Home > Best Time to Visit San Diego
by Santorini Dave • Updated: September 30, 2019
When is the best time to go to San Diego?
The best times to visit San Diego are the months of March, April, September, and October, as they are generally warm and less crowded than summer. Tourist season is at its peak in June, July, and August, but you’ll also find cloudy skies at the beach for much of early summer (known locally as June gloom). The coolest months are January and February, and they also tend to be the quietest month for visitors.
When to Visit San Diego?
- Best Time for Good Weather: San Diego has beautiful weather most of the year, with average highs of 76-78ºF in the summer and 66-67ºF in the winter. Mid-September through mid-October is the best time to find spectacular weather and great prices on hotels as the summer crowds have left, leaving many beaches with little to no people mid-week. Spring is the rainiest season in San Diego and the most unpredictable for weather, although it will rarely rain for more than a few hours on any given day.
- Best Time for Booking Hotels: San Diego hosts many conventions and conferences throughout the year, including the uber-popular Comic-Con that takes place in July. Booking a hotel in San Diego during events like this and throughout summer should be done about a year in advance. For slower seasons, try to reserve rooms at least three months in advance.
- Best Time for Surfing: The best time for surfing in San Diego is late fall through winter. During these months, there are larger and more consistent swells that combine with Santa Ana winds to produce beautiful offshore waves. The piers in Ocean Beach and Pacific Beach, as well as Silver Strand State Beach and Coronado are some of the best spots to catch a wave in San Diego. Waves are especially calm during the summer months.
- Best Time for Snorkeling and Swimming: The best time for snorkeling and taking a dip in the Pacific Ocean is early summer through early fall. The water temperature is much more enjoyable as the summer moves forward. La Jolla cove is one of the best places to snorkel in San Diego as it offers natural protection from waves and the water visibility is great.
- Best Time to Swim with Leopard Sharks: Every year, thousands of leopard sharks head to the shores off the coast of San Diego, and specifically to the La Jolla beaches, to mate and then hatch their young. These are beautiful and harmless sharks that can be found close to shore. There are waves at the beach, so snorkel and mask are suggested to see them clearly. The best time of year to see the leopard sharks is between late June and early December, with the peak being August and September.
- Best Time for SeaWorld: Early spring is the best time to visit Sea World, ideally in May, before the Memorial Day weekend. The weather’s at its best, with San Diego’s brief rainy season over, and before the crowds of summer have yet to materialize. After Labor Day and until the winter holidays is another good time to visit. In general, weekdays are less crowded than weekends. The summer months and days around major holidays are when SeaWorld is busiest.
- Best Time for the San Diego Zoo: Similar tips for SeaWorld apply for the San Diego Zoo. The San Diego Zoo is one of the city’s busiest and most famous attractions, and it’s busy on weekends year-round. The crowds during winter and early spring are smaller, except for holidays. The zoo is home to over 3,700 animals from 660 species, and the best time of day to visit the San Diego Zoo is when it opens, which is when the animals tend to be awake and easily visible. This is also when the crowds are a bit thinner since the zoo tends to get busier as the day goes on. The summer months and days around major holidays are when the San Diego Zoo is busiest.
- Best Time for Balboa Park: Balboa Park is one of the oldest public parks in the nation. It’s larger than New York’s Central Park and Chicago’s Millennium Park combined. The park is over 1,200 acres of urban green space with 16 museums, 65 miles of trails, theaters, restaurants, and home to the San Diego Zoo. Similar tips for SeaWorld and the Zoo apply for Balboa Park. It’s busy on weekends year-round, and especially in the summer. One of the best times of year to visit Balboa Park is for December Nights: a yearly event that takes place over a few weekends and features light displays, live music, dancers, local food vendors, and special events.
- Best Time for Del Mar Races: San Diego horse racing is a tradition that dates back to 1937 when Bing Crosby greeted the first guests. The Del Mar Racetrack is famous for being the place where the “turf meets the surf”. The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club racing season is mid-July through early-September. Horse racing at Del Mar happens Wednesday through Sunday, with post time for the first race on most days at 2 pm. On Fridays, first post is 4 pm.
