San Diego, ‘America’s Finest City’, is a popular choice for a vacation at any time of the year.

Maybe you’re attracted by the major tourist attractions like SeaWorld or San Diego Zoo? Or its magnificent golden beaches? Perhaps its historic old town that intrigues you? Or maybe you are just going to watch a Padres game?

Whatever brings you to the city, there is plenty for you to see and do in this lovely part of California.

However, staying in San Diego isn’t cheap. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have an affordable vacation here. In fact, one of the best ways to keep costs down is to stay in one of the motels in San Diego.

Motels offer a convenient location and decent amenities, usually near the highway, an airport, or the downtown area. On top of that, they are usually very comfortable and have cheaper prices than standard hotels.

As there are so many choices of places to stay in San Diego, choosing one can seem a bit overwhelming at first. But don’t worry, I have compiled this list of the best motels in San Diego, so you don’t have to stress.

Let’s get started…

In a Hurry? Here’s Where to Stay in San Diego for One Night


Convenient Downtown Accommodation

For those only able to spend one night in San Diego the Baymont by Wyndham is a superb choice! Located right in the centre of the city, it places you very close to all the best beaches, tourist attractions, shops, bars and restaurants in the area.

  • San Diego Zoo
  • Sea World San Diego
  • Old Town

Is this amazing San Diego Motel booked for your dates? We’ve got your back with our other favorite properties below

Unlock Our GREATEST Travel Secrets!

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best travel tips delivered right to your inbox.

    Staying in a Motel in San Diego

    San Diego, California

    The Broke Backpacker is supported by you. Clicking through our links may earn us a small affiliate commission, and that's what allows us to keep producing free content 🙂 Learn more.

    If you are heading to San Diego but your budget is a bit on the low side, then you will have to knock the idea of staying in a deluxe hotel on the head. Instead, it’s wise to concentrate on some of the cheaper options available to you across the city, which include a good collection of motels.

    San Diego has roughly 24 motels within its city limits, most of which provide spacious, comfortable, and secure accommodation at much more affordable prices than hotels and resorts do.

    Many of these motels in San Diego are often situated on the outskirts of town, or close to main transportation hubs like airports and bus stations. You will find some around the downtown area too, near to popular shops, bars, restaurants, nightlife, and attractions in the city, so you’ll never be short of things to do in San Diego.

    Sadly these motels are unlikely to have concierge services, spa centers, or any of the upscale amenities you will find in a five-star luxury hotel. But it will present to you a clean, affordable and homely place to base yourself whilst you visit the city.

    As a general rule motels offer competitive deals and are usually managed by courteous and congenial staff, who are a great source of local knowledge when it comes to things like what restaurants to eat at and what sites to see.

    What to Look for in a Motel in San Diego

    For anyone considering staying in a motel in San Diego, you will need to temper your expectations as to what you will get.

    It’s unlikely that a 24-hour private butler service or concierge will be thrown in with the cost of your room accommodation. Likewise, you’ll probably not be able to secure a hot tub or Jacuzzi either. But while motels tend to be more basic, they are usually well furnished and looked after so you will still have a comfortable nights’ sleep.

    If you were to book a San Diego motel, you consider where to stay in San Diego, as the city is quite large, so you’ll want to stay near to all the attractions you want to see.

    For those on a fleeting visit prior to heading to another destination, a motel located near the highway is probably your best bet. Similarly, if you intend to spend a week or so touring around all the city’s main tourist attractions, then it will probably be better for you to find a place near the downtown area.

    Overall motel rooms in San Diego do vary when it comes to size. The majority of them cater for two people, providing a double or queen size bed, or two individual single beds. Some rooms though are specifically designed for larger groups, including families of up to four, and sometimes as many as six people. You might even find a small kitchenette in your room, similar to a vacation rental in San Diego.

    As an incentive to book, most motels offer free cancellation and free WiFi. Others throw in a complimentary continental breakfast or have a swimming pool or terrace area for you to relax in.

    If you are driving to San Diego, you should find that pretty much all motels offer free and secure onsite parking.

    Given how many motel options there are in San Diego, it can be difficult comparing properties to find the best fit for your needs. But don’t stress, I’ve done the hard work for you, by putting together a list of the best motels in San Diego, according to a various number of factors including location, guest feedback, amenities, and more.

    Convenient Downtown Accommodation, San Diego

    Convenient Downtown Accommodation

    • > $$
    • > 2 Guests
    • > Downtown Location
    • > Free continental breakfast
    Cheap Safe and Comfortable, San Diego

    Cheap, Safe & Comfortable

    • > $
    • > 2 Guests
    • > Free Wi-Fi
    • > Private Bathroom
    Homely Romantic Rooms, San Diego

    Homely Romantic Rooms!

    • > $$
    • > 2 Guests
    • > Outdoor Swimming Pool
    • > Onsite Casino
    Rooms for up to 6 people, San Diego

    Rooms for up to 6 people!

    • > $$
    • > Up to 6 Guests
    • > Outdoor Terrace & Garden
    • > Cable TV with film channels
    Great Location and Rates, San Diego

    Great Location & Rates

    • > $$
    • > 2 Guests
    • > 150 metres from the Beach
    • > Outdoor Swimming Pool
    Pool and Hot Tub Here, San Diego

    Pool & Hot Tub Here!

