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San Diego Itinerary – How To Spend 1 – 2 Days In San Diego

San Diego City, located on the Pacific Coast of the state of California, is the 8th largest city in the United States and is famous for its wonderful climate and miles of stunning coastline.

The beaches here are renowned as some of the best surfing beaches in the country. However, apart from surfing, there is an abundance of outdoor activities available in this city including hiking, cycling, kayaking, fishing, beach yoga and more.

In addition, it’s home to a beautiful historic quarter, interesting museums, art galleries, parks, an impressive zoo, and some great retail destinations.

As well as a fantastic selection of eateries, offering a variety of delicious cuisines including, being close to the Mexico border, some amazing Mexican dishes.

With so much on offer, here’s a 2 days in San Diego itinerary for visiting.

How To Get Around San Diego

Within the city of San Diego, there are lots of neighbourhoods and you will need transport to travel between them.

However, thanks to an expansive transit system, getting around San Diego isn’t too much of a problem!

Bus

One of the most economical ways to get around San Diego is by bus.

There are plenty of routes that offer services throughout the city.

Trolleys

There are three trolley lines (blue, orange and green) that service the downtown San Diego communities and beyond.

Trolley and bus fares are usually inexpensive with children 5 and under riding for free. Trolleys run an average of every 15 minutes — seven minutes during peak hours and 30 minutes at off-peak.

San Diego Red Trolley

The iconic bright red San Diego Trolley will take you around the city.

Providing convenient services from key locations downtown, including the Santa Fe Depot and the San Diego Convention Center.

Pedicabs And Carriages

Pedicabs (tricycles that carry 2 passengers) and horse-drawn carriages are a popular form of transport along Downtown’s waterfront and in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego.

Taxi

Taxicab stands are located outside many of the hotels, attractions and shopping centres.

Base fare and rates are displayed on the meter and include a flag drop charge, plus a per-mile and/or a per-hour charge. 

Car

If you prefer to be independent, as well as explore further afield, hiring a car is always a good option. San Diego is said to be one of the easier cities to navigate by car.

There are various rental companies to choose from including the normal rental car centre at San Diego airport.

Tour

For those short on time, or that prefer everything to be organised for them, there are some awesome tours on Get Your Guide available to book in advance.

For example, the Hop-on Hop-off Narrated Trolley Tour offer a One-Day or Two-Day pass for this hop-on hop-off tour.

Also, to save up to 50% on tickets and tours, you could purchase a Go City Explorer Pass – Choose 2-7 Attractions.

Best Time To Visit San Diego

If you like it a little quieter, the best time to visit San Diego is late fall or mid spring. This is when you will avoid the rush of summer tourists.

This is also a good time if you intend hiking some of the awesome trails as they can become a little too hot during the summer months.

However, if you love the sun and want to make the most of the beautiful beaches, then late summer and early autumn are typically the hottest times of the year.

The month of September is said to be when the crowds have gone, the days are warm and sunny and the evenings are pleasantly cool. 

Remember, this is just a guide, so you may want to mix it up and add/subtract different attractions.

What To Pack

Photography Camera

Tripod

Day Bag

Power Bank

Reusable Water Bottle

Sunscreen

Lightweight Rain Jacket

Quick Dry Towel

GoPro

Lifeproof Phone Case

Dry Bag

San Diego Itinerary Day 1

Balboa Park

Balboa Park, covering 1,200 acres, is one of North America’s most iconic and largest urban parks. The perfect place to start your 2 days in San Diego itinerary.

This large cultural oasis is home to museums, theatres and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. As well as lots of open spaces, beautiful gardens, fountains, monuments and some pretty awesome buildings.

Furthermore, with cafes and restaurants dotted around the park, you’ve got all the facilities you need to spend as long as you want exploring everything this amazing park has to offer.

Balboa Park is a public park and free to enjoy 24 hours a day. However, some of the venues within the park will have admission fees.

If you’re interested in learning more about the park, the Walking Tour: Balboa Park with a Local Guide is a good option.

Balboa Park Best Things To Do In San Diego
Balboa Park Best Things To Do In San Diego

Spruce Street Suspension Bridge

Tucked away in the residential Bankers Hill neighbourhood is the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge. This tranquil little spot is a real hidden gem.

A pedestrian walkway, the bridge spans 375 feet over the Kate Sessions Canyon, offering spectacular views of the canyon 75 feet below.

Built in 1912, it allowed locals to cross over one of the many urban canyons in San Diego that isolated the developing neighbourhoods.

In recent years, Spruce Street Suspension Bridge has become a secret, serene spot that is loved by locals as well as any tourists who get to hear about it.

Spruce Street Suspension Bridge is definitely worth visiting during your 2 days in San Diego itinerary.