- Best Time for a Padres’ Baseball Game: The MLB season begins in late March and ends late September. The Dodgers and Giants games are the ones local fans look forward to; these teams are viewed as the Padres’ main rivals and are especially fun to attend.
- Best Time for Whale Watching: Whale watching season in San Diego runs from mid-December through April when there is an annual migration of gray whales. To see females with their calves, visit late in the season as they take their babies back north with them. A couple of great spots to view the grey whale migration from shore include the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the Cabrillo National Monument, and Torrey Pines State Reserve. There are also many charter and tour companies that offer whale watching tours in San Diego.
- Best Time for Grunion Run: March through August is when thousands of tiny, silvery fish mate by the light of the full moon (or the new one). (See the schedule.) The best San Diego beaches for the Grunion Run are La Jolla Shores, Pacific Beach between Tourmaline Park and Lifeguard Tower 20, Mission Beach between Lifeguard Towers 19 and 10, Ocean Beach between Mission Bay Channel and the Ocean Beach Pier, and on Coronado between the Hotel del Coronado and Dog Beach.
- Best Time for Discounts: For discounted rates, it’s usually best to book early and schedule flights for mid-week. In general, the cheapest rates on flights and hotels can be found during the spring, except for spring break, and from September through mid-February, except for holidays.
- Best Time for Avoiding Crowds: The quietest month for tourists is December (except Christmas week), January (except New Year’s), and February. September and October are great times to avoid crowds and find beautiful weather.
- Best Time for a Destination Wedding: Summer months rarely have any rain in San Diego, but there is June gloom (coastal fog) at the beach. The best bet for a sunny wedding is July through September.
- Best Time for Buying Airline Tickets: Prices for flights fluctuate dramatically. Generally, booking one to four months in advance offers the best rates, with six weeks out being the optimal time for finding deals. Exceptions are when booking for Thanksgiving week and mid to late December. For these times, it’s usually best to book as soon as tickets are available, up to eleven months out.
When to Visit San Diego?
The Best Time to Visit San Diego
The best months to visit San Diego for great weather and to avoid the crowds are March and April (except for Spring Break), and September and October for great weather. San Diego has beautiful weather most of the year, with average highs of 76-78ºF in the summer, and 66-67ºF in the winter. Temperatures can vary up to 10ºF from the beach to the inland towns. Rain typically falls in spring and autumn, but doesn’t tend to last for more than an hour or so. San Diego’s rainy season typically lasts from November to March, although spring tends to bring most of the rain. July and August are the driest months. The stretch of Pacific Ocean in San Diego reaches its warmest point of the year in August, with an average temperature of 68°F, and the coolest month is February, when the sea temperature averages 57°F. High season coincides with spring break, summer vacation, Comic-Con (July), and whale season from mid-December through April, with high hotel and flight rates. Low season is spring, except for the spring break holiday, and from September through mid-February, except for holidays. During these months, visitors will find better rates and fewer travelers.
San Diego Travel Seasons
- Low Season (September through mid-December, mid-January through early March): Winter (except Christmas and New Year’s), early spring, and fall are the low seasons for travel in San Diego. Flights, hotels, and cars are less expensive, while beaches and attractions are less crowded. One exception with San Diego are the many conventions that take place, which means some lower season travel dates can still find hotels booked when big events are in town.
- High Season (Summer: mid-June through August): From mid-June through the end of August, travel is at its height in San Diego. Prices tend to be more expensive than during the rest of the year, and beaches and attractions will be more crowded. Fewer deals are available during the summer, especially in July and August.
San Diego Weather by Month
Temperatures in San Diego are warm most of the year. Rain is more common in the spring and fall months from November to March. Rain tends to be short-lived, except for the rare storm. The average high in San Diego in the summer is 76-78ºF, and 66-67ºF in the winter.
