Bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Anza-Borrego Desert and the Laguna Mountains to the east, and Mexico to the south, the diverse neighborhoods of San Diego are spread out over 4,200 square miles, offering endless opportunities for exploration and activities. Spend a day relaxing in one of the many beach communities, then hiking in the east San Diego County mountains the next. Explore the urban neighborhoods of San Diego’s downtown, from the iconic Gaslamp District to the eclectic community of Hillcrest. Visit the quaint and charming island town of Coronado or the picturesque village of La Jolla. San Diego’s regions are so unique and diverse; there are plenty of options to discover something new each time you visit.
Below are brief descriptions of San Diego’s unique and vibrant regions:
Just across the bridge from downtown and San Diego’s Big Bay, Coronado's stunning beaches offer gentle surf and sparkling mica sand. With a quaint small town charm and an array of outdoor activities, Coronado is the perfect destination for family vacations and romantic getaways. Stay at the historic Hotel del Coronado, or at any of the local resorts offering unique and upscale accommodations. Enjoy a day of shopping along the vibrant main street of Orange Avenue, golf at the 18-hole public course, rent a sailboat for a day on the bay or explore the island by bike along the 16 miles of boardwalk. Whatever you decide to do, you’ll find an experience that is a world apart when visiting Coronado.
The heart of every city lives in its downtown, and San Diego is no exception. Located only minutes from the airport, San Diego’s thriving downtown districts, including the historic Gaslamp Quarter, offer a plethora of options for accommodations, activities, dining, shopping and cultural attractions, all within walkable city blocks. Take a stroll along the Embarcadero and grab lunch at Seaport Village before you climb aboard the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum. If a moving sea vessel is more your flavor, hop on a harbor cruise or sailing excursion. Catch the trolley for a quick ride to Balboa Park and the world-famous San Diego Zoo or Old Town San Diego. And when the sun goes down, the city's Gaslamp Quarter comes alive as it takes center stage in San Diego's happening nightlife scene.
Explore unique vacation experiences in San Diego’s East County - from the La Mesa foothills to the mountains of Julian, East County’s vast expanses offer a playground of entertainment. Las Vegas style gaming is available at Indian casinos that also offer world-class golf, spa services and shopping. For the outdoor adventurer seeking thrills in the arid terrain, the rocky foothills and sage- and chaparral-lined canyons provide a scenic backdrop for hiking, biking and climbing. Trek the largest state park in California - the 600,000-acre Anza Borrego State Park. Or venture up to the Palomar Observatory for incredible views of surrounding vistas. Meander through backcountry, quaint diners and other hidden treasures along the historic Highway 94 or nostalgic Highway 80, once dubbed the "Broadway of America." And don’t miss a trip to Julian with historic gold mine tours for the kids and the best apple pie in California.
The beating heart of San Diego’s downtown rests in the Gaslamp Quarter, comprised of 16 ½ square blocks in the city’s central core. With a colorful array of restaurants, nightclubs, art galleries and boutiques, you will find plenty of things to do on foot. During the day, the Gaslamp Quarter is a great place for families. Visit the New Children’s Museum or explore the historic Victorian architecture preserved throughout the district. Shop at Horton Plaza or catch the Trolley to Balboa Park and the world-famous San Diego Zoo or Old Town. As night falls, the quarter transforms into a veritable adult playground as the sophisticated nightclub scene comes to life. From award-winning restaurant to happening dance clubs, jazz and rooftop bars, you'll find it in the Gaslamp Quarter.
A true neighborhood of locals with a warm and welcoming spirit, Hillcrest is at the center of San Diego’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community. With an energy all its own, the main streets are lined with 1950’s style storefronts, colorful awnings, one-of-a-kind boutiques, salons, great restaurants and many specialty food outlets. Hillcrest also sits adjacent to Balboa Park and the neighborhoods of North Park and South Park offering a more "local" San Diego experience including quaint restaurants and pubs, many offering craft beer on tap, boutiques and an uptown local vibe.
The coastal village of La Jolla, appropriately meaning “The Jewel” in Spanish, is one of the most popular and picturesque destinations in the world. With a dramatic coastline ideal for swimming, surfing, diving, kayaking, and snorkeling, La Jolla’s beaches are just one of the features that make this village a highly desirable destination for visitors. La Jolla offers world-class shopping and dining experiences, from designer boutiques and art galleries, to critically acclaimed restaurants featuring celebrity chefs. La Jolla’s cultural offerings include the renowned Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and La Jolla Playhouse.
