With its mild weather, abundance of attractions and beautiful beaches, it's no wonder San Diego is one of our favorite family vacation destinations. We love hopping down for a few days when we're visiting LA to experience the San Diego Zoo, LEGOLAND California or SeaWorld San Diego. It's even better when we can get away to San Diego for a week or so, and take in more of the sights but spend many of our days soaking up the sun and playing in the surf on San Diego's beautiful beaches. No matter what you do, we can help you decide where to stay in San Diego!
Since most families who visit opt to rent a car, deciding where to stay in San Diego is a fairly painless task. You'll find plenty of affordable options in the most-visited parts of town near the major attractions. Picking where to stay in San Diego largely comes down to personal preference. Let's look at the most popular options!
Where to Stay in San Diego - On the Water
As the Frog Family, we’re naturally drawn to water. If we have the chance to stay near the beach or the bay, we always take it. Mission Bay is a popular destination for families, because it offers plenty of water sports and outdoor activities and a number of resorts. It’s also just a hop, skip and a jump from neighboring SeaWorld San Diego. Nearby Ocean Beach has a beachfront amusement park, tide pools to explore, a pier and paved pathways for bike rides and walks along the beach. The Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina (as low as $168 a night) is located in the marina near Sea World and offers three heated pools and multiple waterslides.
Guests will find plenty of accommodations along the coast to suit every budget. There are pricier options in La Jolla and Coronado. These are two of the most spectacular areas near San Diego, and you just might find that paying a little more for them is worth it.
La Jolla is home to the famed PGA Championship Torrey Pines Golf Course and the Torrey Pines State Reserve. The town features a number of standout hotels and resorts, including the AAA Five Diamond Award-winning Lodge at Torrey Pines that overlooks the course. The downtown area, with its upscale boutiques, shops and restaurants, is a good place to explore. La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores are both great destinations for families because of their calm waters. Those looking for more affordable options will find an Embassy Suites, or, just a block from the beach, the Holiday Inn Express (as low as $123 a night).
Consistently named one of the top beaches in the country, Coronado makes an ideal location for lodging, if you can afford to pay a little more. This peninsula across the San Diego Bay boasts three major resorts, including the recently renovated Victorian-era Hotel del Coronado, which boasts 28 acres of oceanfront property and sumptuous décor.
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle, you can find many great beach towns as you head up the coast by train or car. You can enjoy great views, relaxing beaches, surf spots, shopping and dining. Del Mar, Carlsbad and Oceanside are frogtastic destinations with pockets of casual beach towns to explore nestled between them. Del Mar (literally Spanish for “of the sea”) has dining and shopping just north of La Jolla and is home to the Del Mar racetrack and the San Diego County Fair. While Del Mar has some pricier hotels, you can find affordable family lodging at the Homewood Suites or Best Western Premier Hotel Del Mar Inn (as low as $153 a night). Carlsbad, in north San Diego County, draws families to LEGOLAND, beaches, outlet malls, cute local shops and restaurants, colorful street art, rainbows of flowers in the spring and even the chance to pick your own strawberries in late winter through spring. The Hilton Garden Inn - Carlsbad Beach is our Frog Family pick in the area. Rooms include kitchens, the Pacific Ocean is steps away and there's a free shuttle for quick transportation to attractions within 5 miles of the hotel. Oceanside — the furthest beach town in north San Diego County — offers a harbor, pier, sandy beaches and paved paths to ride bikes or stroll along the beaches and playgrounds. The pet-friendly Residence Inn San Diego Oceanside is a great pick here.
Where to Stay in San Diego - Downtown
If Coronado is out of price range, families will find more affordable options and a lot to do in downtown San Diego. The prime location puts you within a few blocks of the Gaslamp Quarter, a 16-block historical neighborhood that is also home to some of the city’s best dining, shopping and entertainment destinations. A few blocks west is the New Children’s Museum and Seaport Village, a waterfront shopping and dining area next to San Diego Bay. A few blocks northeast of downtown lies Balboa Park, a 1,200-acre cultural preserve that is home to the city’s best museums, as well as the San Diego Zoo. One of our nearby Frog Family favorites is the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina, which is centrally located near the USS Midway Museum, the Gas Lamp Quarter, Sea World, water activities and many other attractions.
Where to Stay in San Diego Near the Major Attractions
Families will find a handful of choices near the major attractions themselves, including the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld San Diego and Old Town. LEGOLAND California has its own resort hotel that features guest rooms themed to pirate, kingdom or adventure in Carlsbad, about a 30-minute drive from downtown San Diego.
We hope you've found this overview of when to visit San Diego helpful in planning a visit to San Diego. You'll find more resources and tips inside our San Diego Planning Guide.