See San Diego Like A Local: The Ultimate Travel Guide

With over 100 days of sunshine, San Diego is one of the most amazing cities to explore in the U.S. Famous for its pristine beaches, splendid weather, incredible craft brewery scene, and several opportunities for outdoorsy tourists. San Diego’s community is very active and full of friendly locals. The city is one of the best places to have a taste of some of the tastiest seafood and Mexican dishes.


Whether going on a weekend getaway or planning to stick around for a few weeks, there is always something unique to experience every day. Want to see San Diego like a local? Here is the ultimate travel guide.


What To Know Before Visiting San Diego

San Diego, United States
Photo by Lucas Davies on Unsplash

San Diego, United States

  • English is the main language, followed by Spanish because the city is closer to the Mexico border.
  • The U.S. Dollar ($) is the acceptable currency.
  • Travelers can use credit cards, including AMEX in many of the local stores and supermarkets, and ATMs are located in found in most places in the city.
  • With average temperatures ranging from 65 to 85 degrees, San Diego is an amazing destination year-round. Summer, from July to September represents the hottest months of the year.
  • San Diego Go Card gives vacationers access to almost 50 different attractions in the city. It is a perfect way to save some cash when planning to explore places like San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, and SeaWorld, among others.

Here’s How To Get Around San Diego

San Diego, California, United States
Photo by Lital Levy on Unsplash

San Diego, California, United States

The best way to get around San Diego is by renting a car. But before starting to drive around the city, one should know how traffic can be frustrating at times.

If planning to get to dinner, jumping in a car at around 4:00 pm would be a grave mistake unless one is okay using the train to get to the desired restaurant.

Public transportation via a bus or trolley is an option, but it’s not suitable for travelers moving on and off different places in San Diego. Public transportation is best if used for occasional trips, not as the main means to get around.

Travelers can use Uber/Lyft, especially if staying around Pacific or Mission Beach. Electronic scooters are a great option for exploring the city.

Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach, San Diego, CA, United States
Photo by Derek Story on Unsplash

Ocean Beach, San Diego, CA, United States

The ocean is one of the most popular neighborhoods and is ranked as one of the best areas to stay when visiting San Diego, for beach access. It boasts a hippie beach, popular with locals and tourists.

The water around this place is a bit rougher than most places in the city, making surfing a much more popular water activity than swimming. Ocean Beach is brimming with cafés, restaurants, shops, and several parks to explore.

Plus, there is a good number of hotels and resorts vacationers can choose from.

Related: 10 Most Scenic Places You Can Visit In San Diego

South Park & Golden Hill

Packed with fun adventures, innovative restaurants, breathtaking views, and a spectacular position, South Park & Golden Hill residential area is absolutely charming.

The neighborhood is one of the most walkable in the city, and public transportation is easier to use. Vacationers have easy access to the famous Balboa Park from the area as well.

Kensington

Kensington boasts a small-town charm, and while it’s one of the oldest neighborhoods, its peaceful vibe makes it among the top choices to consider when looking for a nice area to stay in, in San Diego.

There is an incredible selection of shopping, nightlife, and entertainment in this neighborhood. Some of the places to explore include Bench Home San Diego, Kensington Mini Park, Stehly Farms Market, and Clem’s Bottle House.

Pacific Beach & Mission Bay

San Diego, CA, USA
Photo by Sean Kuriyan on Unsplash

San Diego, CA, USA

There are a lot of vacationers can do in these neighborhoods, including relaxing by the beach and partying. The area’s renowned party scene is an attraction to many young adults and college students.

Boating, surfing, and paddleboarding are other fun activities tourists can enjoy in this neighborhood.

Where Can You Stay In San Diego? Best Hotels And Resorts

Fairmont Grand Del Mar (Luxury option)

Fairmont Grand Del Mar is located just 20 miles north of downtown San Diego. The hotel boasts four outdoor pools, six restaurants, a golf course, and a spa.

The rooms are stylish and are equipped with a flat-screen TV and private bathrooms. The dining options and wine lists are excellent.

San Diego, California, USA
Felix Wostman on Unsplash

San Diego, California, USA 

Best Western Yacht Harbor Hotel (Mid-Range Option)

Best Western Yacht Harbor Hotel’s waterfront location is one of its major draws. It also offers beautiful rooms with world-class amenities, including free internet, balconies, microwaves, and each feature a modern décor, giving them an incredibly elegant look.

California Dreams Hostel (Budget Option) – Pacific Beach

Located a few minutes’ stroll from the famous Pacific Beach, California Dreams Hostel offers comfortable rooms for accommodation with a shared lounge.

Guests will enjoy free Wi-Fi, parking, a terrace, and an ATM to use. There is a shared kitchen, and vacationers can choose to have a continental or buffet breakfast.

It is one of the best hostels to opt for if visiting San Diego on a budget.

