There’s nothing better than spending a weekend in San Diego! This sunny city offers stunning beaches, great hikes, creative eateries, and over 150 breweries – there’s no shortage of things to do.
I grew up in San Diego (and can’t resist going back home multiple times a year!), and am here to break down everything you need to know before spending a weekend in this Southern California gem.
Planning a trip to San Diego? Don’t miss our guide to the best places to stay in San Diego to help you find the perfect neighborhood for your trip, and our guide to spending one day in San Diego if you have limited time and still want to see the best that the city has to offer.
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel and vacation rental links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would absolutely never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.
Where to Stay in San Diego
Let’s break down some of the absolute best areas to stay in San Diego. These spots are great for visitors, as they’re all close to the water, and are also super walkable. Additionally, it’s easy to get to other areas of San Diego from these towns.
Psssst! We have a whole guide on where to stay in San Diego, where Kyra (who grew up in San Diego) breaks down the five best areas to stay, and gives some hotel picks for each.
La Jolla is a great place to stay in San Diego. This seaside town is known for its beautiful rugged coastline, which offers lots of tide pools and opportunities for spotting sea lions. La Jolla is a more upscale town, so you’ll find lots of luxury hotels and fine dining spots, particularly around the Village of La Jolla.
That said, there is definitely a good selection of more casual restaurants, cafes, and bars, as well as more budget-friendly accommodations.
Three of the most popular beaches in this area are La Jolla Cove (a small cove that is great for snorkeling and scuba diving), La Jolla Shores (a larger strand that is perfect for spending a day at the beach), and Windansea Beach (a popular surf spot).
In addition to offering a lot on its own, La Jolla is an ideal location for tourists since it is situated between Downtown San Diego and the beach towns further north.
Downtown San Diego
Downtown San Diego overlooks the San Diego Bay, and is conveniently located just south of the airport – making it a great place to stay for those flying in to spend 2 days in San Diego.
If you plan on staying downtown, the historic Gaslamp Quarter is the best area to stay in. This section – which is in the middle of Downtown San Diego – has a ton of great hotel options, and is known as the place to go for nightlife and amazing restaurants.
In addition to the Gaslamp Quarter, Downtown San Diego is home to Little Italy, which is filled to the brim with eateries and bars. Balboa Park – a large cultural park that houses the famous San Diego Zoo, as well as multiple museums, performance venues, and gardens – is located just north of the downtown area.
You can also easily hop on the Coronado Bridge to spend an afternoon exploring Coronado Island and the famous Hotel Del Coronado.
Del Mar is another popular upscale San Diego beach town located north of La Jolla. It has a smaller central dining and shopping area compared to La Jolla, but there are still plenty of amazing eateries, bars, and cafes.
Powerhouse Park and Beach is located just a short walk away from the central shopping and dining area of Del Mar, and is the perfect place to watch the sunset or enjoy a day at the beach.
There is also Torrey Pines State Reserve to the south, which has plenty of amazing trails along the bluffs that lead down to the beach. To the north is the famous Del Mar Racetrack, where horse racing events take place from July to early September.
A Weekend in San Diego: Complete 2 Day Itinerary
Now that you’ve got the perfect home base for your trip to San Diego, it’s time to get into the itinerary and exactly how to spend your time.
We’re assuming you arrive on Friday night, have a full two days in San Diego, and leave Sunday night. If you have more time – like 3 days in San Diego – see below for some ideas on how to spend that extra time (lucky you!).
Friday Night: Arriving, Dinner and Drinks
Land at SAN, take your preferred mode of transportation to your hotel (see below for the different ways to do it), and get ready for your first night in San Diego.
Here are a few recommendations for restaurants and bars, depending on where you’re staying. You’ll also find more recommendations at the end of this post!
In La Jolla
- Galaxy Taco: If you’re in the mood for tacos and margaritas, this colorful and laidback cantina and grill is the spot for you.
- Nine-Ten Restaurant & Bar: This contemporary and casually elegant restaurant serves delicious seasonal California cuisine.
- La Sala Lounge: This bar – which is located in La Valencia Hotel – is the perfect place to sip on a cocktail while taking in the views of La Jolla Cove.
