Planning a trip to San Diego any time soon? It can be difficult to pick where to stay in San Diego with all the incredible options from downtown to coastal beach towns. If you’re trying to dial down where to stay in San Diego then we have you covered. Having lived in Southern Californa and visiting San Diego several times we were able to confidently put together this incredible guide to help you pick which area is the best for you with different hotel options for all different budgets and priorities.
Let us help you plan your stay so you can focus on all the awesome things to do in San Diego and have a happy, relaxed vacation in one of the best cities on the West Coast. We also have a great 3 day itinerary for San Diego to help you plan your trip!
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Best Places To Stay in San Diego by Area
If you’re looking to stay at one of the most iconic places on the west coast then this is where to stay in San Diego. Coronado is an island off of downtown San Diego connected to the rest of the city by a bridge. The island shares half of its land with a naval base and where the Navy SEALS are famously known for training.
The island of Coronado feels frozen in time and you can see traces of its vintage past still present in much of the architecture on the island. The island was officially a town in 1890 and it was a huge project to bring tourism and create a resort destination during the construction of Hotel del Coronado. Today you can stay at this historic hotel which is also the second largest wooden structure in the US!
Also, this is where to stay in San Diego for film buffs! Some Like it Hot with Marilyn Monroe filmed here!
Coronado offers plenty of things to do especially if you’re a beach lover. Their white sand beaches, specifically at Hotel del Coronado have been named one of the best beaches in the US year after year. There are also great places to dine all across the island including Coronado Brewing Company.
We especially loved just walking around and looking at the eclectic mansions that are built in all different architectural styles. It doesn’t hurt to take a walking tour either, the local historical society hosts one every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 11 am from the Glorietta Bay Inn stopping at the main highlights on the island as well as famous houses like the house that the Wizard of Oz was written in!
$$ Villa Capri by the Sea
Step back into the 1960s by staying at the Villa Capri by the Sea. This retro motel is in a prime location just across the street from Hotel del Coronado and the white sand beach. The rooms have everything you need and breakfast is included. There’s a pool on site and the best part has to be the cool retro neon light outside the hotel.
$$ Glorietta Bay Inn
Set in the former home of John Spreckels who is responsible for much of what makes San Diego a place we love to visit today, the Glorietta Bay Inn is another historic boutique hotel in a prime location across from Hotel del Coronado. The hotel feels like you’re staying in a mansion and we recommend trying to nab one of the 11 original mansion rooms. The hotel tells a history lesson in itself and is a really unique experience. This is where to stay in San Diego if you’re a history lover.
$$$ Hotel del Coronado
Hotel del Coronado, also known simply as ‘the Del,’ is THE pick for where to stay in San Diego if you want the ultimate experience. The hotel is an official historic hotel of America and sits on one of the best white sand beaches in the US. Choose from the rooms, suites, or beach cottages for the ultimate beach getaway. Sleep where the stars slept including many of the past US presidents and even a filming location for Some Like it Hot with Marilyn Monroe. The hotel even hosts a historical tour every day at 10 am. Being a guest here means you get to experience one of the most famed and favorite hotels in US history.
Once the home to the booming tuna fishing industry and the Italian enclave of the city, this has become one of the best foodie scenes in the city and most adorable areas for where to stay in San Diego. We stayed here and loved how close we were to everything we wanted to do in downtown San Diego and ALL the restaurant options.
Staying in Little Italy means you’re just a hop and skip away from downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp District and Balboa Park. If you’re ambitious enough you can even take the little scooters to these San Diego hot spots from Little Italy. However, Little Italy itself is located right by the water and has no shortage in a selection of incredible restaurants to dine at and bars.
This is where to stay in San Diego if you’re a foodie and enjoy a great drinking scene. There are a few of the great San Diego breweries down here including Ballast Point and Mikkeller.
The ONLY thing to be aware of if you stay in Little Italy is the proximity to the airport. You can hear the planes landing and they fly pretty low over Little Italy. This didn’t bother us one bit, but it might be a nuisance to anyone who is a light sleeper.
This boutique hotel is the perfect option for anyone, not just budget travelers. We stayed here due to a last minute trip and were really glad we had the chance to experience Found. The hotel has private rooms but a few of the rooms share a bathroom with one other room. We had a shared bathroom and were impressed at how clean and well maintained it was our entire stay. Breakfast is included and the staff was extremely friendly.
