Best Time to Visit San Diego: Month-by-Month Guide (+Photos)

Lying alongside the sparkling Pacific Ocean, the sunny San Diego is most known for its large zoo, lovely beaches and lively historic center. Although oft overlooked in favor of both San Francisco and LA, ‘America’s Finest City’ has lots of fun things for you to see and do.

As it is blessed with year-round good weather, there’s never really a terrible time to visit the southern Californian city. The vast majority of people head here in summer though when the days (and water!) are hottest, and you can really get a feel for its laidback surfer vibe.

To help you plan your trip, let’s take a look at what the climate is like each month and what cultural events are going on. We’ll also cover its crowds and prices so you can decide when’s best for you to visit San Diego.

In this post, we’ll cover:

What’s the Weather Like in San Diego?

Said to have one of the best climates in the country, San Diego is located right in the south of the state, not far from the border with Mexico. Spread across approximately 200 canyons and hills, it has warm, dry summers and mild winters. The hottest months of the year are July, August and September when temperatures average around 79 to 80°F (26-27°C).

Due to its topography, the weather in the city can vary quite a bit from one part to another. Its days are mostly dry and sunny, however, with just November to March seeing a slight bit of rain. A typical Californian phenomenon known as ‘May Gray’ and ‘June Gloom’ often coats it in thick clouds during these months, sometimes lasting into July.

Best Months to Visit San Diego

San Diego

As their long, hot, sunny days are ideal for both sunbathing and swimming or surfing in the sea, July and August are by far the most popular months to visit. Hotels and flights are a lot more expensive, however, while all the city’s main beaches and attractions are packed. Tons of great events take place though like Comic Con and the San Diego County Fair.

The shoulder seasons of March to May and September through November are considered by many to be even better as they are less crowded, cooler and cheaper. While the springtime has pretty flowers and fun outdoor activities to enjoy, autumn has some of the best waves for surfing. Its scenic beaches and tourist sights are also quieter with music, food and flower festivals all held around town.

San Diego in January

San Diego January

While December sees a slight spike in visitor numbers as many head here for a warm winter getaway, January is very quiet once all the Christmas and New Year festivities are over. The coldest month of the year, it averages ‘just’ 66°F (19°C) with the evenings being quite chilly. Prices are cheaper with fewer people found at its famous zoo and in the Gaslamp Quarter.

With eight hours of sunshine each day though, there is ample time to see its sights and stroll or cycle along its stunning shoreline. You can also ice skate by the ocean at the iconic Hotel del Coronado’s rink and take cruises to see majestic grey whales migrating down the coast. The Torres Pine Golf Course also hosts the PGA Tour Farmers Insurance Open in January.

San Diego in February

San Diego in February

February is also a very affordable month to visit San Diego though the prices and crowds do increase a bit around President’s Day weekend. Apart from that, you can explore its beaches and attractions with barely anyone else around. San Diego Museum Month is also going on if you want to visit the USS Midway and Maritime Museum for half price.

Temperatures remain mild with February also seeing around five days of rain, just like the rest of the winter months. Many people take epic whale-watching cruises or head to the Cabrillo National Monument where you can also see them passing by. Plenty of fun parties and pub crawls take place in the Gaslamp Quarter for Mardi Gras where exciting dance performances and tasty food fairs are also held for Chinese New Year.

San Diego in March

San Diego in March

As spring is in the air, visitors slowly start to return to the city in March. While it’s still too cold to sunbathe or swim, its main sights and museums aren’t anywhere near as busy as in summer. Both flight prices and hotel rates do rise though around spring break when loads of families visit for the holidays.

Aside from attending its Cherry Blossom Festival, you can explore all the beautiful blooming flower fields at Carlsbad Ranch. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated with raucous parties, parades and concerts popping up everywhere in downtown. In March, you can also watch the Padres play their first game of the MLB season at Petco Park.

San Diego in April

San Diego April

After the autumn months, April is arguably one of the best times of the year to visit sunny San Diego. With temperatures rising to 70°F (21°C) and the days lasting longer, conditions are perfect for hiking along its shores or cycling around Coronado Island. Except for around Easter, accommodation and airfares are still very reasonable.

Other than admiring Carlsbad Ranch’s colourful fields, you can see pretty wildflowers coating the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. Seaport Village also hosts its annual Busker Festival while hundreds of artists exhibit their work at the Mission Fed ArtWalk in Little Italy. It’s not a bad idea too to take day trips to Legoland or Disneyland Park in Anaheim before they get overrun in summer.

San Diego in May

San Diego May

Although tourist numbers continue to increase, the ‘May Grey’ weather phenomenon means the skies above the city and coast are often overcast in late spring. That doesn’t stop people from ambling along the Mission and Pacific Beach boardwalks or taking refreshing dips in the sea. You can also see seals and sea lions again at La Jolla Cove or the Children’s Pool Beach.

