SAN DIEGO: Cheap Hotels in San Diego
Wildlife lovers should make San Diego a definite stop along their vacation destinations. This incredible city is home to the world famous San Diego Zoo, as well as Sea World and whale watching excursions that give you a chance to see real whales in action. Of course, there's also Legoland and tons of other attractions to enjoy. And you can see everything when you book your hotel in San Diego today and get a great deal on the cost.
When to visit based on priceVisiting San Diego between October and April will afford you much better prices. Keep in mind that rates will be higher during the winter holidays.
Key attractionsWhen visiting San Diego, a visit to the San Diego Zoo is always a fun and exciting adventure. This is truly one of the most beautiful and well-kept zoos of the world. On 100 acres of tropical gardens, you’ll see over 4,000 animals. You won’t find a more humane presentation of wild animals anywhere else. Take a photo of you and the Giant Panda’s, the elephant shows and of course the big “cats”. In the park, get off your feet and take the three-mile guided bus tour, or sky tram.
Another attraction you must put on your list is a visit to Sea World. This is a whole day of fun for the entire family. Enjoy the outdoor shows like the killer whales and dolphins, but a word of warning, you get wet up front.
Take a water taxi over to the island of Coronado, maybe rent bikes and cruise this relaxing quaint town. For lunch or dinner, an excellent choice is the historic Hotel Del Coronado overlooking the bay.
One of the newer attractions, and most favorite of young and old is a tour of the U.S.S. Midway Navy Carrier, docked to the boardwalk. This is the famous battle tested ship that the movie was made about. You can spend a whole day aboard this ship, utilizing the headsets that guide you throughout the ship. For “lunch with a view” you can grab a burger and a beer on the tail section café and enjoy the view of the city.
Having funA short drive away is the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where you get to view hundreds of Asian and African animals in their natural environment, roaming over 1,800 acres. Sign up in advance and you can get a special “inside the park” tour and feed the animals, under the watchful eyes of park rangers of course. Another special treat is taking the aerial gondola over the park, or the African Tram Safari through the park.
If you’re traveling with small children, then you must visit Carlsbad an hour up the highway, and the new LEGOLAND Adventure Theme Park. Located on 128 acres, this adventure offers over sixty attractions within the park. And it’s not all about Lego’s either. There’s also a water park, with slides, and the SEA LIFE Aquarium, featuring sharks and stingrays and more.
ShoppingOne of the fun shopping experiences in San Diego is time spent at the shops of Seaport Village off the boardwalk. Visit over fifty shops, and take a break in one of the 17 unique restaurants on the water.
For a true “mall experience” a must shop is the Fashion Valley Mall, featuring over 200 stores and restaurants. Shop Coach, Tiffany’s, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and much more.
NearbyFor the golfers on vacation, San Diego has some of the most spectacular golfing anywhere in the U.S., with Torrey Pines Golf Course a half an hour up the I-5. That’s just one of many to choose from, but not many have the ocean views of Torrey Pines.
If you want to escape the city into the desert for a sip or two of wine, then Temecula Wine Country is in order.
Located just about a half hour from the U.S. Boarder, you may entertain a visit to Tijuana, Mexico. To avoid the auto motor crossing, there’s actually a parking garage on the U.S. side, and a walking bridge over to Tijuana, which is recommended. If visiting Tijuana, it’s advisable to stay in the tourist area / square, where your safety is almost assured. Great shopping and deals can be had, however, keep your valuables in a safe and non- accessible place on your person. Above all, remember you are in a foreign country, so have your passport ready.
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Most popular hotels in San Diego
Ramada San Diego North Hotel and Conference CenterWhether traveling for business or pleasure you will find everything you need and want at this well-known chain hotel....ViewRooms from$88.00
Four Seasons Residence Club Aviara, North San DiegoEnjoy the seasons when you stay with a hotel that offers them to you, and treats you like family inside their walls....ViewRooms from$190.00
Top 100 rated hotels in San Diego
Local expert's tips
Expert tips for visiting and saving $$$’s at San Diego Sights
There is a guided bus tour of the Zoo, which is an excellent way to see the entire grounds, before heading out on foot. Taking the tour in early morning is best time for no crowds, and to plan which exhibits you want to concentrate on, as well as knowing where they are located. Another great local tip is that the San Diego Zoo allows you to bring your own food in, and you can save a bundle of cash grabbing Subway sandwiches or the like on the way to the zoo for the family picnic. There are restaurants in the zoo, but between lines, prices and what’s offered; sometimes the picnic idea is best.
