San Diego has very versatile neighborhoods, each with its own charm. This lively coastal city boasts some of the best views of the Pacific Ocean. You can walk on the oceanfront boardwalks or engage in beach activities. Other districts offer rich nightlife and cultural hot spots.  But what’s the best area for you? Don’t worry – we’ll highlight all the things to do so you can figure out the best area to stay in San Diego!

1. Mission Bay

As one of San Diego’s most popular outdoor destinations, Mission Bay is the ideal area for family vacations. It is known for its sandy beaches, parks, and water sports activities. Mission Bay Park is, in fact, the largest man-made aquatic park in the country. From sailing lessons and cycling to jet skiing, there’s something fun for everyone. Kids also love Mission Bay because it’s home to the popular SeaWorld San Diego. For a day of swimming and picnicking, check out the Bonita Cove Area. If you want an active and memorable vacation, Mission Bay will definitely not disappoint you.

Best Things To Do In Mission Bay

  • SeaWorld San DiegoSeaWorld is a marine theme park located inside Mission Bay Park. They have thrilling roller coasters like Tidal Twister. For kids, Tentacle Twirl and Octarock are popular. There are also popular orca and dolphin shows, plus an oceanarium and an outdoor aquarium.
  • Fiesta IslandFiesta Island is a large park on Mission Bay, popular with walkers, runners, and cyclists. The island’s Enchanted Cove is a great area for water sports. This includes kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding. The other side of the island is popular for motorsports, like jet and water skiing.
  • Cruises & Water ActivitiesMission Bay is the ideal destination for cruises and water activities. There are whale-watching cruises and sunset cocktails tours. For a fun-filled day on the water, try kayaking, jet skiing, and paddle boarding.

Best Hotels In Mission Bay

Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina

  • The Dana on Mission Bay [For Families] – Featuring large rooms with private balconies, this hotel is great for families. The hotel houses a waterfront restaurant and outdoor pools. It’s also the closest hotel to SeaWorld San Diego. (Official site)
  • Paradise Point Resort & Spa [For Couples] – Paradise Point Resort & Spa is located on a private island in beautiful tropical surroundings. It features stylish rooms with lanais, a romantic Tidal restaurants, and world-class spa services. (Official site)
  • Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina [Watersports] – With a marina onsite, this is the best place to stay if you enjoy water activities. Most rooms will have water views. There’s also a pool and waterslides onsite. (Official site)

Read our guide 6 Best Mission Bay Hotels in San Diego.

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2. Gaslamp Quarter

This downtown San Diego neighborhood is known for its lively nightlife, so there is a younger crowd. It’s a historic district full of versatile restaurants, trendy boutiques, and charming Victorian-era buildings. The Gaslamp Promenade is essentially a center of social gatherings and entertainment in San Diego. It’s also a place where arts and culture flourish. From small art galleries to theatres like the historic Balboa Theatre, you’ll have plenty to explore. At night, Gaslamp Quarter transforms into a cosmopolitan hub of live music, fine dining, and dancing. There’s no doubt – Gaslamp Quarter is one of the most vibrant places to hang out.

Best Things To Do In Gaslamp Quarter

  • Balboa TheatreBalboa Theater is a historic vaudeville and movie theater in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. It was refurbished and reopened as a performing arts venue in 2008. It hosts a variety of special events, including The Mainly Mozart Festival and touring companies of Broadway shows.
  • Petco Park – Petco Park is a baseball stadium in downtown San Diego, home of Major League Baseball’s San Diego Padres. It’s also used as a venue for concerts and other live sports.
  • New Children’s MuseumThe New Children’s Museum is an art-based children’s museum in downtown San Diego. It encourages children to think, play, and learn using a variety of art-making activities. It offers a comfortable and engaging space for the whole family, including a café and outdoor park.
  • Dining – There are plenty of dining choices including steakhouses, cafes, and bars. A local favorite is La Puerta, famous for street tacos paired with freshly squeezed margaritas or blue agave tequilas. If you like sweets, stop by Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop.
  • NightClubs – If you’re looking for a great night out in San Diego, look no further than The Onyx Room. Located in the Gaslamp Quarter, they offer the perfect combination of world-class DJs and bottle service. With its lively atmosphere, state-of-the-art sound, and vibrant energy, it’s the ideal spot for a night out in San Diego.

