San Diego is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the United States. With white sand beaches, rocky coasts, palm trees abound, and a bright skyline, there is much to love about the city. In addition to stunning scenery and perfect sunny and arid weather, San Diego also offers a diverse selection of activities and attractions for visitors.
Whether you are an avid outdoorsman, an epicurean, a beer snob, or simply looking for a fun family vacation, there is something for you. A few favorites include:
Beaches are free in San Diego, and they can provide hours of free and beautiful fun. La Jolla Shores is a favorite beach and it’s pretty easy to spend the day playing beach volleyball or Frisbee, enjoying body boarding or surfing, or simply laying on the beach. Many beaches, such as La Jolla Cove, have equipment on the beach available to rent or outfitters close by where you can rent surfboards, sea kayaks, paddle boards, and other ocean sport equipment for a nominal cost.
The rocky coast of San Diego also makes certain areas great for viewing wildlife. Cabrillo National Monument Park provides visitors with hours of free exploring through the area’s tide pools, caves, and cliffs. Starfish, sea urchins, anemones, and other ocean dwellers can usually be found in the park’s tide pools, and seals, sea lions, dolphins, and sometimes even whales can be viewed from the rocky shore. Torres Pines State Natural Reserve and Torres Pines State Beach are also a little less touristy and offer opportunities to see wildlife and enjoy the area’s diverse natural resources.
Just outside of San Diego is one of the best craft brewers in the country, Stone Brewing Company. At their brewery, you can go on a tour, enjoy excellent food on their beautiful and expansive patio, and beers from Stone and other craft brewers. But Stone isn’t the only brewery worth a visit. Mission Brewery, Green Flash, Coronado Brewery Company, and countless others are scattered throughout San Diego and all offer a great beer selection and unique atmospheres.
Although you can choose to take a San Diego beer tour, they can be a little high priced. To make your beer fun more affordable, rent transportation and visit an area with a high concentration of breweries. This way you can stop in and have a flight of beers at each brewery you are interested in.
Whether you are in to art, animals, history, or shopping, there is an attraction, or a few, for you in San Diego. An internet search is highly recommended as the list of things to do is large; however, a few of the most popular attractions include:
San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo is one of the best in the world, and it is definitely worth the admission price. The zoo features animals from all over the world, many of which aren’t viewable elsewhere, and hosts numerous educational exhibits, shows, and performances. If you choose to go, get there early as the park literally takes a full day to see it all.
Scripps Burch Aquarium and Museum
The Scripps Burch Aquarium isn’t the biggest in the world but it offers stunning views, tide pools, educational shows and exhibits, and it’s relatively cheap. Admission for adults is only $17, and there are plenty of sea creatures to see. The animals in the aquarium are those that can be found in the region, and everyone has a chance to pet starfish and sea cucumbers in the tide pools. The aquarium also boasts spectacular views of the coast.
A modern home of naval aviation history, Coronado Island offers museums and education, as well as world-class dining and shopping. The resort on the island is pricey, but for those who can afford it, Hotel Coronado is well worth the stay.
Tips for Your Stay
There is definitely a lot to do and see in San Diego and it can quickly add up and break the bank if you aren’t careful. A few ways to keep your stay budget friendly include:
There are plenty of hotels throughout San Diego and they range from luxurious to roadside dive. However, even the rougher looking hotels can be expensive and they don’t always offer worthwhile amenities. Great places to look for cheap and comfortable places to stay include:
Timeshares are a great way to book luxury accommodations without paying hundreds of dollars a night. Welk Timeshares is just north of San Diego and offers a more exclusive getaway option for visitors. Those staying can enjoy golf, swimming, tennis, the spa, or the beach without leaving the resort’s acreage. If you are interested in experiencing a more inclusive stay, staying at a timeshare such as those provided by Welk can save a lot of money as you have all your activities included in your stay.
For a Welk Timeshare review, visit the resort’s Facebook page. Other timeshares throughout the area may also offer different amenities or may be in locations that are more suitable to the intentions of your vacation.
AirBnB allows people to turn their homes into hotels. Users can cruise through the site, find a place that suits their needs and budget, and book through the owner much like they would a hotel or booking site. Accommodations available range from one bedroom to an entire house and range dramatically in location and price.
If you are truly looking for a way to stay for free and aren’t too worried about the quality of your accommodations, consider Couchsurfing. The site allows you to stay for free with locals which can be a great way to get insider knowledge of the area, but user-beware. Although Couchsurfing usually offers convenient housing, you never quite know what you are going to get. You can find yourself sleeping on a couch, a sofa, a blow-up mattress, or even a spare bed.
San Diego does have public transportation, but it isn’t necessarily the best. To make sure that you are able to get where you want when you want without breaking the bank, consider trying the following:
Check to see if your hotel has a free shuttle. Most major hotels in San Diego offer shuttles to the bigger attractions in the city. Prior to booking, as your hotel if they have this service. If they don’t, it may be more worthwhile to spend a little more to stay elsewhere if it means that you aren’t spending $50 a day on cab fares.
Rent a Zip Car. In San Diego, there is no need to spend a couple hundred dollars to have a car all week via traditional renting. Over the last few years, Zip cars have worked hard to build their infrastructure throughout the city making it easy to pick up a Zip car, use it for the few hours needed, and conveniently drop it off when you’re done. It’s easy. It’s cheap. And you get to be on your time.
Look up Uber or Lyft. Uber and Lyft are both in San Diego, and are great ways to get to where you need to go cheaply and with a local as your guide. Most drivers are more than willing to give you tips on places to visit and eat while in the city which gives this form of transportation an additional perk.
Rent a bike or scooter. San Diego is known world-wide for its perfect weather. If you don’t intend to go too far from where you are staying but are interested in checking out a few local areas, rent a bike or scooter. There’s a bikeable boardwalk from Mission Beach to La Jolla that makes it easy to enjoy different beaches, shops, and restaurants, and most of the city is accessible via scooter. The area is also very sensitive to bikers so you can feel pretty safe while using this green way to commute.
Buy Attraction Tickets Beforehand
If you buy tickets for attractions at the door, you will almost always pay full price unless you have a military, senior, or student ID available. To ensure that you are not paying full price for admission, which can be high depending on the park, buy your tickets online and before you go. Buying online usually saves you about $10 for major park admission, but can save you upwards of 50 percent off admission price. Groupon and Living Social are also great places to find deals on attractions throughout the city.
If you know that you will be seeing several attractions throughout the city, look into getting a multi-attraction pass. These passes can be purchased online and can save you over 50 percent on your admission fees. Even better is that most companies selling the passes allow you to build your own passes. Participating attractions include LEGOLAND, San Diego Zoo, Scripps Birch Aquarium, whalewatching cruises, and many more.
San Diego is a beautiful city with plenty of diverse activities for anyone. If you want luxury, you can find it. If you want to experience luxury without paying for it, you can find it too. Enjoying the finer side of the city doesn’t require you to break the bank. You simply have to know how to look for discounts and avoid the extras that don’t need to cost so much extra.