In Downtown San Diego
- Herb & Wood: This Little Italy restaurant is located in a cool industrial space, and serves rustic and wood-fired dishes. If you don’t stop by for dinner, definitely grab a drink at the bar (I recommend Mezcal & Flowers).
- Full Moon Sushi: This lounge-style sushi restaurant is located in the Gaslamp Quarter, and is a great place for both traditional rolls and hot entrees.
- False Idol: False Idol is a trendy tiki bar located in Little Italy with amazing drinks and just as impressive decor.
In Del Mar
- Jake’s Del Mar: The place for dinner with a view! This restaurant is situated right on the beach, so enjoy the views while eating coastal fare and sipping on a cocktail.
- Sbicca: This restaurant – which has a great rooftop terrace that overlooks the ocean – offers delicious California fare, as well as an extensive drink menu.
- Viewpoint Brewing Co.: This brewery is the place for you if you want to enjoy San Diego’s beer culture! Enjoy a flight of beer, and stay for a gastropub-style dinner.
Saturday: Exploring Downtown San Diego
The first full day in your San Diego itinerary will include exploring all that Downtown San Diego and the surrounding area has to offer.
Morning: Farmers Market and Balboa Park
Spend the morning between the best farmers market in the city, and one of the best parks in a city full of great outdoor spaces (mostly beaches, though).
Little Italy Farmers Market
Start your day at the Little Italy Mercato, which opens at 8:00 am every Saturday. Vendors sell a wide variety of products, including fresh produce, coffee, juice, nuts, bread, pastries, honey, candy, salsas, home goods, and so much more. If Maya’s Cookies is there, I highly recommend picking up a few!
If you need breakfast or some coffee – and don’t find what you need at the farmers market – I’d recommend stopping by Cafe Gratitude, Harbor Breakfast, or Bird Rock Coffee Roasters. These spots are all in Little Italy.
After shopping at the farmers market, it’s time to head to Balboa Park. You can walk from the farmers market if you’d like – it’s about a mile and a half to the main entrance where the majority of the museums and gardens are located. Taking a car or public transportation is also an option (there are plenty of parking lots).
I’ll highlight a few points of interest, but I’d also recommend taking some time to look at the website to see if there are any specific spots that interest you. This park has over 16 museums, as well as multiple gardens, performance venues, and other spots of interest, so there may be something else that catches your eye!
One must-see spot in Balboa Park is the Spanish Village Art Center. Stroll through the colorful village to see what the local artists are working on in the various studios. Definitely stop by the Art Glass Guild to see if anyone is currently doing any glass blowing!
I’d also recommend stopping by the Japanese Friendship Garden (especially if you’re there during cherry blossom season) and the Botanical Building. If you’re in the mood to explore a museum, the San Diego Museum of Art is a great choice (an admission fee is required).
For the afternoon, head back downtown for lunch and some waterfront exploration.
Lunch in the Gaslamp Quarter
It’s time to head back downtown to the Gaslamp Quarter for lunch! I recommend Breakfast Republic (open until 3:00 pm), Cafe 21, Barleymash, or Puesto at the Headquarters (this option is closer to the next stop).
Tip: if the weather is nice and you’d like to eat outside, you can get your lunch to-go and enjoy it at North Embarcadero Park, which is right next to the next stop.
After lunch, it’s time to head over to Seaport Village, which you can easily walk to from the above lunch spots if you’d like. This outdoor shopping center is right on the San Diego Bay, and features over 70 galleries, shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Some of the shops can admittedly get a bit touristy, but it’s still a fun place to walk around, enjoy the views of the bay, and maybe grab a coffee or something sweet to eat. The buildings also offer an eclectic mix of architectural styles – from Spanish to Victorian to Old West – so be sure to check out the different storefronts.
There are also different events at the village throughout the year, including live musical performances. Check their events page to see what’s happening when you’re visiting.
Walk Up the Embarcadero
Once you’re done with Seaport Village, you can head up on The Embarcadero walking path. This is a great path to stroll as the sun is setting, and you’ll see a few interesting sights along the way.