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Best Gaslamp Quarter Hotels

Pendry San Diego

  • Andaz San Diego [For Groups] – Andaz San Diego features modern and spacious family rooms. The hotel has a rooftop restaurant serving American cuisine and a swimming pool with panoramic city views. (Official site)
  • Pendry San Diego [For Couples] – Pendry San Diego offers lush rooms with a hot tub ideal for two people. It also has a rooftop swimming pool settled next to a contemporary open-air lounge. (Official site)
  • Staypineapple, Hotel Z [Best Value]Staypineapple, Hotel Z is an award-winning hotel in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. It’s within walking distance of Petco Park as well as some of the area’s best bars and restaurants. They have cozy rooms with simple decor and a homely feel.  (Official site)
  • Gaslamp Hostel [Budget]This is one of the most affordable places to stay in Gaslamp Quarter. You can choose from 6-bed dormitories or private rooms, all with shared bathrooms. There’s a continental breakfast, plus the area’s restaurants, shops, and breweries are easily accessible. (Official site)

Read our guide 9 Best Gaslamp Quarter Hotels in Downtown San Diego

Gaslamp Quarter Hotels Map

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3. Little Italy

Little Italy is a charming, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood famous for its patio cafés, restaurants, and pubs. The central gathering spot is Piazza della Famiglia, a European-style public square. It’s steps away from the Little Italy Food Hall, a hip social dining concept with six unique food stations. However, Little Italy Mercato reflects the true spirit of this dynamic district. They have a farmers market open every Saturday, and it offers local products, gourmet goods, crafts, and ready-made foods. There are also over a dozen art galleries nearby. Little Italy is one of the most popular San Diego tourist attractions for a good reason!

Best Things To Do In Little Italy

  • Little Italy Mercato Farmer’s MarketLittle Italy Mercato is one of San Diego’s premiere farmer’s markets, open every Saturday from 9am to 1:30pm. With over 70 booths, they feature fresh produce, artisan foods, and specialty items. There are also prepared foods, dry goods, gift items, and craft creations.
  • Little Italy Food Hall – Located on Little Italy’s Plaza della Famiglia, Little Italy Food Hall offers a unique dining concept in San Diego. This popular gathering spot, features eight local food stations, a donut cart, and a full bar area. There’s also a mobile chef’s area for special events and pop-up cooking demonstrations.
  • India Street – India Street is the main street in San Diego’s Little Italy district. The street is packed with historic plazas, shops, art galleries, and several restaurants with outdoor dining areas. It’s so close together, that everything you need from food to shopping is all within walking distance.
  • Waterfront Park – Waterfront Park is an open space park close to Little Italy and across from San Diego Bay. There are large grassy areas for outdoor play and picnics. The gardens and interactive water features adds to the lovely surroundings. During the year, it hosts a variety of events like movies, dances, fireworks, and a Halloween pumpkin patch.

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Best Little Italy Hotels

Junior King Suite at Carte Hotel San Diego Downtown

  • Homewood Suites by Hilton [For Families] This family-friendly hotel provides modern suites with a spacious living area and a full kitchen. It also offers a free daily breakfast, an onsite restaurant, and a swimming pool. (Official site)
  • Carte Hotel San Diego Downtown [For Couples] Stay in a luxurious King room with floor-to-ceiling windows boasting city views. The hotel features a restaurant and a spacious outdoor area with a terrace and a swimming pool. (Official site)
  • La Pensione Hotel [Location]La Pensione is a charming boutique hotel in the center of Little Italy. The hotel features European-style rooms, a spa, plus Mr. Moto pizzeria and Caffe Italia coffeehouse. Because of its central location, Little Italy’s restaurants, sidewalk cafes, and shops are easily accessible. (Official site)
  • International Travelers House Adventure Hostel [Budget]This is a California-style hostel in San Diego’s Little Italy. They offer private rooms for extra space, or dormitory beds for those on a budget. You can enjoy a daily breakfast and guided activities, like surfing, snorkeling, and nightlife tours. (Official site)

Read our guide Best Little Italy Hotels in Downtown San Diego.