Old Town San Diego also hosts lively Cinco de Mayo celebrations while Spanish Landing puts on the great Gator By The Bay music festival. As the city is a major hub for the US military, lots of events and ceremonies are held around the Memorial Day weekend. Prices are more expensive around this time with summer also just around the corner.

San Diego in June

San Diego Beach

May’s dreary, overcast skies continue into June with the air often being quite cool and damp despite average temperatures hovering around 73°F (so 23°C). Things usually clear up a bit later on in the afternoon though. When it’s sunny, loads of people spend time sunbathing on its beaches or splashing around in the ocean.

As well as the fun Rock ‘n’ Roll foot race though the city, there are various Summer Concert Series and its Beer Weekend taking place. San Diego County Fair also has plenty of rides, entertainment and food options to try at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. While ‘June Gloom’ does cast a shadow over everything, there is still a vibrant feel about downtown, its beaches and boardwalks.

San Diego in July

Comic Con San Diego

July is the absolute peak season in San Diego as people have holidays, the days are hot and all kinds of exciting events are going on. Prices are, of course, at their most expensive with its hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions all absolutely rammed. As its gloomy skies are now usually over, it’s a great month to go kayaking, windsurfing and fishing.

Asides from attending the San Diego County Fair, you can watch the Padres play baseball or catch an action-packed horse race at the Del Mar Racetrack. Spectacular fireworks displays and parades are also held for Independence Day when all its lovely beaches and viewpoints are packed. To top it off, both its Pride Festival and Comic Con – the largest event of its kind in the world – attract massive crowds to the city.

San Diego in August

Coronado Beach

The hottest month of the year, August sees average temperatures hit 80°F (27°C) though it often feels even higher due to the 10 hours of strong sunshine each day. While it sometimes gets a bit much for sightseeing, conditions couldn’t be better for lounging on the beach and enjoying water sports. Hotel rates remain pricey but decrease towards the end of the month.

As everyone is sunbathing at La Jolla Shores or strolling along the Mission and Pacific Beach boardwalks, top sights like its zoo and safari park are actually a bit quieter. In the evenings, an excited energy takes over the historic Gaslamp Quarter. Countless concerts are also put on for SummerFest while the San Diego Symphony hosts the Bayside Summer Nights.

San Diego in September

San Diego in September

Once the summer crowds head home after Labor Day weekend, prices fall and there is much more space again on its scenic beaches. For many, September is the best month of the year to visit as temperatures are still high enough for sunbathing and the water is warm. Besides enjoying outdoor activities beneath its bright blue, sunny skies, there are loads of events to take part in too. The autumn months also have some of the city’s best surfing conditions.

As they are less busy, it’s a brilliant time to see its sights or take trips to either Legoland or Disneyland Park. You can also hike about Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve or play a round at one of its golf courses. There are also great jazz and blues festivals to attend and thrilling surfing competitions to watch. In addition, Restaurant Week has enticing deals to the city’s top eateries while the award-winning Miramar Air Show also roars by overhead.

San Diego in October

San Diego Surfing

October is equally pleasant weatherwise with averages remaining around 75°F (24°C) and each day seeing about eight hours of sunshine. These dry conditions are perfect for paragliding or hang gliding above the coast from the Torrey Pines Gliderport. The city’s sunsets are also at their most spectacular in October with the aptly named Sunset Cliffs and Cabrillo National Monument being two of the best places to head.

While flights and hotel prices are already more affordable again as fewer people are around, many attractions offer children free admission all month long as part of the annual Kids Free San Diego promotion. These include not just its zoo and SeaWorld but Legoland, the Birch Aquarium and USS Midway Museum too. As it is also the harvest season, it’s worth visiting Temecula Wine Country or stopping by the La Jolla Art and Wine Festival.

San Diego in November

San Diego November

While tourist numbers drop considerably in November, it is still a perfectly nice time to visit if you have the chance. Average temperatures are only a couple of degrees cooler, its prices are cheaper and there are hardly any crowds around. The sunny weather is great for hiking, biking and golfing or ambling about Balboa Park and along the Embarcadero.

Foodies in particular will enjoy its line-up of events as both its Beer Week and Bay Wine and Food Festival take place. Military displays, live music, art exhibitions and more are also held for Fleet Week. In preparation for the holiday season, Hotel del Coronado opens its ice rink along by the ocean, midway through the month. Hotel rates rise again around Thanksgiving, along with its crowds, but are otherwise very reasonable.

San Diego in December

San Diego Christmas

As many head here for a warm winter getaway, slightly more people visit San Diego around the Christmas holidays. While it still averages 66°F (19°C) and there are roughly 8 hours of sunshine each day, it’s a bit cold for beach activities with the evenings being quite chilly. The city has a lovely laidback vibe though with lights and decorations strung up everywhere.

Other than ice skating and strolling about its Christmas markets, you can see the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights or visit Balboa Park for its December Nights festival. Locals and tourists watch memorable productions of The Nutcracker and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. There is also the Holiday Bowl Parade’s floats and marching bands to enjoy before fireworks shows welcome in the New Year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *