San Diego, California Travel Guide & Trip Planner

The famous Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, CaliforniaThe famous Hotel del Coronado in San Diego

With its mild year-round climate, varied terrain, beautiful harbor, and abundance of outdoor activities, San Diego is consistently a major, popular tourist destination. Attractions such as Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, and the USS Midway draw visitors from around the world.

San Diego is also the site of the annual Holiday Bowl.

One of the most exciting and sophisticated metropolitan regions in the country, San Diego comprises more than 100 colorful and unique neighborhoods. Each of these communities has a style and personality of their own, and their dynamic medleys of outdoor activities, arts and culture, dining and shopping opportunities reflect the rich diversity of the San Diego region.

From downtown’s trendy East Village, to the laid-back community of Ocean Beach, to the luxury enclave of La Jolla, San Diego boasts dozens of fascinating neighborhoods.

Downtown San Diego is one of the most dynamic metropolitan areas in the country, drawing both visitors and residents to a sophisticated city center. Framed by inland mountains and a beautiful natural harbor, downtown San Diego’s alluring cityscape is a testament to years of redevelopment and urban revitalization.

As the historic heart of downtown San Diego, the 16½-block Gaslamp Quarter combines Victorian-charm with urban living to create a lively dining, entertainment and shopping district. Once home to San Diego’s "red light" district in the late 1800s, the area once held three gambling halls run by Wyatt Earp. In recent decades, revitalization efforts have spurred the growth of more than 100 restaurants, 40 bars and nightclubs and 100 retail shops, as well as theaters and art galleries.

 

One of the most popular tourist destinations in San Diego ... Balboa ParkOne of the most popular tourist destinations in San Diego ... Balboa Park

Once home to San Diego's flourishing tuna fishing industry and generations of Italian families who made their living on the sea, Little Italy in downtown San Diego is a quaint and lively neighborhood filled with outdoor patio cafes, restaurants, pubs, art galleries, boutique shops and the beautiful Amici Park.

With perpetual sun, swaying palms and sparkling surf, the funky neighborhood of Ocean Beach, referred to locally as O.B., is the epitome of Southern California beach culture. Newport Avenue, its main street, can be both laid-back and energized with boisterous bars, cafes, surf shops, tattoo parlors and a 1960s hippie attitude.

The treasures of this Mediterranean-style village make La Jolla one of the most sought-after vacation destinations in Southern California. With luxurious and historic hotels, fine dining and shopping, world-class arts and culture, unbeatable outdoor recreation and a strikingly beautiful setting, it’s no wonder why La Jolla is nicknamed the “jewel” of San Diego

A "must see" stop for visitors to San Diego ... The Zoo ... a world-famous 100-acre tropical garden that houses 4,000 animals of 800 rare and exotic species. It is conveniently located at Balboa Park.
A "must see" stop for visitors to San Diego ... The Zoo!

Coronado Bridge over San Diego Bay

In 1964 the U.S. Navy agreed to support a bridge project across the bay if there was at least 200 feet (61 m) of clearance for ships which operate out of the nearby Naval Base San Diego to pass underneath it. To achieve this clearance with a reasonable grade, the bridge length was increased by taking a curved path, rather than a more direct path to Coronado. It is 11, 179 feet in length, and was opened in 1969.
Coronado Bridge over San Diego Bay

 

 

How to Get to San Diego

San Diego is located on Interstate Highways I-10, I-5 and I-15 in extreme southern California, adjacent to Tijuana, Mexico (see interactive San Diego map below on this page).

Numerous airlines fly nonstop to U.S. and international destinations from San Diego International Airport (TUS) located near downtown. Visit the website of San Diego International Airport for airline and flight details.

Several cruise lines offer stops in San Diego.

Hotels and Other Lodging in San Diego

Each year about 35 million visitors travel to San Diego. San Diego has approximately 549 hotel, motel, bed & breakfast and casino hotel properties, with over 61,000 rooms available to visitors.

 

San Diego Travel Information from TripAdvisor

Hotels in San Diego

Downtown Hotels in San Diego

Mission Beach Hotels

Hotels near USS Midway Museum

Hotels near Balboa Park & the Zoo

Vacation Rentals in San Diego

Restaurants and dining options in San Diego

Things to Do in San Diego

San Diego Travel Guide

Click to review hotels and restaurants, read reviews and make reservations at TripAdvisor

Homewood Suites in Liberty Station in San Diego, California
The Homewood Suites at Liberty Station is one of our favorite hotels in San Diego... ample free parking, convenient to the airport, some suites overlook the water, and it is an easy drive to the waterfront and downtown!
Homewood Suites at Liberty Station

 

Situated along the Pacific Ocean, the Hotel del Coronado is a reminder of the romantic hotels and lodging experiences of the past.
Hotel del Coronado at TripAdvisor ... Reviews, details, reservations
The famous Hotel del Coronado in San Diego

 

 

What to See and Do in San Diego

San Diego has literally hundreds of attractions and things to do for all ages, and interests, indoor and outdoor, year-round. Some of the more popular attractions include the following:

  • Hotels line the waterfront in downtown San DiegoHotels line the waterfront in downtown San Diego
    Balboa Park and Zoo
  • USS Midway Museum
  • Boat Tours of the Harbor
  • Mission Beach and LaJolla
  • Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial
  • Point Loma
  • Cabrillo National Monument
  • Maritime Museum of San Diego
  • Old Point Loma Lighthouse
  • Coronado Bridge
  • Mission beach
  • SeaWorld San Diego
  • National Salute to Bob Hope & the Military
  • Old Town San Diego
  • Embarcadero
  • Birch Aquarium at Scripps in La Jolla
  • San Diego Air & Space Museum
  • Ocean Beach
  • San Diego Museum of Art

Balboa Park

Casa de Balboa, featuring the Museum of Photographic Arts, Model Railroad Museum and the San Diego History CenterCasa de Balboa, featuring the Museum of Photographic Arts, Model Railroad Museum and the San Diego History Center

The largest urban cultural park in the United States, Balboa Park includes a large concentration of cultural institutions. Its 1,200 lush acres are home to 15 museums, eight gardens, the San Diego Zoo, art galleries and renowned performing arts venues like the Old Globe theatre.

Originally built for the Panama-California Exposition of 1915-1916, the buildings along the Prado in Balboa Park and their Spanish-Colonial Revival architecture are considered attractions in themselves.

In addition, the Panama-California Exposition of 1935-1936 brought in architectural styles of the Aztecs, Southwest and Mexican pueblos to the park’s buildings.

Balboa Park in Southern California, home to the San Diego Zoo and the Balboa Park Railroad
Balboa Park in San Diego, home to the San Diego Zoo and the Balboa Park Railroad
The lush gardens at Balboa Park in San Diego
The lush gardens at Balboa Park in San Diego
Orchids flourish at Balboa Park in San Diego
Orchids flourish at Balboa Park in San Diego

San Diego Natural History Museum

The San Diego Natural History Museum, allows guests of every age to practice being paleontologists and explore San Diego’s fossil history. The museum also features a rotation of excellent, family friendly educational films.

The San Diego Natural History Museum
Historic archways at Balboa Park
Historic archways at Balboa Park
Studio 18 at Balboa Park
Studio 18 at Balboa Park

USS Midway Museum and Harbor Area

The USS Midway Museum pays tribute to the hundreds of thousands of men who served their country aboard the ship and highlights San Diego’s rich military history. The Midway, part of the Navy fleet for 47 years, was home to more than 200,000 sailors during the Vietnam and Persian Gulf Wars, as well as other conflicts and crises around the world.

Berthed at Navy Pier along San Diego Bay in downtown, highlights include flight simulator rides, story-telling docents (many of whom are Midway veterans), a self-guided tour with headphones and access to the ship’s mess desk, berthing spaces, flight deck and more.

 

San Diego is home to one of the world's most beautiful natural harbors, San Diego Bay. Bustling with activity day and night, it serves as the homeport for Navy ships, a large sportfishing fleet, thousands of pleasure craft and an increasing number of cruise ships.

Surrounding the Bay are 16 public parks, and their 250 bayfront acres and miles of landscaped promenades provide ideal vantage points to view the ever-changing seascape and gleaming San Diego skyline. Public art can also be seen everywhere, with popular displays ranging from sculptures and murals to mosaics and pottery works.

On deck at the USS Midway Museum, with the San Diego skyline in the background
On deck at the USS Midway Museum, with the San Diego skyline in the background
Walk ways and public areas along the San Diego waterfront, as seen from the USS Midway
Walk ways and public areas along the San Diego waterfront, as seen from the USS Midway
The famous "Unconditional Surrender" statue seen near the USS Midway (May, 2015)
The famous "Unconditional Surrender" statue seen near the USS Midway in San Diego
National Salute to Bob Hope & the Military ... sculpture series in San Diego, with the USS Midway in the background
National Salute to Bob Hope & the Military ... sculpture series in San Diego
Boats along the waterfront, San Diego harbor
Boats along the waterfront, San Diego harbor


Boat Tours of the San Diego Harbor

San Diego Harbor, one of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders, is part of San Diego Bay, a bustling waterway plied by ferryboats, cruise ships, sailboats, yachts, fishing vessels and the U.S. Navy’s armada of warships and aircraft carriers.

One of the best ways to see San Diego is from the waters of the Bay aboard a harbor tour, dinner cruise or wintertime whale-watching expedition. Families are amazed by the unique views of active U.S. Navy ships, water wildlife, San Diego's beautiful skyline and the magnificent San Diego-Coronado Bridge.

