Finding cheap hotels in San Diego is relatively easy. From large chain companies to smaller, independently owned properties, there are plenty to choose from, and many offer great amenities like free Wi-Fi. Business travelers will appreciate the central location and easy airport access of the Travelodge San Diego Downtown Convention Center, while families wanting to visit the zoo will love the Mission Valley Resort. Other great options under $65 per night include Americas Best Value Inn Loma Lodge (Sea World/Old Town), The West Park Inn, and for travelers and backpackers looking to make friends, USA Hostels San Diego Downtown.
From beach side resorts to swanky downtown hotels, there are plenty of luxury properties to choose from in San Diego. The Grand Hyatt San Diego is a beautiful luxury resort in the city center overlooking the coast. The Omni San Diego Hotel is an upscale hotel that's popular with business travelers and sports fans, as it is part of the PETCO Park Complex that houses the San Diego Padres. Beach lovers will appreciate the Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa and the Paradise Point Resort and Spa. Additional favorites include the Westin San Diego and the Westin San Diego Gaslamp Quarter, which is one of the city’s landmark hotels.
Travelers looking to meet locals or searching for cheap hotels in San Diego should consider an Airbnb rental. There are single rooms starting as low as $35 per night to entire houses or apartments for a few hundred dollars. For larger groups, there is even an ocean view estate that can fit multiple families (up to 16 people) for a little over $2,500 for four nights. As with hotels, there is a large variety of Airbnb options throughout the different neighborhoods of San Diego.
You'll find a large variety of boutique hotels in San Diego, ranging from antique B&Bs to welcoming beach hotels. Britt Scipps Inn, a beautiful historic hotel, is a local favorite and ranked as one of the top 10 B&Bs in the United States. Another popular historic boutique hotel is the Sofia Hotel, complete with modern touches like a spa and yoga studio. Beach lovers should check out the Pacific Terrace Hotel, while those considering staying in the swanky La Jolla neighborhood should consider the Empress Hotel of La Jolla or the Grand Colonial Hotel in La Jolla.
There is only one airport in San Diego, the San Diego International Airport, which is conveniently located only three-and-a-half miles from the downtown core of the city. There are plenty of San Diego hotels within a 10 to 15 minute drive of the airport, such as the popular Palomar San Diego, a Kimpton Hotel downtown, or the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina by the harbor. However, there are only a few properties that offer shuttle service to the airport, such as the Omni San Diego Hotel and the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina.
Given its coastal location, San Diego maintains a moderate climate year-round, making it a popular tourist destination all year. The busiest travel season occurs between Memorial Day and Labor Day, as summer begins and the beaches fill with families. Beach goers should also note that late spring and early summer are often very foggy and cloudy in the coastal regions. Thanksgiving to early February is considered the slow season, and while San Diego still gets its fair share of travelers at this time of year (it is both the coldest and the sunniest), visitors are more likely to get a great deal on hotels during this time.
The entertainment center of the city, the Gaslamp Quarter is San Diego’s liveliest neighborhood. A mix of Victorian-era buildings and modern-day structures, the Gaslamp Quarter is home to over 100 restaurants, cocktail bars, and pubs, as well as a variety of art venues and theatres, making it the place to be for a night out. The neighborhood is also home to some of San Diego’s trendiest shops and museums, as well as Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres baseball team. Popular nearby sites, like the San Diego Zoo, are easily accessible via the trolley.
With its sparkling waters, sandy beaches, Mission Bay is the best place for water enthusiasts to play. A favorite area for all age groups, Mission Bay’s boardwalk is home to surf shops, clubs, and trendy restaurants. Mission Bay Park is perfect for water sports enthusiasts of all levels, and offers a variety of activities from sailing to surfing. This is also the place to be if you love to fish, as multiple half-day and full-day trips depart from here. Also in the Mission Bay area are SeaWorld San Diego and the iconic Belmont amusement park.
Known as the birthplace of California, you'll find a bit of everything in Old Town San Diego. From trendy designer boutiques, to museums and art galleries, to Qualcomm Stadium (home of the San Diego Chargers), there’s something for every type of visitor to see and do here. Perhaps the most popular attraction in this neighborhood is the Whaley House museum, named by the Travel Channel as America’s most haunted house, which is occasionally open for haunted tours, especially around Halloween. Foodies will also love Old Town, as it is well-known for its authentic Mexican food and the city’s best margaritas.