Little Italy Hotels Map

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4. La Jolla

La Jolla is best for travellers who love beach life and want views of the ocean. La Jolla Shores is a long, sandy beach perfect for swimming and surfing. If you keep walking north, you’ll come across the scenic Scripps Pier, one of the world’s largest working piers and a popular photo spot. La Jolla Cove is also a beautiful place popular for quaint beach houses and marine wildlife. After a day of exploring, you’ll find a variety of restaurants and bars at the friendly La Jolla Village. La Jolla is also home to many educational institutions such as the University of California and The Salk Institute.

Best Things To Do In La Jolla

  • Birch Aquarium at ScrippsBirch Aquarium is the outreach center for Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Their collection of creatures includes sea turtles, a giant octopus, and sea dragons. They also offer tidepool tours, pier walks, and a snorkeling adventure with sharks.
  • La Jolla Beaches – La Jolla is known for its rugged coastline and charming beaches. Particularly La Jolla Shores, a popular spot for swimming and surfing. While La Jolla Cove’s sea caves are a favorite for kayakers and divers. Later at night, head back to La Jolla Shores, where the beach comes alive with the glow of beach fires.
  • La Jolla Tide Pools – The La Jolla Tide Pools are located between Wipeout and Hospital Beaches, just off Coast Boulevard. Due to the changing tides, they never look the same. You’ll see an ever-changing variety of sea life, including crabs, urchins, anemones, and small octopuses.
  • Sunny Jim’s Sea CaveSunny Jims Sea Cave is one of many unique things to do on a trip to La Jolla. This fun attraction features a man-made tunnel that leads to a sea cave below. It’s the area’s only cave accessible by land and features a stunning view of the surrounding ocean.

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Best La Jolla Hotels

Family suites at Pantai Inn

  • Pantai Inn [For Families] This charming boutique hotel provides Balinese-inspired rooms with kitchens and fireplaces. Rooms also feature balconies with pristine ocean views. (Official site)
  • The Lodge at Torrey Pines [For Couples] This unique hotel is steps away from the Torrey Pines State Reserve and features a spa and a swimming pool. Couples will love the cozy rooms featuring a fireplace and a private terrace or balcony with a view. (Official site)
  • Grande Colonial La Jolla [Location]Grande Colonial is an intimate boutique hotel in the coastal village of La Jolla. They offer spacious European-style rooms and a large outdoor pool. You’ll enjoy breathtaking ocean views, and award-winning cuisine at the hotel’s NINE-TEN restaurant. (Official site)
  • Inn by the Sea, La Jolla [Best Value]Located three blocks from the ocean, La Jolla’s Inn by the Sea is a well-known honeymoon destination. They offer comfortable rooms, and the in-room delivery of breakfast in bed is a special touch. Just a 10-minute walk away, you’ll find the most beautiful beaches and scenic ocean views. (Official site)

Read our guide Best Luxury La Jolla Hotels in San Diego.

La Jolla Hotels Map

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5. Mission Valley

Settled in the heart of San Diego, Mission Valley is a district with shopping malls and chain restaurants. It’s in a convenient location close to all the local attractions and hot spots. The district is also home to the Hotel Circle so there are plenty of accommodation options in the area. A number of hotels have nice views of the San Diego River running through Mission Valley. Being a family-friendly location, this makes a good base if you’re planning to visit Balboa Park. There are nice nature walks and museums, but the kids will love the San Diego Zoo. At the end of the day, you can go shopping and dine at Fashion Valley.