    • > $$
    • > 2 Guests
    • > Outdoor Pool & Hot Tub
    • > Close to Beach
    Historic Part of Town, San Diego

    Historic Part of Town

    • > $$
    • > 2 Guests
    • > Daily Continental Breakfast
    • > Tour Desk

    Looking for other types of accommodation? Check out our guide to Where to Stay in San Diego!

    The 10 BEST Motels in San Diego

    Now you know what you can reasonably expect from motels in San Diego, here is my selection of the best motels based on a variety of criteria that may be relevant to your needs.

    Overall Best Value Motel in San Diego – Convenient Downtown Motel

    Convenient Downtown Accommodation, San Diego

    Placing you right in the vibrant heart of downtown the Baymont by Wyndham is a terrific base to explore the city’s main sights and attractions.

    Just a 15-minute walk from the Gaslamp District, which houses several excellent bars and restaurants, this awesome downtown San Diego motel near all the best places to visit in the city offers rooms with large, or extra-large double beds. These beds are so comfortable, you will struggle to get out of them in the morning!

    All rooms also have free wi-fi, so you will be able to jump online whenever you want, as well as a hairdryer, and ironing facilities, to help you look your best before you head out for a night out.

    The motel also offers a free continental breakfast which provides a convenient morning option, while guests might also want to take advantage of the onsite laundry services.

    Best Budget Motel in San Diego – Cheap, Safe & Comfortable

    Cheap Safe and Comfortable, San Diego

    If you are looking for an inexpensive, yet good San Diego motel option to stay at during a visit to a Padres ball game, then the Hotel Aqua Mar fits the bill perfectly!

    Situated within easy driving distance of both, this charming motel offers boutique-style air-conditioned rooms that have a private bathroom, large double beds, and cable TV. So they will really feel like a home away from home.

    Like most motels here, you will get free wi-fi and free onsite parking. There is also wheelchair accessibility for those who require it too.

    In terms of dining options, don’t worry you won’t go hungry. The motel is within a two-minute walk of several eateries and bars, including one of the best seafood restaurants in the city!

    Budget Tip: Dorms in San Diego start from $10USD per bed. They’re the cheapest accommodation in the city. Search for hostels in the area!

    Best Motel for Couples – Homely Romantic Rooms

    Homely Romantic Rooms, San Diego

    There is no better place to stay for a romantic getaway in San Diego than at the Rambler Motel.

    Located in the Chula Vista district this fantastic San Diego motel has it all! An on-site restaurant, an outdoor swimming pool, a casino, and even room service. So it has everything you could want to ensure you have a lovely time in the city.

    Rooms are stylish and comfortable and have been thoughtfully appointed to create a lovely ambiance. The beds are big and really comfortable, whilst the decor has an element of fun about it which you will absolutely love.

    You will also dig the free wi-fi, air conditioning, a private bathroom, and a flat-screen TV. While those who want to venture out to the shops, beach, and restaurants of downtown will be pleased to discover they are not too far away either.

    Best Motel for Families in San Diego – Rooms for up to 6 people

    Rooms for up to 6 people, San Diego

    I know how hard it can be to accommodate larger groups in motel accommodation in San Diego, which is why the Sunrise Inn is a great option for families.

    Offering clean and modern rooms with two large double beds, as well as the option of other beds too, the motel is situated just a five-minute drive from Liberty Station. Which is a popular district of fantastic shops, cafes, and restaurants you will love checking out.

    Beautifully set up for families, they feature contemporary decor and a range of modern amenities like free Wi-Fi and cable TV with film channels that will entertain you at night.

    During the day, the hotel’s convenient location will also act as a great base to visit all of the city’s main tourist attractions!

    Is This the Best Backpack EVER???
    audy on top of a mountain in japan with the osprey aether

    We’ve tested countless backpacks over the years, but there’s one that has always been the best and remains the best buy for adventurers: the broke backpacker-approved Osprey Aether and Ariel series.

    Want more deetz on why these packs are so damn perfect? Then read our comprehensive review for the inside scoop!

    View on Osprey View on REI

    Best Motel for a Weekend in San Diego – Great Location & Rates

    Great Location and Rates, San Diego

    So you are only in San Diego for the weekend and want something with a great location and good rates? Well, look no further than the PB Surf Beachside Inn.

    For a start, it’s only half a block to the magnificent Pacific Beach, which means you’ll be able to go for a swim or surf as often as you want. It’s also less than a 10-minute drive to SeaWorld and La Jolla Museum, whilst the San Diego Zoo is just 20 minutes away.

    One of the best things about this motel near Pacific Beach in San Diego is that it has a wonderful swimming pool as well as BBQ facilities and an outdoor terrace too. So you can really immerse yourself in the famous California lifestyle!

    The rooms at the motel are beautifully presented, with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV, and a private bathroom all contributing to a very good level of comfort.

