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Best Time to Visit San Diego, CA

Written by Karen Hastings
Jan 27, 2020

Sunny all year round, with a temperate Mediterranean climate, San Diego is beautiful at any time of year, so the best time to visit depends on what you plan to do during your trip.

If basking on San Diego's golden beaches is your top priority, a visit during the warmer summer months or early fall is best. Sightseeing is wonderful all year, but you'll find the best hotel and airfare deals during the low season. Saving money on getting to San Diego will leave you more money to splurge on visiting San Diego's top tourist attractions, as well as the city's fabulous shops and restaurants.

Traveling with the family? The Holiday season can be a wonderful time to visit, when some of San Diego's top family resorts host holiday celebrations.

If you're driving to San Diego, make sure you plan your travel around the traffic, as clogged freeways can add hours to your journey. Pinpoint your preferred activities and budget, and you can find the best time to visit San Diego and make the most of all the things to see and do in one of SoCal's most vibrant cities.

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Best Time of Year to Visit San Diego

Downtown San Diego

Since the city's weather is warm and sunny for most of the year, the best time of year to visit San Diego is from March through May and September through November, when the rates for hotels and airfare are cheaper. The weather is typically warm and sunny during these times of year, and the chance of rain is low for most of these months - except March, which can be wetter than the rest of spring and summer.

In April through May, spring weather usually brings warm weather, with temperatures in the 60s. Flowers bloom in local gardens, including the botanical gardens in Balboa Park, and you'll find fewer crowds. Keep in mind that May can be a little foggy - locals often refer to this as "May Gray," but saving money on accommodation and airfares might be worth visiting at this time.

In the fall, from September through November, you can expect crystal-clear sunny days; warm daytime temperatures, which can sometimes exceed summer temperatures in September; and less crowds at the city's top attractions. October and November (excluding Thanksgiving) are the cheapest months to travel at this time of year.

Peak season is June through August, during summer break, but June tends to have less sunshine than all the other summer months. At this time of year, warmer inland temperatures suck moisture in from the ocean, creating a thick blanket of fog along the coast, which the locals call "June Gloom." Early summer is also when crowds tend to swell as schools close for the summer high season. But the late summer-July, August, and September-brings the best beach weather.

Low season is typically during the winter months, from January through March. Rain is more likely during these months, but if no storms are in the forecast, you can expect the weather to be clear and sunny, with no fog, so it's worth taking a chance if you want a Southern California city fix at this time of year.

No matter what time of year you visit, it's also a good idea to bring layers because nights can be cool, even in summer.

Best Month to Visit San Diego

Balboa Park at sunset

With such beautiful weather throughout the year, it can be difficult to pinpoint the best month to visit San Diego. It comes down to a combination of sunny skies, less crowds, and cheap hotel and air travel. Taking into account all these factors, the best month to visit San Diego is October, when the summer crowds have disappeared, the weather is still sunny and warm, and you can find cheap rates on airfares and hotels. But no matter which month you visit, you're likely to find sunny days and family-friendly events.

January: If you're a snowbird, January can be an excellent time to visit San Diego. Even though it's one of the months with the highest chance of rainfall, the weather is relatively warm compared to other destinations in the US, with average daytime temperatures in the mid 60s Fahrenheit.

Best of all, you'll find some of the lowest rates on hotels and airfares, and if you're a foodie, you can time your visit for San Diego Restaurant Week. Another bonus: any storms hitting the city bring big surf, so it's a great time to hit the waves on San Diego's famous beaches.

February: With the chance of rain relatively high, February is the perfect time for a little culture fix during your visit. Luckily, February is Museum Month in San Diego, when you can take advantage of half-price admission to member museums. Who knows - you might even get lucky and score some sunny weather while you're here so you can also take a stroll along the coast.

March: March is another relatively rainy month, but to compensate for the threat of storms, rates for hotels and airfare are among the lowest of the year.

April: April can be a beautiful month, before fog cloaks the coast and summer crowds arrive, although you might find some spring break crowds during certain weeks. Popular festivals and events are also held in April, including the Coronado Flower Show, San Diego Earth Fair, and Mission Federal Artwalk.

May: By May, the threat of rain has all but disappeared, and average daytime temperatures start to creep up to the 70s. However, May can be foggy. Warmer inland temperatures suck the cooler ocean air into a thick blanket along the coast, creating what the locals refer to as "May Gray." Don't despair, though. Foggy days prevent you from overheating when you're participating in active outdoor adventures. Just make sure you wear sunscreen - the sun's rays can still burn your skin.

Surfers on the beach in San Diego

June: Like May, San Diego weather in June can also be foggy (June Gloom), but this doesn't deter summer vacationers who still visit the beaches - especially in the afternoon when the fog tends to burn off. June's cooler foggy weather can also be great for active outdoor adventures like biking and hiking. And if the fog bothers you, plan some activities farther inland, where you're more likely to see sunshine - sometimes you only need to venture a few miles away to find it.

July: By July, the fog has usually lifted along the coast, giving way to clear, sunny days and hot weather. But hotel rates usually spike at this time of year. July is also when one of San Diego's biggest events takes place, Comic-Con, a hugely popular comic book convention, and this tends to drive prices in the city up as well.

