Where to Stay in San Diego – Neighborhoods & Area Guide

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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A huge, picturesque coastal city perched along the Pacific Coast in Southern California, San Diego is characterized by its many universities, well-manicured green spaces, a warm climate, and of course, gorgeous beaches. Though it is the second-largest city in the state, San Diego has a rather laid-back pace which enables its visitors to enjoy a pleasant break from the hustle and bustle that is usually expected out of a metropolitan of this size.

With its favorable warm climate year round, San Diego is home to over one million inhabitants from all around the world, making it one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse cities in the United States. Once known as the “birthplace of California,” the city welcomes over 35 million visitors each year.

Finding accommodation at the “Craft Beer Capital of America” could be daunting – not because it lacks options but because there are too many. To select where to stay in San Diego, you must take a look at the below-mentioned neighborhoods to get an idea of what to expect from each.

Gaslamp Quarter

Gaslamp Quarter, San DiegoSource: meunierd / shutterstock
Gaslamp Quarter

One of the sub-neighborhoods of San Diego’s downtown area, Gaslamp Quarter is at the very core of the city’s cultural and entertainment scene. Victorian-era structures and futuristic skyscrapers share the skyline here while art galleries, theatres, museums, shopping venues, and nightclubs swarm the neighborhood streets. Horton Plaza, a prominent attraction, attracts the young and the shopaholics to its retails stores as families and laid-back visitors enjoy a gentle stroll at the well-manicured lawns and an occasional ice-cream or a cup of coffee. The site for Mardi Gras and Street Scene Music Festival, Gaslamp is also credited with the “historic district” status. Of course, the main attraction is San Diego Zoo, not just one of the best in the country but in the world.

Good for: All kinds of travelers.
Other Highlights: Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House, Old City Hall, Faro de Point Loma, Parque Nacional Cabrillo, Balboa Theatre, The Spanish Village, and USS Midway Museum.

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Staypineapple at Hotel Z – A pet-friendly hotel located just a few hundred meters from the center of the downtown neighborhood, Staypineapple at Hotel Z features well-appointed guestrooms with modern facilities such as air-conditioning, free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV with cable channels, and private bathroom. Guests can make use of the business center for their work-related needs or use the free bicycle rental option at the 24-hour front desk to explore the area. Perfect for all kinds of travelers.
  • Wyndham Harbour Lights – This luxurious hotel overlooks the famous Gaslamp Quarter and offers contemporary studios equipped with a kitchenette, 46-inch HDTV, and a private balcony. Flex your muscles at the on-site gym and later call for a spa service to re-energize yourself. The namesake attraction is just a 15 minutes’ drive away from the property. Suitable for couples and small families.
  • Gaslamp Plaza Suites – A 1913 historic hotel, Gaslamp Plaza Suites feature a European décor with original architectural design, state-of-the-art amenities, an on-site restaurant, and also a wine parlor. Free Wi-Fi is available in all guestrooms. A complimentary breakfast is served daily. The closest light rail station is just a few minutes walking distance away and gives convenient access to the rest of the city. Great for solo travelers, couples, and small families.

Little Italy

Little Italy, San DiegoSource: Gabriele Maltinti / shutterstock
Little Italy

Once known for its remarkable tuna fishing industry and generations of Italian inhabitants, Little Italy is another fascinating neighborhood close the downtown area. Packed with craft beer shops, boutique hotels, art galleries, and patio cafes, the area has now become a lively district for locals and tourists alike. As a matter of fact, this neighborhood is considered to host the city’s most dynamic wining and dining scene. Home to several world-renowned chefs, diners here serve cuisines from both North as well as South Italy. No visit to this neighborhood is complete without a visit to a traditional Italian market – Mona Lisa Italian Foods deli features an amazing collection of food, wine, and deli sandwiches. Come fall, the area celebrates Little Italy Fiesta with exuberance and grandeur.

Good for: All kinds of travelers.
Other Highlights: Firefighters Museum, Piazza Basilone, Saturday Farmer’s Market, Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Waterfront Park, and Maritime Museum of San Diego.

