Perched on the coast of Southern California, San Diego is a youthful city with a story as old as any in the Golden State. Known as the “Birthplace of California,” San Diego is where it all began. Yet, its thriving downtown, leafy parks, and beautiful beaches are all fresh and exciting. With the breadth of experiences here, it can be hard to figure out where to stay in San Diego.
The best hotels in San Diego offer travelers a mix of upscale, family-friendly, and budget accommodations. The variety of cool areas, neighborhoods & districts come with distinct vibes, placing either great nightlife, golden sand, outdoor adventures, or shopping within a sun-soaked walk.
Not sure where to begin your lodgings search? Find the perfect area and hotel with this complete guide to the best places to stay in San Diego, CA.
Best places to stay in San Diego, CA
If you’re wondering where to base yourself in San Diego, take some time to think about what you want to get out of your travel itinerary. There are many reasons to visit this beautiful Southern California city. You could be seeking endless sun, sand, and the blues of the Pacific Ocean. Or maybe you want to experience a fun central neighborhood with a delicious food scene and great live music.
There are many great areas & districts in San Diego, and each has an advantage over the other. We’ve split San Diego up into six sections, all expanding from its boisterous downtown.
Beach lovers will have their choices from places like Coronado and the laid-back Ocean Beach. Downtown San Diego and the Gaslamp Quarter bring city culture and the waterfront charms of San Diego Bay to your doorstep. Old Town places you in the middle of it all, in both a literal and historic sense.
The best areas to stay in San Diego are:
Downtown San Diego
✓ Best area to stay in San Diego for luxury travelers and sightseeing
For some of the best accommodations in San Diego, along with easy access to many attractions, it’s hard to pass up on staying in Downtown San Diego. The heart of the city is within walking distance of the Gaslamp Quarter, baseball at Petco Park, the waterfront Embarcadero, and the famous Balboa Park. Even the airport is just a minute’s ride away.
For adventures outside of Downtown San Diego, the city has a decent public transportation system that will connect you to places like Coronado and La Jolla. Additionally, the city’s wonderful nightlife is not just restricted to the Gaslamp Quarter. You’ll find a great range of bars, clubs, and music lounges across the town playing everything from country to jazz.
Many of the local hotels offer modern amenities and captivating city and bay views. All those staying downtown will be just a jump away from sunset drinks at Seaport Village, beautiful bay views along The Embarcadero, or delicious meals in Little Italy.
Enjoy downtown skyline views from your private balcony at Best Western Plus Bayside Inn. In the heart of San Diego, your modern room comes with cable TV, a microwave, and a fridge. Downstairs you’ll have access to the fitness center along with an on-site restaurant and complimentary breakfast. Guests will be within walking distance of Little Italy and the Gaslamp Quarter.
Hotel Republic offers guests eco-friendly lodgings that can also accommodate pets. Your upscale furnishings feature cable TV and an oversized desk to catch up on work or family. The hotel boasts a trio of on-site restaurants, including a rooftop bar, and a terrace with nightly bonfires. You’ll also have access to a fitness center.
With a spacious seating area, extra sofa bed, and a modern bathroom, Marriott Vacation Club Pulse offers comfort in spades. Guests will have premium cable TV and movie channels, but the proximity to major sites provides plenty for everyone to do. Downstairs you’ll have a tour desk, a swimming pool, and fitness center, and a short walk to Balboa Park.
Enjoy your luxury accommodation in downtown San Diego at Manchester Grand Hyatt. The rooftop lounge and bar present startling views of the city and bar, forty floors above the ground. Most rooms have beautiful views through the floor-to-ceiling windows. There are eight on-site dining options, a fire pit, a swimming pool, and a spa facility.
For unabridged opulence in San Diego, you can’t look past the InterContinental. From the moment you step into the grand lobby, you’ll be swept off your feet into the lap of luxury. Enjoy bay views from your room, with a rooftop bar and multiple dining options, and top sights within walking distance.
✓ Top place to stay in San Diego for nightlife and foodies
Arguably a part of Downtown San Diego, the Gaslamp Quarter earns its own spot on this list thanks to its distinct grandeur and vibrant nightlife. The historic neighborhood has become the most popular part of town thanks to a surge in hospitality and the preservation of the city’s beautiful old brick buildings. Even if you’ve only got a day in San Diego, the area is a must-visit.
In the Gaslamp Quarter, you can join the local revelry, indulge in some mouthwatering cuisine, and party into the early hours. During the day, you’ll find a plethora of shops to enjoy some retail therapy with the endless stream of restaurants lying in wait.