As you’re walking north, one of the first major sights you’ll see is the Unconditional Surrender Statue, located at Tuna Harbor Park. This giant sculpture is based on the famous 1945 “V-J Day in Times Square” photo. Just a few steps away is the National Salute to Bob Hope and the Military war memorial.
Just north of this park is the USS Midway, a decommissioned aircraft carrier. If you have an extra day in your San Diego itinerary (or skip some of the earlier activities), there’s also a museum on-board.
If you want to continue walking along the bay, I’d recommend stopping where the bayside portion of the path ends. This is the best spot to see the Downtown San Diego skyline, and it’s gorgeous at sunset. For reference, the walk from Seaport Village to the end of the path is a mile and a half.
Dinner and Drinks Downtown
After a full day in and around Downtown San Diego, it’s time for dinner and drinks! In addition to the recommendations mentioned above, Coasterra is a great spot for dinner and drinks. This modern Mexican restaurant is on prime real estate, and offers the absolute best views of the bay and the San Diego skyline.
After dinner, you can head over to The Nolen in the Gaslamp Quarter. This 14th floor rooftop bar offers views of Petco Park, the Coronado Bridge, and more.
If you’re looking for something to do after dinner and drinks, there are plenty of things to check out downtown.
- Those in the mood for dancing can head to OMNIA Nightclub, an upscale spot that’s right across the street from The Nolen.
- If you’re looking for something a bit more lowkey, check out The Tipsy Crow, which is also in the Gaslamp Quarter. This tri-story spot has a bar on the main level, a casual dance spot on the bottom level, and a sophisticated game room on the top level.
- For musical performances, see what’s happening at the House of Blues or The Casbah (which is up in Little Italy).
- If you’re in the mood for a bit of comedy, check out what shows are happening at The American Comedy Co.
On the next day of your 2 day San Diego itinerary, you’ll head up the coast for a bit of hiking and time at the beach in Torrey Pines and La Jolla.
Hike at Torrey Pines and Hang Out at the Beach
Start off the morning with a coastal hike at Torrey Pines State Reserve. The trails at this reserve are situated on the bluffs, and offer beautiful views of the coast.
If you’re driving, keep in mind that there’s limited parking at the trailheads. This is a popular spot, so there’s a good chance you’ll either have to park at Torrey Pines Beach Parking or at one of the spots along the beach. From there, you can walk up Torrey Pines Park Road to the trailhead.
There are a few different trails in this area, but I recommend making your way to Beach Trailhead and exploring the different interconnected trails here. These trails lead to two major viewpoints: Razor Point and Yucca Point.
You can also follow the signs for Beach Trail to get down to the beach. If you do decide to go down this way, make sure you check the tides beforehand. This beach is narrow, so it’s completely unwalkable during high tide.
Once you’re down at the beach, you can either go back up the trails when you’re done, or walk north up the beach for a nice stroll (keeping the tides in mind, of course!). If it’s hot out, consider spending a bit more time at Torrey Pines State Beach laying out in the sun or swimming.
Afternoon in La Jolla
Lunch in La Jolla
After your hike and time at the beach, you’ll be ready for lunch! Head down south to the Village of La Jolla to grab a bite to eat. There are a ton of options to choose from, but a few recommendations are The Cottage, Parakeet Cafe, Green Door Cafe, and Cody’s La Jolla.
If you want something sweet after lunch, Bobboi Natural Gelato will hit the spot.
Explore the Coast of La Jolla
Once you’ve had lunch, it’s time to head down towards the coast for a walk and some sightseeing.
Start by The Green Gazebo, and follow the walking path along Coast Boulevard, heading north. This path offers beautiful views of the coast. As you’re walking, you’ll likely see sea lions, so keep your eyes peeled!
Continue walking until you hit La Jolla Cove, and head down the stairs to the beach. This is a super picturesque beach, and there’s a good chance you’ll see sea lions lounging on the sand (please do not approach them!). Keep in mind that this beach is small and popular, so you’ll likely encounter some crowds.
Check Out Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave
To finish off your time in La Jolla, continue walking north to Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave and Store.