Spruce Street Suspension Bridge Best Things To Do In San Diego

La Jolla Cove

Located on the western edge of the north coastal region of San Diego, La Jolla Cove is another top tourist attraction.

This small cove has a beautiful beach that is surrounded by sandstone cliffs. The area is also protected as part of a marine reserve, making it popular with snorkelers, swimmers and scuba divers.

However, another reason for La Jolla Cove’s popularity is the famous resident population of wild California sea lions.

They can usually be found lounging together on the rocks or swimming along the stunning shoreline. (Pacific harbour seals can also be found here a little further along.)

Even if you just go to see the captivating antics of the sea lions, visiting the beautiful La Jolla Cove has to be on the 2 days in San Diego itinerary.

La Jolla Cove Best Things To Do In San Diego
Sea Lions La Jolla Cove Best Things To Do In San Diego

Dinner In Gaslamp Quarter

What better way to finish your first day in San Diego than to visit a good restaurant for dinner. The historical and vibrant Gaslamp Quarter in downtown is where you will find plenty to choose from.

Known for its lively nightlife, there’s a mix of chain and independent restaurants as well as shops, bars, nightclubs, entertainment venues and cocktail lounges.

I can highly recommend La Puerto Mexican. This trendy urban restaurant/bar has a warm ambience, friendly staff and delicious food.

On offer are tasty tacos, flautas, shrimp quesadilla and lots more delicious Mexican food, including veggie and vegan options. As well as a selection of speciality drinks with, of course, some great tequila and freshly squeezed margaritas.

La Puerto Mexican is proving to be one of the most popular restaurants in San Diego for good reason.

In addition, if you’re interested in learning more about this historical area, the Gaslamp Quarter Frontier History Walking Tour is popular.

Gaslamp Quarter Best Things To Do In San Diego
La Puerto Mexican Best Things To Do In San Diego

San Diego Itinerary Day 2

S3 Coffee Bar

If you’re looking to start day 2 of your 2 days in San Diego itinerary with a coffee, S3 Coffee Bar in Mission Square Center is a must.

It has a great choice of drinks and snacks in very cool, friendly and quirky surroundings

It’s also a good spot to get some unique photos, with a 2D corner where everything is white with black line drawings. As well as a phone booth you can actually step into.

Along with the 2D area there’s a bright pink neon sign, a lush greenery wall and some sumptuous pink velvet chairs. The perfect place to get some arty insta shots!

You’ll find all your normal coffees on offer along with some specialities including the likes of dirty chai, honey rose latte and vanilla lavender latte. As well as various chocolate drinks and a selection of teas and iced drinks.

They also offer a delicious, all day breakfast selection of things like granola yoghurt cup, avocado toast, superfood bowls and much more.

S3 Coffee Bar Best Things To Do In San Diego
S3 Coffee Bar Best Things To Do In San Diego

Walk Newport Avenue

Now you’ve had your coffee and you’re good to go, I can recommend heading to Newport Avenue.

Located in the bohemian town of Ocean Beach, this is where you will find an eclectic and exciting shopping area.

Covering almost 3 blocks, it’s home to hotels, bars, cafes, eateries and every sort of shopping experience you could wish for.

The shops on Newport Avenue sell a variety of wares, including antiques, sea shells, T-shirts, surfboards, skateboards, shoes, clothes and more.

Lined with palm trees and with the ocean close by, colourful Newport Avenue gives off a chilled coastal vibe and is great for a stroll and some people watching.

Newport Avenue Best Things To Do In San Diego
Newport Avenue Best Things To Do In San Diego

Surf At Ocean Beach

Whilst you are in the area, why not try some surfing at the beautiful Ocean Beach. Undoubtedly one of San Diego’s most popular activities, it has to be on your 2 day itinerary.

Ocean Beach is great place for beginners learning to surf as the water is pretty shallow but you don’t have to paddle out far to reach the breaking waves.

There are plenty of surf schools and shops where you can rent a surfboard for the day. As well as book lessons if needed.

North of the Ocean Beach Pier is the best place for beginners as that’s where the waves are more gentle.

If, however, you are an accomplished surfer, South of the pier is where the more experienced surfers head and where you will find much larger waves.

In addition, Ocean Beach also has lots of facilities including showers and toilets along with lifeguards making it an ideal spot for surfing.

Ocean Beach Best Things To Do In San Diego
Ocean Beach Best Things To Do In San Diego

Lunch At OB Noodle House

Now you’ve worked up an appetite, I can recommend OB Noodle House for lunch, especially if you are a lover of Asian fusion cuisine.

If you believe in the old adage ‘always eat where the locals eat’, then this family run restaurant in Ocean Beach is definitely the place to go.

