Gaslamp Quarter, the best area to stay in San Diego
First time, tourists, without a car
The Gaslamp quarter is the main downtown area of San Diego. This area offers the city’s best nightlife, views and food. Full of clubs, bars, and lounges, this area has a young and upscale feel. Live music and comedy shows are also abundant in this area, making it a great place for nighttime entertainment. Restaurants, coffee shops, and breweries also fill this area, making it perfect for grabbing a bite to eat.
Situated right next to the Padres baseball stadium, this area also offers easy access to baseball games and large shows that take place at this venue. You can take a walk from the Gaslamp to the cute shops at Seaport village, or even rent a bike and take a ride around the bay. This area also gives easy access to Coronado by the ferry that crosses the San Diego Bay, where you can enjoy golfing, kayaking, and other outdoor activities!
Hotels in Gaslamp Quarter
Other areas to stay in San Diego
Beaches, surf, couples
Twenty minutes north of Downtown San Diego lies the city of La Jolla. If you are looking to experience the most upscale area of San Diego, and the most beautiful beaches of the area, La Jolla is the spot for you. In the northern area of La Jolla you can find Torrey Pines State Park, which consists of winding trails through pine trees and atop rugged cliffs with views of the ocean below. The world renowned Torrey Pines Golf course sits atop these cliffs as well, an ultimate destination for golf lovers.
The Village of La Jolla is filled with cute boutiques, upscale restaurants, and delicious cafes. Near the Village of La Jolla, you can find tide pools along the coast. You can take a walk and explore these pools or grab some goggles and a snorkel and explore deeper. Whatever your interests, the La Jolla area has something for everyone.
Hotels in La Jolla
Beaches, nightlife, with friends
If you are looking for fun sports bars, breakfast joints, and miles of beaches, Pacific Beach is the ideal area to stay. This young and fun neighborhood is full of life and can be found full of surfers and sunbathers year round. This area has a long boardwalk that is perfect for biking, skating, running, or taking a stroll. Along this boardwalk you can also find various trendy bars and restaurants to suit your liking.
Make your way one street back from the ocean, and you will find Mission drive which is lined with boutiques, yoga studios, and bike/board rental shops. If you choose to stay in or explore this neighborhood, make sure to check out Kate Sessions Park. This grassy park is the perfect spot for a picnic or a stroll and has sweeping views of San Diego down the coast all the way to downtown.
Hotels in Pacific Beach
Beaches, amusement park, families
South of Pacific Beach lies Mission Beach, another coastal neighborhood in San Diego. This laid back neighborhood attracts surfers and sunbathers to its wide beaches. This area is a piece of land that curves around Mission Bay, which is a popular area for water sports. You can rent kayaks, paddleboards, or jet skis and spend a day on the bay here. Alternatively if you are interested in fishing, the Mission Bay jetty is a great area for this.
Mission Beach is also home to two small amusement parks - Belmont Park and SeaWorld. Belmont Park is a small amusement park which houses an old wooden roller coaster from 1925. SeaWorld hosts aquatic shows and aquariums with dolphins and other sea life. You can also venture down the boardwalk that stretches through this area from Pacific Beach, a wonderful place to get in some exercise.
Hotels in Mission Beach
Sea views, airport, eateries
Point Loma is a peninsula on the northern side of the San Diego Bay and a short 5-minute drive from the airport. This area is known for Cabrillo National Monument, which is a large park with trails atop cliffs with wonderful views of Coronado Island and downtown San Diego. Liberty Station is a former naval training center full of cute restaurants and shops and is a must-see spot while staying in this area.
Point Loma is also filled with many seafood eateries which have good views of the harbor and a fun laid back atmosphere. You can also visit the Point Loma lighthouse and see some of the best tide pools in San Diego while you are there. Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery is another site to see, which honors those lost at war who served the United States military.
Hotels in Point Loma
Shopping, with a car, cheap
Named for San Diego’s first Spanish mission, San Diego de Acalá established in 1769, Mission Valley lies 20 minutes north of downtown San Diego. This area is home to several malls and big box stores. This area lies between several highways and is centrally located, making it a very easy area to access all other parts of San Diego. In the heart of this area, you can visit the San Diego mission for a taste of San Diego History.
