San Diego is a bustling city, known for its beaches, parks and warm weather! It’s the eighth-largest city in the United States of America, which means that there’s always something to do as well as a great number of activities to take part in.

In this itinerary for San Diego, we’ll make sure you find the best places to visit in San Diego in 2 days. Taking a trip to this modern metropolis doesn’t get easier! Start booking your flights, cause we’ve put together some of the most irresistible activities and sightseeing tours for you to take part in.

If you’re spending a weekend in San Diego, you’re in for a real treat. The contrast between their famous natural deepwater harbor, epic beaches, and the hustle and bustle of busy city life makes planning a trip to San Diego a breeze!

Here’s everything you need to know about how to plan a trip to San Diego!

A Little Bit about this 3-Day San Diego Itinerary

This itinerary takes in San Diego itself (Downtown, Marina etc) as well as taking in some of the wider, surrounding beauty stops. The magic of San Diego is not really found in the city centre so do take the time and make the effort to get around the area.

Further in this guide we have covered tips about how to get around San Diego and public transportation info is also provided with details and each attraction.

3 Day San Diego Itinerary Overview

Where to Stay in San Diego in 3 Days

We’re going to make the decision easy by giving you some of the best places to stay in San Diego in 2 days.

Ocean Beach is a great neighborhood for beach bums and surfers! You’ll find the streets lined with surf shops and quaint coffee shops open early. You’ll find that the neighborhood is home to a collection of old school bungalows. Street vendors and street performers take to the sidewalks to bring you the best entertainment and tasty treats.

If you enjoy a laid back vibe, then Ocean Beach is definitely your scene!

where to stay san diego
These are the best places to stay in San Diego! | source: Travis Wise (flickr)

The Gaslamp Quarter is filled to the brim with students and young professionals looking to party the night away. A thriving nightlife is what this fantastic little neighborhood has to offer. There are a wide variety of nightlife scenes in this bustling neighborhood! Clubs, dive bars, lounges, and sports bars are all an option if you stay in the Gaslamp Quarter! So if you’re looking to sleep all day and party all night on your vacation in San Diego, this is the place for you!

La Jolla is an adventurers paradise. Located a little way out of the bustling city, it provides the peace and quiet that the city sometimes lacks. It’s a beachside neighborhood that is bordered by rocky cliffs that are a great adventuring opportunity! You’ll also find a nature reserve and an underwater park in this location, so if you’re up for a little exploring, this is a perfect fit.

Now that you know some of the best neighborhoods to stay in, it’s time to look at hotels and amazing San Diego hostels that should be added to your itinerary!

san diego itinerary
Lucky D’s is our pick for the best Hostel in San Diego!

Best Hostel in San Diego – Lucky D’s

This colorful hostel is situated in a very central location, making it a breeze to travel to all the very best San Diego points of interest. If you’re wondering what to see in San Diego, their friendly staff are sure to point you in the right direction! Wake up to free breakfast every morning and take part in the hostel’s pub crawl and other nightly social events.

For more great hostel options, check out these COOL hostels in San Diego.

Studio in the action of Old Town San diego

Best Airbnb in San Diego: Studio in the action of Old Town

Located in the heart of Old Town is this little cottage home. Besides the excellent location this home has, there is a hot tub you can dip your feet in after a long day exploring the beaches. And in the morning, enjoy your cup of joe in the peaceful shared courtyard. It is simple but quaint, and you can’t beat the location! It’s just footsteps away from the trolly and impeccable cafes you have to try.

San Diego Itinerary Day 1: The City

San Diego Itinerary Day 1 Map
1. Balboa Park 2. San Diego Museum of Art 3. Lunch at Marina 4. USS Midway Museum 5. Explore Embarcadero 6. Gas Lamp Quarter

If you’re spending one day in San Diego, you need to make sure you’re adding all the main attractions to your itinerary! On your first day, you’ll spend the day strolling through nature and exploring the most beautiful sights in the city.