Parking is a bit of a con here as you have to find parking on the street. However, if you’re willing to walk about 5 minutes you can easily find parking in a nearby residential neighborhood.
$$ Hilton Garden Inn San Diego
This gorgeous hotel is located right on the bay with views of the water. The rooms are modern and some even offer views of the bay. This is where to stay in San Diego if you’re looking to hang out poolside at their killer rooftop pool. There’s also a 24-hour gym on site, seafood restaurant, and cool bar.
$$$ DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel San Diego Downtown
Another hotel in a killer location in Little Italy. This Hilton hotel is located in the heart of Little Italy. The rooms are modern and there’s a great pool on site perfect for relaxing. They also offer a free airport shuttle so you don’t even need to have a rental car, the public transport is so great in San Diego that is just one less thing to worry about.
This is where to stay in San Diego if you’re looking to stay in the heart of downtown. The Gaslamp Quarter boasts for having the best nightlife and entertainment in the city. Being close to the convention center this is where alot of business travelers stay and play at night in the local bars and restaurants.
The Gaslamp Quarter was once the redlight district and remained to have a seedy reputation up until around 2004 when Petco Park was built and helped turn around business and the reputation in the area. Walking around the Gaslamp Quarter today you’d never know. We love the eclectic range of restaurants and bars in the area. Hey, if you’re in the mood you can even see a cabaret show down here!
The Gaslamp Quarter has its own slew of things to do that revolve around dining, drinking, and entertainment. You’re also really close to Balboa Park, Coronado, and the USS Midway Museum from here. This is where to stay in San Diego if you’re short on time and want to be in the center of all the best things to do in San Diego.
$ HI San Diego Downtown
This is where to stay in San Diego if you’re on a budget! This hostel is a well-known chain with contemporary rooms with both private and dorm-style options. Besides being easy on the wallet there are also some great entertainment options including a hangout area to meet other travelers and a billiard table. There’s a communal kitchen on site.
$$ The Keating Hotel
Another great option for where to stay in San Diego itinerary in the Gaslamp Quarter. The Keating Hotel is a fine 4-star hotel in a historic 19th century building with modern and eclectic rooms. The hotel has an artsy feel to it and is located right next to Horton Plaza in the Gaslamp Quarter. If you’re feeling like you want a fun and unforgettable night out on your San Diego getaway then you can also enjoy the burlesque club that is on site.
$$$ Moxy San Diego Downtown Gaslamp Quarter
This has to be one of the coolest hotels in San Diego and where to stay if you’re looking to be in the center of the city and love a modern chic hotel to stay in. The rooms are decked out in industrial chic decor with to die for bathrooms. The lounge and bar in the lobby area is one of the coolest in San Diego and a great fun hangout spot in the Gaslamp Quater. You might just want to move in.
$$$$ The US GRANT
This is where to stay in San Diego if you’re looking for ultimate luxury and sophistication. The US Grant is a Luxury Collection hotel dating back to 1910. The rooms are elegant and refined with fine art on display. Upgraded rooms have two stories and a balcony offering a view of the city and bay. The building itself is gorgeous and there’s a sophisticated cocktail lounge on site. If you’re looking to splurge on a luxury experience, this is where to do it.
This is where to stay in San Diego if you’re looking for an authentic experience. Old Town San Diego is the birthplace of California and the oldest settlement in San Diego. Here you can find authentic Mexican cuisine as well as other global cuisine and restaurants, incredible nightlife, and historical buildings.
The history in the place alone makes it a cool place for where to stay in San Diego. It ended up being one of our favorite places to visit in San Diego. From the historical buildings and old time feel to having cool things to do including the most haunted house in America, Whaley House.
This is where to go if you want to go back to California’s earliest days and feel like you’re living in an old time town.
Old Town San Diego is an attraction in itself. Being here means you have the best access to great Mexican cuisine and some of the oldest sites in the city including Presidio Park, the site of the original mission of San Diego and now home to a place to hang out, walk, picnic, and the Junipero Serra Museum. You’re still only a few miles away from the rest of the sites in San Diego and easily able to use public transport to get there.
$$ Cosmopolitan Inn
The best place to stay in Old Town San Diego is at the historic and newly restored Cosmopolitan Hotel. This building is one of the oldest in California at over 175 years old rich with history with the most important people and events in the state of California.
