Where To Stay In San Diego California: The Best Hotels & Areas
Perched on the coast of Southern California, San Diego is a youthful city with a story as old as any in the Golden State. Known as the Birthplace of California, San Diego is where it all began. Yet, its thriving downtown, leafy parks, and beautiful beaches are all fresh and exciting. With the breadth of experiences here, it can be hard to figure out where to stay in San Diego.
The best hotels in San Diego offer travelers a mix of upscale, family-friendly, and budget accommodations. The variety of cool areas, neighborhoods & districts come with distinct vibes, placing either great nightlife, golden sand, outdoor adventures, or shopping within a sun-soaked walk.
Not sure where to begin your lodgings search? Find the perfect area and hotel with this complete guide to the best places to stay in San Diego, CA.
Looking for more ideas for your trip? Check out our other hotel & accommodations guides and our California Travel Guide for recommendations on when to visit, where to go & what to do!
Also Best For Beach Bums And Legoland Visitors: Carlsbad Vacation Villa
Heading a little farther up North County? This Airbnb home is another of our favorites. If youre here for the major theme parks, this rental is less than five miles away from Legoland and is a fairly easy commute to San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Even if youre not here for the theme parks, youll still appreciate this great location thats mere steps away from Carlsbad State Beach, a short walk to all the hottest bars and restaurants in Carlsbad Village, and a short ride or drive to the Oceanside Amtrak station. Its a very spacious unit with a private bedroom, a full kitchen, smart TVs with premium cable channels, and a patio that connects to the mini complexs shared yard space and barbecue pit.
- Nearest Airport: San Diego International
- Time: 4050 minutes by car
- Distance: 34 miles
Best Hotel For Gourmands: Fairmont Grand Del Mar
Who Will Love It: Those who appreciate over-the-top luxury
All-Star Amenities: Four swimming pools golf course equestrian center
What Not To Miss: The tasting menu at Addison a hike to a waterfall the spa’s free-floating bed
Location: Del Mar
The 249-room Fairmont Grand Del Mar’s architecture is inspired by the Mediterranean and the resort captures a visit to Europe in more ways than one. The resort’s Addison restaurant is named for architect Addison Mizner who was influenced by the decorative arts of Spain, Portugal and Venice. In San Diego’s only Michelin-two-star kitchen, Chef William Bradley crafts refined cuisine using seasonal ingredients and French techniques such as sake cured kampachi and coffee-roasted canard with koshihikari rice and candied peanuts. The dramatic dining room sports Venetian plaster walls and four limestone fireplaces. But there is much more to experience than fine dining: a Tom Fazio-designed golf course, horseback riding on the propertys 400 acres and a top-notch spa where indulgent treatments like a Dead Sea salt body scrub will leave you feeling rejuvenated. The inland location means there is plenty of SoCal sunshine to soak up at the four palm tree-fringed pools.
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North Park The Trendiest Place To Stay In San Diego On A Budget
Located 4 miles away from the Downtown , this hip and trendy neighborhood reminds me a bit of some of the streets in London or Brighton in the UK! Just like in those cities, in North Park, no one is afraid to let their creativity flow and come up with some amazing street art and murals!
Thats why Forbes magazine included North Park on their list of the hippest hipster neighborhoods in 2012! Definitely grab your camera and snap a pic of the streets in this neighborhood because theyre super unique.
Situated super close to Balboa Park and San Diego Zoo, which you should for sure take some time to visit , the North Park is super diverse and youll find tons of cool cafes and pubs. One of the best places here is the Lips Restaurant, a club run by drag queens where youll have the best time! Sometimes they even have live acts!
Although I couldnt find any stunning luxury and mid-range hotels to recommend as you know I only give you the best of the best options, Ive found two amazing budget hotels and an Airbnb with great reviews that I love! They are not located in the geographical borders of the neighborhood but theyre super close.