10.00 am – Balboa Park

Balboa Park
Balboa Park, San Diego | source: f11photo (shuttestock)

Balboa Park is a 1200 acre urban park that could easily rival the world’s best! There’s no better way to start your morning than by exploring these expansive and absolutely beautiful grounds.

There is a network of cultivated gardens scattered around the park that contains over 350 different plant species, making this a great adventure for nature lovers!

The gardens were created by a botanist named Kate Sessions in the very early 1900s. Kate is now referred to as the Mother of Balboa Park.

In the gardens, you’ll also find Botanical House, which is one of the largest lath buildings in the world. In it, you’ll find over 1,200 individual plants and a marvelous pond decorated with a scattering of lily pads and lotus flowers.

Want to Know More?
  • Cost – Free to stroll around
  • How long should I stay here? 60 minutes taking in the grounds
  • Getting there – Plenty of busses drop here

11.00 am – San Diego Museum of Art

San Diego Museum of Art
San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego | source: Bernard Gagnon (wikimedia commons)

This museum is every art-lovers dream! Although the museum mainly contains art from the Spanish Renaissance and Baroque paintings, in recent years many paintings have been donated that contain a variety of different styles. Now you can expect to see symbolist and expressionist works, as well as paintings from the new objectivity movement, which adds a variety to the museum that wasn’t there before!

You can expect to see works from El Greco, Murillo, Goya and Zurbaran, as well as Dutch masters such as Veronese, Canaletto, van Dyck, Rubens and Frans Hals.

The museum was built in 1926 in the same style of the buildings that were built in 1915 to create a harmonious look to Balboa Park!

The museum holds many events, so it may be a good idea to check out their website to see the up-and-coming events. Expect cocktail evening, film screenings and discounted after hours art viewing!

Want to Know More?
  • Cost: USD $15
  • How long should I stay here? 60 minutes
  • Getting there – Plenty of busses drop here

12.30 pm – Lunch at Marina

Lunch at Marina
My God… | source: Brent Hofacker (shutterstock)

By this point you will probably be feeling a bit hungry. The good news is that our next calling point is situated in the San Diego Marina and there are plenty of great food spots nearby to head into beforehand. There are food trucks selling taco’s but if you want a high quality, sit down meal then check out Salore, Lion’s share or Eddie V’s Prime Sea Food.

  • Cost: $10 – $30 per person
  • How long should I stay here? 60 minutes
  • Getting there – To save time take cab. 8 minutes and approx $15

2.00 pm – USS Midway Museum

USS Midway Museum
USS Midway Museum, San Diego | source: Tomás Del Coro (Flickr)

The USS Midway was commissioned in 1945 and served in the Vietnam war, as well as Operation Desert Storm before being transformed into the largest museum dedicated to aircraft carriers in the world.

There are self-guided tours that give you the opportunity to explore the ship and see over 30 restored aircrafts.

These will consist of 8 propeller planes, 14 jet aircrafts, and 8 helicopters. If you’re not that into aircrafts, don’t worry. There’s plenty more to see!

The tour will lead you into the ship, where you’ll explore the galley, the brig, the crew’s sleeping quarters, the pilot’s ready room, and the engine room. You will also have a chance to hear snippets from people who served aboard the USS Midway.

The tour is very interactive and gives you the chance to get involved in simulations, climb into the cockpit of airplanes, and watch documentaries about the dramatic events that took place aboard this great ship. If you’re a history lover, you’re sure to enjoy this adventure! It’s one of the best things to do in San Diego.

Want to Know More?
  • Cost: USD $22
  • How long should I stay here? 120 minutes
  • Getting there – Walk here from the Marina

4.00 pm – Explore Embarcadero

Explore Embarcadero
Explore Embarcadero, San Diego

A tour to San Diego is simply not complete without a visit to the beautiful Embarcadero harbor! The harbor has a beautiful view of Coronado Island and is filled with interesting shops, eateries and sights.

During summer nights, you’ll hear a symphony orchestra playing along the promenade where you can stop to enjoy a free concert as the sun sets over the water.

The harbor is always filled with the most exotic cruise ships! These are massive ships that take guests on trips to places all around the world.

