San Diego is often overlooked for California’s more famous cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. However, there is a reason why San Diego has gained its nickname of “America’s Finest City.” The all-year-round pleasant weather, stunning beaches, laid-back vibe, and endless activities make San Diego one of the country’s most exciting and loveable cities.
One thing that will determine your experience in this city is where you stay. With over 100 colorful and distinctive neighborhoods, choosing where to stay in San Diego is essential for your trip planning.
However, you don’t need to spend hours searching for detailed information about each city district. In this article, the top 5 San Diego areas are revealed for visitors and recommended accommodation for each one.
Best Areas to Stay in San Diego
San Diego boasts a diverse range of neighborhoods with a unique vibe and style. Below are five of the most popular districts, but this is not a complete list by any means.
- Mission Beach & Bay: Best for first-time visitors
- La Jolla: Best for beach lovers
- Gaslamp Quarter: Best for nightlife
- Old Town: Best for culture
- Coronado: Best for relaxation
Best Places to Stay in San Diego
These five neighborhoods are all close to the top things to do in San Diego and are suitable if you don’t have a car. These are handpicked and are the top-rated accommodation for all budgets, including something for every type of traveler.
Mission Beach & Bay
Best area to stay in for first-time visitors
Mission Beach has a fun yet laid-back holiday vibe and an excellent blend of water and land activities. Along with the long stretch of sand and bustling promenade, you’ll be close to some of the most popular attractions like Belmont Park and SeaWorld. Plus, whether you stay along the beach or the bay, you’re bound to have splendid water views.
Top Picks for Mission Beach
If you’re looking for a luxurious stay in San Diego, the Hyatt Regency is a top choice. It boasts 3 pools with waterslides and cabanas, an environmentally friendly spa, and an on-site marina. There’s also a restaurant with an outdoor terrace open all day and a pool bar.
All rooms have priceless views, but you can choose between ocean or marina vistas. The suites are modern and stylish and feature oversized work desks with enhanced lighting, perfect for those on a workstation.
The Dana on Mission Bay is in a prime spot, overlooking the bay and less than a 20-minute walk away from the beach. The 3-star hotel is surrounded by lovely landscaped gardens, and the ground floor rooms have private patios. In addition, many of the upper floor suites have excellent bay views, which you can upgrade to one of these if you wish.
The hotel has a waterfront restaurant, 2 outdoor pools, 2 hot tubs, and a seasonal pool bar. The rooms have plenty of amenities, such as a flat-screen TV, microwave, refrigerator, and coffee machine.
Although Mission Beach tends to have some of the higher-end hotels in San Diego, it is possible to stay in this area if you’re on a budget. The Best Western Mission Bay hotel is 10 minutes from Mission Bay Park and SeaWorld.
The motel has an outdoor pool, hot tub, and fitness center and is pet friendly, so it is a top choice if you’re traveling with your fur baby. The rooms sleep up to 2 or 4 people and have several amenities like a TV, work desk, microwave, and refrigerator.
Best area to stay in for beach lovers
La Jolla is a trendy, upscale neighborhood with some of the most luxurious boutique hotels in San Diego. La Jolla is ideal if you want to be close to the beach and water activities. Here you can paddle through the caves, sunbathe on the shore, and snorkel with the diverse marine life. You’ll also have plenty of shops and restaurants on your doorstep.
Top Picks for La Jolla
La Valencia Hotel is easily one of the best San Diego beachfront hotels, just a 2-minute walk from the beach with stunning ocean views in select suites. The hotel combines vintage with trendy, resulting in stylish yet elegant rooms. On-site, there is an outdoor swimming pool overlooking the beach and 2 restaurants.
You can choose from a wide range of suites, including classic or vintage styles. They all have ensuite bathrooms with dual showerheads, plush bathrobes, and premium toiletries. The king suite has a private balcony, oversized shower and bathtub, and a separate living/ dining room.
Grande Colonial La Jolla is a short 5-minute stroll from the beach and La Jolla Village. The eco-friendly 4-star hotel has a fine-dining restaurant, a large outdoor pool, and multiple terraces. Select rooms have kitchenettes with an oven, fridge, and microwave, and many give expansive views of the Pacific Ocean.
The Holiday Inn in La Jolla is a 10-minute walk from the beach and has an outdoor pool and hot tub. The rooms have all the amenities you need, like a microwave, a fridge, and a coffee maker.
Holiday Inn offers guests a complimentary hot continental breakfast, including freshly made pancakes and pastries and many savory options.