Other accommodation options in North Park
Things to do in North Park
- Admire the stunning street art in North Park
- Catch a live performance at Lips Restaurant
- Spend a whole day at the Balboa Park and San Diego Zoo
- Take a picture with the Greetings from San Diego mural
- Have a beer at the Belching Beaver
Best Beach Areas In San Diego
San Diegos coastal communities and beaches define the city and are a reflection of the citys laidback and loving attitude and lifestyle. We begin with the low-key Imperial Beach, the countrys most southwesterly town and almost extends to the US-Mexico international border. Secondly, theres Coronado Beach, which was voted the Top Beach in the United States by Dr. Beach Stephen Leathermans annual 2012 survey. It has a wholesome smalltown vibe and is a veritable Mayberry with pricey oceanfront mansions, manicured lawns, and quiet streets. Nothing exemplifies the neighborhood and community ethos of San Diegos beach communities better than the funky beach town of Ocean Beach.
Next, theres Mission Beach, which is all about the boardwalk and the beach and radiates the quintessential SoCal beach lifestyle. Think noise, crowds, beach bums, beach babes, sand, sun, and the surf. If you take Mission Beach and throw in the main drag with 10x more bars, restaurants and shops, and a pier, you have the sandy Pacific Beach. The self-contained residential community is an extension of Mission Beach, culminating at the iconic Crystal Pier. La Jolla is a place where just about everyone wants to live. Not only does it have an old, ritzy village, but it also has a fabulous cove and a pristine downtown. Del Mar is just like La Jolla, while Solana Beach and Cardiff-by-the-Sea are smaller but equally amazing communities.
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Best Budget: Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina
Save more on transportation with Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, which offers 24-hour transfer service to San Diego International Airport. The hotel is also in a prime location with easy access to Downtown, Point Loma, and Liberty Station. This eco-friendly hotel features five restaurants, three outdoor heated pools, and an on-site spa. Each nonsmoking room has a flat-screen HDTV, a mini-bar, a work desk, and a private patio or balcony. In order to stay active during your leisure time, Sheraton also offers guests lighted outdoor tennis courts, a 24-hour fitness center in each tower, and a variety of games, including billiards, table tennis, croquet, and volleyball.
- Nearest Airport: San Diego International
- Time: Five minutes by car
- Distance: Less than 1 mile
Recommended Beach Bars/restaurants In San Diego
- Bali Hai Restaurant: This iconic Shelter Island restaurant is known equally for its bay views as well as its strong and amazing mai tai cocktails. The Polynesian vibe extends to the menu as well, which includes wok-fried bass, crispy ahi tuna, and coconut shrimp.
- Georges at the Cove: Imagine feasting your eyes on three levels of amazing views of the Pacific Ocean thats what youll get at Georges at the Cove. This popular La Jolla mainstay specializes in New American cuisine and offers delicious craft cocktails.
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Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa And Marina
The Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina is one of the best places to stay in San Diego.
With well-appointed rooms, outstanding amenities, and a prime location on the waterfront, this hotel provides everything you need for an enjoyable stay in southern California.
Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, the Hyatt Regency offers spacious rooms with luxurious bedding, modern comforts like high speed internet access and flat-screen TVs, and a wide array of delicious dining options. And if you want to take advantage of nearby attractions like Little Italy and Balboa Park, its just a short drive from the hotel.
All in all, the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina is a top choice for anyone looking for amazing places to stay in San Diego. So why wait? Book your stay today!
Downtown San Diego: Best For Foodies And Nightlife Lovers
Given the wide variety of things to do and the proximity to the airport, downtown is one of the best places to stay in San Diego.
More specifically, the historic Gaslamp Quarter is one of the best areas to stay in. There are plenty of amazing hotels in this area, and its known as San Diegos nightlife hub. Youll find tons of great restaurants, bars, clubs, and performance venues in this neighborhood.
In addition to the Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy is a popular spot that has fun bars and restaurants. Downtown is also the home to many of the major must-see San Diego spots, including Balboa Park, Coronado Island, the USS Midway, and the San Diego Zoo.
Pros of Staying in Downtown San Diego
- Access to Public Transportation: In addition to the buses, Downtown San Diego has a trolley system, which can make getting around the area a bit easier.