Take a lengthy stroll around the harbor to explore the many points of interest along the way. You’ll find interesting statues, a kiddie playground, and many pop-up stores and street performers. There’s no lack of entertainment at this wonderful San Diego attraction!

Want to Know More?
  • Cost: Free
  • How long should I stay here? 120 minutes
  • Getting there – Plenty of busses drop here

6.00 pm – Gas Lamp Quarter

Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego

The Gas Lamp quarter is hip and lively district known for it’s nightlife. Our San Diego itinerary ends the first night here where you can stroll around people watching, keep some find food and maybe a few drinks if you are in the mood. There are establishments to suit all tastes from American diners, cool restaurants, trendy wine bars and craft ale pubs.

How long you linger and how late you stay out in the Gaslamp Quarter depends on you. Many bars will stay open until midnight or even 2am. Just remember we have day 2 tommorow!

  • Cost: Free
  • How long should I stay here? 120 minutes
  • Getting there – You can walk from the Marina
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San Diego Itinerary Day 2: The San Diego Area

San Diego Day 2 Map
1. Point Loma 2. Cabrillo National Monument 3. San Diego State Historic Park & Old Town 4. Coronado Beach

If you’re spending 2 days in San Diego, you get a chance to explore the wider area. Some of the distances between stops are pretty big so this day is a lot better with a car. However, it is possible by public transport if you don’t mind a good few hours of bus time.

8.00 am – Point Loma

Point Loma
Point Loma, San Diego | source: Frank Schulenburg (wikimedia commons)

Point Loma has a rocky coastline that offers unforgettable views and a myriad of different photo opportunities. A visit to this coastline is one you’ll surely want to remember, so don’t forget to bring your camera along for the trip!

In 1542, Europe sent its first expedition to explore America, and Point Loma was their very first landing point.

There are many attractions and sights in Point Loma because of its wonderful history and beautiful scenery. Because of the exposed coastline in this area, there has always been a strong military presence.

There is a 77.5-acre fort, called Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery that contains over 100,000 graves. It’s an incredible sight to behold! There are also a couple of meaningful monuments dedicated to those who died in a tragic accident that claimed the lives of many.

From the coastline, you can enjoy the solitude of whale watching or fishing, or if you’d like more of a thrill you could join the rock climbers that scale the cliff face.

Want to Know More?
  • Cost: Free!
  • How long should I stay here? Take the whole morning
  • Getting there – We suggest renting a car or using a Ride share like Uber or Lyft. Public transport takes nearly 2 hours

11.00 am – Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego | source: Natalia Bratslavsky (shutterstock)

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s expedition landed in Point Loma in 1542 and named the bay San Miguel which was later changed to San Diego in 1602. The statue of Cabrillo was donated to San Diego by the Portuguese government in 1939!

If you’d like to know more about Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his voyage across the ocean, be sure to visit the Cabrillo National Monument Museum!

You can watch a movie and see exhibits and maps of the trip that took him along the Californian coast.

Check out the Old Point Loma lighthouse while you’re in the area, as it has now been converted into a museum full of historical artifacts! Take in the San Diego skyline as you explore the bay area. If you visit during the early morning, you’ll be able to see a colorful sunrise as the first rays of light hit the city skyline!

Want to Know More?
  • Cost: Free!
  • How long should I stay here? Take the whole morning
  • Getting there – Walk here from Point Loma

1.00 pm – San Diego State Historic Park & Old Town

San Diego State Historic Park
San Diego State Historic Park, San Diego | source: 4kclips (shutterstock)

The State Historic Park can be found in San Diego’s Old Town, and you’ll find it scattered with old buildings that date all the way back to the 19th century when settlers first built permanent residents in the US!

One of the oldest buildings you’ll find in the area is the Casa de Estudillo which was built in 1827 and is the oldest remaining Spanish architecture in the US.

The Park gives you interesting insights into the culture of the Spanish and Mexican settlers that soon developed into an American settlement.