Best Things To Do In Mission Valley

  • Fashion ValleyFashion Valley is a large upscale shopping mall in San Diego’s Mission Valley. It’s the largest mall in San Diego and features chain department stores, a movie theatre, and several casual dining options.
  • Balboa ParkSan Diego’s Balboa Park is the largest urban park in the United States. One of the city’s top attractions, it’s home to museums, gardens, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Visitors can enjoy Japanese tea at the tea pavilion, or take in a play at Old Globe Theater.
  • San Diego ZooSan Diego Zoo is one of the world’s best zoos and is a must-see attraction in San Diego. Set in the city’s Balboa Park, it’s home to over 3700 rare and endangered animals. Its beautifully landscaped enclosures are designed to replicate each animal’s natural habitat. 

Best Mission Valley Hotels

Inn at the Park

  • Homewood Suites by Hilton San Diego [For Families] Located in the Hotel Circle, this modern hotel offers spacious studio suites with a full kitchen. The hotel also has a swimming pool, a hot tub, and a children’s wading pool. (Official site)
  • SpringHill Suites by Marriott San Diego Mission Valley [For Couples] This Mission Valley hotel offers studio rooms ideal for two people. The hotel also features a swimming pool and a nice terrace with fire pits. (Official site)
  • Inn at the Park [Near Balboa Park]Inn at the Park is a historic boutique resort located on the edge of Balboa Park. They offer resort-style one, two, and three-bedroom suites. They all have spacious living areas and kitchenettes. Several popular attractions are within walking distance too, including San Diego Zoo and the Old Globe Theater. (Official site)
  • Legacy Resort Hotel & Spa [Luxury]Located in Mission Valley, The Legacy Resort & Spa is ideal for family holidays or romantic getaways. They offer spacious rooms, a luxurious spa, an outdoor pool, and delicious dining. Fashion Valley Mall is just around the corner, while other attractions are a short drive away. (Official site)

Read our guide Best Hotel Circle Hotels in Mission Valley, San Diego.

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6. Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach is a San Diego neighborhood best for versatile beach activities. You’ll see many surfers, fishermen, and people just lying on the beach. During summer, the Ocean Walk can get pretty crowded. The boardwalk is full of restaurants, local shops, and lively bars. For families, North Pacific Beach is the best place to sunbathe and relax. Don’t miss the sunset at the Crystal Pier. You can even spot a whale there, with a little bit of luck.

Best Things To Do In Pacific Beach

  • Oceanfront Boardwalk – Oceanfront Boardwalk is a 3.5-mile beachfront boardwalk linking the communities of Pacific and Mission Beaches. Popular with tourists, it offers access to beaches, shops, and restaurants along its route. You can easily spend the whole day by the beach, walking, dining, and enjoying the views.
  • Beaches – The two most popular activities at Pacific Beach beaches are swimming and surfing. Tourmaline Surfing Park is a surfing-only beach also popular with windsurfers and kiteboarders. Law Street Beach is a quiet beach ideal for swimmers, while Pacific Beach is a popular swimming and surfing spot.
  • Water Activities – Visitors to Pacific Beach can enjoy a range of thrilling water activities. Surfing is a popular choice, or for a more laid-back experience, there’s paddleboarding. Kayak tours are a great way to explore the coastline too. Discover hidden coves and encounter local marine life.
  • Crystal PierThis historic pier is the ideal spot to take in the views or enjoy a Pacific Beach sunset. The Crystal Pier Hotel features updated 1930s-era cottages, ranging from studios to two-bedroom suites. Each cottage comes with a private deck overlooking the beach and a kitchenette.