This mission has beautiful, calm gardens and fountains, as well as a museum and gift shop. The mission is now restored and hosts a Catholic parish. You can also check out Cevita Park, a popular city park for locals that has a splash pad, food trucks, and playground. Overall, Mission Valley is less tourist oriented and will give you a more tranquil but also more affordable place to stay in San Diego.
Hotels in Mission Valley
With friends, without a car, young adults
If you are looking for an alternate area other than Gaslamp that still has a downtown feel, Little Italy is the perfect place to stay. This area is full of restaurants with large patios, live music venues, cocktail bars and trendy clothing boutiques. Little Italy is also one of the most pedestrian friendly areas in San Diego and boasts beautiful views of the San Diego harbor, making it a wonderful place to wander.
You can make your way to the large lawns of Waterfront Park for a picnic or views of the San Diego Bay. If you head to Little Italy, make sure to check out the farmers market held every Saturday morning. This is arguably the best farmers market in the San Diego area and stretches for blocks full of vegetable stalls as well as many prepared food vendors.
Hotels in Little Italy
Ocean Beach is one of the most unique to California places you can visit in the state. Full of surfers, unique and eclectic shops, and organic eateries, this area screams classic Bohemian Southern California to the max. This area also has a large pier where you can fish, stroll, and view the sunset. Other activities in this area you can take part in during your visit are viewing the murals and art in the area, visit the local dog beach, or check out the Wednesday night farmers market. A short five minute drive away lies Sunset Cliffs.
This is one of the most impressive places to watch the sunset in the San Diego area and is a must see on this visit. You can find donation based yoga classes here on Saturday mornings (search Sunset Cliffs free yoga online for more information).
Hotels in Ocean Beach
Beaches, families, quiet
Across the landmark Coronado Bridge from downtown San Diego, lies Coronado Island. This is a great area for anyone who loves aquatic activities or golfing. Home to the famous Victorian Hotel del Coronado as well as the US naval base, this area is beautiful and great to stay in. Coronado also offers a calm bay where you can paddleboard, kayak, or swim. You can enjoy beautiful views of downtown in this bay, one of the highlights of Coronado Island. There is also a bike path that you can take down the strand, as well as a large golf course.
If you are staying in this area, you should check out Coronado Beach, and you can also venture onto the dog beach nearby. In the small downtown area, you can find restaurants, ice cream parlors, and cafes, perfect for a hot day. Coronado is a great area for families who would like a more quiet stay in San Diego.
Hotels in Coronado
Hillcrest, the LGBT+ center of San Diego is one of the most vibrant and lively neighborhoods in the city. This area has numerous bars and restaurants, and is notably home to one of the widest arrays of cuisines in the area as well as numerous brunch spots for a weekend outing. This area is also interestingly cut through with canyons. You can make your way to the Spruce Street suspension bridge to see a nice view of the canyon. For a fun nightlife scene, check out Hillcrest Brewing Co. or Urban MO’s Bar and Grill, voted one of the best gay bars in the world boasting some of the best drag shows that you can find.
Just south of Hillcrest and within walking distance lies Balboa Park where you can access the San Diego Zoo, admire the Spanish-Renaissance architecture, and museums and performing art venues.
Hotels in Hillcrest
History, museums, parks
Old town San Diego is home to the first European settlement in California, and is the oldest neighborhood in San Diego. Conveniently located just walking distance from major local and long distance bus stations, this is an easy area to access. There are three main parks in Old Town, all of which host historic sites that are operated as museums.
At the northern end of Old Town lies Old Town San Diego Historic Park and all of its museums are free to the public. You can see the adobe hacienda called Casa de Estullio, the Wells Fargo museum, and the first public schoolhouse in San Diego. There are also many art shows and festivals that take place in Old town. If your timing conesides, these are great opportunities to explore and learn about the history of San Diego and California.
Hotels in Old Town