This store has a man-made tunnel that was dug in 1902 (and believed to be used for bootlegging) that leads down to an incredible seashore cave. The tunnel has 143 stairs, so be prepared to get your steps in!
There is an admission price to go down to the cave (check the website for the most up-to-date prices). Expect to spend around 15 to 20 minutes to get down and enjoy the cave.
Planning a Trip to California? We’ve got plenty of California travel guides to help you plan an amazing trip.
- 3 Days in San Francisco: A Complete Long Weekend Itinerary
- 14 Incredible Day Trips from San Francisco
- How to Spend a Perfect Weekend in Los Angeles (2 Day Itinerary)
- How to Spend One Amazing Day in Los Angeles (2 Ways!)
- The Best Places to Stay in Los Angeles (An L.A. Local’s Guide)
- A Perfect Weekend Itinerary For San Diego (2 Days)
- How to Spend One Amazing Day in San Diego
- Where to Stay in San Diego: A Complete Guide from a Local
- A Complete Joshua Tree Itinerary (Weekend Guide)
- A Complete Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Guide (SF to SD)
What to Add with 3 Days in San Diego
Do you plan on spending 3 days in San Diego? Drive across the iconic Coronado Bridge and enjoy exploring the sights around Coronado Island.
Rent a Bike to Get Around Coronado
Spend the last day of your long weekend in San Diego biking around Coronado Island! The area is super bike friendly, and it’s a great way to really see all the sights.
Stop by Holland’s Bicycles (the Ferry Landing location) and rent a bike. They include helmets, locks, and a map with the rentals, so you’ll be able to safely get around and lock up your bike when needed.
Once you have your bike, you’re going to start heading north on the bayfront bike path, starting on this 6.4 mile loop (it was created by Holland’s, so they can surely answer any questions you may have about the route!). Follow the map to start making your way towards Ocean Boulevard on the other side of the island for the next destination.
Hang Out at Coronado Beach
Continue riding south down Ocean Boulevard, until you get close to Hotel del Coronado (this will be the next stop after the beach). Lock up your bike somewhere along Ocean Boulevard, and head towards the beach!
Coronado Beach is massive, so there is lots of space for you to lounge, go swimming, play frisbee, or do whatever you’d like! If the weather isn’t nice enough to lay out or swim, consider going on a walk down the shore. The beach stretches for miles with no obstructions, so there is plenty to explore!
Lunch in Coronado
If you have a sweet tooth, stop by MooTime Creamery after. These are all super close to the beach, so you can leave your bike locked up and just walk over.
Check Out Hotel del Coronado
After lunch, it’s time to head over to Hotel del Coronado. This beachfront Victorian-style hotel dates back to the late 1800s, and is designated as a historic landmark. It has a long history of high-profile guests, including many old Hollywood actors, presidents, and royalty. Multiple films have been filmed here too, including Some Like it Hot.
Walk around the property and admire the architecture, stop inside the lobby (which still looks like it came out of the 1800s), shop at some of the boutiques, or maybe have a drink at one of the many bars and restaurants on-site.
If you happen to be there during the winter, they also set up an ice rink for Skating by the Sea. It’s definitely fun to be skating on ice while watching the waves roll in! The hotel is also nicely decorated (both on the interior and exterior) during the holidays.
Continue Biking Back Towards Holland’s Bicycles
After spending some time at the hotel, it’s time to continue biking. Grab your bike, check your map, and follow the path that goes in front of Hotel del Coronado, eventually making your way up Glorietta Boulevard.
You’ll eventually hit Coronado Tidelands Park. If you’d like, this is a great place to stop to take photos of the Coronado Bridge and the San Diego skyline. Continue on the biking path, and make your way back to Holland’s Bicycles to return your bike.
What to Add with Extra Time in San Diego
Need a few more ideas to add to your San Diego itinerary? Here are five more things to do in the area.
Spend Some Time in Encinitas
Encinitas is a beach town in the northern part of San Diego County. This laidback town is known for great beaches, as well as varied places to shop, eat, drink, and get your caffeine fix along the 101.
If you’re looking to have a beach day, definitely head to Moonlight Beach. I’d also recommend stopping for lunch or dinner at Modern Times (which is also a beer tasting room), The Taco Stand, Encinitas Fish Shop, or Plumeria.