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Best Pacific Beach Hotels

Ocean Park Inn

  • Pacific Terrace Hotel [For Families] Most of the rooms in this beachfront hotel are ideal for 4 people. They feature a private balcony and are just a few steps away from the hotel’s swimming pool. (Official site)
  • Tower 23 Hotel [For Couples] This beachfront hotel offers rooms featuring a hot tub and a balcony with glass doors. The hotel houses a seafood restaurant and a romantic terrace with ocean views. (Official site)
  • Ocean Park Inn [Best Value] – Ocean Park Inn is an oceanfront hotel steps from Pacific Beach Boardwalk. Every room is a suite, with kitchenettes, and a private patio or balcony with an ocean or pool view. They also have an outdoor pool and hot tub onsite. (Official site)

Read our guide Best Beachfront Hotels in Pacific Beach, San Diego.

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7. Mission Beach

Mission Beach is known for its oceanfront boardwalk and laid-back vibes. It’s a popular spot for water sports, volleyball, and simply relaxing on the beach. On Mission Boulevard, you’ll find plenty of casual cafes and eateries. However, most people come here to visit Belmont Park. It’s an old-fashioned amusement park featuring the iconic Giant Dipper Roller Coaster. SeaWorld is also just a 5-minute drive from Mission Beach so set aside at least one day for this fun theme park. With the beach, water activities, and fun places to visit, Mission Beach is best for families with kids.

Best Things To Do In Mission Beach

  • Belmont Park Belmont Park features boardwalk-style rides, amusements, and a restaurant – all on the beachfront! Take a ride on the Giant Dipper rollercoaster, or enjoy the midway games and mini golf. If you get the San Diego Go City Explorer Pass, you’ll receive discounted admission.
  • Mission Beach Boardwalk – This is a scenic 2.3-mile boardwalk that runs along Mission Beach. It’s a busy area, lined with cool shops, bars, and restaurants. There’s also Belmont Park amusement park, a rock-climbing wall, and a laser tag area.
  • Water Activities – At Mission Beach, they offer a variety of water activities and fun ways to enjoy the ocean. It’s a popular spot for surfing, paddleboarding, sailing, or jet skiing. There are also charter boat or cruise tours on Mission Bay.

Best Mission Beach Hotels

The Wayfarer San Diego

  • Vacation Homes [For Families] Most of the places to stay in Mission Beach are vacation homes. They’re a great option for families as they usually feature kitchens and private outdoor areas.
  • The Wayfarer San Diego [For Couples] With an oceanfront pool and sweeping views, this hotel is a perfect spot for a romantic getaway. Ocean front rooms feature a balcony with glass doors so you’ll have an unobstructed view of the ocean. (Official site)
  • Bahia Resort Hotel [Location]Bahia Resort Hotel is a family-friendly accommodation overlooking Mission Bay. The hotel offers a secluded beach, an outdoor swimming pool, and a huge hot tub for guests. It’s conveniently located close to SeaWorld and Mission Bay Park. (Official site)
  • ITH Mission Beach Backpacker Hostel [Budget]Located in Mission Beach, ITH Backpacker Hostel has spaces for all types of travelers. Guests can book a private room for extra space, or save money with a dormitory bed. There’s evening entertainment, a shared kitchen, and they’re steps away from Mission Beach. (Official site)

Mission Beach Hotels Map

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8. Coronado Island

Coronado is a beautiful bay island with a historic town, ideal for couples, families, and groups of friends. It’s conveniently located just a bridge across from downtown San Diego. Coronado Island is recognizable by its pristine beaches with endless recreational activities. It boasts great views of the San Diego skyline, especially from Centennial Park. The island’s little town is full of quaint shops, restaurants, old mansions, and gardens. For more cultural activities, Orange Avenue is home to the Coronado Historical Association and many galleries. And if you’re a fan of Wizard of Oz, you’ll love to see the book’s author Frank Baum’s house.