The hotel is furnished with real antiques and has an authentic saloon inside that takes you back in time to the Old West. Each room is unique with Victorian-style décor and bathrooms. The Cosmopolitan Hotel wants you to have the most authentic experience so there are no TVs or even phones in the rooms, but don’t panic there is WIFI. But there is an awesome pool on site as well to do some much-deserved relaxation time.
$$ Best Western Plus Hacienda Hotel Old Town
There are some cool things to do in Point Loma including the Cabrillo National Monument and viewpoint, walking and hiking trails, tide pools, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, Liberty Station, and plenty of restaurants and places to shop.
$$ The Inn at Sunset Cliffs
This is where to stay in San Diego if you want one of the best sunset spots in the city at Sunset Cliffs. This hotel has a fun and inviting atmosphere and is located overlooking the pier of Ocean Beach. The rooms have a nautical and casual theme. You can upgrade to add a kitchenette and living space to your room. There’s also a great patio and outdoor pool on site. If you want to catch your own dinner, they also offer fishing here.
$$ Kona Kai Resort & Spa
This is a beautiful, upscale resort in Point Loma on Shelter Island is a perfect place for where to stay in San Diego. The rooms are comfortable with beachy chic decor. Many of the rooms have marina or bay views. You can upgrade to have a living room and dining room. They also have a great waterfront restaurant, terrace, spa, and a marina. Your stay here includes access to their private beach, pool, and the fitness center.
$$ Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn
Located on Shelter Island, this gorgeous waterfront resort has welcoming relaxed rooms with a muted tropical vibe. You will feel like you’re on an exotic vacation here in San Diego. Rooms have their own patios and you can upgrade to get your own living area, extra bedrooms, and kitchen. There’s a fitness facility and live-music club, and restaurant on site. There’s also an outdoor pool with a bar and access to the marina.
What was once a tidal marsh is now a saltwater lagoon in San Diego. The bay is a part of Mission Bay Park, the largest aquatic park in the United States. Surrounded by water this is where to stay in San Diego if you’re looking to enjoy water activities and sports and even camping! This area is full of beautiful sandy beaches and walking paths.
Mission Bay is home to some great sandy beaches to relax on, paths to bike, skateboard, or walk on, and plenty of water sports from water skiing, boating, kayaking, and stand up paddle boarding. This area is also home to the amusement park, Belmont Park and SeaWorld.
$ The Dana on Mission Bay
This is a great option for where to stay in San Diego if you’re wanting to stay in the Mission Bay area. This hotel offers airy and cozy rooms for a comfortable stay. You can upgrade to have a room with a balcony overlooking the gorgeous water. There’s also two pools and a garden on site along with an indoor/outdoor restaurant and bar.
$$ Bahia Resort Hotel
This is a gorgeous option for where to stay in San Diego. The rooms are traditional and cozy with basic amenities. You can request a beach or garden view room or upgrade for a kitchenette and dining area. There are some great restaurants on site including Mediterranean and Moroccan cuisines. There’s an outdoor pool with awesome cabanas, hot tub, kid’s game room, tennis courts, and live entertainment.
$$$ Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa And Marina
This is where to stay in San Diego if you’re looking for a hotel that’s a vacation in itself. The hotel overlooks the Mission Bay Marina with modern rooms. Upgrade to a balcony room with views of the marina. There are incredible restaurants on site and a waterfront terrace, indoor/outdoor bars, live music, a fitness facility, and a spa. The icing on the cake is the lagoon style pool with cozy cabanas and water slides for the kids or adults young at heart.
Located just north of Mission Bay, Pacific Beach is another desirable area for where to stay in San Diego if you’re looking for a great, relaxed beach town. Full of surfers and sunbathers with a great food and drink scene along the boardwalk. There’s also great shopping in this area.
Mission Bay is the closest to Pacific Beach but you’re also not too far from La Jolla on the coast. This is obviously a place for water sports like surfing and just basking in the sun all day.
$ ITH Beach Bungalow Surf Hostel
This is the perfect place for where to stay in San Diego if you’re a budget traveler looking for a great surf scene. With tons of lively bars nearby you will have a trip of a lifetime surfing or hanging out at the beach during the day and having all the nightlife options in the evenings. The rooms have fun murals and dorm-style rooms as well as private rooms. Beach mats, coolers, and water sports equipment is available to borrow for guests.
$$ Blue Sea Beach Hotel
This is a prime location on Pacific Beach along the coastline and overlooking Mission Beach. The rooms are sleek and cozy and most come with ocean view balconies and designer toiletries. Breakfast and snacks are included plus there’s a cafe on site. The hotel provides loaner bikes to explore the beach more and there’s a great pool with a pretty mural overlooking the beach, hot tub, and beach access. A bonus would be the retro video games in the lobby!
$$$ Tower23 Hotel
This gorgeous modern hotel with incredible ocean views offers chic rooms with private balconies or patios with ocean views. Located just next to Pacific Beach Park this is a prime location for beach activities. There is an awesome rooftop lounge with firepits to watch the sun go down and a great steakhouse on site. This is where to stay in San Diego if you’re looking for a relaxing beach getaway.