Hike to Potato Chip Rock
If you want to get more hiking in, check out Mt. Woodson Trail, which is located in Poway (an inland city in San Diego County). Mt. Woodson Trail is a moderate, 7.3-mile trail that leads to Potato Chip Rock, an iconic rock formation. People love to hike up and get photos sitting on this rock, since it’s super thin and perched over a sweeping vista.
Start at Mount Woodson Trailhead, which is located by Lake Poway (there’s a large parking lot). Continue following the trail all the way up, and Potato Chip Rock is at the very end! Keep in mind that this is a popular hike, so you may have to wait in line to get a photo on the rock.
Go Brewery Hopping
If you’re a beer fan, you have to visit some breweries, since San Diego is known for its beer culture. There are a ton of breweries in the Miramar area, so it’s a great spot to check out.
The breweries in this area are mostly located in office parks, but don’t be put off by the underwhelming surroundings! There are a ton of hidden (and not so hidden) gems. Some of my personal favorites in this area are Pure Project, St. Archer Brewing Co., AleSmith Brewing Co., and Ballast Point (this one is a great place to grab lunch or dinner, too).
Check Out the USS Midway Museum
As mentioned in the first day itinerary, there is a museum aboard the USS Midway, which is docked in the San Diego Bay. If you have additional time, this is a very cool museum to check out.
There are over 60 exhibits all throughout the aircraft carrier, including multiple restored WWII aircraft and helicopters. There is an admission fee, and you can see the most current prices and buy tickets on their tickets page.
Visit The Flower Fields in Carlsbad
If you’re visiting San Diego sometime between March and early May, check out The Flower Fields in Carlsbad! This spot has 50 acres of gorgeous blooming flowers, and is popular for photographers and flower lovers.
Walk around the colorful fields, and take a tour on one of the antique tractors. They also have a U-pick blueberry patch, and you can purchase a bouquet of flowers to take home.
Where to Eat and Drink in San Diego
We’ve covered a few different restaurants and bars above, but here are a few more options all around San Diego.
Eating in San Diego
This indoor-outdoor restaurant serves innovative wood-fired food inspired by meals you’d share with friends around a fire. In my opinion, Campfire also serves some of the best cocktails in San Diego!
Jorge’s Mexicatessen (Two Locations in Encinitas)
You can’t go to San Diego without getting some great Mexican food! Jorge’s is a super casual spot that is known for its amazing chicken soup. I also recommend the fish tacos.
Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens (Escondido, Liberty Station)
Both of these Stone locations have beautiful outdoor spaces that are perfect for enjoying a beer and some bites on a warm day. The beer list is huge, and the kitchen serves elevated versions of brewery food.
George’s at the Cove (La Jolla)
George’s at the Cove is a multi-level restaurant offering contemporary California cuisine. The lower level is the more sophisticated dining space, while the upper two levels (with the top being an outdoor terrace) offer more casual experiences.
Great Maple (La Jolla, Hillcrest)
Great Maple is the brunch and dinner spot for comfort food with a twist. No matter when you visit, be sure to order one of their famous maple bacon doughnuts.
Sushi Ota (Pacific Beach)
Sushi Ota is located in an unassuming strip mall, but don’t let the unexciting surroundings fool you. This well-loved restaurant serves some of the best sushi you can find in San Diego.
Born and Raised (Little Italy)
Born and Raised is a glamorous and glitzy steakhouse located in Little Italy. It offers table-side cart service, and has an extensive drink menu.
Drinking in San Diego
Coffee and Tea
Better Buzz (Encinitas, La Jolla, Pacific Beach, Point Loma, & More)
Better Buzz is a trendy San Diego coffee house chain with more than 10 locations scattered throughout the county. They’re known for their handcrafted coffee drinks (the “Best Drink Ever” is a personal favorite) and tea lattes, as well as their food menu, which has smoothies, sandwiches, acai bowls, and more.