Next let’s take a look at the other “animal community” in San Diego, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and sister to the San Diego Zoo. First of all the Zoo Park is located in Escondido, California, about a half hour drive North East of San Diego. This park used to be called the Wild Animal Park because a large majority of animals are in the wild natural environment there on its 1,800 or more acres. The park offers the same walking trails around exhibits, as does the San Diego Zoo so you still get your exercise. However, instead of a bus tour, you get to experience an open-air suspended tram, which can take about a half an hour, and is very exciting. It takes you through the open expanses of land where you see in the wild environment, zebras, lions, cheetahs, rhinoceros, giraffes and many more African animals.
As families often can spend an entire day at this attraction, including late afternoon shows, eating two meals here can be a costly addition for large families. WE would recommend that as with the San Diego Zoo, actually more so, packing a backpack picnic lunch and just purchasing drinks would save you at lunchtime. They do offer children’s “box meals” with hot dogs, chips, drink and cookies for dessert. For $10 each you can get a hot sandwich meal.
If you are planning to visit multiple attractions whether along, a couple or large family, San Diego does offer a Go San Diego Card, where you can purchase a discount ticket good at forty four of the top attractions. You can also get up to 20% off discount tickets on two or more attractions. The best part of using this discount service is that you can print your ticket, or download directly to your Smartphone, and gain entrance to the attractions via your phone.
San Diego’s best Happy Hour’s, where locals hang out to save money on drinks and food.
Andaz Wine Bar on F Street downtown San Diego isn’t just for the wino in the group, although if you are, you’ll be happy here. These guys offer over eighty different wines, U.S. and International, on tap! Happy Hour is M-F between 5-8PM and your pour is ½ off. Not w wine sipper? No worries, they offer well drinks for $5. And then there’s the grub, with appetizers half off. If it gets crowded downstairs, head upstairs to the rooftop lounge for some air and city lights.
The Living Room Bar located in Del Mar on Camino Del Mar is a more “upscale” Happy Hour”, where you might want to dress up and take your lady out for the evening. Their “hand-crafted infused” cocktails, normally $12 a glass are only $8 during Happy Hour, 4:30-6:30PM M-Th. If you’re perhaps looking for a splendid glass of Chardonnay, all wines are $2 off, and ½ price appetizers take the edge off until dinner. On top of all this, attend the Happy Hour and get free parking, just remember to get your validation inside before leaving.
Katsuya, located on F Street offers an upscale sushi experience for Happy Hour between 4-7Pm and 9PM-closing time. Hot Sake carafes for $6, draft beer $4, all well drinks are $4, and specialty cocktails like a Burning Mandarin is $7. Add this to a great happy hour menu, where all dishes are between $5-7 and your tummy will be smiling for sure.
Finally lets check out the San Diego Bar with the oldest Liquor License still in operation today, the Waterfront Bar & Grill, You just can’t go wrong stopping into this place between 3-6PM M-F, with well drinks going for $3.75, draft beer at $4 and domestic bottle for $3.25. You may be telling yourself that there are cheaper drinks elsewhere, and that’s true, but do they offer free food during happy hour? No@!
Different food every night, but don’t worry, its really good. If you want a specific deal, Wednesday nights are “Slider Nights”, with $2 sliders from 4PM until their all gone. Same thing on Tuesdays, only it’s chicken or fish tacos.
Ultimate “Perfect Day” in San Diego without Breaking the Bank
Every year well over 200 cruise line ships berth in San Diego Harbor.
There’s so much to see and enjoy in downtown San Diego, and you can really do it on foot. With a massive boardwalk stretching forever, you can enjoy the famous marina and dream of owning some of the multi million yachts docked there. You also have access to Seaport Village, a group of small specialty shops, restaurants overlooking the water, coffee shops and of course, kite shops.
