San Diego is one of California’s most beautiful cities! It is literally nicknamed “America’s Finest City” and for good reason! San Diego has miles and miles of white sand beaches, a downtown skyline overlooking the bay, outstanding nightlife, great weather all year round, rich culture, wildlife and epic hikes, hundreds of amazing dining experiences — I mean, the list goes on and on. It can be quite overwhelming planning a trip to San Diego with so much to do and so much to see. So, to help you, I narrowed it down in this 3-Day San Diego Itinerary.
This 3-Day San Diego Itinerary includes a little bit of everything! Beach days, nightlife, outdoor adventures, trendy café experiences, historic sites, shopping, and more! It will help you plan the perfect weekend getaway to sunny San Diego!
3-Day San Diego Itinerary
WHEN TO VISIT
There is literally no bad time to visit San Diego! The weather here is pretty much perfect year-round. Even during winter, there is very little rainfall and the lowest temperatures drop is to about fifty degrees.
However, I’m sure many of you want to visit San Diego for fun in the sun and not necessarily for cozy cardigan days in, so I would say that July – October are the best months for warm sunny weather.
Also, keep in mind that spring is usually gloomy and overcast, especially in the mornings. The locals literally nicknamed these months “May Gray” and “June Gloom.” Avoid this season if you’re strictly visiting for a summer type vacation.
IS 3 DAYS ENOUGH?
I always recommend a minimum of 3 days, no less! This will give you plenty of time to get a glimpse of everything that San Diego has to offer. However, I would ideally suggest one week. But I do know that carving out time and money for that can be a bit too much, which is why I say 3 days is just enough for a quick but fun San Diego experience.
I one hundred percent suggest having a car to drive around San Diego! Whether you rent a car or bring your own, a car is absolutely essential to get around San Diego. Ubers will rack up and get super expensive and public transportation isn’t time efficient.
There are walkable areas, but they are all pretty spread apart and you will have to drive for one to another as you explore throughout the day.
Check out my San Francisco Itinerary here!
WHERE TO EAT
COFFEE + BREAKFAST
4. Holy Matcha
9. Great Maple
LUNCH + DINNER
1. Cafe Coyote
4. Bahn Thai
7. Donna Jean
WHICH NEIGHBORHOOD TO STAY IN
Most of San Diego is safe and pretty, but here’s a list of some of my favorite neighborhoods to stay in. I lived in San Diego for two years and I’ve also visited time and time again, and so far these are the neighborhoods I’ve loved and felt most comfortable in.
SUNSET CLIFFS – If you want those beach town vibes, ocean views, and dreamy coastal sunsets, then head over to Sunset Cliffs to find your dream Airbnb.
DOWNTOWN/LITTLE ITALY – If you want to be smack in the middle of nightlife, clubs, and all party events, then Downtown is where you want to be. Little Italy is also super active and has tons of top rated restaurants and bars.
NORTH/SOUTH PARK – Want to stay near all the trendy, hipster spots? Then North + South Park is the place for you. Here you’ll find indie boutiques, brunch spots, taquerias, craft-beer bars, and more!
MISSION VALLEY – Stay in Mission Valley if you want to do all the shopping! This neighborhood is home to several shoppings malls, big box stores, entertainment venues, and lots of chain restaurants.
MISSION HILLS – Mission Hills is an upscale neighborhood overlooking Downtown, Old Town, and the Bay. Such a pretty vibe here!
LA JOLLA – This is probably the most stunning area in San Diego, which means it can get pricy, but it’s totally worth it!
CORONADO ISLAND – If you’ve visited San Diego before and you’re looking for a different experience, then I would suggest finding a cute little Airbnb in Coronado Island and living that island life.
Looking for more beach city destinations? Check out my Santa Barbara Weekend Guide here!
CARLSBAD STRAWBERRY COMPANY
Carlsbad Strawberry Company is a family owned strawberry farm, but the exciting part about this farm is that they allow customers to pick their own berries. They also have a number of other fun activities like a sunflower maze, a bounce land, food vendors, and a pumpkin patch during spooky season! Make a quick stop at the farm on your way in to San Diego if you’re arriving through I-5 coming from LA. Otherwise, it is a 30-40 minute drive north of San Diego.
PACIFIC + MISSION BEACH
These two beaches neighbor each other and are joined by a long oceanfront walkway. Take some time to walk down the strip, drink fresh coconut water straight from the coconut, soak in the sun, and explore all the little shops.
Make your way down to Belmont Park for a fun little seaside amusement park. Similar to Santa Monica Pier and Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, you can find a roller coaster and other rides, arcade games, zip lining, rock climbing, bowling, fair food, and more!
End your day with the most magical sunset at Sunset Cliffs. They didn’t name it that for no reason!
LITTLE ITALY FARMERS MARKET
This Famers Market is top-notch! It has a little bit of everything – and aside from the street vendors and free food samples, you also get ocean AND city views!! It’s seriously such a good time!
EMBARCADERO + MARINA
Talk a walk down the Embarcadero for a waterfront experience where you can shop, dine, visit the USS Midway Museum, and admire San Diego’s downtown city skyline.
Make sure you spend a few hours exploring Balboa Park, it has so much to offer! It is almost twice as big as Central Park in New York and it is home to multiple theaters including the Old Globe, 17 museums, multiple stunning gardens, and even the San Diego Zoo.
Finish off your day with an afternoon beach day in Coronado Island! This is by far one my favorite beaches! It has soft white sand, warm water, spectacular sunsets, and it’s always super clean (please keep it that way). It’s the perfect way to wind down after a busy day of exploring in San Diego.
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Start your last day in San Diego with a trip to Liberty Station! Liberty Station is a former naval training station turned into a commercial center with feels of a town square. Here you can find brunch spots, restaurants, a public food market with gourmet eateries, cute little gift shops like Pigment, and lots of grassy lawns surrounded by Spanish Colonial buildings.
You can’t go to San Diego and not go to Old Town! This town is actually a historic park, California’s first settlement, and the oldest neighborhood in San Diego. It features Mexican heritage, colorful shops, eclectic restaurants, historical sites, and one of the most real-life haunted houses in the country, the Whaley House.
I love to visit Old Town to shop for Mexican goods, eat freshly made tortillas, and drink margaritas! It’s always a blast! Make sure to visit if you want a cultural experience that will take you back in time.
SPRUCE STREET SUSPENSION BRIDGE
This is a hidden suspension footbridge in Bankers Hills. You can walk through the bridge and admire the serene valley views. This is just a fun and short stop that I think is worth adding to the itinerary.
Say goodbye to San Diego with a night out in Gaslamp Quarter while you hang out at a rooftop and cheers with your favorite cocktail! The Gaslamp Quarter is a premier entertainment neighborhood featuring dive bars, cocktail lounges, rooftop bars, and all the fun! It is such lively quarter and it is the perfect end to an epic trip!