Hipmunk City Love: Travel to San Diego on a Budget

This post is part of the Hipmunk #CityLove campaign.

With beautiful beaches like La Jolla, scenic hiking trails, and attractions like SeaWorld and Legoland, it’s not surprising that San Diego is a hit with tourists. With so much to do, it can seem like a visit to the city would throw you off your budget. But it doesn’t have to be that way, so check out these tips for making the most of San Diego on a budget.

San Diego on a budget

Photo by Bob Cummins via Trover.com

Affordable Accommodation

San Diego offers great accommodation choices across a range of budgets. From cheap hotels in San Diego to hostels, campsites, apartments, and pricier luxury options in the Hotel Circle area, you’re sure to find something to fit your budget.

Eating on a Budget

Mexican food is understandably popular in San Diego, given that you can reach Mexico in under an hour. Fish tacos, quesadillas, and asada (marinated grilled steak) fries and guacamole provide plenty of comfort in the city’s food culture and it’s easy to find a meal for less than $5.

San Diego on a budget

Photo by Todd Smith via Trover.com

But it’s not as if Mexican food is your only option, even on a budget. From humble chicken pie topped with gravy, creamy Thai curries, pork-stuffed Vietnamese rolls, to succulent doner kebabs, the city offers satisfying meals for under $10. At mid-priced restaurants, dinner can be slightly more expensive than lunch.

Cool Things to Do

San Diego has miles of beautiful coastline with beaches that offer free public access where you can enjoy the sand and sunshine or go surfing, kayaking, snorkeling and scuba diving. Perhaps the most famous is La Jolla or ‘The Jewel’ of San Diego, where the beaches are particularly striking.

San Diego on a budget

Photo by Joey Luong via Trover.com

Bird watching enthusiasts should make their way to the Torrey Pines State Reserve, a protected habitat for swifts and woodpeckers, among other species. Within the reserve, the Guy Fleming Trail offers fantastic views of rugged cliffs overlooking the sea.

San Diego on a budget

Photo by Dallas Pattie via Trover.com

Balboa Park offers outdoor enthusiasts plenty of activities on a day trip between its many gardens, museums, cultural venues, and attractions such as the Spanish Village Art Center. Take advantage of free museum entry on Tuesdays (rotating basis every week).

Explore San Diego’s different areas like Seaport Village, Gaslamp Quarter, and Old Town to see their varied architecture and sights. Take a scenic ride onboard the San Diego Bay Ferry ($6 round trip) to Coronado and back.

Other Tips for Budget Travelers

If you’re hoping to visit many attractions such as the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, Legoland, and the San Diego Museum of Art, then consider getting a multi-attraction pass that offers discounted entry.

If you plan on cooking your own food, then consider shopping at one of many Farmers Markets rather than the neighborhood supermarkets. Not only will you find fresh produce, but your wallet will thank you for it.

Have you been to San Diego? What is your favorite thing to do there on a budget?

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