Also on the waterfront docked and now a museum, where visitors can spend a whole day and still not see it all is the U.S.S. Midway. This is a real aircraft carrier and just a whole bunch of fun for everyone, especially families. You will learn and experience how 4,500 sailors lived aboard this massive vessel for months at a time. Explore all four flight decks, the galley, sleeping quarters, officers quarters and more.
- Cost for spending hours on the U.S.S Midway.
- Seniors- $17
- Children 6-12 y.o. -$10
- 5 and under-Free
Choosing to stay right in downtown San Diego is your best bet, especially keeping with the “Not Breaking the Bank” theme. Just the money you can save by using public transportation and not renting a vehicle will leave you smiling. However, San Diego can be a very expensive place to stay so choosing the right hotel for the best rate is key.
You can spend a whole day on the Midway, especially when you have small children in tow. Included in the price of admission are headsets and a self guided audio tour that takes you to over sixty different locations and explains what you are looking at and where you are. You will also hear recorded messages from times when the ship was on active duty, as well as recorded messages from sailors who sailed on the Midway. And they even have a special children’s audio tour specifically for those 7-12 years old where they get to climb into cockpits of jets and helicopters.
All in all this is a fascinating experience for all ages, and a peak at history.
Money Saving Tip #1:Eat a big breakfast before arriving because you’ll need the energy. When it’s time for lunch, check out the “Fantail Diner”, where you can sit and view the city of San Diego while you enjoy a hotdog or sandwich. The prices a really great and aren’t what you would expect for a major attraction, and you are supporting the museum at the same time.
Downtown San Diego is chock full of things to do that won’t break the bank. In keeping with the general theme, you can take public transportation to Balboa Park where you can enjoy the fourteen museums there. The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, Museum of Photographic Art, San Diego Natural History Museum and more. If here on a weekend, there’s a free outdoor concert every Sunday at the Speckles Organ Pavilion.
At night the place to be in San Diego is the downtown Gaslamp Quarter where there are more restaurants and bars than you could ever imagine. You can stroll the shops and historic neighborhood as you check out the menus posted outside restaurants, usually with outdoor seating. You actually could be walking in the footsteps of a very famous person, Wyatt Earp, the famous lawman/outlaw who roamed these streets.
Like we said, restaurant choices are to the moon, but that’s not to say the prices have to be. Some of the favorite downtown in the Quarter are Anthony’s Fish Grotto averaging around $25 per person, to Phil’s Barbeque with excellent ribs, Colossal Onion Rings, and sandwiches, where prices are fair.
For adults, if you are looking for a fun place with great food, served on a white piece of paper off a roll, where you get insulted, it’s Dicks Last Resort. Seriously, Dicks is known for its surly, outrageous and quite energetic waiters and waitresses. But it’s fun, excellent ribs, burgers, barbequed chicken, and beer or cocktails. Like they say, “From High Class to No-Class, Dick’s is fun for all”.
You can travel up the coast for some of the best beaches and beach towns on the west coast. Pacific Beach, Mission Beaches and of course LaJolla and Torrey Pines. In Old Town San Diego or Mission Beach Boardwalk, which is 3 miles long, rent rollerblades or bikes for all day, just $20.
Remember, spending a day on a California beach is free.
Money Saving Tip #2:You can purchase a day pass on the MTS for local San Diego travel for $5, and a all day pass for rural route up to Mission Beach and LaJolla, Carlsbad and North County for $10.
You can travel up and down the coast all day for under $20, walk to beach or Pacific Coast Highway towns.
Cheap Hotels in San Diego
These San Diego hotels give you the most bang for your buck while not overlooking your need for the ease and convenience of finding a little relaxation. A vacation in San Diego usually includes visits to nearby attractions but also demands a little appreciation of the water and the plentiful sunshine.
The Dana on Mission Bay – If there is a spot to daydream away the entire afternoon it is Mission Bay in San Diego. You sit there and look out on to the water and you get lost in your imagination. You picture yourself on a kayak or learning to sail and soon you are in a world of your own. The Dana Hotel is right on the water and while it may not be super luxurious it will feel like that to anyone looking for clean and friendly accommodations while keeping the budget under control. The hotel offers a free shuttle to Sea World and it is a few minutes from other popular San Diego Attraction such as balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo. The hotel has two pools, one with a view of the bay and two restaurants on site. Guests can rent water sport activities directly from the activity center. From the hotel the bike/jogging path is directly accessible. Families will find the large grassy area convenient for an afternoon of watching the boats go by on the bay or as a jumping off point for a bike ride along the water.