The nights here start early and run late, with a wide range of dimly lit cocktail bars, laid-back pubs, rooftop establishments, and borderline speakeasies. Once the sun has gone down, the district’s iconic lampposts light up, guiding you from place to place along the glistening cobblestone streets.
In the charming Gaslamp District, Moxy is a top choice among traveling couples. Some rooms have vibrant city views with an ultra-modern hotel layout. The four-star hotel comes with complimentary a la carte and American breakfasts while being steps from the water and all the action around the quarter. Parking is also available.
As the hotel is a short walk from Petco Park, baseball fans can’t go wrong with a stay at Omni San Diego. But with its hip furnishings, cable TV, and spacious room layouts, these accommodations are a great choice for all travelers. There’s on-site dining, a swimming pool with a bar, plus invigorating spa treatments.
The colorful Staypineapple, Hotel Z is impossible to miss. Featuring pet-friendly rooms, this hotel puts you in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter with cable TV, private bathrooms, and cozy guest robes. All guests will also have access to the free bicycles perfect for exploring downtown and San Diego’s Embarcadero.
The historic brick facade of Andaz San Diego encapsulates what the Gaslamp Quarter is all about. But there’s more to it than that. Travelers can relax in comfort with complimentary drinks, cable TV, and en suite bathrooms. Afterwards, check out the rooftop bar and pool with gorgeous sunset views.
One hotel that ticks all the boxes in the Gaslamp Quarter is the Pendry. Here, you’ll have access to restaurants, an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center, and a bar. Add in a roomy seating area, separate bathrooms, and a private balcony, you’ll have everything you need for the perfect San Diego vacation.
Old Town & Mission Valley
✓ Best place to stay in San Diego for first-timers
Otherwise known as the Birthplace of California, Old Town San Diego has a great mix of history and budget-friendly accommodation. Travelers will find Old Town just north of Downtown San Diego and stationed just south of the coastal towns of Mission Beach and La Jolla. Its proximity between all parts of town makes it one of the most popular areas to stay in San Diego for first-timers.
Besides having great access to different parts of San Diego, Old Town’s history makes it a must-see. The historic site has retained much of its historic architecture and old-world charm while offering a lovely mix of Spanish and Old West culture.
Among it all are museums, delicious restaurants, and some great window shopping. The range of top San Diego tourist attractions, alongside the relatively cheap room rates, also makes it a solid option for families.
Just north of Old Town is the Mission Valley has similarly rich shopping along with some beautiful nature along the San Diego River.
North of downtown, the Cosmopolitan Hotel is one of the best places to stay in San Diego if you want to escape the busy inner city. A short drive from the airport, the hotel is located within the historic Old Town and dates back to the 1860s. Enjoy elegant furnishings that throw back to the Victorian era, plus an on-site restaurant, bar, and terrace.
Just across from the Old Town Historic Site, Western Plus Hacienda Hotel comes with an on-site restaurant and an outdoor swimming pool. The cozy rooms, complete with cable TV, will have you feeling right at home. Visit the fitness center, relax in the hot tub or check out the beautiful views from the rooftop restaurant at night.
With a traditional Spanish exterior, Courtyard San Diego Old Town is a delight from the moment you arrive. Your room comes with deluxe bedding and designer duvets, cable TV, and even an option for video games. But with a hot tub, swimming pool, and an on-site cafe, there’s plenty to keep you busy when you aren’t exploring.
Located in Mission Valley, the SpringHill Suites come with complimentary breakfasts, private bathrooms, and satellite TV. When you aren’t exploring Mission Beach or Balboa Park, you can work out at the fitness center or relax by the pool. With some rooms sleeping up to seven guests, this hotel is a popular option for families.
✓ Best spot to stay in San Diego for a mix of beaches and downtown
On the other side of San Diego Bay is Coronado Island. The historic island is a great place to stay for those who want to be close to downtown and the Gaslamp Quarter without the busy streets—and want the beach within walking distance.
Hotels and vacation homes line the speck of land that faces out to the Pacific Ocean and is just a stone’s throw to the Mexican border. Despite its proximity to the city, Coronado has its own personality and style, bringing all the vibes of a classic beach destination.
On Coronado Island, you’ll find historic hotels that popped up in the early 20th century and rows of restaurants and shops facing the bay and ocean. The miles of beachfront, including Coronado Beach, are beautiful places to bask in some sun and go for a swim. Guests can reach downtown on a short ferry ride or a trip over Coronado Bridge.
Guests at El Cordova will have just a four-minute walk to the beautiful coastline on Coronado. However, the former mansion offers plenty of reason to stick around. It comes with a Spanish-style courtyard, where you’ll bask in pristine gardens, boutique shops, and restaurants, not to mention the turquoise swimming pool and elegant decor.