Best Things To Do In Coronado Island

  • Coronado Beach – Coronado Beach is the only white sand beach in San Diego, and is popular with both tourists and locals. Because of its calm waters, it’s the go-to spot for swimming in San Diego. For couples, it’s a great spot for long strolls along the ocean’s edge.
  • Coronado Ferry LandingCoronado Ferry Landing is an upscale shopping village along San Diego Bay in Coronado. They offer over 25 unique shops, plus fine and casual dining restaurants. A number of venues will have amazing views of downtown San Diego. If you want to spend some time exploring Coronado, they offer bicycle, kayak, and paddleboard rentals.
  • Dining – In Coronado, you’ll find some of the best restaurants in San Diego. The Henry is San Diego’s best neighborhood restaurant, while Miguel’s Cocina, serves Mexican food with a San Diego twist. Set on Glorietta Bay, Bluewater Boathouse Seafood Grill offers fresh grilled seafood and the best water views.

Best Coronado Island Hotels

Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton

  • Loews Coronado Bay Resort [For Families] This luxurious family-friendly hotel features a marina and 3 swimming pools. It boasts on-site dining and spa services, as well as a tennis court. (Official site)
  • 1906 Lodge [For Couples] Located just a short walk from Coronado Beach, this historic B&B offers romantic rooms with fireplaces. Spa Suites also feature a soaking tub. (Official site)
  • Hotel Marisol Coronado [Boutique]Hotel Marisol is a historic Coronado boutique hotel, just 5-minutes away from Coronado Beach. With just 15 rooms and a secluded private courtyard, this intimate retreat is ideal for couples. You’ll be steps away from shops, restaurants, and entertainment. (Official site)
  • Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton [Luxury]Hotel del Coronado is a luxurious oceanfront resort on Coronado Island. With its beachfront location, it’s close to many area attractions and a variety of water sports. At Del Beach, you’ll have access to all-day reserved beach seating and exclusive bar-to-beach beverage service. (official site)

Read our guide Best Coronado Island Hotels in San Diego.

Coronado Island Hotels Map

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9. Point Loma

Point Loma offers spectacular ocean views and a rich history. It’s a place “where California began” – a landing place of the first European expedition in present-day California. Located on the tip of Point Loma, Cabrillo National Monument is a tribute to the expedition. The whole coastline boasts incredible views, especially from Sunset Cliffson on the west. On the other side, there are lovely areas to explore like Shelter Island and Sun Harbor Marina. And if you’re in need of some culture, Arts District Liberty Station is lined with galleries, shops, and restaurants. With so many hidden gems, Point Loma is best explored on a bike or a casual stroll.

  • Cabrillo National Monument Cabrillo National Monument is located on the southern tip of Point Loma Peninsula in San Diego. Its rocky intertidal area, known as the tidepools, is one of the area’s most visited spots. The Coastal Trail is popular with hikers, and the Old Point Loma Lighthouse is a favorite photo spot for visitors.
  • Sunset Cliffs Natural ParkSunset Cliffs is a regional park along the Pacific Ocean on the western edge of Point Loma. You’ll see lovely cliff formations and caves. Plus, the panoramic ocean views make it a popular destination. For whale watchers, Sunset Cliffs offers the best views of migrating whales from Baja California to the Bering Sea.
  • Liberty Public MarketLiberty Public Market is San Diego’s first 7-day public market in Point Loma’s historic Liberty Square. Offerings include prepared foods, local produce, fresh seafood, homemade pasta, and pastries. They also host special pop-up dinners, test kitchens, and creations by local artisans.
  • Shelter Island – Shelter Island is a neighborhood in Point Loma connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land. It features miles of beautiful beaches, plus hotels, restaurants, and marinas. There are plenty of outdoor activities as well. This includes campsites, hiking trails, and year-round special events.