Best area to stay in for nightlife
Gaslamp Quarter is a bustling district with excellent bars, clubs, and entertainment venues. It makes sense to stay here if you’re coming to San Diego to party. The old district also has a fascinating wild western history with almost 100 historic buildings. By staying here, you’ll also be within walking distance to many of the city’s top attractions like Petco Park and Horton Plaza.
Top Picks for Gaslamp Quarter
The glamorous Pendry hotel has a stylish outdoor terrace with a pool, hot tub, and various styles of sun loungers. There is also an on-site restaurant and bar that serves a delicious American breakfast. All rooms feature high-quality white linen, spacious rain showers, and a minibar. Select rooms also have balconies overlooking the city and separate lounge areas.
Omni is located on the southern outskirts of the Gaslamp Quarter, close to the bay. The hotel has an outdoor pool, an alfresco dining terrace, and a spa.
The modern bedrooms feature comfy beds, warm lighting, and large windows. If you upgrade to the one-bedroom suite, you’ll enjoy a spacious lounge with a work desk, a large bathtub, and a balcony.
Moxy is one of the most stylish San Diego hotels, conveniently located between the Gaslamp Quarter and Downtown. You can enjoy a drink at the bar, use the shared workspaces or meeting rooms, or work out in the on-site gym. The entire hotel features hip decor, and the rooms have large comfy beds and quirky accessories like a vintage phone.
Best area to stay in for culture
Suppose you want to experience the local culture and Mexican heritage of San Diego. In that case, you should base yourself in the Old Town. This area was the first Spanish settlement in the early 1800s, but it was home to Kumeyaay Native Americans before that.
Old Town has retained its vintage architecture, unlike other parts of the city. So despite being close to the city center, it can feel like you are a million miles from the skyscrapers of Downtown San Diego. As you can imagine, the Old Town is also one of the best spots for authentic Mexican food and entertainment, such as live mariachi bands.
Top Picks for Old Town
Because there are many preserved buildings in the Old Town, you won’t find any uber-modern or ultra-stylish hotels. However, you can still enjoy a lavish stay at Hilton Garden Inn. Hilton Garden Inn is just a 10-minute walk from the Old Town and has an on-site restaurant, fitness center, and outdoor pool.
The rooms feature comfy beds, soft lighting, and large windows. You’ll also find premium complimentary toiletries in the ensuite bathroom.
The 3-star Courtyard hotel offers guests a terrace with a pool and hot tub, fitness center, and cafe/bar. All rooms have TVs, fridges, desks, and coffee makers.
The ensuite bathrooms are incredibly modern, with rain showers. You can upgrade to the 2-room suite for a separate lounge and dining room if you want more space.
Old Town Inn is easily one of the top-rated budget hotels in San Diego. The heritage building oozes history and charm, yet there are modern facilities such as an outdoor pool. The rooms are basic but comfortable, with king-size beds, flat-screen TVs, and ensuite bathrooms. Breakfast is included in the room rate, a grab-and-go style with a wide selection of dishes.
Best area to stay in for relaxation
Coronado is the perfect choice for those looking for peace and quiet in San Diego without being too far from the action. Coronado is a short 10-minute drive from Downtown San Diego, yet it oozes tranquility as it’s a land-tied island.
By staying here, you’ll be a short walk from the long, sandy shoreline of Coronado Beach and a stone’s throw from the charming village of historical buildings and boutique stores. Everywhere in Coronado is walkable, and you’ll enjoy picturesque views at every turn.
Top Picks for Coronado
The expansive Coronado Island Marriott Resort has a wide range of facilities, from multiple bayside pools to tennis courts and a full-service spa. The outdoor pools are heated, and there are two restaurants with both indoor and outdoor dining. There’s also a poolside bar that is ideal for sunset cocktails.
All rooms have private balconies with glass sliding doors, and the ensuite bathrooms have large double showers. In addition, the 1 bedroom executive suite has a separate living room with a corner sofa and an oversized bathtub.
Hotel Marisol is one of the most popular boutique hotels in San Diego, with a private courtyard, complimentary bicycle rentals, and a tasty breakfast buffet included in the room rate. The rooms feature light and airy decor with plenty of amenities, like a mini-fridge, laptop safe, coffee machine, and hairdryer. There are also many thoughtful extras like coffee capsules, chilled mineral water, and bathrobes.
El Cordova Inn is a highly rated yet wallet-friendly San Diego accommodation. You can stay in the modern deluxe room or opt for the one-bedroom suite with a kitchenette, dining table, and sofa bed. All rooms have both air conditioning and ceiling fans.
The unique Inn is housed in the former mansion of an industrialist and features a classic Spanish village-style courtyard. Here you can relax in the gardens, shop in the boutique stores, and dine at the two restaurants. It’s also a leisurely 4-minute walk to the beach.