    Best Motel with a Swimming Pool – Motel w/ Pool & Hot Tub

    Pool and Hot Tub Here, San Diego

    San Diego can get very hot! So you might want to choose a motel either near the best beaches in San Diego or with a nice swimming pool that you can enjoy a cooling dip in. Or you can have both at the Best Western Mission Bay motel!

    Handily placed within easy walking distance of the beach, the hotel is also just a short drive to Sea World, Mission Bay Park, and the downtown area. So you will be able to easily tour around the city whilst staying here.

    This lovely San Diego motel is a pet-friendly establishment that offers comfortable rooms with a coffee maker, microwave, and refrigerator for those who want to prepare drinks and snacks. In addition, they provide a complimentary continental breakfast, as well of course free Wi-Fi to help you stay online.

    One of the best aspects of this motel is the staff, who are so congenial and approachable you will soon start to refer to them as friends!

    Best Motel in San Diego Old Town – Motel in Historic Part of Town

    Historic Part of Town, San Diego

    The old town of San Diego is a fantastic area to stay at and should you want to be based here then you simply can’t go past the Old Town Western Inn!

    Offering outstanding value-for-money, rooms are simply furnished, yet you will find them very comfortable. Especially the beds, which are designed to give you an awesome night’s sleep!

    The motel offers free Wi-Fi which will help you stay online for your socials or Netflix. While the daily continental breakfast it serves will set you up nicely for the day’s activities. Should you need them, laundry services and a business center are also available for use by guests.

    A real gem, this old town San Diego motel is just a short drive to Sea World. It is also situated close to Interstate-5, so it gives you great scope to quickly hit the highway when it’s time to go home.

    Best Motel Near The Beach – 300 meters from the beach!

    300 metres from the beach, San Diego

    So you wanna hit the beach huh? Well, there is no better beach motel in San Diego than the Villa Capri by the Sea!

    Situated just 300 metres from the ocean, you’ll be able to go for a swim, surf, or a walk on the sand as many times as you want during the day. You will also be able to get to the Old Town, San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, and SeaWorld very easily too, given that they are a short drive away.

    The rooms here are spacious, and well equipped with a private bathroom, and a microwave which, is great for heating up popcorn, which you can munch on whilst watching your favourite shows on the flat-screen TV.

    If you are feeling energetic, the hotel can hook you up with tennis, golf, fishing, canoeing, and hiking activities. All of which happen off-site.

    Best Motel in San Diego for Pets – Pet-Friendly Motel

    Take your Pooch with you, San Diego

    Your pet is very much part of the family right? Well if that is the case then you should definitely check out the Time Travel Motel.

    Undoubtedly the best of all pet-friendly San Diego motels, this property is situated near a number of parks and lakes, which serve as the perfect spot to take your pooch for a family fun day out.

    Set on lovely manicured grounds, the motel offers comfortable, modern rooms that are furnished with a small fridge and a microwave, which means you can heat up your own meals. Daily housekeeping will make your bed always feel fresh, whilst the free Wi-Fi will keep you in touch with the wider world, any time you need to be.

    If you fancy going for a drink in the evening, the Fall Brewing Company, Helix Brewing Company, and Bolt Brewery are all within a short drive or cab ride away and provide a lovely night out.

    Best Motel Near Attractions – Motel near Sea World

    Just 10 Minutes Away, San Diego

    SeaWorld is one of San Diego’s biggest attractions, so if you are looking for a convenient place to stay near there, then the Motel 6 on the Midway-Pacific Highway is a fabulous option.

    Just a short 10-minute drive from SeaWorld, this property is also within easy reach of five different beaches. So you will have plenty of opportunities to frolic in the ocean, in-between visits to this major tourist destination.

    Another San Diego motel where pets are allowed, rooms here are a pretty good size. The beds are also comfortable too and decorated in quite a refined style. They also boast a 40-inch flat-screen TV with over 60 channels for you to flick between, so you won’t be yearning for options of what to watch.

    If you like to party, all the best restaurants and bars in the Old Town are just a short cab ride away. Whilst shopaholics will love all the goods on display at the nearby Fashion Valley Mall, which has some amazing stuff!

    Don’t Forget Your San Diego Travel Insurance

    ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

    They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

    SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

    Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

    Final Thoughts on Motels in San Diego

    San Diego is one of California’s most popular city’s to visit, and given its sunny climate, major tourist attractions, great nightlife, and delicious food it is easy to see why.

    But as tourists flock here all throughout the year, the availability of places to stay can dry up, which in turn can see rates increase.

    For this reason, it is easy to fall into the trap of paying exorbitant rates for accommodation in San Diego, particularly if you book a resort or hotel. This, of course, is exactly why the cheaper rates offered by motels are such an attractive option.

    Aside from saving you money, motels also afford you a good standard of service, cleanliness, and comfort. So whether you are after an overnight stopover en route to somewhere else, or a prolonged vacation, the option of a motel is one you should always be mindful of.

    During the planning stages of your trip to San Diego, please consider taking out travel insurance. This is especially relevant for international travellers, as it could save them a lot of hassle and stress!

    Made it this far?
    You get 15% OFF to book a place to stay!
    Offer valid exclusively for Broke Backpackers 😉