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Best Point Loma Hotels

Kona Kai Resort & Spa, a Noble House Resort

  • Kona Kai Resort & Spa, a Noble House Resort [For Families] Located on Shelter Island next to Point Loma, this resort offers a private beach, an outdoor pool, and a waterfront restaurant. Most suites are perfect for 4 people and they feature a balcony with bay views. (Official site)
  • Humphreys Half Moon Inn [For Couples] This hotel houses a famous open-air concert venue, a coastal restaurant, and a tropical outdoor pool. Spacious rooms boast romantic views and private balconies or patios. (Official site)
  • The Inn at Sunset Cliffs [For Views]This is one of the best-located hotels in Point Loma, sitting directly on the Pacific Ocean. Past guests have always praised the 180-degree ocean views from the terrace. The Sunset Cliffs Coastal Trail is nearby, one of the best ways to enjoy the coastal scenery. (Official site)
  • California Dreams Hostel – Ocean Beach [Budget]California Dreams Hostel in Ocean Beach offers the most affordable room in Point Loma. They have dorm rooms for those on a budget and two-person rooms for a little extra privacy. Everything you need is under one roof, including a pool, hot tub, kitchen, lounge, and evening entertainment. (official site)

Read our guide Best Point Loma Hotels in San Diego.

Point Loma Hotels Map

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Best Area To Stay In San Diego Near The Beach

When it comes to staying near the beach in San Diego, there are several fantastic areas to consider. Here are some of the best areas to stay in San Diego that are close to the beach:

  • La Jolla – Located north of downtown San Diego, you’ll find beautiful coastal scenery and upscale dining here. La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores are popular beach areas in this neighborhood.
  • Pacific Beach – Known for its vibrant nightlife, Pacific Beach (often referred to as “PB”) is a popular choice for young travelers. There’s a lively beach scene, bars, restaurants, and plenty of water sports.
  • Mission Beach – Adjacent to Pacific Beach, Mission Beach is another great option for beach lovers. It features a lively boardwalk, Belmont Park amusement park, and a wide sandy beach. Mission Beach is popular among families and vacationers looking for a fun-filled beach experience.
  • Coronado Island – Located just across the bay from downtown San Diego, Coronado Island is known for its pristine beaches. You’ll also find the iconic Hotel del Coronado. The island offers a relaxed atmosphere, charming village streets, and stunning ocean views.
  • Del Mar – Situated north of La Jolla, Del Mar is a picturesque coastal community. It is known for its beautiful beaches, upscale resorts, and the Del Mar Fairgrounds. It also hosts the famous Del Mar Thoroughbred Club horse racing track during the summer months.

Best Area To Stay In San Diego Without A Car

If you’re planning to stay in San Diego without a car, it’s best to choose an area with easy access to public transport. Ideally, restaurants and main attractions are within walking distance. Here are a few areas that are well-suited for car-free travelers:

  • Downtown San Diego – Staying in the heart of the city provides excellent access to public transportation. This includes the San Diego Trolley, buses, and rideshare services. Downtown offers a wide range of hotels, restaurants, shops, and entertainment options. You’ll also be within walking distance of the Gaslamp Quarter, Seaport Village, and the USS Midway Museum.
  • Little Italy – Known for its excellent dining scene, boutique shops, and weekly farmers market. The neighborhood is easily walkable. The County Center/Little Italy Trolley Station provides access to other parts of the city.
  • Hillcrest – Hillcrest is a lively neighborhood known for its diverse community, trendy shops, and restaurants. It offers a good selection of hotels and is well-connected to downtown via public transportation. The Hillcrest Pride Flag and Balboa Park are notable attractions in the area.
  • Old Town – If you’re interested in San Diego’s history, Old Town is a charming neighborhood to explore. It features preserved historic buildings, museums, and Mexican cuisine. The Old Town Transit Center provides access to the trolley, buses, and trains. You can easily travel to other parts of the city from here.
  • Mission Valley – This area is well-served by public transportation. It’s home to several shopping centers, including Fashion Valley Mall, and provides easy access to San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park.