There is constant activity in the park, that mimics the activity of centuries past. You’ll find plenty of burros to pet and shopkeepers to chat to, that will tell you an awful lot about the history of the area.

In the historic park, you’ll find shops, museums, and restaurants, all worth exploring! The historic Plaza also has a full schedule of events and celebratory occasions, so be sure to have a look at what’s going on at the historic park during your stay. You may have a little extra to add to your San Diego itinerary!

Want to Know More?
  • Cost: Free!
  • How long should I stay here?
  • Getting there – By bus take the 84 until Rosecrans St & Canon St and change to the 28

3.00 pm – Coronado Beach

coronado beach
Coronado Beach, San Diego | source: Gloria V Moeller (shutterstock)

Pack a picnic and venture down to one of America’s most beautiful beaches! The beach is long, flat and soft, giving visitors plenty of space to have fun on the beach without it getting too cramped.

The beach has a higher mica content than that of many others, giving the sand a wonderful shimmery effect.

The area has the largest pacific swells, however, it remains a very safe beach to swim and there is a whole team of lifeguards ready to save you if you run into any trouble!

Insider Tip: There are bikes to rent along the beachfront, so if you don’t feel like tanning in the sand, you can cycle along Ocean Boulevard and take in the pretty scenery. At the end of the beach, there are fire pits that you can rent for the evening and make smores until you simply can’t eat anymore.

Want to Know More?
  • Cost: Free!
  • How long should I stay here?  120 minutes
  • Getting there – Take the Sante Green Line Metro to 12th Imperial and then the 901 bus until Orange Av.
IN A RUSH? THIS IS OUR FAVORITE HOSTEL IN SAN DIEGO!

Lucky D's

This colorful hostel is situated in a very central location, making it a breeze to travel to all the very best San Diego points of interest. If you’re wondering what to see in San Diego in 2 days, their friendly staff are sure to point you in the right direction!

  • $$
  • Free Breakfast
  • Free WiFi

What to Do with 3 or More Days in San Diego

Whether you’ll take part in these activities or not depends on how many days in San Diego you decide to stay. If you’re taking more than just a weekend trip to San Diego, you’ll need a few more activities to fill up your 3-day itinerary in San Diego!

1. Belmont Park

Get Your Adrenaline Pumping at Belmont Park
Belmont Park, San Diego | source: Lowe Llaguno (Shutterstock)

The amusement park was opened by John.D Spreckles in 1925, making the park almost 100 years old! Belmont Park has 12 rides, one of which is named the Giant Dipper. Over the years, this wooden ride has become a right of passage for children and teenagers throughout San Diego.

The rollercoaster has become a national historic landmark all on its own, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t many other great rides at the park!

Along with the other rides, comes a great deal of attractions, the most popular among these is the 18 hole mini-golf course which is lots of fun for the whole family. Although there are plenty of challenging holes, there’s also enough opportunity for a hole in one to make the course exciting!

There are 3 oceanfront eateries that you can visit during the course of your day visit. They serve incredible sit down meals, and give you the opportunity to order a beer or a cocktail to cool off from the heat of the day. There’s also a brewery tour if you want to have even more fun after the rollercoasters. ( Just be sure to do the tour after the rollercoasters, not before.)

If you’re not in the mood for a sit down meal (or your kids won’t allow it), then there are plenty of stalls that sell yummy on the go food, including a giant monster cone waffle ice cream.

Want to Know More?
  • Cost: Adult – USD $53 Child – USD $43
  • How long should I stay here? At least half a day
  • Getting there – Take a Uber or Lyft ride share

2. Children’s Pool Beach

Children's Pool Beach
Children’s Pool Beach, San Diego | source: JMarro (shutterstock)

The waves in San Diego are absolutely spectacular and are any surfer’s dream, however, the currents are strong and dangerous, so children are discouraged from swimming in these areas!

In 1931 Ellen Browning Scripps decided she would create a solution to the problem, and gift it to the children of the city. She commissioned a concrete wall to be built in the ocean, that would shield a small bay from the strong ocean currents.

This created the perfect environment for children to safely swim in the ocean!