- San Diego Weather in January: January is one of the cooler months of the year in San Diego, with temperatures as low as 47°F and average highs of 50-66°F. January brings an average of four days of rain, but is also the third sunniest month. While a wetsuit will be needed, the best time for surfing in San Diego is late fall through winter. January is also a great time to visit big attractions like the Zoo and SeaWorld or take a whale watching cruise. It’s a good idea to bring a medium weight jacket or dress in layers, especially when visiting the beaches.
- San Diego Weather in February: Average temperatures in February are very similar to January, and fall between 51-66ºF. Rainy days average four in February. Winter starts to wind down by late February, and it is a great time to visit before the crowds arrive for spring break. Hotel rates will be lower than those found in spring and summer.
- San Diego Weather in March: San Diego begins to warm during March. There is a chance of rain, but there is also a high probability of summer-like weather, especially towards the end of the month. A jacket is still useful at this time of year as nights can still get chilly. You can catch the tail end of the whale watching season or head to Balboa Park for the spectacular spring bloom in the gardens. Average high temperatures in March are between 54-67ºF, and rainfall averages four days.
- San Diego Weather in April: Temperatures continue to rise in April, with an average high in the upper 60’s, and rainfall averages just two days. April is officially beach weather, although the Pacific Ocean won’t have warmed up enough for most to swim without a wetsuit. This makes it a great time of year to kayak to the seven caves at the La Jolla Ecological Reserve caves.
- San Diego Weather in May: May temperatures continue to inch a bit higher with average daily temperatures between 66 and 71ºF. May is a great time to visit, as the weather is warm and the major tourist season hasn’t started yet, so the tourist attractions are less busy than the summer high season. Winter rains will be gone, and in most years, June gloom won’t have started at the beaches.
- San Diego Weather in June: June is the official start of the summer season, but it’s also when June gloom (coastal fog) is at its height, and the skies are the least clear of any month in San Diego. In June, it’s just as likely to be overcast as it is to be sunny. Ocean temperatures begin to warm and are more comfortable for swimming. It is also the start of peak travel season, so be prepared for crowds at some of the most popular spots. Average high temperature is 71ºF and average water temperature is 65ºF.
- San Diego Weather in July: The official start of summer and great weather for San Diego. July is a great time for snorkeling and spending time at the beach. This is considered one of the best months to visit San Diego for outstanding weather conditions. Average high temperature is 75ºF and average water temperature is 67ºF. Avoid the week of Comic-Con if you can because hotel rates skyrocket throughout the entire city.
- San Diego Weather in August: In August, temperatures reach their peak and rainfall is rare. Similar to July, this is a great month to be outdoors and at the beach. Average high temperature is 77ºF and average water temperature is 67ºF.
- San Diego Weather in September: September has the warmest water temperatures of the year in San Diego, averaging 69ºF. Rain is uncommon in September and by mid-month, the crowds begin to slow down, making it a nice time to visit.
- San Diego Weather in October: October is the last really warm month with an average high of 74ºF. Average rain this month is one day and fairly uncommon. The weather is still great for outdoor fun including kayaking the seven caves at the La Jolla Ecological Reserve and spending time at the beach and the bay.
- San Diego Weather in November: This is when water and air temperatures begin to drop, and while still quite comfortable, the average high temperature is 70ºF and average low is 54ºF. This is the official start of the San Diego rainy season but only averages 2 days of rain. Late fall through winter is the prime surfing season. During these months, there are larger and more consistent swells. It’s a good idea to bring a light jacket or dress in layers as the weather begins to cool, especially when visiting the beaches.
- San Diego Weather in December: In December, air temperatures begin to dip to an average high of 66ºF and average low of 49ºF. You’ll want to bring a medium weight jacket and dress in layers, especially when visiting the beaches.
San Diego Events and Festivals
San Diego in January
- San Diego Brew Fest: Celebrate craft beverages from around California and beyond, featuring live local music, food trucks, and other vendors.