Pannikin Coffee and Tea (Encinitas, La Jolla, and San Diego Airport)
Whether you’re a coffee or a tea person, Pannikin has an option for you! This local cafe has been operating since 1968, and is known for a selection of coffees and teas from around the world, as well as delicious pastries and breakfast and lunch items.
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters (Del Mar, La Jolla, Mission Bay, Little Italy, & More)
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters is another popular San Diego coffee house chain, with 6 cafes throughout the county. This award-winning company is known for having only the best quality coffee, and for working closely with farmers.
James Coffee Co. (Little Italy, Bankers Hill, & North Park)
Independently owned and operated James Coffee produces incredible single-origin beans, as well as their own exclusive blends – which result in a delicious cup of coffee. The Little Italy location houses both the roastery and a cafe, while the other two locations serve as cafes.
Bars in San Diego
Solterra Winery and Kitchen (Leucadia)
Solterra sources grapes from local vineyards as well as vineyards in Mexico, and ages all red wines in the barrels that you can see on-site. This coastal winery has two buildings (the winery and the tasting room), and also serves delicious Mediterranean food.
Culture Brewing Co. (Solana Beach, Encinitas)
Culture is the epitome of an excellent small, local San Diego brewery. Both locations are right by the beach, and serve a variety of great beers in the industrial space. The Solana Beach location is the actual brewery (and tasting room), while the Encinitas location is a tasting room.
Raised by Wolves (La Jolla)
Raised by Wolves is a speakeasy-style cocktail bar, where you enter the space while sitting on a hidden rotating platform. It has a grand, old-world library aesthetic, and a drink menu that is incredibly expansive.
The Field Irish Pub (Gaslamp Quarter)
If you want to be transported to Ireland for the night, visit The Field for a pint of Guinness and live music. This authentic spot is owned by an Irish couple who literally shipped the unique pieces of this cozy and eclectic pub over from Ireland.
The Best Time to Visit San Diego
San Diego has good weather year-round, so there’s really no bad time to visit. That said, some seasons will be better than others in terms of the weather and the crowds.
If you want to make the most of your 2 days in San Diego, consider visiting in the late spring or early fall – right before school lets out, or right after school is back in session. During these times, you’ll still get great weather, but won’t have to deal with the summer vacationers (which there are a lot of in San Diego, especially in the towns closer to the coast!). These are particularly great times to visit if you plan on spending a lot of time at the beach.
You can expect the weather to be a bit warmer in the fall compared to the late spring. Average temperatures in September and October range in the mid to high 70s, while the temperatures in May and June range in the high 60s to low 70s.
If spending time swimming in the ocean or getting a tan at the beach isn’t a priority, you really can’t go wrong visiting at any other time of the year. Temperatures rarely drop below the 60s, so you can still comfortably explore no matter when you’re visiting.
Keep in mind that temperatures will fluctuate a bit depending on how close to the coast you are. You’ll want to check the weather for the exact town you’re staying in for the most accurate information.
Getting to San Diego
The San Diego International Airport (SAN) is the one and only commercial airport in the area. It’s located just north of Downtown San Diego.
SAN is one of the busiest airports in the state, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding a flight from your area. While it’s definitely busy, the airport only has two terminals, so getting in and out is usually fairly painless.
Should You Rent a Car?
While the public transportation system in San Diego is fairly good, in most cases, I’d still highly recommend renting a car for your visit. The county is large, so if your 2 day San Diego itinerary has you exploring different areas, public transportation simply isn’t the most efficient option. For those following the itinerary mapped out below – which covers both south and north county – renting a car is the absolute best option.
That said, if you’re planning on sticking to one area of San Diego, public transportation may still be a good choice for you. This is particularly true for those only exploring Downtown San Diego and the surrounding area, since you have access to both the bus system and the trolley (more on that below).
For those who plan on staying in one of the north county coastal towns (and only exploring that neighborhood), I’d still recommend renting a car or using rideshare. Public transportation isn’t as readily available further north, so you may find it difficult to travel from place to place.
Getting to Your Accommodation from the Airport
As far as getting from the airport to your accommodation goes, you have a few options.