Related: 10 Top-Rated Hotels To Book In San Diego

Where To Get The Best Food In San Diego

While San Diego’s location has earned it the ‘’America’s Finest City’’ title, it’s also made it one of the cities with the best food scenes, with plenty of options to choose from. Here are the top spots to find the best food:

  • Dockside 1953: Enjoy a delicious breakfast at this restaurant in Mission Bay. The outdoor patio is spacious and features cozy fire pits and incredible views of Mission Bay.
  • The Taco Stand: This is a great restaurant for lunch. Some of the items on the menu are fish tacos, salsas, and chips.
  • Oceana Coastal Kitchen: With an incredible beachfront dining experience and beautiful views of Mission Bay, Oceana Coastal Kitchen would be an incredible choice for dinner. Vacationers can choose between indoor and outdoor dining.

Top-Rated Attractions In San Diego

Balboa Park

kristen-colada-adams-XgKJr1Y5B-g-unsplash-1
Kristen Colada Adams on Unsplash 

Balboa Park, San Diego, California, USA 

Located in the heart of the city, Balboa Park is part of the famous San Diego Zoo and is packed with numerous things to see and do. Stretching 1,200 acres, this gorgeous urban park is beautiful year-round.

One can choose to explore its Spanish Village Art Center and experience an amazing carousel ride or the Japanese Friendship Garden and theater. Plus, there are 17 museums, including the Natural History Museum, Museum of the US, Automotive Museum, San Diego Art Institute, and more.

  • Recommended Tour: San Diego Balboa Park Highlights Small Group Tour with Coffee
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Cost: From $45 USD per adult

Book this tour

Related: Here’s Why It’s Worth Visiting Balboa Park In San Diego

Explore San Diego’s Beach Towns

San Diego is home to some of the most enchanting beach towns, including Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, Point Loma, and Ocean Beach. Each town boasts unique experiences, with beach bars, fantastic shopping opportunities, top-rated cafés, and restaurants.

Visit The Gaslamp Quarter

The Gaslamp Quarter is the place to experience San Diego’s vibrant nightlife scene at its most spectacular.

There is a wide range of activities tourists can do here after dark, including grabbing drinks in some of the hottest bars in the area, going bowling, and enjoying country music in some of the best venues in the city, including Moonshine Flats!

Old Town San Diego

Old Town San Diego is considered California’s birthplace, brimming with plenty of historic buildings and sites worthy of visiting. The first European settlement in the Old Town San Diego dates back to 1820, and Whaley House is one of the oldest buildings visitors can explore in the State Historic Park.Its architecture dates back to the Victorian era, its incredible food scene includes some of the tastiest Mexican cuisines, and historic buildings make it one of the best places to visit in the city.

San Diego Travel Can Be Done On A Budget

San Diego, California, USA
Zane Persaud on Unsplash

San Diego, California, USA

A trip to San Diego is affordable, and while some vacationers may still find it expensive, there are always ways to cut costs. The cost of a trip to this city will depend on the traveler’s budget, where they prefer staying, preferred attractions, how many people are on the trip, and the number of travel days.

Depending on individual travel expenses, an average of $161 per day should be enough to explore this amazing city.

  • The average cost of daily meals: $36
  • The average cost of transportation: $19
  • The average cost of accommodation: $106, $183 for a couple

So, a solo traveler should have at least $161 per day, and if they are staying for a week, $1,127. A couple should have at least $293 per day, $2,051 if they are staying for a week.

San Diego’s great weather makes it a perfect year-round travel destination. And with all the fun activities and top-rated attractions, it has to offer, visiting America’s Finest City is always worth it.

FAQ

Q: Is San Diego California worth visiting?

San Diego’s great weather makes it a perfect year-round travel destination. Famous for its pristine beaches, splendid weather, incredible craft brewery scene, and several opportunities for outdoorsy tourists, visiting America’s Finest City is always worth it.

Q: What is the most visited place in San Diego?

Balboa Park, which is part of the San Diego Zoo, is one of the most visited places in San Diego, thanks to its plethora of beautiful attractions. Stretching 1,200 acres, this gorgeous urban park is beautiful year-round.

One can choose to explore its Spanish Village Art Center and experience an amazing carousel ride or the Japanese Friendship Garden and theater.

Plus, there are 17 museums, including the Natural History Museum, Museum of the US, Automotive Museum, San Diego Art Institute, and more.

Q: How many days do you need in San Diego?

Three days are enough for the city’s top-rated attractions, such as the San Diego Zoo & Balboa Park, Old Town San Diego, and its charming beach towns, including Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, Point Loma, and Ocean Beach.

Q: Is it worth visiting Old Town San Diego?

Old Town San Diego is considered California’s birthplace, brimming with plenty of historic buildings and sites, worthy of visiting. The first European settlement in the Old Town San Diego dates back to 1820, and Whaley House is one of the oldest buildings visitors can explore in the State Historic Park.

Its architecture dates back to the Victorian era, its incredible food scene includes some of the tastiest Mexican cuisines plus kid-friendly eateries, and historic buildings make it one of the best places to visit in the city.

Q: Do I need a car in San Diego as a tourist?

While having a car isn’t mandatory, it is the best way to get around San Diego. But before starting to drive around the city, one should know how traffic can be frustrating at times. If planning to get to dinner, jumping in a car at around 4:00 pm would be a grave mistake unless one is okay using the train to get to the desired restaurant.

Public transportation via a bus or trolley is an option, but it’s not suitable for travelers moving on and off different places in San Diego. Public transportation is best if used for occasional trips, not as the main means to get around.