Paradise Point Resort – This property located on Mission Bay is located right beside all the water sports action your active self needs. The views of the bay are fabulous and you’ll find yourself wandering the grounds of the property realizing that it is your own private island. The rooms could be updated but for the most part you get a clean and comfortable hotel for a good price. San Diego attractions are nearby and Sea World is practically next door. With four restaurants on property you will not go hungry and with happy hours with a view of the water in full swing you will never go thirsty. The resort has five pools as well as a full service spa.
Porto Vista Hotel - This hotel is more centrally located if you find yourself looking to do more stuff in San Diego bay. If you like boats you can easily walk down to the water without paying the big dollars that go with waterfront accommodations. The rooms will not overly impress you but location and price go a long way and this property is a very good option for a budget hotel. You are walking distance or quick driving distance to most San Diego Attractions.
Hotel Circle in San Diego – You should be able to find a few budget hotels in this area where budget accommodations rule. These hotels are all close to Downtown San Diego, Mission Bay as well as the other San Diego Attractions. A few good options include travel Lodge at Hotel Circle, Days Hotel Hotel Circle and the Hampton Inn Hotel Circle. These typically smaller hotels offer basic amenities and most require you drive to attractions, however you save a tremendous amount of money on room rates. Public transportation from this spot is very convenient and budget travelers will save money on parking at these properties as well. Food options here are not as plentiful but most hotels have some cheap food options.
What to Do in San Diego
When deciding on a visit to the Western United States you might be tempted to visit Los Angles or San Francisco until you take a long hard look at what San Diego has to offer. While the world class dining options might not compare to the cities to the north there is plenty of quality eating in San Diego County. When it comes to attractions people talk about the San Diego Zoo and Sea World but the natural attractions are not only more impressive but they are also free. If you need museums and culture, San Diego has those as well.
Three Things To Do In San DiegoVisit La Jolla – If there is one spot in San Diego that often makes me think about relocating it is this jewel of a neighborhood. It feels classy and upscale while still retaining that beach community feeling of sleepy and laid back. The beach is perfect for a day long beach adventure and it is capped off by a dazzling light show produced by a sunset.
Mission Bay – Glide across the flat surface of the water on a Stand Up Paddle Board in Mission Bay and you might start packing your bags to relocate to this part of the world. With so much to do in this area you wil spend more than a day exploring by foot or by sea. Learn to sail, go for a run or rent a bike and take advantage of the endless bike paths and trails. The big draw is water sports so consider a kayak, a boat, or a board or just simply watch from shore as the California lifestyle is on display in this scenic area. This are is home to Sea World Marine Park, while it is expensive you can find deals around the internet to see the marine life. Money better spent can be utilized with a whale watching tour or sunset cruise.
Balboa Park – Home tpo museums, walking and biking trails and the San Diego Zoo this oasis in public space while not as large as Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is easier to navigate and contains just as much if not more things to do. Highlights include the San Diego Air and Space Museum as well as the Natural History Museum and the San Diego Zoo. The park is populated with gardens that are perfect for long exploratory walks. Admission to the park is free as are most gardens. Museums have independent hours and cost of admission but plenty offer days of free admission. The visitors center offers free tours of Balboa Park and is the spot to get maps and in formation about things to do in the area.
Once you finish your exploration of San Diego and all of its natural beauty, make sure to consider locations such as the Gaslamp Quarter and Old Town for food, entertainment and nightlife. As with any vacation destination those districts designated for visitors can tend to be slightly inflated when it comes to prices for food and drink. Within your movement around the city you will notice plenty of food options just adjacent to these areas that will save you money.
Are you adventurous? Mexico via Tijuana and the border with the United States is a few minutes from Downtown San Diego. You can walk across the border and experience a little of the Mexican culture on a day trip to this border town. Check with local authorities for details and safety concerns before you consider this.