The "Adventure Hornblower" tour boat in the San Diego harbor
The Adventure Hornblower tour boat in the San Diego harbor
Fishing boats and pleasure boats docked in San Diego
Fishing boats and pleasure boats docked in San Diego
"Spirit of San Diego" touring the harbor
"Spirit of San Diego" touring the harbor

San Diego Beaches

The San Diego area is rich in bays, waterways and beaches, offering endless outdoor fun and activities.

Welcome to Mission Bay ParkWelcome to Mission Bay Park

Mission Bay, a 4,600-acre aquatic playground, is the largest facility of its kind in the world featuring separate, designated areas for sailing, power boating, fishing, swimming and water skiing.

Meandering around the beautiful bay's shorelines are 20 miles of paths for runners, bikers and in-line skaters. A favorite spot for families is Tecolote Shores, an open grassy park popular for flying colorful kites, playing Frisbee and having leisurely picnics.

Coronado Beach is an aquatic wonderland recognized annually by the Travel Channel as “the best family beach in North America” and “Best Beach in the United States” by Dr. Beach. A vast expanse of white sand greets families toting umbrellas, sand toys, beach towels and picnic coolers for an all-day stay. Recreational activities abound with paddleball, sandcastle building, kite flying and volleyball.

La Jolla Shores boasts a spacious beach that slopes gently into turquoise waves. One of the most family friendly beaches in San Diego County, the mile-long sandy shore is paralleled by a wide cement boardwalk that separates the beach from a large grassy park ideal for picnicking and volleyball games.


Mission Beach, San Diego, California
Mission Beach, San Diego, California

 

La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove is a world-famous dive site located in the La Jolla Ecological Preserve where marine life flourishes and guests are guaranteed to see an array of colorful crustaceans and fish throughout the year. An excellent place for adventure for divers of all skill levels, the Cove is used for both day and night diving.

La Jolla Cove is a world-famous dive site located in the La Jolla Ecological Preserve in southern California

Other Attractions and Points of Interest Around San Diego

Cabrillo National Monument

Tranquil and protected, the Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma is among the rarest habitats in the world. A diversity of plants and animals live freely on 160 acres sheltered by the Pacific Ocean on the west and San Diego Bay on the east. Here, visitors can enjoy beautiful coastal views and over 200 species of birds and marine plants. As winter approaches, guests can also catch glimpses of California Grey Whales as they migrate south toward Mexico for warm water breeding.

Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma

The Marina district is home to the Embarcadero, Seaport Village and the bayside San Diego Convention Center

Marina District

The Marina district is home to the Embarcadero, Seaport Village and the bayside San Diego Convention Center (left) with its unique architecture and sail-roofed pavilion.

Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum of San Diego in downtown San Diego along San Diego Bay offers one of the world's finest collections of historic ships, including the famous Star of India, the world's oldest active tall ship.
The Maritime Museum of San Diego

 

 

The ferry "Silvergate" docking at the landing at Coronado near Centennial Park
The ferry "Silvergate" docking at the landing at Coronado
Downtown San Diego seen from a waterfront restaurant on Coronado
Downtown San Diego seen from a waterfront restaurant on Coronado

The San Diego Air & Space Museum

San Diego Air and Space Museum

The San Diego Air & Space Museum, California's Official Air & Space Museum and a Smithsonian Affiliate, offers one-of-a-kind displays of historic aircraft and spacecraft.

One of the most popular destinations in San Diego ... the old Point Loma Lighthouse
One of the most popular destinations in San Diego ... the old Point Loma Lighthouse
The hills and houses of San Diego
The hills and houses of San Diego

Barrio Logan

Originally a refuge for Mexican residents fleeing the revolution in the early 20th century, Barrio Logan today is both the epicenter of San Diego’s Hispanic community and a welcoming neighborhood where young urbanites and artists are spurring a creative renaissance.
Shown below is the Logan Heights Branch of the San Diego Public Library.

Logan Heights Branch of the San Diego Public Library
Petco Park in downtown San Diego, California
Petco Park in downtown San Diego, California

SeaWorld San Diego

Located on Mission Bay, SeaWorld San Diego is a 189-acre park featuring six major shows, fascinating attractions and dozens of exhibits containing marine life from around the globe.

SeaWorld San Diego
La Jolla is home to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, an oceanographic museum with more than 3,000 fish on exhibit.
Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial
Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial

Old Town San Diego

Visitors can witness the living legacy of California’s birthplace at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, San Diego’s first “downtown.” Old Town marks the site of the first Spanish settlement on the U.S. West Coast. The six-block park features 12 acres of Mexican lore and historical sites presented in shops, restaurants, museums and several carefully preserved or restored adobe and wooden buildings.

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

 

Interactive Map of the San Diego Area



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For More Information about San Diego

San Diego.org Tourism Information

San Diego Zoo

Balboa Park

USS Midway Museum

San Diego International Airport

City of San Diego

San Diego Convention Center

Port of San Diego

Visit California: San Diego County

 

San Diego Travel Guides from TripAdvisor