Your ultimate guide to sunny San Diego
Ask any local for an opinion on the best time to visit San Diego and you just might get a confused look in response. Known as a city with continuous sunshine and tepid temperatures, San Diego has a reputation as a year-round traveler playground. In actuality, however, things like rain, crowds and high hotel rates can all put a damper on your trip. Find out the best time to visit San Diego to avoid any unwelcome surprises on your vacation.
Best time to visit
Spring is typically the best time to visit San Diego. For starters, you can usually find affordable hotel and airfare deals from March through May. Temperatures also rarely rise above the mid-60s, and colorful flowers are in bloom throughout the area, including at the Carlsbad Flower Fields. Fall is also a good time to visit, as crowds and hotel prices usually dip in October and November and temperatures comfortably hover in the low 70s.
Peak tourist season hits during the summer as vacationing families descend on such popular attractions as SeaWorld San Diego, the San Diego Zoo and local beaches. Hotel rates skyrocket and rooms fill up fast during the summer but the city is particularly packed during Comic-Con, the mammoth entertainment and comic festival that draws millions of visitors each July. Other popular city happenings include Fleet Week, an annual October celebration honoring the military, and Christmastime’s San Diego Bay Parade of Lights – but no event or season matches the scope of those summer crowds.
San Diego usually experiences a small lull from Thanksgiving to February. Although plenty of affordable hotel rooms are available at discounted rates, family-friend attractions, like Balboa Park, are still crowded on the weekends.
Mostly sun...but not always
San Diego’s moderate coastal climate typically means year-round low humidity and temperatures in the 60s and 70s. Extreme hot or cold conditions are rare, but temperatures can dip or soar, respectively, in the nearby mountains and deserts. With overcast skies and foggy mornings and evenings, spring is known for its “May Gray” and summer for its “June Gloom.” Sunshine breaks through during the summer, coupled with temps in the high 70s, and conditions can warm up even more in the fall with the addition of Santa Ana winds. Although a relatively dry city, winter is San Diego’s rainiest season. While daytime temperatures are in the mid-60s, the evenings can slip into the 40s. The ocean waters are usually too cold during the winter as well, unless you have a wet suit.
Crowds and traffic
To avoid the summertime beach crowds, consider visiting local favorite Marine Street Beach instead of the oft-packed Mission and Pacific Beaches. Marine Street is a great beach for sunbathing, but be careful of the notoriously rough surf. Throughout October, many of San Diego's landmark attractions, including the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Safari Park, offer free admission to kids. As a result, October may not be the best month to visit if you're looking to elude crowds, as many of these popular destinations are chock-full of tourists.
Like most big cities, San Diego’s freeways are congested during weekday morning and evening commutes. Thankfully, the city’s light rail trolley system operates three lines throughout the region and typically runs on schedule. It won’t take you directly to all of the city’s top attractions, but you can make bus connections at most trolley stops. Sights in North San Diego County, such as Legoland, are usually accessible via a combination of buses and commuter trains, like the Sprinter and Coaster. San Diego International Airport is just a 10-minute drive from the heart of downtown, and you’ll find it’s often cheaper and faster to take a taxi or ride-sharing service to your hotel than an airport shuttle.