San Diego offers a comprehensive Bus system with a total of 93 lines and routes serving the city center and outlying areas. Fares vary depending on the route, but the average ticket is $2.25 each way. Using the bus can be a slower way to travel, given the number of stops and traffic congestion during rush hour, but it is an easy and affordable way to travel around the city. Schedules and maps can be found online, allowing visitors to plan their trips ahead of time.
For only $3, visitors can take a ride on the Big Bay Shuttle and cruise the coast from Harbour Island to the South Embarcadero. Your ticket gives you on-and-off privileges at all eight stops for the day, and shuttles arrive at each stop every 15 to 20 minutes. Tickets can be bought at any of the stops, or at Destination Travel offices. Passengers should know in advance that bikes are not allowed on board, but strollers are. The Big Bay Shuttle operates from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The San Diego Trolley is probably the easiest and most popular mode of transportation for visitors to the city to use. The big red trolley is impossible to miss, and services popular locations throughout the downtown area and as far out as Old Town and Mission Valley. There are three other trolleys as well, Blue, Orange, and Green, that provide service to the outlying communities of San Diego. Fares range from $1.50 to $3 each way, and run every seven minutes during peak times and every 30 minutes during off-peak hours.
The decision whether or not to rent a car in San Diego depends mainly on your travel priorities. Travelers planning to stay in the downtown area and see the main sites and attractions should find the trolley and bus system sufficient enough for their needs. Visitors wanting to go further out of town and visit the beaches may find these systems inadequate, and renting a car might be the best option. Just be aware that parking in and around town can be both expensive and tricky to find.
Taxi services can be an easy way to get around town when a bus or the trolley won’t do. While taxis are still subject to rush hour traffic, it’s a more time-efficient way to travel if you are in a hurry. There are four taxi companies that service San Diego. Most charge by meter, but it may be possible to ask for a flat rate, which tends to be cheaper. The airport has an Amtrak shuttle to take travelers from the airport to downtown San Diego. Visitors should also keep in mind that some San Diego hotels offer complimentary shuttle service to some of the city’s most popular attractions.
San Diego has a diverse cultural scene, ranging from art galleries and museums to theatre. The San Diego Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (with two locations) are the largest places to discover art. However, many of San Diego’s neighborhoods, including La Jolla and the Gaslamp District, boast a variety of small and unique galleries. San Diego is home to two major regional theaters, the La Jolla Playhouse and the Old Globe Theatre, and the Balboa Theatre made CNN Travel's list of the World’s Most Spectacular Theaters.
San Diego is a great place for sports lovers, whether you want to be a spectator or get in on the action. This city is home to two professional teams — the San Diego Chargers (football) and the San Diego Padres (baseball) — and two stadiums in the city, making it easy to enjoy an afternoon or evening at the game. San Diego is also the perfect spot for visitors get in on the action with an assortment of sports activities to try and enjoy. Try your hand at golf, kite boarding, scuba diving, boating, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and more. These activities can be tailored to your needs; whether you are an expert or a beginner, you'll find an activity to test your skills.
San Diego is full of unique activities and landmarks that are sure to garner any visitor’s interest. Must-see sites include Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, the U.S.S. Midway Museum, the Old Globe Theatre, and the Whaley House. San Diego also has a lot of natural beauty that outdoor enthusiasts won’t want to miss. Animal lovers should make sure to stop by La Jolla Cove to catch a glimpse of local seals and sea lions, while those looking to take in a great view and maybe catch the sunset should head to Sunset Cliffs Natural Park.
Savvy travelers should keep in mind that San Diego is a popular city, and although there are plenty of great restaurant choices, there are also mediocre tourist traps as well. It’s important, especially during weekends, to make dinner reservations in advance. Visitors planning on visiting a variety of attractions should consider multi-attraction passes for a better deal, and check with the San Diego Visitors Bureau website and/or their hotel in San Diego ahead of time to see if there are any available discount coupons. Travelers can also download free San Diego Smart Travel Guides and maps to help with trip planning.
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© 2020 Hipmunk® and Concur® Hipmunk® are trademarks of Hipmunk, Inc. and Concur Technologies, Inc.