Using authentic Asian cooking techniques, as well as fresh ingredients and spices imported from their country of origin, the flavours are amazing.

From Saigon fried rice to crispy tiger shrimp and Vietnamese crispy egg rolls you will be spoilt for choice. (The menu also includes plenty of vegan and vegetarian options.)

Open from noon until late, it’s a good option for lunch or dinner. Be aware though, that due to its popularity and no reservations policy, you might have to queue…… but it’s worth it!

OB Noodle House Best Things To Do In San Diego
OB Noodle House Best Things To Do In San Diego

Hike Ho Chi Minh Trail

Now you have refuelled, located in the town of La Jolla, 20 minutes north of downtown San Diego, the Ho Chi Minh Trail is a unique canyon hike down to a secluded beach.

This unique trail only covers about half a mile (0.8km) but it’s certainly not your normal beach path!

It covers pretty varied terrain and requires a few different techniques to complete it, including scrambling over rocks and manoeuvring through rocky canyons.

However, there are some spectacular views along the way and you have the reward of the beautiful, secluded Black’s Beach at the end of the trail. As well as a great feeling of achievement!

If you love a challenge and hiking unusual trails, then Ho Chi Minh Trail is a ‘must-do’ on your 2 days in San Diego itinerary.

Ho Chi Minh Trail San Diego Saigon Trail
Ho Chi Minh Trail San Diego Saigon Trail

Sunset At Sunset Cliffs

Sitting between Point Loma and Ocean Beach, Sunset Cliffs is a 68 acre natural park. As its name suggests, this is definitely one of the best places in San Diego to catch an amazing sunset.

This area of natural beauty includes rugged cliffs, arches and sea caves. As well as spectacular, panoramic views across the Pacific Ocean. 

I would advise arriving before sunset is due to give yourself time to park and walk to the cliffs. Then find a comfortable spot to sit down, relax and take-in the breathtaking views and colours. 

A beautiful sunset at Sunset Cliffs is undoubtedly the most magical finish to your 2 days in San Diego itinerary.

Sunset Cliffs Best Things To Do In San Diego
Sunset Cliffs Best Things To Do In San Diego

Where To Stay In San Diego

Luxury

Pantai Inn

Situated in La Jolla, California town centre, this boutique inn offers spacious Balinese inspired rooms with well-equipped kitchens, fireplaces and Pacific Ocean views. 

It offers a daily deluxe continental breakfast. Free Wi-Fi, a flat-screen cable TV, an iPod docking station and a work desk are available in all of the unique rooms at Pantai Inn. 

Rooms feature custom made wood-carved furnishings and Indonesian artwork. 

The contemporary kitchens come with a microwave, a refrigerator and tea and coffee-making facilities and offer reverse osmosis filtered water and ice makers.

Mid-Budget

The Monsaraz San Diego, Tapestry Collection By Hilton

The Monsaraz San Diego, Tapestry Collection By Hilton features a fitness centre, garden, a terrace and restaurant in San Diego. 

Featuring a bar, the 4-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with a private bathroom. 

The accommodation offers a 24-hour front desk, an ATM and luggage storage for guests. Every room has a TV, and certain units at the hotel have a balcony. 

Guests at The Monsaraz San Diego, Tapestry Collection By Hilton can enjoy an American breakfast.

Budget

Sunrise Inn San Diego

Located 1.6 km away from San Diego’s scenic Shelter Island and San Diego International Airport, Sunrise Inn San Diego features guest rooms with free WiFi. 

Free parking is provided to guests. Each room at this motel features a cable TV with film channels. 

Rooms include a safety deposit box, a microwave and a mini-refrigerator. 

A front desk is available from 7 am to 11:00 pm to assist guests of Sunrise Inn San Diego. Vending machines are available on site.

For more places to stay in San Diego, you can check the latest prices on Booking.com.

Planning Your Trip

Book Your Flight

Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. 

They search websites and airlines around the globe to find you the best possible routes and prices.

Book Your Accommodation

Use Booking.com to find the best accommodation deals.

They consistently return the cheapest rates on everything from guesthouses to hotels for all of your budget needs.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Use SafetyWing to find the best travel insurance for you.

They provide travel and medical incident insurance built specifically for digital nomads.

Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations.

Book Your Tours & Activities

Use GetYourGuide to book your activities in advance.

They sell the best tours, excursions and activities to attractions around the world.

Conveniently book, download and access your tickets on the move all from your mobile. 

Book Your Rental Car

Use RentalCars.com to find the best deals on rental cars in the area.

They compare all major car rental companies and allow you to easily book the perfect vehicle for your trip.

Buy Those Last Minute Bits

Use Amazon to buy everything you need for your adventure.

They offer next day delivery and you can use my travel packing checklist to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.


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2 Days In San Diego Itinerary