- Close Proximity to Sights: Theres a lot of things to do and see in and around Downtown San Diego, so its a great spot for visitors.
- Walkable: Its incredibly easy to explore Downtown San Diego by foot, as its fairly compact.
- Lots of Excellent Eateries, Bars, Clubs, and Cafes: There is no shortage of excellent places to eat and drink downtown! Whether youre looking for something more lowkey or a bit more upscale, you have plenty of options.
Cons of Staying in Downtown San Diego
Downtown San Diego Highlights
Herb & Wood: This restaurant and bar in Little Italy offers delicious rustic and wood-fired dishes, as well as amazing cocktails.
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Best Hotel Renovation: The Guild Hotel
Who Will Love It: Design connoisseurs
All-Star Amenities: Urban garden and courtyard historic ballroom for events fitness center
What Not To Miss: A prohibition-era cocktail at the Guild Bar rooftop garden penthouse suite if you can swing it
Location: downtown San Diego
Open in 2019, The Guild Hotel won an Orchid Award for preserving the historic architecture of the 1920s Army-Navy YMCA in downtown San Diego. The façade’s intricate terracotta and iron detailing is something to behold. The beauty of the hotel is the way it balances the historic architecture with more modern but sumptuous interiors. Up-and-coming Swedish designer Sormeh Rienne gave the lobby a hand-torched herringbone floor, fluted burgundy reception desk and luminous bar with quartzite counters for a timeless yet modern aesthetic. In fact, it’s easy to forget you’re in San Diego in the confines of the Guild the courtyard restaurant features black and white umbrellas and olive trees, while the guest rooms channel a Parisian pied-à-terre with floor-to-ceiling arched windows and velvet drapes. We also love the chic yet practical custom beds with built-in drawers.
Gaslamp Quarter: The Epicenter Of Downtown San Diego
Located close to the bay, the Gaslamp Quarteris the central district of San Diego. It is a very lively area, full of cafes, antique shops, art galleries, and gas lamps .
It is a very pleasant neighborhood with fascinating late 19th century buildings and Victorian buildings . You should book a hotel in this area if you want to have access to the shops of Horton Plaza, a wide range of dining options, and the heart of the citys entertainment. Here are two hotels I recommend:
- Omni San Diego Hotel: since it is in the heart of the neighborhood, this hotel is the prime location to enjoy the lively nightlife of the area. The hotel is excellent and is equipped with all the most exclusive amenities, including a terrace with a swimming pool and a jacuzzi.
- Hotel Z Pineapple Hospitality: this is a relatively new hotel with pleasant minimalist decor and top-notch services. Guests can also rent a bicycle for free.
Find accommodations in the Gaslamp Quarter
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Where To Stay In San Diego California
San Diego is a pretty big city, but it is split up into many smaller neighborhoods, which makes it easier to navigate. Each of the San Diego neighborhoods that we recommend to tourists has a unique vibe and feel to them. Depending on your itinerary and personal preferences, well help you find the best place to stay in San Diego.
Best Airbnb In Downtown: Downtown San Diego Condo
This home is both historic and elegant with a canvas atmosphere everywhere you look. This rental gives you a heavenly experience like a home away from home above the city. Besides the fact that while staying here, you will feel like royalty this home sits right next to many restaurants, bars, with the best nightlife! Its ideal for travellers that want to spend most of the time out exploring and getting to know the local pubs. With room for 4, its a great spot for families, small groups and couples.
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Ocean Beach: Best Place To Stay In San Diego For Beach Lovers
Ocean Beach, or OB as its known to locals, is a beautiful bohemian beach neighborhood. It is the most low key of all the seaside areas in San Diego, which is why its my top pick for a beachside stay.
