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, SeaWorld San Diego and Sesame Place. It's even better when we can get away to San Diego for a week or so. Then we have time to take in more of the sights. We spend many of our days soaking up the sun and playing in the surf on San Diego's gorgeous beaches. No matter what you like to 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!
A Complete Guide of Where to Stay in San Diego
From waterside, to city center, to theme park convenient, it can be hard to choose where to stay. Here's a look at some of the best San Diego family lodging options.
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. 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. The San Diego Mission Bay Resort (as low as ($178 a night) offers all of the fun of being on the water. Rent watercraft or bikes to explore the bay. Make s'mores at night. That's what we're talking about!
Nearby Ocean Beach is a great spot to visit. It has a beachfront amusement park. You can explore tide pools, a pier and walk or ride on paved pathways along the beach. The Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina (as low as $250 a night) is located in the marina near Sea World and offers three heated pools and multiple waterslides. It's about a 15-minute walk to Mission beach. It's a good option for families of four or fewer members.
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. You just might find that paying a little more for these locations 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. That includes 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.
Looking for more affordable options within San Diego? The Embassy Suites (as low as $216 a night) is located on the waterfront. We love the spacious rooms and free breakfast.
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. This includes the Victorian-era Hotel del Coronado (as low as $440 a night). It boasts 28 acres of oceanfront property and sumptuous décor.
The Loews Coronado Bay Resort is a little more budget friendly but upscale and offers spectacular views of Coronado Bay and the Pacific Ocean. You'll walk or take a shuttle to the Silver Strand State Beach.
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle, head up the coast. You can find many great beach towns as you travel north by train or car. You can enjoy great views, relaxing beaches, surf spots, shopping and dining. Heading north, Del Mar, Carlsbad and Oceanside are frogtastic destinations. You can explore pockets of casual beach towns nestled between them. Just north of La Jolla, Del Mar (literally Spanish for “of the sea”) has dining and shopping. It's home to the Del Mar racetrack and the San Diego County Fair.
Del Mar has some pricier hotels, but you can find affordable family lodging at the Homewood Suites (as low as $177 a night). This all-suite hotel comes with complimentary transportation within 5 miles, fully equipped kitchens (including full-size refrigerators) and complimentary hot breakfast. Plus you can get free dinner and drinks Monday through Thursday! It offers free self-parking. Some suites can sleep up to six guests. The Best Western Premier Hotel Del Mar Inn (as low as $158 a night) is a relaxed boutique hotel in Del Mar just steps from the sand and surf.
Carlsbad in north San Diego County draws families to LEGOLAND, beaches, outlet malls, cute local shops and restaurants, colorful street art and rainbows of flowers in the spring. You might even get the chance to pick your own strawberries in late winter through spring. The Hilton Garden Inn - Carlsbad Beach (as low as $184 a night) is our Frog Family pick in the area. Rooms include kitchens, and the Pacific Ocean is steps away. Plus, there's a free shuttle for quick transportation to attractions within five miles of the hotel. At the Cape Rey Carlsbad Beach Hilton Resort and Spa (as low as $224 a night), you can get the best of beach and theme park worlds. You can stay across from the beach and be just two miles from LEGOLAND.
If you are looking for a 5-star resort near LEGOLAND, Omni La Costa Resort and Spa (as low as $536) has what you need. With eight pools, including a family beach pool, water slides and a splash pad, two golf courses and 17 tennis courts, you might not want to leave. Your tadpoles will receive a backpack filled with activities. Older kids can make friends at camp (while mom and dad play a round of golf or relax at Deepak Chopra's wellness center).
Oceanside is the furthest beach town in north San Diego County. It 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, but know that it's a little inland from the beach and does not have a pool if that is important to you.
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. The 16-block historical neighborhood 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. It's also close to 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.
The Omni San Diego Hotel (as low as $186 a night) is in the historic Gaslamp Quarter and is steps from the trolly. The tadpoles love getting a backpack with an activity book, crayons and more when we check in. The cookies and milk the first night of stay is a nice touch!
The newer InterContinental San Diego (as low as $343 a night) is in the heart of everything — the water, downtown and the nearby Gaslamp District. Plus it has a rooftop pool for dramatic views! it offers laid-back luxury and is pet friendly.
One of our nearby Frog Family favorites is the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina, which is centrally located near the USS Midway Museum, the Gaslamp Quarter, SeaWorld San Diego, 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 where to stay in San Diego hopful in planning your visit to San Diego. You'll find more resources and tips inside our San Diego Planning Guide.