Best Area To Stay In San Diego For Nightlife

If you’re looking for vibrant nightlife options in San Diego, here are some of the best areas to consider:

  • Gaslamp Quarter – This area is renowned for its lively nightlife scene. It offers an array of bars, nightclubs, live music venues, and rooftop lounges. Youg visitors particularly will enjoy the energetic atmosphere and diverse entertainment options.
  • Pacific Beach – Known for its beach-centric vibe during the day, Pacific Beach (PB) transforms into a hub of nightlife when the sun goes down. Garnet Avenue, the main thoroughfare, is lined with bars, clubs, and restaurants. PB is popular for its casual beach bars, rooftop venues, and late-night party scene too.
  • North Park – Located just northeast of downtown, North Park is a trendy and eclectic neighborhood with a thriving nightlife. It offers a mix of dive bars, craft breweries, cocktail lounges, and live music venues. North Park is also known for its laid-back atmosphere, popular among locals and visitors alike.
  • Hillcrest – Hillcrest is a vibrant LGBTQ+ neighborhood known for its inclusive and diverse nightlife scene. You’ll find a variety of bars, clubs, and entertainment venues. The area is also known for its trendy cocktail bars, drag shows, and lively street festivals.
  • Little Italy – While primarily known for its dining scene, Little Italy also offers some excellent nightlife options. There are stylish cocktail bars, wine lounges, and rooftop venues with stunning views. Little Italy’s nightlife scene offers a more upscale atmosphere compared to other areas.

Best Area To Stay In San Diego For Couples

When it comes to choosing the best area to stay in San Diego for couples, several neighborhoods stand out. You’ll get the most romantic and memorable experience in these areas. Here are some top recommendations:

  • La Jolla – Known for its stunning coastal beauty, La Jolla offers a romantic setting. You can enjoy breathtaking ocean views, picturesque beaches, and upscale dining options. It has a charming village atmosphere with boutique shops and art galleries. The scenic coastal walks and sunsets make it an ideal location for couples seeking a romantic getaway.
  • Coronado Island – This area offers a tranquil and romantic ambiance. Stay at the historic Hotel del Coronado. You’ll have access to beautiful beaches and charming streets lined with restaurants. Take a sunset walk along the beach or enjoy dinner with views of the San Diego skyline.
  • Little Italy – Little Italy provides a romantic ambiance with its trendy restaurants, wine bars, and cozy cafes. Couples can savor delicious cuisine at night. Or, explore the neighborhood’s art galleries and enjoy a romantic evening stroll through the streets.
  • Mission Hills – This area has a peaceful residential area with beautiful views of the city and the bay. It has picturesque streets, lovely gardens, and some renowned restaurants. You can stroll through local parks after an intimate meal at a romantic dining spot.

Best Area To Stay In San Diego For Families

San Diego offers a range of family-friendly neighborhoods with plenty of attractions. Here are some of the best areas to stay in San Diego for families:

  • Mission Bay – A fantastic area for families. It features a large man-made aquatic park with calm waters, perfect for swimming. There’s also paddleboarding and other water activities. On land, there are playgrounds, picnic areas, and bike paths along the bay.
  • Coronado – Families will love the beautiful beaches, parks, and laid-back atmosphere. The iconic Hotel del Coronado offers various amenities for children and families, such as a kids’ club and organized activities. The island has bike paths, playgrounds, and a charming downtown area with shops and restaurants.
  • La Jolla – La Jolla is an excellent choice for families looking for a coastal getaway. It offers beautiful beaches, including La Jolla Cove, where children can explore tide pools and see marine life. Birch Aquarium is also a great spot for families to learn about ocean life.
  • Balboa Park – This is a cultural hub with numerous attractions that appeal to families. The park is home to several museums, including the San Diego Air & Space Museum and the San Diego Natural History Museum. It also features playgrounds, gardens, walking trails, and the famous San Diego Zoo. The nearby neighborhoods of Bankers Hill and Hillcrest offer family-friendly accommodations.

San Diego Areas Map

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5 Best San Diego Hotels with Fun Waterslides & Pools

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For all new cities, I go overboard on my itinerary, just to see every major attraction. Countries I've visited include New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Cambodia, Japan and Thailand. Mostly Asian countries. Next target - Europe!