What nobody bargained for is the fact the sea lions and seals would enjoy the bay just as much. From December to May every year they wallow in the bay and give birth to their pups, before moving on to another area! It’s advised that you don’t go swimming during this time, as the animals are very dangerous, especially when they’re protecting their young.

Going to see them from a distance is a great idea. Seeing the seemingly lazy creatures soaking up the sun is quite a sight to behold! Be sure to take your travel camera along to document the herd of seals and sea lions! If you don’t yet have the perfect travel camera, you can browse our camera guide here.

Want to Know More?
  • Cost: Free
  • How long should I stay here? A few hours
  • Getting there – Bus or ride share to Jolla

3. Liberty Public Market

liberty public market
Liberty Public Market, San Diego | source: Nick Amoscato (Flickr)

The Liberty Public Market is a foodie destination of note! It’s an urban market that showcases some of the areas best wine, cheese, beer, fruit, veg, meat, fish, pastries, sauces, and arts and crafts.

There are plenty of prepared meals on sale too if you’re looking for a meal while you’re there. With a variety of pop-up eateries in the area, you’re sure to leave feeling fully satisfied!

If you love to explore indoor stalls, this is the perfect place for you to spend your 3rd day in San Diego. You’ll find a collection of jewelry, clothing and trinkets that are perfect to take home as souvenirs to your family and friends back home.

You’ll even find a store that does on the spot tech repairs, so if you happen to drop your phone during your holiday, they’re sure to fix it for you!

Visiting the market in the evening is also a great idea as the area turns into a hub for socializing and dining together as a community. Many people meet up with friends for an informal dinner and catch up, making this a great place to mingle with the locals and make a few friends.

Want to Know More?

4. Hotel del Coronado

Hotel del Coronado
Hotel del Coronado, San Diego | source: Rennett Stowe (Flickr)

The Hotel del Coronado is a massive hotel that has become renowned for its look and location, overlooking the Coronado beach. When the hotel was built back in 1888, there it was the largest resort hotel in the world! Unfortunately, it no longer holds that title, but it is still very impressive!

The hotel is known to be visited by the rich and famous, including many Hollywood stars! Every president since President Eisenhower has visited the hotel, making it a must-see during your travels to San Diego.

The hotel is so beautiful, that its iconic towers have appeared in as many as 12 films over the years, including Some Like it Hot, which was released in 1959.

If you don’t want to tour the hotel from the inside, then head down to the beach for the perfect view of the hotel from the outside. We can almost guarantee you’ll recognize the Hotel del Coronado immediately from some movie or another!

If you do tour the hotel, be sure to look out for celebrities, movie stars, or political legends that might be staying there during your visit.

Want to Know More?

5. Torrey Pines Gliderport

Torrey Pines Gliderport
Torrey Pines Gliderport, San Diego | source: Jo Ann Snover (shutterstock)

This is a spot with a magnificent view! Many people come here to sit and enjoy the ocean views and spend time in nature, but for those with an adventurous spirit, you’ll hardly be able to resist the temptation of taking off in tandem flight over the pacific ocean.

The area is famous as a site that hanggliders use to take off from the cliffs. They jump over the edge of the cliffs and soar high above the ocean!

You can either pick a bench and watch them as they do their thing, or join in the spectacular fun!

You can take a tandem flight in this area that allows you to experience the thrills of soaring through the air, without having to worry about the logistics of the flight. Your knowledgeable and experienced guide will handle the controls, while you take in the views!

If you’re not in the mood for an adrenaline rush, be sure to take a stroll along the cliff’s edge to take in the amazing views. There are plenty of benches along the way for you to stop off and relax for a while.

There is also a cliffside restaurant that provides amazing views and a delicious bite to eat as you take in all the action around you!

Want to Know More?
  • Cost – Free
  • How long should I stay here? 2 or 3 hours to explore
  • Getting there – Rent a car or ride share it
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You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.

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Best Time to Visit San Diego

San Diego’s climate is mild all year round, making it perfect for laying on the beach and touring the city any time of the year.

