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
Tips from the locals to make your San Diego Vacation a success
For the golfers, Torrey Pines Golf Course can be a dream come true, as you roll that little white ball along oceanfront fairways. Be sure to make advanced T-times if this is in your plans. If you’re vacationing with the family, it’s a short distance from the beach to the golf course guys and gals. You also have some of the best hiking and biking trails available in the Torrey Pines State Reserve.
Keep in mind that San Diegans enjoy the outdoors every day of the year. There are so many excellent restaurants and bars offering outside dining, and when the temperatures rarely dip below say the high 60’s, out come the propane heaters along with the lights.
There’s just something special about sipping a cold, fresh craft beer on a hot summer day (or night), and I’m sure you all would agree with me. Because of that, the locals enjoy the fact that San Diego hosts over ninety “craft breweries”, which makes this town a bear drinkers paradise. If you want to experience this ton like a “local”, forget the burger with that mug of brew, order fresh fish tacos. Locals live on fish taco’s here, because they are cheap, easy and delicious. Keep an eye out for the food trucks, downtown, at the beach, anywhere in fact. What better way to stay on budget than to grab a couple fish tacos, a craft beer or a Corona with lime, right?
If you’re looking for a quiet ale house, somewhere you can even bring the kids, then head to Blind Lady Ale House, or “Blah” as the locals call it. Located on Adams Ave downtown, this is where locals go to relax, sip a brew or two, and not deal with tourists or drunken 20 something’s. And they have one of the best pizzas in town too.
Another awesome “local haunt”, especially in the late afternoon or evening is Tapas Picasso located on 4th Ave. Budget friendly especially during happy hour 5-7 pm, they offer $5 tapas and deals on their yummy sangria. This is another place you won’t find crowded by tourists, and it’s the reason locals love it, besides the sangria of course.
Plan your 2016 San Diego visit around one of these Festivals
One of the most exciting festivals in the U.S. especially in Southern California is the San Diego County Fair that runs from June 3rd until July 4th in Del Mar. Attracting well over a million visitors each year, you can fid something that will excite everyone. If visiting with the kids, the rides and games are fantastic. Mom and Dad fear not, set your kids up somewhere safe, and head into the beer tent for a brew or glass of wine. This year the theme for the County Fair is “Mad about the Fair” and will produce a grand-scale tea party to celebrate Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Look for whacky machinery, cosplay and even Steampunk everywhere.
Next lets talk about a festival you undoubtedly have never heard of, but if in town, need to check out. It’s the Annual San Diego Oysterfest. Held this year June 17th and 18th, with a background of live rock music, it’s your chance to pig out on fresh ocean harvest of oysters. You will get to experience celebrity chefs as they prepare their special oyster dishes. There’s live demo’s, of course a beer garden, and even a “shuck and suck” competition you can enter if you dare.
The last we saved for best, with an event so exciting, once you attend, you just can’t wait until next year. We are talking about the Old Mission Beach Athletic Clubs, “Over the Line Tournament” held over two weekends. July 9 & 10th and July 16 & 17, 2016 are the dates not to miss this year. This event is held on Fiesta Island in Mission Bay Park in San Diego. Be advised that this is not an event that you can take your kids to, because it is one big party, with beer and assorted alcohol flowing copiously throughout the heat of the day. Over the line is a form of baseball game with a twist, that won’t take you long to figure out. Over the years it had gotten a bit out of hand, but officials have really turned it into a great event. One helpful hint I can give you from years of experience, go online, find out the pick up locations of the free shuttle services, and use them.
One last “warning” is you will. This is a hot event in many ways, including the 100’s of Southern California young ladies in very “limited” beach attire if you get my drift.
Be forewarned that you may see much more than baseball game guys, but its all fun and games.
Visit San Diego’s secret destinations, exposed here
Although millions of visitors to San Diego will visit Old Town San Diego each year, most will never visit the hidden gem just steps away. The Heritage Park Victorian Village lies just past the main area that tourists visit, on a hillside. This almost eight acre historic park was created to preserve the Victorian homes located there for future generations to experience. Fancy that? Hardly anyone visits them except maybe wedding parties for photos! There are seven fully restored homes in a beautiful setting. In fact there are two of them that are “Bed and Breakfast” rentals. All the Victorian homes were built in the late 1800’s. I find it amazing that even most residents of San Diego have no idea this historic destination exists today.
That makes it your secret destination to explore and share.
Whether you like art or maybe interested in checking out the campus of UCSD, there’s one thing most will admit, as a child they had a favorite teddy bear! Come on, admit it., you know you did. So keeping that in mind, maybe a visit to campus will include a visit to the “secret hidden bear” located there in the Academic Courtyard” near the engineering building. This bear weighs over 180 tons and stands over 24ft. high. It’s actually a sculpture created by stacking rocks from a quarry in North County. Each massive bolder was selected by artist Tim Hawkinson and is truly an amazing destination for both young and old. Getting your photo standing next to this piece of art will surly get plenty of “likes” on Facebook.
If you ask any youngster who attends school in San Diego, and ask them where California got its start, they will tell you Mission San Diego de Alcala. The mission built back in 1769 was located in the hills above todays “Old Town”, known today as Presido Park. Although visitors do visit the historic site, there is something semi-hidden that not to many know about, but now you will. Native Indians constructed the Old Mission Dam across the San Diego River about six miles upstream from the mission. As one of the key things to do in San Diego is hiking, here’s you chance to get exercise and visit a historic site. The Old Mission Dam is still accessible by hiking the Mission Trails Regional Park trails.
Plan your 2016 vacation around big events in San Diego
For fun times especially those traveling with small children, the San Diego County Fair held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds is a kick. It’s held every June and brings you back to your childhood days, with carnivals, the midway, concerts and of course the livestock. Cotton candy, caramel apples, popcorn and smoked turkey legs! How can any restaurant compete with those? Grab your honey or one of the kids and climb aboard the seats of the giant Ferris wheel for the best view of the Pacific Ocean, and don’t forget the smart phone foe a photo. This is the 4th largest fair in the states, and over 1.4 million visitors pass through the gates each year.
Although it’s not in San Diego proper, there’s a festival each year from September 1st through October 15th that San Diego locals celebrate, and go to. It’s the annual Julian Apple Harvest in Julian, CA up in the mountains. It’s a chance to take a drive into the beautiful mountains to the high desert, actually enjoy the fall foliage, and of course, the Julian apples. Julian is only a 45-minute drive and well worth it, because of this quaint little brief gold-rush town in the 1899’s. It has survived because of its development of the apple industry, from the apples, apple cider and Julian Apple Pies. Enjoy dancing, tractor pulls, wine and beer gardens, and food vendors.
To fully enjoy the history of this town, you can even enjoy gold panning demonstrations.
November brings to San Diego one of its major events, bringing visitors from around the country and the world. It’s the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival featuring world’s premier wines, worldwide. Come taste over 800 excellent wines, enjoy top gourmet food, and rub elbows with celebrities. Over 70 of San Diego’s best restaurants contribute their fine culinary plates to you in this festival. The festival is held the 3rd week in November each year.
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.