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Where to Stay in San Diego

by Mommy Frog on June 1, 2023 4 San Diego

Where to Stay in San DiegoWith 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.

Families will find a handful of choices near the major attractions themselves, including the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld San Diego, Old Town and LEGOLAND. Let's look at the most popular hotels! We provide options for every budget.

A Complete Guide of Where to Stay in San Diego

Where to Stay in San Diego - Hotel del Coronado

From the waterside, to the city center, to the 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

Where to Stay in San Diego - Hyatt Regency Mission Bay

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 several 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 ($336 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 $357 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.

Where to Stay in San Diego - Hyatt Regency Mission Bay

If you are looking for sophistication with a friendly laid-back SoCal vibe the InterContinental San Diego (as low as $338 a night) is where it's at. With a rooftop pool and stunning views of San Diego Bay from floor-to-ceiling windows, this newer hotel is also just a hop away from San Diego's famous Gaslamp Quarter, where you can find various dining and entertainment options. There are three restaurants, two bars and a Starbucks to enjoy on-site. The hotel is pet-friendly, so the whole family can enjoy the vacation!

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.

Where to stay in San Diego - la jolla cove

La Jolla is home to the famed PGA Championship Torrey Pines Golf Course and the Torrey Pines State Reserve. The town features several 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 $261 a night) is located on the waterfront. We love the spacious rooms and free breakfast. Where to Stay in San Diego - Hotel del Coronado

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 San Diego Bay boasts three major resorts. This includes the Victorian-era Hotel del Coronado (as low as $491 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 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 $233 a night). This all-suite hotel comes with complimentary transportation within 5 miles, fully equipped kitchens (including full-size refrigerators) and a 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 $204 a night) is a relaxed boutique hotel in Del Mar just steps from the sand and surf.

North San Diego County Beach Areas and LEGOLAND

Where to Stay in San Diego - Red Strawberries in Green FieldCarlsbad 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 $284 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 $228 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 $494) 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. Parents can play a round of golf or relax at Deepak Chopra's wellness center.

Your family can at home in the recently renovated rooms and suites or luxurious one-, or two-bedroom villas, all of which offer the comforts of home with kitchens, fireplaces and private patios.

Where to Stay in San Diego - Kids play at beach in Oceanside

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.

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.

Downtown San Diego

Where to stay in San Diego - Gaslamp Quarter

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. SeaWorld San Diego is close by, and Sesame Place is about 16 miles away from Downtown.

The Omni San Diego Hotel (as low as $235 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 you receive the first night of your stay is a nice touch!

The newer InterContinental San Diego (as low as $338 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. It's our pick for a hotel that has everything.

Where to Stay in San Diego - San Diego Waterfront

One of our nearby Frog Family favorites is the more affordable Holiday Inn Express San Diego Downtown (as low as $236 a night) is at the city center. With a choice selection of guest rooms and suites, as well as a complimentary breakfast buffet, Holiday Inn Express San Diego Downtown has accommodations that suit the needs of families. Request a room with a balcony so you can catch some rays while enjoying your morning coffee.

San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina (as low as $439 a night). It is centrally located near the USS Midway Museum, the Gaslamp Quarter, SeaWorld San Diego, water activities and many other attractions.

The Kimpton Hotel Palomar San Diego (as low as $281) is a pet-friendly boutique hotel that offers a lot for a hoppin' deal. It's a blend of luxury and affordability. This lovely hotel is in the heart of downtown San Diego. Guest rooms and suite options have varying spectacular views of downtown San Diego. Some rooms offer floor-to-ceiling windows, private balconies and soaking tubs. Additional doggie amenities are provided to families with pets to help your furry family members feel at home. Hop down to the front desk to rent complimentary custom-designed Kimpton PUBLIC bikes to cruise the city in style.

Kimpton's rooftop pool and lounge area is the perfect place to plan out your day’s activities or enjoy a beautiful sunset while sipping a cocktail. Curadero, the on-site restaurant, creates authentic Mexican flavors at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Keep in mind that self-parking is only available at partner lots (one is across the street). Valet parking is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week at the hotel.

Getting Away From It All

If you want to escape for a quiet retreat, Rancho Bernardo Inn (as low as $282 a night) is set in the lush, tranquil San Pasqual Mountains, and yet is only a 15-minute drive from the beach. This unique 5-star resort experience is known for its warm and attentive service, recreation and fine dining. Your family can play golf, splash in the outdoor pool, meet friends at the children's activities and relax at the complete fitness and spa center. The 27-hole Oaks North Executive Golf Course is known as the finest executive course in California. Small dogs are welcome.

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 in our San Diego Planning Guide.

Related: Our Best Tips on Packing for a Beach Vacation with Kids

Related: Our Favorite Hotels for a Low-Key Beach Getaway in SoCal

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
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Jun 7, 2019 at 6:08 a.m. Jay Savi Says...

Good stuff. I love the brevity of this post. Hey I run an art / culture / travel magazine and and doing an issue on San Diego. Would love to chat with your marketing team. Cross promo! You have my email. Let's jibe!

Sep 18, 2017 at 2:15 p.m. Tank Anant Says...

thanks for your guide

Feb 19, 2017 at 5:55 p.m. Noreen Says...

That was a very helpful overview. Thank you.

Feb 19, 2017 at 3:54 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Noreen,

You're welcome. Enjoy sunny San Diego.

Hoppy Planning!

Mommy Frog

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