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Top San Diego Tourist Activities

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Article Summary 

  • List of options for getting on the water, exploring the city and visiting the theme parks
  • Brief descriptions and links for all activities listed

With the beautiful coastline, beach cities, theme parks and lively downtown area, there are endless activity and entertainment options to keep you busy during your trip to San Diego.  This list includes my favorite ways to spend time in the city I call home. 

Important Note: We only recommend activities that we personally use and love through companies (in this case Viator) that we trust. The links below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, we will earn a commission. This commission is paid by the company you purchase through and does not increase the price for you. We want to thank anyone who chooses to purchase through one of our affiliate links as these commissions are how we fund the company and continue to provide free guides, tips and hotel price tracking to our readers.

Get Out on the Water

The coastline and beach is the primary draw for many of the tourists who visit San Diego every year. Just because it was not the primary reason for your visit doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make sure to get to the beach and out on the water to enjoy it a bit, especially since you’re visiting in one of the best months to do just that. 

San Diego Surf Lessons – San Diego isn’t known for having a great surf or big waves, which makes it the perfect environment to learn. Whether it’s a bucket list item of yours to try surfing or you have big plans to become a pro, why not start today?

La Jolla Sea Caves Kayak Tour – I’ve done this tour twice and it’s one of my favorite ways to get out in the water in San Diego. The La Jolla Cliffs are a beautiful backdrop as you kayak towards the caves and hear interesting tidbits from your Kayak tour guide. Prefer to bring a buddy along with you? Tours can be booked as 1 or 2 passengers per kayak.

San Diego Sunday Champagne Brunch Cruise – Another one of my favorite San Diego activities, combining many of the things I love: Mimosas, Brunch and spending a day on the boat, out on the Pacific Ocean. Brunch is a buffet, but the quality of food was much better than my fiancé and I were anticipating. The service was also great, they were on top of the refills throughout the cruise, which made us feel like we got more than our monies worth. If you have a morning free, this is a great way to spend it.

San Diego Harbor Dinner Cruise – Similar experience, but dinner is a plated three-course meal with the entrée of your choice. Sailing in the evening also means you’ll get to see the San Diego Skyline lit up, creating a romantic atmosphere perfect for a date night with a significant other. A welcome drink is included with all dinner cruise packages, but if you want open bar you’ll have to pay an additional $26 per person. If you choose not to purchase this upgrade, drinks can be purchased on board the boat.  

San Diego Seal Tour – See San Diego from the water and travel San Diego by land, all without having to change your method of transportation. Known in most cities as a Duck Tour, San Diego made the amphibious tour their own by re-naming it the Seal Tour. The tour is narrated and covers the history of San Diego as it travels along the bay by land and sea.

Explore the City

Coastal Tour of San Diego – Comprehensive tour covering many of the beach cities in San Diego and ideal for travelers who want to see the coastline, but don’t have a car. This tour will give you the opportunity to see and explore the Cabrillo National Monument, Sunset Cliffs, Pacific Beach, Encinitas, Swamis, Del Mar, Torrey Pines Cliffs and La Jolla Cove. It will be a busy, long day, but entirely worth it. Hotel pickup and drop off is also included.

Hop-on Hop-off Trolley – Explore the areas that you want to see in the city on your own time by hopping on and off any of the trolley’s 10 stops including popular tourist spots like Seaport Village, Old Town, Balboa Park, Gaslamp, Little Italy and Coronado.

Tequila, Tacos and Tombstones Culinary Tour or Brothels, Bites and Booze: A Culinary Tour of San Diego's Questionable Past: Both of these walking tours explore the history of San Diego as you walk and taste your way through the city. The first tour will explore the history and food of Old Town, while the second explores the history and food in the Gaslamp area.

San Diego Micro Brewery Tour – No list of San Diego attractions would be complete without mentioning the growing popularity of microbreweries in the San Diego area. This tour includes a behind the scenes tour with tastings at one brewery (Green Flash or Ballast Point) as well as two additional stops where you can sample beers and learn about how they’re made from your tour guide. Pick-up/drop-off points are offered in both Downtown San Diego and Old Town. 

Balboa Park - Filled with historic buildings, museums, gardens, and trails, you could spend all day exploring Balboa Park and still not have time for everything. It’s beautiful and worth a visit even if you choose to just stroll through it and admire the buildings. If you get hungry, grab lunch or dinner at The Prado, their food is amazing!

Old Town San Diego - A quick trolley ride away from most San Diego cities, Old Town is a great opportunity to learn about San Diego’s history and eat at some of San Diego’s best Mexican food establishments. Visit the first San Diego Court house and publically owned school among many other historical sites, including potentially haunted El Campo Santo Cemetery and Whaley House.

Seaport Village - Shop and dine along the waterfront at Seaport Village. Within walking distance of downtown hotels, it’s only a nice stroll along the bay or quick Uber ride away. Once you arrive, you can explore any of the 54 shops, dine at one of the 17 restaurants or pass the time watching street performers.

Spend a Day at a Theme Park

San Diego Zoo – The 100-acre Zoo holds 3,500 animals and is one of San Diego’s most popular tourist destinations. Are your feet too tired from walking around and exploring San Diego all weekend? The zoo has you covered with a 35-minute tour that takes place on a double decker bus, covers 75% of the park and even offers hop-on, hop-off stops.

SeaWorld San Diego – Spend a day with some of the sea’s most magnificent creatures without having to leave dry land at SeaWorld San Diego. The park offers educational and fun shows, thrilling rides and animal encounters with marine life. At SeaWorld, you can get up close with dolphins, penguins and even sharks!

Aquatica Waterpark – Tired of being hot and sweaty after multiple days of standing in line and crowded rooms? Aquatica may be exactly the relief you’re looking for. A waterpark, just 20 minutes south of San Diego, gives you the opportunity to zip down waterslides, ride the waves in the wave pool or pass the day floating down the lazy river, surrounded by flamingos.  

Multiple Attractions

Go San Diego Card – Want to take advantage of more than one activity listed here? Look into the Go San Diego Card, which offers multiple San Diego attractions all for one low price!


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