Peak season in San Diego is in the fall (September to November), this is when the days are warmer and nights are cooler. The temperatures are very consistent and there’s little chance of rain! You’ll also find there are plenty of activities around this time of year, especially outdoor film festivals that can be stacks of fun, as well as some of the must-see San Diego attractions.

During winter in San Diego (December – March), it’s not the ideal time to visit the beach, however, it never gets too cold! This is a great time to visit if you’re more interested in visiting the San Diego landmarks or enjoying their famous balloon festival.

Here’s what you can expect from San Diego each month of the year!

Weather in San Diego

 Average TemperaturesChance of RainCrowdsOverall Grade
January14°C / 57°FHighCalm😐
February15°C / 59°FHighCalm😐
March16°C / 61°FHighCalm🙂
April17°C / 63°FAverageCalm🙂
May18°C / 64°FLowCalm🙂
June20°C / 68°FLowCalm🙂
July22°C / 72°FLowCalm😀
August23°C / 73°FLowMedium😀
September22°C / 72°FLowBusy😀
October20°C / 68°FAverageBusy🙂
November17°C / 63°FHighBusy🙂
December14°C / 57°FHighMedium🙂

How To Get Around San Diego

If you want to plan a trip to San Diego, you’re going to need to know how to navigate the city. Here are some of the easiest and best ways to get around the city!

The coaster is a train that leaves from downtown San Diego and takes its passengers to the communities on the outskirts of the city. If you’re looking to adventure outside of the hustle and bustle of the city, this is a great transportation option.

The Coronado Ferry and water taxis can take you around San Diego Bay and transport you between Broadway Pier and the Convention Center. They’re fairly cheap and provide wonderful sightseeing opportunities along the way.

Trolleys run throughout the downtown area, transporting you to locations across the city. This is the perfect form of transport for navigating the city without the hassle of dealing with traffic.

Renting a bicycle is also a great option when you’re traveling short distances as the streets are very cyclist-friendly. Many roads have cycling lanes that make navigating the streets very easy! You’ll also get the chance to see a lot more of the city while pedaling around.

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What To Prepare Before Visiting San Diego

San Diego is a very safe city, and leaves little for you to worry about during your 2 perfect days in San Diego. However, problems may arise where you least expect them, so here are some things you must watch out for to make sure your San Diego itinerary doesn’t get compromised during your trip!

While you’re touring San Diego, you’re sure to pay a visit to the beach at least once or twice during your vacation. Although the San Diego beaches are beautiful and the weather is just right for swimming, you do need to be aware of the strong rip tides that plague the coastline.

Backwash is also a problem in the La Jolla area and is caused when big waves hit the harsh cliffs that overlook the beach. Be sure that you check for signs, as many of the beaches have caution signs that warn you not to swim where it is too dangerous! Also, make sure there is always someone watching you from the beach that can warn authorities if you’re being swept out.

If you decide to rent a car, be aware that San Diego has one of the biggest crossings in the country and the exits can be very confusing. It’s important to plan our route before you head out, as you’ll need to be aware of which lane you should be traveling in to take the right exit.

It’s often advised to take public transport instead of renting a car in San Diego, as the locals know the logistics of traveling the city better than any tourist could!

And have you thought about getting Travel Insurance for your trip? We’ve put together a roundup of Travel Insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads, our favorite travel insurance provider.

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Final Thoughts

If you’re a first time visitor to this awesome city, be prepared for the time of your life! Get ready for the best 2 days in San Diego that you’ll ever have!

No matter what your interests are, there’s sure to be a few amazing activities to satisfy your thirst for adventure. The city offers everything from surfing and lazing on the beach, to historic tours that are sure to blow your mind.

With such a rich and long history, the city really does have more to offer than many of its surrounding cities. Being so close to the border, it’s very easy to take a day-trip from San Diego into Mexico if you’d like to experience even more culture!

Be sure to fill your San Diego itinerary with some of these exciting activities to be sure you’re making the most of your holiday!

San Diego awaits you! It’s time you start creating your very own San Diego itinerary!

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