- San Diego Restaurant Week: This is a twice-a-year event and one of the best times to explore the San Diego food scene.
- Farmers Insurance Open Golf Tournament: Some of the biggest names in golf play at this annual PGA tour event that takes place at Torrey Pines Golf Course.
San Diego in February
- San Diego Museum Month: Admission to more than 40 museums is half off. A perfect time to explore Balboa Park which is home to almost half the museums in San Diego.
- Winter Brew Fest: Besides sampling lots of great local microbrews, there is also good music and plenty of food vendors.
- San Diego Lunar Festival: Celebrate the Lunar New year with dragon and lion dances, firecrackers, games, food, and more.
San Diego in March
- Padres’ Opening Day: Late March is the traditional opening day for Major League Baseball, and Petco Park in San Diego is no exception. 2020 is the beginning of a 7-game home stand to kick off the season.
- Carlsbad Flower Fields: Nearly fifty acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers make up the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch in Carlsbad and are in bloom for approximately six to eight weeks each year, from early March through early May.
- International Mariachi Festival: Celebrates San Diego’s Mexican heritage through mariachi music, traditional ballet folkloric dancing, arts culture, and delicious food.
San Diego in April
- Fallbook Avocado Festival: Sample avocados, buy funky avocado-themed gifts, and enjoy live entertainment at this free annual event that is over 30 years old.
- Chicano Park Day: Chicano Park has received international recognition as a major public art site for its mural paintings of Mexican and Chicano history. The festival celebrates with traditional music and dance, including one of the largest groups of Aztec Indigenous dance. The festival includes performances by ballet folklórico groups and numerous live bands, a lowrider car show, and children’s arts workshop. The event has taken place for the last 50 years and is free.
San Diego in May
- Cinco de Mayo (May 5): is one of California’s most popular festival days, and San Diego hosts one of the biggest celebrations in the U.S. in the Old Town Area. Additional festivals are often held on the weekend nearest to the fifth.
- Del Mar Horse Show: The horse show at Del Mar is a three-week event, held in April and May. It’s one of the most popular equestrian events in Southern California.
- San Diego Dragon Boat Festival: Head to Mission Bay to watch local dragon boat teams compete. Rowing to the beat of a drum, participants paddle long, thin dragon boats decorated with Chinese dragon heads and tails. The family-friendly event also features food vendors and cultural performances.
San Diego in June
- San Diego County Fair: An annual event that takes place at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The fair is famous for its variety of deep fried food-on-a-stick, rides, games, and live animal stockyards. You’ll also find world-class fine art, photography, woodworking, flower exhibits, wine tasting, and more.
- San Diego Rock’n’Roll Marathon: A Marathon infusing each course with live bands, cheer teams, and an overall party atmosphere. The event is so popular that it sells out months ahead of time.
- Ocean Beach Street Fair And Chili Cook-off: Join more than 70,000 visitors who make their way to the annual Ocean Beach Street Fair and Chili Cook-off Festival. The cook-off takes place just blocks from the beach with non-stop music and entertainment, family-friendly activities, food and vendor booths, carnival rides and games, and a beachside beer garden. The chili competition features more than two dozen tastings from amateur entrants competing for various chili master titles. The event is free and tastings can be purchased for $1 per chili entry, or attendees can buy a master ticket to try every recipe for $20.
San Diego in July
- Comic-Con: The largest comic book and pop culture convention in the world takes place every year in San Diego. It’s just as interesting to watch the costumed attendees make their way to the convention center as it is to attend.
- Del Mar Races: Opening day for the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club racetrack tends to fall in mid-July and runs through to September. General admission is $6-$10.
- San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival: This annual music festival takes place in the Embarcadero Marina Park North in the San Diego Marina, and combines the sounds of smooth jazz, a variety of delicious food vendors, and the beautiful backdrop of the San Diego Bay. This is a three-day event and tickets are required for entry.