August: Are you a beach lover? August is one of the hottest months and the best time to visit for basking on San Diego's golden shores. In fact, watersports are ideal at this time of year, when the typically chilly water temperatures tend to warm up a little.

September: San Diego weather in September is usually gorgeous - it's one of the hottest months of the year, with virtually no chance of rain. This is an ideal month to visit the city - especially if you're still looking for some beach time. Typically the summer fog is long gone, and the days can be crystal-clear and sunny. Rates for hotels and airfare will also be lower than the peak summer months of June through August.

October: October is one of the best months to visit San Diego. October weather in San Diego is gorgeous - day-time temperatures average in the mid 80s, and the chance of rain is almost non-existent. Best of all, the summer tourists have long gone, meaning you won't encounter as many people at San Diego's top attractions.

November: This is another beautiful month to visit San Diego - especially in the first half of the month before crowds descend upon the city, and airfares and hotel rates peak during the Thanksgiving holiday. The weather is usually mild (low 70s on average) but you might experience some rain in November-especially towards the end of the month.

December: Dreaming of a warm Christmas instead of a white Christmas? San Diego is the perfect place to celebrate the holidays. Many venues and hotels host family-friendly Christmas celebrations. Favorites are the two-day Balboa Park December Nights festival and the month-long annual Winter Wonderland at the Grand. Anyone can visit this magical holiday celebration at the five-star Fairmont Grand del Mar, which enchants children with Santa visits, Christmas carolers, ice-skating, carousel rides, a Ferris wheel, and s'mores roasting around the campfire.

Best Time to Visit San Diego Zoo

Panda at the San Diego Zoo

This family favorite attraction is open all year-round, rain or shine, but the best time to visit San Diego Zoo is during the spring shoulder season, when the weather is typically clear and sunny. The animals also tend to be more active when the temperatures are milder in the spring months, and it's the perfect weather for wandering along the lushly planted walkways, admiring the animals, as well as the zoo's extensive botanical collection.

But visiting in the summer can also be rewarding if you time it right. Generally, the animals are less active during the summer months, when the mercury soars, but the foggy days of "June gloom" have their advantage: the animals might be livelier, and you won't overheat as you walk between the exhibits.

During late summer and early fall when the weather is hot, you can always hop on the Kangaroo Express Bus and give your feet a rest, or soar from one side of the park to the other on the Skyfari Aerial Tram. Your one-day zoo pass also includes a 35-minute guided bus tour, so you can plan your visit and get a feel for the layout of the park.

Winter can also be a beautiful time to visit the zoo, with crisp, sunny days. But the chance of rain is much higher from December through February, so make sure you pack an umbrella or coat.

The best time of day to visit the zoo is early in the morning, as soon as the zoo opens and before the crowds swell later in the day. The animals also tend to be more active during the early morning, so you'll have the best chance to see them in motion.

Cheapest Time to Go to San Diego

La Jolla

The cheapest time to visit San Diego is during the winter months in the low season, from December through January, excluding the holiday season. Budget travelers will find plenty of deals during these months for both hotel rooms and airfares. Plus you'll avoid the long lines at the city's top attractions. Best of all, these are among the sunniest months of the year in San Diego - though it tends to be a little cooler with a higher chance of rain, you won't find fog along the coast.

Another cheap time to go is during the shoulder seasons, from March through May and September through November.

Weather in San Diego

Hotel del Coronado in San Diego

Thanks to its sunny Mediterranean climate, San Diego experiences some of the best year-round weather in the US. The sun shines down on the city more than 260 days a year, humidity is low, and rainfall averages less than 12 inches a year - sometimes the city can go without rain for six months or longer.

But the weather in San Diego may surprise you. Thanks to its coastal climate, San Diego actually experiences more days of sunshine during the winter months than in the summer months, when fog can cover the coast for much of June. Daytime temperatures during the winter average in the 60s, and when the sun is shining, it can feel mild and warm. That said, the winter still has the highest chance of rainfall, so you'll need to pack an umbrella and coat just in case.

Spring weather is generally warm and mild, but March has a higher chance of rainfall than late spring and summer, and May can be foggy ("May Gray").

Summer weather is perfect beach weather, except for June. Typically, fog still clings to the coast in the early summer, but the foggy weather in June can be great for more active adventures and for exploring attractions like the San Diego Zoo. Temperatures in June average in the low 70s Fahrenheit, compared to the high 70s for July and August.

Fall weather is usually ideal - especially in September and October. Crisp, clear days, with little chance of rain, means you can enjoy all of San Diego's outdoor adventures, and you'll also find less crowds and lower hotel rates and airfares than at other times of the year. A word of caution, though - from September through December, Southern California's fierce Santa Ana winds can funnel down the canyons, felling trees and fanning wildfires.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

Exploring San Diego: Once you've discovered the best time of year to visit San Diego, plan your sightseeing in and around the city with our article on the Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in San Diego. From the attraction-packed Balboa park to beautiful beaches, you'll find plenty of things to do, including a host of kid-friendly activities, like Legoland and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

Where to Stay in San Diego: Looking for the best base for you San Diego visit? See our articles on Where to Stay in San Diego and the Top-Rated Resorts in the San Diego Area. And if you're traveling with kids, you can find the perfect place to stay in our article on the Top-Rated Family Resorts in San Diego, from five-star luxury to beachfront beauties.

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