Hotel Marisol Coronado isn’t just one of the best hotels in San Diego, it’s arguably the most famous. The boutique hotel first opened in 1927 and its Roaring 20s grandeur is still on display. Add on modern amenities, luxurious rooms, free bike rentals, and a lush courtyard, you won’t be left wanting.
For an upscale experience on the other side of San Diego Bay, be sure to check into Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa. All rooms are well-appointed with en suite bathrooms, with some having delightful city and bay views. You’ll find multiple on-site restaurants, a trio of heated pools, bars, plus revitalizing spa treatments.
History and elegance greet you at the front door at 1906 Lodge. The Spanish abode architecture, off-white facade, and deep green roof are as beautiful as the guest rooms are luxurious. Rooms at the bed-and-breakfast come with a fireplace and unique furnishings. A delicious breakfast and a brief walk to Coronado Beach await in the morning.
✓ Best neighborhood in San Diego for beaches
Curving around San Diego Bay and passing Coronado is Point Loma, home to the eclectic town of Ocean Beach. Teeming with beach bum vibes, a classic ocean pier, and remarkable sunsets, the area is free-spirited and whimsical. Life here revolves around the water and the salt-soaked air is packed with California cool.
The golden sand, picture-perfect swimming, tide pools, and great surf make Ocean Beach a popular destination among all travelers. Solo adventures will enjoy the casual and social atmosphere, and couples can enjoy a relaxing scene with romantic sunsets. Families with kids will find accommodation with kitchens and never-ending beach days and time searching for marine life.
Just north of Ocean Beach is Mission Bay. This man-made lake offers miles upon miles of leisurely walking trails, on-water experiences, and spacious picnic areas. For more sand, you’ll also have the vibrant Mission Beach neighborhood located just north of the neighborhood over the Entrance Channel.
Mere steps from the Pacific Ocean, Samsun offers an eclectic accommodation experience. You’ll find budget-friendly accommodation here, including dorm rooms. The communal space has immaculate vibes, thanks to the burst of color and clean amenities. Out the front door, you’ll also be a short walk from the Sunset Cliffs and the iconic pier.
If dorm rooms aren’t for you, stay literally on the beach at Ocean Beach Hotel. Many rooms come with delightful ocean and sunset views, plus free WiFi, and en suite bathrooms. There are many family-friendly activities nearby, including SeaWorld, shopping, and the Cabrillo National Monument.
Blue Heron Cottages are tucked away in Ocean Beach, providing all guests with a sense of quiet and seclusion. This is a great option for travelers who want to save on eating out, as you’ll find a full kitchen, along with dining and living rooms. Guests will also be close to the beach and Sunset Cliffs.
✓ Top-rated neighborhood in San Diego for families
Just north of Pacific Beach, La Jolla is the area furthest from the heart of San Diego. Yet its broad range of outdoor activities and tranquil atmosphere makes it another worthy place to stay. In La Jolla, you can enjoy all the spoils of the Pacific Ocean along a beautiful coast, with sandy coves home to sea lions, tide pools, and sun-soaked beaches.
The coastal town of La Jolla will have you reaching for the surfboard, boogie board, SUP, or kayak on the daily, leaving little time to explore the rest of the city. But if you love the water and nature, then you won’t be complaining.
Those who stay in La Jolla will also have the wonderful Torrey Pines State Reserve, one of the best day trips from San Diego, just a few minutes away. One of the best public parks in the area, the reserve protects the significant and endangered Torrey pine tree.
Five minutes from La Jolla Shores Beach, the La Jolla Riviera Inn is a simple, budget-friendly choice for local accommodation. Each apartment or suite comes with a full kitchen, living room, cable TV, and private bathroom. There’s also an on-site swimming pool and you’ll be minutes from surfing, swimming, and kayaking.
Enjoy memorable sunsets from your private balcony at the Pantai Inn. The inn is just a minute from the beach and offers guests wonderful value for money. In the Balinese-inspired rooms, you’ll have a full kitchen, TV, and wood-carved furnishings. In the morning, enjoy deluxe continental breakfasts before exploring the coast.
For a 4-star hotel experience in La Jolla, check out the Grand Colonial. Guests are a few minutes from the beach and within walking distance of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Each room comes with luxury furnishings, with gold and green accents plus a work desk. There’s on-site dining and a swimming pool.
The Lodge at Torrey Pines boasts some of the most luxurious San Diego accommodations. The opulent boutique hotel overlooks the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course and offers guests a pool, spa, and wellness center. There’s on-site dining, and each room comes with a granite and marble bathroom, with some offering golf course and garden views.