If you plan on renting a car, there are free shuttles that operate from both terminals to take you to the rental car center. You’ll easily see the signs leading to the Terminal 1 Rental Car Shuttle and Terminal 2 Rental Car Shuttle stops. Check out your rental car company’s website for more info on their shuttles.
For those using rideshare, there is a designated pickup spot by Terminal 1. The SAN website has detailed directions on getting to this spot from both terminals.
If you’ll be heading downtown, a good public transportation option is the MTS bus route 992, which stops at both terminals at SAN. It has multiple stops downtown, and also connects to all three San Diego trolley lines, as well as Amtrak’s Santa Fe Depot train station.
If you’ll be heading up north, you can take this bus to the Santa Fe Depot station to take Amtrak’s Coaster to your destination. The Coaster stops in Old Town, Sorrento Valley (near Torrey Pines), Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside.
Getting Around San Diego
San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) consists of multiple bus routes and a trolley system with three lines. The buses operate all throughout San Diego County, and the trolley lines operate in the southern parts of the county. If you plan on using these public transportation options during your stay, you’ll definitely want to use the MTS trip planner, which will show you which bus and trolley options are available to you.
As mentioned in the previous section, those going north of downtown San Diego can also take Amtrak’s Coaster. This is a good option for those planning on visiting or staying in one of the north county San Diego towns mentioned above.
Renting a Car
As recommended above, renting a car is typically the best option for those visiting San Diego, especially if you’re only there for a weekend. There are over a dozen rental companies that operate out of the rental car center at SAN. You can find the info for those companies on the SAN website.
Ubers and Lyfts are both readily available throughout San Diego County, particularly in the more populated areas closer to the coast. Keep in mind that, if you’re covering a lot of ground, taking rideshares everywhere can get pricey. Renting a car will likely be the more wallet-friendly option if you’re following the itinerary below (or just plan on exploring different corners of the county). However, if you’re sticking to a smaller area during your visit to San Diego, using rideshare is a good option.
And that’s a wrap – we think you’re ready for your San Diego adventure!
Plan an Unforgettable California Adventure
Heading to California? We’ve got all sorts of super detailed, in-depth California travel guides written by locals to help you plan an amazing trip.
- San Francisco: We’ve got a guide to spending 3 days in SF, one day in San Francisco for planning a shorter trip, and a complete guide to finding the perfect place to stay in San Francisco. We also have guides to 14 perfect weekend getaways from San Francisco and the best day trips in the Bay Area. Oh, we almost forgot, here are the 15 best hikes near San Francisco, written by two Bay Area locals.
- Los Angeles: Read our perfect 2 Day L.A. itinerary, our guide to spending one amazing day in L.A. (with two versions!), and a guide to helping you figure out where to stay.
- San Diego: Learn how to spend a day in San Diego, a weekend in San Diego, and where you should stay.
- Lake Tahoe: Plan the perfect summertime adventure with our 3 day Tahoe itinerary, guide to the best hikes, and our guide to the best things to do in Tahoe.
- Santa Barbara: We have a guide to planning a weekend in Santa Barbara, and a guide to a day trip to Santa Barbara from Los Angeles if you’re pressed for time.
- Mammoth Lakes: To plan a perfect getaway in the Eastern Sierra, read our guide to the best things to do in Mammoth Lakes in the summer. Plus, our guide to the best hikes in Mammoth, featuring the epic climb to the top of Duck Pass.
- Big Sur: Plan the perfect weekend away with our complete Big Sur itinerary.
- Yosemite National Park: Plan an amazing trip with our guide to planning an amazing Yosemite itinerary, and our guide to choosing where to stay at Yosemite.
- Joshua Tree National Park: Plan the perfect trip with our perfect weekend itinerary (or a day trip, if you have less time), a guide to the best hikes, and some cool places to stay in Joshua Tree.
- Death Valley National Park: We have a SUPER detailed guide to planning the perfect Death Valley itinerary, and a guide to the best hikes in Death Valley National Park.
- California Road Trips: See the best of the Pacific Coast Highway on our San Francisco to San Diego road trip, or make the trip up Highway from on a Los Angeles to SanFrancisco road trip. If you’re more into mountains than beaches, a Highway 395 road trip from Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe might be more your speed.