Learn more about the trendy community of La Jolla, Ca.
The cool breezes, tranquil waters and soft sand beaches of Mission Bay attract aquatic recreational enthusiasts all year-long. As one of the largest water parks in the world, you can have your pick from a variety of activities including kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skiing, wind surfing, sailing, kite surfing and sport fishing. Families can find a whole day of fun at SeaWorld San Diego or Belmont Park. Places to stay are plentiful, as upscale resorts and family friendly hotels line the shores. Nightlife abounds in Mission, Ocean and Pacific Beach, where sandals are recommended at local dining and nightlife hot spots.
Conveniently located just north of downtown and east of Mission Bay, Mission Valley offers a host of hotels and resorts that are minutes away from San Diego’s top attractions and activities, including beaches, the Gaslamp Quarter, Balboa Park the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld. Shopping options are plentiful in Mission Valley, with the upscale Fashion Valley mall, or the family friendly Mission Valley shopping centers, all located within the bustling and vibrant community.
For a truly historic experience, don’t miss San Diego’s Old Town, the site of the first Spanish settlement on the West Coast. With over 12 acres of Mexican lore and historical sites, there are plenty of attractions to explore including gift shops, museums, a theater and several carefully preserved or restored historic adobe and wooden buildings. Family friendly accommodations are available and for real authentic Mexican cuisine; try any of the restaurants that offer hand-made tortillas made right before your eyes.
Learn more about San Diego’s Mission Valley and Old Town communities
North County Coastal beach communities embrace the quintessential San Diego beach lifestyle. With a laid back vibe and hang-ten spirit, visitors seeking an iconic Southern California experience can find local beaches and veritable surf towns along the coast. As you take the scenic drive up Coast Highway 101, from La Jolla to Oceanside, stop into each unique community rich with history, natural beauty, and gorgeous beachfront views. Have fun year around in Del Mar with a county fair, horse races and holiday activities. Bring the whole family for a day at Birch Aquarium in La Jolla or LEGOLAND and SEALIFE aquarium in Carlsbad. From breathtaking golf courses, historic missions and high-quality antique shops, to flower fields and world famous surf spots, the North County San Diego coastal are a “don’t miss” area of San Diego.
Learn more about San Diego’s North County Coastal region
Natural luxury can be found in San Diego’s North County Inland region. Resorts, spas, wineries and over 40 golf courses are spread throughout the majestic region, leaving visitors plenty of room to stretch out and relax. Families can find affordable and spacious accommodations, with the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Palomar Mountain and Cleveland National Forest nearby. North County San Diego also offers an easy ½ way point between Disneyland to the North and SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo and downtown San Diego to the South.
West of downtown San Diego, you'll find Point Loma, Harbor Island and Shelter Island, all of which offer great restaurants and a variety of accommodations. These areas feature picturesque marinas from which sportfishing excursions, whale watching tours and harbor cruises depart. A peninsula jutting into the sea, it's easy to think of Point Loma as a dead end - "land's end" in fact. But, as the site where San Diego was discovered in the first place, it seems more appropriate to consider Point Loma as a starting point - the start of a new land, a new dream, a new way of looking at things. And that's just the place to start your own exploration of San Diego, with a voyage around Point Loma, Harbor Island and Shelter Island.
Escape to San Diego’s South Bay, San Diego’s southern-most community adjacent to the Mexican border. Nature abounds at the Tijuana Estuary offering expansive trails for hiking, biking and bird watching. The Chula Vista Nature Center features a turtle lagoon, shark & ray exhibit native gardens and bird watching. For the golf enthusiast, try a round of 18 in courses cut out of the natural landscape. Nearby attractions include the new Aquatica SeaWorld Waterpark and the Olympic Training Center which offers free guided tours of the facility. South Bay offers great shopping at the Las Americas Premium Outlet center and authentic Mexican cuisine at any number of local restaurants. Just up the coast from South Bay is Silver Strand Beach and Coronado, featuring a host of upscale resorts and family friendly accommodations.