San Diego in August
- Margaritas & Mas Festival: This is a festival celebrating Tequila & Mezcal Cocktails. Come for tastings of Tequila and Mezcal from Mexico’s top purveyors in signature cocktails or straight up. The event also includes food vendors specializing in Mexican cuisine as well as live music.
- Bike the Bay Community Ride: 25-mile non-competitive community bike ride around the San Diego Bay and the only opportunity to ride across the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge. All riders are invited to a post-ride festival with food, beverages, food trucks, 21+ beer garden, and entertainment. Registration starts at $45.
- San Diego International Kids’ Film Festival: A 3-day cinematic event featuring over 55 films from 25 countries, including films shot by kids. Feature length screenings, Q&A sessions, and discussions are among the additional high points.
- Latin Food Festival: A celebration of the culinary diversity of Latin American nations including Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. Savor dishes like sandwiches cubanos, tacos, tamales and arepas, lomo saltado, and llapingachos. Also featured are beverages ranging from mezcals, piscos, sotols, and tequilas to fine wines from countries like Argentina and Chile.
San Diego in September
- San Diego Restaurant Week: This is a twice-a-year event and one of the best times to explore the San Diego food scene. Special (and highly reduced-price) tasting and prix-fixe menus. No tickets required, but restaurant reservations are highly recommended.
- San Diego Blues Festival: This one-day blues festival takes place on the downtown waterfront on the first Saturday in September. The event raises much-needed food and funds for the San Diego Food Bank. The festival features numerous musical acts on two stages as well as vendors for local craft beer, cocktails, wine, specialty food trucks, and crafts. In past years, general admission tickets were $35 online and $40 at the gate.
- Adams Avenue Street Fair: The fair features 90+ musical acts on six stages, and is Southern California’s largest free two-day music festival, held each year during the last weekend in September in the community of Normal Heights. 300 arts, crafts, retail, and food vendors are set up along with beer gardens and giant carnival rides.
San Diego in October
- Miramar Air Show: The three-day event is the largest military air show in the United States. The show includes a large selection of aircraft from the United States Marine Corps, Navy, Army, and Air Force. The show’s daily performance schedule includes military and civilian aircraft, usually highlighted by the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels. General admission is free.
San Diego in November
- Old Town San Diego’s Dia de los Muertos: The annual Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is celebrated in Old Town in early November. This free event includes the traditional candlelight procession that starts at the entrance of the Old Town State Historic Park and travels down San Diego Avenue to El Campo Santo Cemetery and features many traditional and contemporary Dia de los Muertos altars. Restaurants throughout Old Town continue the celebration through the month.
- San Diego Beer Week: A 10-day celebration promoting more than 130 independent craft breweries in San Diego County takes place every year in early November. Events are held throughout San Diego County at participating breweries, bars, restaurants, and more. Many breweries have special tastings, live music, and food trucks.
- San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival: Sailboats and sandy beaches serve as the backdrop to one of the country’s most talked about food festivals. The San Diego event is a week-long festival of food, wine, and culture. Tickets vary in price, but it’s recommended to purchase them in advance as many events sell out.
San Diego in December
- Balboa Park Festival of Lights: One of the best times of the year to visit Balboa Park is ‘December Nights’: an annual event that takes place over a few weekends and features light displays, live music, dancers, local food vendors, and special events. Free to attend.
- San Diego Bay Parade of Lights: The Parade is a San Diego holiday tradition with more than 80 boats decorated and sailing by the shores. The Parade runs for two weekends in December. The best viewing sites include Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, and in Coronado, the Ferry Landing and Tidelands Park. Many restaurants offer great views of the boat parade, but book as much as a year in advance.
- OB Holiday Parade: For over 30 years, the surfing village of Ocean Beach has hosted the quirkiest Holiday Parade in San Diego. On the first Saturday in December, the main street in town hosts a 90-minute parade. They are also known for their leaning OB Holiday Tree.