A Guide to Exploring San Diego, California

Palm trees at sunset

3min read

Published 18 January 2018


Known as the birthplace of California, San Diego may not be the Golden State’s most famous tourist destination, but it still remains a city bursting with fun, history and culture. With so much to offer, it’s not surprising that almost 35 million people visit San Diego every year to relish in its many delights. Here we look at how best to explore this underrated Californian gem:


What to do in San Diego

As a coastal city, San Diego is perhaps best known for its laid-back beachy vibes. In fact, its warm, dry summers and mild winters make it a perfect location for sun seekers and surfers alike, who can relish in the 60+ beaches in the area. We recommend Mission and Pacific Beaches, which boast soft sands, busy boardwalks and fantastic views, not to mention a confection of bars and restaurants.

Historically, San Diego has always had strong ties with the sea and is also a major destination for cruise ships, thanks to its close proximity to the Mexican Riviera and South Pacific. Along the coastline you’ll find the Maritime Museum – where one of the largest collections of historic sea vessels in the USA is held – and a range of whale-watching excursions. An unforgettable experience in the water here is kayaking with sea lions at picturesque La Jolla Cove.

And then there’s the San Diego Zoo – ideal for a family day out. One of the city’s most famous attractions, the zoo is home to 3,700 animals, including the largest colony of koalas outside of Australia, as well as giant pandas, polar bears, and komodo dragons. It sits within Balboa Park, where you’ll also find several museums and theatres, not to mention open-air spaces and gardens; we recommend setting up a lunchtime picnic here if you have time.

Where to stay in San Diego and how to get around

There are a few options on where to stay in San Diego, depending on what you want to do while you’re here. There are several hotels on the beachfront if the sea, surf and sand are your big draws, while ‘Hotel Circle’ is where most of the chain hotels are located for easy access to central attractions. Chat to a Flight Centre Travel Expert to find the best accommodation to suit you.

As for getting to and from the city’s landmarks, the San Diego Trolley light rail system and SDMTS buses are the best modes of transport. If you want to explore the country further we recommend hiring a car or, if you’re planning to keep your travel light, you can always opt to see the sights by bike or Segway.

Places to eat and drink in San Diego

San Diego’s diverse cultural history makes it an excellent destination for foodies, helped by its close proximity to the sea and acres of farmland, not to mention the Mexican border. Be sure to try out the hip Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy, Hillcrest and North Park. The city has also developed a reputation for craft beers, with many independent breweries and gastropubs popping up in recent years. It has built up such a following that more and more people are coming from around the world to sample these delicious brews on a tour – a great option for beer connoisseurs. Wine lovers need not worry either; San Diego has a thriving local grape-growing region, meaning you can visit boutique wineries and indulge in a friendly tasting tour.

When to go to San Diego

The sun shines most of the year in San Diego – even in the winter months. Be sure to bring an umbrella and a rain mac if visiting January-March, while April-September provides the perfect beach weather. Temperatures begin to cool off a bit in October, but the weather is still good and there are some fun events and festivals that take place through the autumn. In particular San Diego Beer Week (Nov) and the Festival of Beer (Sep).

Ready to explore San Diego? Chat to our Travel Experts about planning your California holiday today!


Flight Centre

© Flight Centre (UK) Limited, Registered in England No. 02937210.

* 0800 calls are free for landlines and mobiles. 0333 calls are included within inclusive minutes package on mobiles, otherwise standard rates apply. 0844/0845 calls are 7p/pm plus your local carrier charge. Prices are per person twin share, correct as at the date of publication, subject to change and may be higher/unavailable for certain dates. Airfares are economy on specified airlines from London, unless otherwise stated. For full booking conditions visit Booking Conditions. Some of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. We will provide you with information on the protection that applies in the case of each holiday and travel service offered before you make your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but not all the parts of your trip are listed on it, those parts not listed will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.caa.co.uk.