San Diego: It’s a vacationer’s paradise with near-perfect temperatures and a laid back vibe that will leave you wanting more. When most people visit San Diego for the first time, they tend to stick to the downtown area, but you haven’t seen the real San Diego until you get out and explore the coast!
This San Diego travel guide covers everything you need to know for planning a trip. Read our tips on where to stay, where to eat, what to pack, and more!
San Diego Travel Tips: A Local’s Guide to Planning Your Trip
Where to Eat in San Diego
Things to Do in San Diego
Tandem Hang Gliding at Torrey Pines Gliderport
One of my favorite things to do as a local is watch the pilots flying off the cliffs in Torrey Pines. Scott and I tried hang gliding once and it was one of the most peaceful experiences of our lives. You’ll be safe with an experienced pilot doing all the work and all you have to do is enjoy the view!
Where to Stay in San Diego
Kona Kai Resort on Shelter Island
We stayed at Kona Kai Resort for one of our San Diego staycations and absolutely loved this place. It’s not near the prettiest beaches in San Diego, but the view of the harbor, the private beach that allows bonfires, and the location make up for it.
This is a great place to stay if you want to avoid renting a car since you can easily Uber from the airport to Kona Kai and there are plenty of restaurants within walking distance. I recommended this place to my sister and her husband when they visited for their anniversary and they can’t stop raving about it. Read our full review of the resort here.
Hotel Del Coronado
The Hotel Del Coronado is a San Diego classic. With cute beachy shops and restaurants within walking distance to the hotel and a gorgeous white sand beach right out front, this hotel has everything you need for the perfect SoCal vacation.
In downtown East Village, Hotel Solamar is perfect for travelers looking to stay right in the city. It’s luxury on a budget and within walking distance to some of the best restaurants and nightlife in San Diego.
La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla
You can’t come to San Diego without visiting La Jolla. Known as the Jewel City, La Jolla is home to some of San Diego’s prettiest beaches as well as the world famous La Jolla sea caves. La Valencia Hotel is vintage coastal luxury with a stunning ocean view. Check out their bed and breakfast package if you are looking for the most bang for your buck.
Transportation in San Diego
The public transportation in San Diego is pretty much non existent, so unless you plan on only visiting downtown, you’ll need to rent a car. The train (Coaster) basically caters to the 9-5 crowd, so don’t expect to use it for late night drinking. Uber is always a good idea. That’s how we get around after we’ve had a few drinks.
Packing Essentials for San Diego
Beach Bag/Cooler: This insulated tote bag doubles as a beach bag AND a cooler. Perfect for those beach days.
Photo Equipment – I highly recommend bringing a GoPro for underwater photos and water activities — especially if you are headed to La Jolla (and a selfie stick!). (See our complete travel camera buying guide here.)
Rash Guard – I recommend bringing a long-sleeve rash guard — even in the summer. It protects you from the sun when snorkeling/surfing and provides a little warmth if the water is chilly.
Snorkel Equipment – If you plan on doing any snorkeling in La Jolla, you’ll save money by bringing your own and you won’t be stuck with old equipment. This mask and fins set won’t take up too much room in your suitcase.
Reusable Water Bottle – Refilling your water bottle not only saves money, but it’s so much better for the environment! We use this CamelBak water bottle at home, but if you want something more compact, this collapsible water bottle is perfect for travel days and hiking.