San Diego bursts with world-famous attractions for the entire family, from sand-dusted beaches and kid-friendly hiking trails to its famous zoo and the museums of Balboa Park. But for many, the year-round good weather is what seals the deal. As northern parts of the country dig out the coats for fall and winter, surf swells build and warm temperatures linger in San Diego, with mostly dry days right through to November.

The weather isn't the only thing that draws travelers to this happy West Coast hub. San Diego calls itself "America’s Finest City" for a reason. Its breezy confidence and sunny countenance filter down to the folks you encounter every day on the street. San Diego's neighborhoods feel like a collection of villages, each with their own unique and varied personalities, but this is the nation’s eighth-largest city. For its size, there's probably nowhere more laid-back on earth.

Whenever you choose to come, we promise you'll be pleasantly surprised. Here are the best times to visit San Diego.

Gorgeous Early Morning Hike in La Jolla, California
Hiking around San Diego is a great way to fill the warm, bright days of fall ©Jeremy Janus / Getty Images

Shoulder Season: September to October, March to May

Best time for hikers and budget travelers

San Diego has hiking trails snaking out into the countryside all around the city, and the shoulder season is the prime time to enjoy them as temperatures are warm rather than sizzling, and the skies remain crystal clear. Fall brings strong swells and offshore Santa Ana winds for the surfers, while the spring sees more frequent onshore winds, making the surfing a bit more sporadic. Fall and spring are friendly on the pocket too, as hotel rates fall from summer peaks. 

Surfers carrying surf board, walking along beach
Summer is beach time in San Diego ©Corey Jenkins / Getty Images

High Season: June to August

Best for experiencing the city's freewheeling spirit

Whoosh! Here comes a skateboarder. Splash! There goes a wet-suited surfer, board under arm. Overlooking the shore, there's a Chanel-clad diner lifting a dainty porcelain cup off its saucer. The city of San Diego and its coastal neighborhoods exude the kind of freewheeling spirit that brings out the best in people, and summer is the season to surrender to its siren song. 

The hot, dry months from June to August are peak season in San Diego; temperatures and hotel rates soar, and it can get busy on the city's 60-plus beaches. Amidst the blue-sky weather, June often sees the cloudy skies referred to by Californians as "June Gloom."

500px Photo ID: 72866245 - The historic Hotel del Coronado, San Diego, California
Maybe you can get a good deal at the iconic Hotel Coronado in the winter months ©Charles Davies / 500px

Low Season: November to February

Best for whale watching

Although it's far from cold, San Diego is slightly chillier in the winter months and there's a higher chance of rain. On the other hand, it's whale-watching season, so there are perks for the small inconvenience of bringing a warm layer. 

Gray whales pass San Diego from mid-December to late February on their way south to Baja California, and again in mid-March on their way back up to Alaskan waters. Their 12,000-mile round-trip journey is the longest migration of any mammal on earth, and you can spot them easily along the San Diego coast.

Here's a month-by-month guide to San Diego.


While it is the wettest month in Southern California, San Diego doesn't see too much rain. It's a slow time for coastal travel, making room rates their lowest.
Key Events: San Diego Restaurant Week, Farmer's Insurance Open


Wildflowers start blooming in the low desert outside the city. It's the second of the region's wettest months. The last of the whales make their way up the coast. Valentine's Day is booked solid at restaurants and resorts.
Key Events: San Diego Museum Month

Spring wildflowers Anza Borrego Desert State Park, California
The desert surrounding the city blooms brilliantly in the spring © Ron and Patty Thomas / Getty Images


The rain eases so travelers head back to the coast, especially during spring break which varies depending on school schedules and the Easter holiday. March is the peak month for wildflower viewing in the hills.


Shoulder season means lower prices except during spring break. The weather is consistently lovely and the crowds at a minimum.


It's the last month before vacationing school kids swarm attractions. Travel peaks over the Memorial Day holiday weekend – in fact, it's one of the year's busiest travel times.
Key Events: Cinco de Mayo, Rock'n'Roll Marathon

Latino family walking on craggy sunny beach
School is out and the families are here to play ©Hero Images / Getty Images


Nearly everywhere gets busier in San Diego when school lets out for summer. Beaches, theme parks and resorts are booming. The fog is lingering.
Key Events: San Diego County Fair


Beach season is in full swing as the waters have finally warmed up and wetsuits are less necessary. Theme parks are mobbed by vacationers. The Fourth of July holiday is summer's peak travel weekend.
Key Events: Comic-Con International, Big Bay Boom 4th of July, Del Mar Racing Season begins


Warm weather and water temperatures keep beaches busy. School summer vacations come to an end, but everywhere stays packed. Travel slows slightly before Labor Day weekend.

Cottage reflected in a lake, Balboa Park, San Diego
Fall means fewer crowds and Kid Free San Diego in October brings big family savings ©Ron and Patty Thomas / Getty Images


Summer's last hurrah is Labor Day weekend, which is extremely busy almost everywhere. After the kids go back to school, the city quiets down a bit.
Key Events: Miramar Air Show, KAABOO San Diego, San Diego Restaurant Week


It's shoulder season and things get much, much quieter even though the weather remains balmy. Travel deals abound all over the city.
Key Events: Kids Free October, Fleet Week

San Diego sparkles all year round ©Sean Pavone / Shutterstock


Temperatures start to drop ever so slightly. The beaches and theme parks are less busy, except around the Thanksgiving holiday.
Key Events: San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival, Día de los Muertos, Beer Week, Wonderfront Music & Arts Festival


Christmas and New Year's Eve are extremely crowded travel times, but worth it for palm-tree light displays and holiday cheer.
Key Events: San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl, Christmas Boat Parade, New Year's Eve


This article was originally published March 2021. It was updated September 2021

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Surf, sip and saunter through San Diego's ultra-cool neighborhoods
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The best day trips from San Diego

This article was first published Mar 9, 2021 and updated Sep 10, 2021.

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