La Jolla is easily one of our favorite places in San Diego. This charming seaside town is full of art galleries and breathtaking beaches and coves. Besides being a gorgeous coastal town there’s also a great dining and drinking scene here and incredible outdoor activities from water sports to hiking or golfing at Torrey Pines that all make this one of the best sites to visit in San Diego.
Nearby attractions, in addition to all the cool things to do in La Jolla, include Torrey Pines State Park, the golf course at Torrey Pines, art museums and galleries, shopping, dining, and casual water sports. One of our favorite things to do here is visit the Children’s Pool beach where the sea lions bask in the sun and Sunny Jim’s Cave that opens up to the ocean.
$$ La Jolla Cove Hotel & Suites
With a prime location across from La Jolla Cove Beach, this relaxed hotel is a great pick for where to stay in San Diego’s La Jolla. Rooms are modern and some have balconies overlooking the ocean. Breakfast is included and so is access to a nearby gym. There is a heated outdoor pool with a sundeck, firepits, hot tub, pool tables, and a place to barbeque. There’s also a great rooftop bar with an awesome panoramic view and happy hour specials. Parking is not included.
$$$ La Valencia Hotel
This gorgeous pink hotel is located in a 1926 Spanish style building that makes you feel like you’re in an exotic location. The hotel is located right on the ocean and has classic rooms with Italian linens. You can upgrade to get a waterfront balcony and a living area. There’s a bistro with an ocean view terrace and a tapas bar on site. Don’t miss the gorgeous hand-painted murals that date back to the 1940s. There’s also an ocean view pool and hot tub to relax in.
$$$ Pantai Inn
We love the Pantai Inn, we stayed here about 6 years ago and have dreamed of coming back since. With a perfect location just by the Children’s Pool and overlooking the ocean and Scripps Park. This hotel has brick villas surrounded by gardens. Each villa is its own suite complete with kitchens and living areas and decked out in Balinese decor. Breakfast and parking are included and the location is perfect for La Jolla.
Located north of La Jolla, Del Mar is where to stay in San Diego if you’re looking for a more relaxing beach getaway. Unfortunately, you’re not THAT close to downtown San Diego but it’s easily doable in 30 minutes by car or public transport. This is another one of those beautiful and dreamy smaller coastal towns along the Southern California coast that you just want to move to.
Nearby attractions include La Jolla, Torrey Pines, and the Del Mar race track. Don’t forget the beach either!
$$ Hotel Indigo
This beautiful, laid-back hotel has incredible ocean views in the heart of Del Mar. The rooms are cozy and warm with basic amenities. Upgrade for a balcony with an ocean view with a kitchenette and fireplace or whirlpool tub. There’s a seafood restaurant on site, two pools, spa, fitness center, and business center on site. Parking is included.
$$$ L’Auberge Del Mar
This gorgeous, high-end property is spread out and overlooks Del Mar Beach. The rooms are bright and polished with tropical decor. Almost every room has a balcony or patio with beach views. Upgrade to a suite for a living room and fireplace. There are options to dine on site as well as bars with live music and a spa. This hotel offers a shuttle that will take you around Del Mar so you can access all the incredible things to do in the area from shopping to dining and hitting up local beaches.
If you don’t have your own car or a rental car during your San Diego getaway don’t worry there are plenty of options for public transportation in the city as well as rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft.
In downtown San Diego and certain beach cities like La Jolla, there are scooter rentals literally all over the place which are nice for getting around short distances that are a stretch too far for a walk.
By Trolley: This is great for popular stops near downtown San Diego they run about every 15 minutes. There are three different trolley lines that will get you anywhere you need to go on your San Diego vacation downtown.
By Train: There are various train systems in San Diego from the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner which can bring you in from a further destination to the Coaster and Sprinter which help connect San Diego county by train. If you plan on adventuring up to North County these are great options.
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