, Low: 57.5 F

Pro Tip: With mild weather year round and less than 10 percent rainfall per year, any time of year is ideal, although locals recommend July through October for sun seekers and early fall for a nearly perfect temperature.

  • What to Pack: San Diego might be a major metropolis, but it’s a beach town at heart, so you’ll fit right in with flip-flops and shorts. Plus, with the beaches close by, you’re never too far from feeling sand between your toes and the ocean breeze on your face. Nights can be breezy, so it’s a good idea to pack some layers like hoodies and sweaters.

Explore: Get outside and explore San Diego’s rich cultural history and many natural wonders.

  • Balboa Park—Take a peaceful stroll through this 1,200-acre park in the heart of downtown and discover historic architecture, gardens, and the world famous San Diego Zoo.
  • Beaches—With 70 miles of stunning coastline, you’re never far from seaside bliss. A favorite among the surfing crowd is Windandsea Beach while Coronado and La Jolla is popular with families and sunbathers.
  • Torrey Pines State Natural Preserve—Nature lovers will revel in exploring one of the last salt marshes and wildlife refuges in Southern California. The area is also known for containing the country’s rarest pine trees.

Pro Traveling Tip: If you arrive between mid December and April, you’ll get a chance to see the magnificent gray whales as they migrate to their breeding grounds in Baja, California.

Dine: Indulge in cuisine from around the world in a city known for it’s multicultural dining options.

  • American—Croce’s Park West, an upscale restaurant in the trendy Gaslamp District.
  • Seafood—Tom Ham’s Lighthouse, a family-owned institution in Harbor Island known for its contemporary seafood dishes and incredible views of San Diego Bay.
  • Asian—Harney Sushi, a popular restaurant in the heart of Old Town historical district that features high quality fish and classy cocktails.
  • Italian—Piatti Ristorante and Bar, a traditional Italian trattoria in La Jolla Shores.
  • Cocktails—Searsucker, a lively spot for specialty cocktails and small plates with locally sourced ingredients.

Stay: Enjoy the beach with multiple coastal rental options.

  • With beautiful waterfront properties in Mission Bay, Mission Beach, La Jolla, Pacific Beach, and Ocean Beach, San Diego has no shortage of vacation rental homes for your next Southern California holiday.
  • Even better, rental homes have more square footage, free extras like TV, movies, and DVD players, and significantly cheaper rates compared to traditional hotels.

Let the experts at San Diego Vacation Rentals help you find a luxury vacation rental in paradise.



Fodor’s Travel: San Diego and North County, Random House, New York, 2015.

Posted in Uncategorized

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