Ocean Beach is a bohemian paradise, full of eccentric attractions and a vibrant town center. You can fish from the pier without a license, free of charge. Ocean Beach Pier is one of the longest piers in the West Coast, perfect for fishing, and also a great spot to see sea lions. There is also a Farmers Market every Wednesday with a bounty of amazing produce grown in the areas just outside of the city. One of my favorite things to do is to go to Sunset Cliffs and find a lovely spot to sit and watch the sunset over the ocean. There is often a combination of tourists and locals up there to see the sunset, but you should be able to find a spot to plop down, no problem.
The other popular beachfront areas in San Diego are Mission Beach and Pacific Beach.
Pacific Beach is popular for nightlife, especially among the twenty-something, bar-hopping crowd. While it is great for a night out, it can be a little loud to stay in unless youre interested in San Diegos nightlife. If you are, then definitely stay near Garnet Ave.
Pros and Cons of Staying in Ocean Beach
- Like North Park, the hotel options are pretty limited. There are a couple of spots, which youll find below, but vacation rentals are your best bet here.
Best Places to Stay in Ocean Beach
Options For Couples
Ocean Beach And Surrounding Neighborhoods: Best Casual Coastal Area
Ocean Beach is a laid-back beach town northwest of Downtown San Diego. This neighborhood known as OB has a bohemian feel, and all the charm of an old-school Southern California beach town. Its the more casual sibling of the more upscale La Jolla and Del Mar to the north.
Youll find plenty of unpretentious bars, restaurants, and shops on and around Newport Avenue. At the beach, theres lots of open space to lay out and catch some rays, and theres also a large dog beach on the north end of town.
It gets more residential as you move further inland from Ocean Beach, but youre going to find more hotel options in the greater OB area .
Pros of Staying in Ocean Beach
- Beach Access: There is a ton of open beach space along Ocean Beach to lay out and soak up the sun, as well as gorgeous rugged cliffs and tide pools further south.
- Lots of Great Bars, Restaurants, and Cafes: There are many great options along and around Newport Avenue, and youll also find a selection of spots to eat and drink further north on Voltaire Street.
- Walkable: Ocean Beach and the surrounding area is super walkable. If youre staying in OB, the beach will be within walking distance!
Cons of Staying in Ocean Beach
Ocean Beach Highlights
Ocean Beach Pier: This pier extends a half-mile out into the sea making it one of the longest piers in Southern California. Youre also able to fish here without a fishing license.
Places to Stay in Ocean Beach
The Inn at Sunset Cliffs
Ocean Beach Hotel
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Best Airbnb In Gaslamp Quarter: Luxury Urban Oasis
A hop skip and a jump away from Gaslamp is this beautiful loft that also happens to be centrally located, where you have easy access to cafes and the convention centre. With a brand new bed to sleep on for couples and single travellers alike, but just in case you have more accompanying you on your travels, this space accommodates up to 6 people. Cool off in this loft after walking around the blazing city of San Diego. Thats right, good olA/C!
Where To Stay In San Diego: The 5 Best Areas To Stay In San Diego
Here are five neighborhoods to consider, depending on what youre looking for in your trip to San Diego.
Dont have time to read the entire guide below? Here are the things you need to know to find the perfect place to stay in Portland .
- If its your first time in San Diego, stay centrally in Downtown San Diego, either in Little Italy or the lively Gaslamp Quarter. Here, youll be walkable to some of the best sights in San Diego, like the Embarcadero, USS Midway and Little Italy Farmers Market, and also have tons of bars and restaurants within walking distance. Stay at Hotel Z for an affordable hotel in a central location, or the Pendry for a more upscale boutique hotel.
- If youre in the mood for a bit more charm but still want to be central, look at Hillcrestor North Park on the northeastern side of Balboa Park. Stay at either the ultra-charming Hillcrest House Bed and Breakfast, or an book a vacation rental in North Park to be in the heart of all the breweries and restaurants that make the area one of the coolest in San Diego.
- If youre looking for a beach-y getaway, stay in either Ocean Beach for a more low key vibe, or up the coast in La Jolla, which is further away and more upscale. In Ocean Beach, your options are limited, but wed grab a room at the Inn at Sunset Cliffs. In La Jolla, the Pantai Inn is the place to be .
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