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Hampton Inn San Diego Downtown – Just a minutes’ walk from the beach, this lavish hotel features wonderfully-decorated guestrooms with a plethora of on-site facilities. Start the day with a splendid complimentary breakfast before exploring the San Diego Convention Center or shopping at the Horton Plaza. Come back to the hotel to relax at the rooftop pool that overlooks the Bay. Great for all kinds of travelers.
  • Best Western Plus Bayside Inn – A short drive from San Diego International Airport, Best Western Plus Bayside Inn boasts opulent guestrooms with stunning views of the city’s skyline. When here, enjoy your time at the heated outdoor pool, on-site wining and dining, and a fully-equipped fitness center. A complimentary breakfast is served daily. At the time of checking out, avail the hotel’s free shuttle to get to the airport or to the cruise terminals. Suitable for all kinds of travelers.
  • Wyndham San Diego Bayside – Featuring multiple on-site dining options and a free shuttle service to not just the airport but to quite a few popular San Diego attractions, including San Diego Zoo and Seaport Village. Set right opposite the cruise terminal on the San Diego Bay, Wyndham San Diego Bayside features well-appointed rooms, an outdoor pool, a gift shop, and a well-equipped fitness center. Perfect for all kinds of travelers.

Old Town/Mission Valley

Old Town San DiegoSource: Gabriele Maltinti / shutterstock
Old Town

One of the most-convenient neighborhoods to travel to and from San Diego International Airport, Old Town and Mission Valley, two neighboring areas, is at the center of the city and all its activities. A short drive away from the notable landmarks in the city, including San Diego Zoo and Downtown neighborhood, Old Town is also respected as the historic heart of the city. One of the most visited neighborhoods in San Diego, the district is home to over 25 eateries spread across a one-mile radius. San Diego State Historic Park, the most-visited in the state, hosts a great many museums, all of which are free to the public.

Good for: All kinds of travelers.
Other Highlights: Sheriff’s Museum and Education, El Campo Santo, Whaley House Museum, Mormon Battalion Historic Site, San Diego Trolley Tours, and Junipero Serra Museum.

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Courtyard San Diego Old Town – Boasting an on-site café serving amazing Californian dishes and a full-service fitness center, all guestrooms at Courtyard San Diego Old Town features deluxe beds with designer duvets, soundproofing, free Wi-Fi, TV with pay-per-view channels, and a lot more. An optional breakfast is available daily. Great for all kinds of travelers.
  • Hilton Garden Inn San Diego Old Town/Sea World Area – A short walk from Old Town, this luxurious hotel provides guests with wonderfully-decorated guestrooms fitted with extra-large double beds, a work desk, flat-screen TV, and private bathroom. Free telephone calls locally are available in every room. A complimentary buffet breakfast is served daily. Perfect for all kinds of travelers.
  • Best Western Plus Hacienda Hotel Old Town – Located next to Old Town State Park, this lavish property features thoughtfully designed guestrooms with latest amenities and services. Guests can explore the neighborhood during the day and soothe their sore feet and muscles at the hotel’s outdoor pool followed by a delicious meal at the on-site restaurant. Evenings are amazing at the in-house bar, Old Town Tequila Factory. Suitable for all kinds of travelers, including big groups of up to 5 members.

Mission Bay

Mission Bay, San DiegoSource: Gabriele Maltinti / shutterstock
Mission Bay

Home to Mission Bay Park, a 4,600-acre waterpark aptly regarded as San Diego’s aqua paradise, this neighborhood is all about the beach life. Surrounded by diverse beach communities, each with its own uniqueness and charm, Mission Bay is packed and buzzing any time of the day. A great place for watersports enthusiasts, the Bay area offers everything from kite surfing, wakeboarding, stand-up paddle boarding, to sailing and everything else you can think of in between. Other significant attractions in the area include Belmont Park, Sunset Cliff Natural Park, and Pacific Beach.

Good for: All kinds of travelers, especially beach-lovers and families with children.
Other Highlights: Ocean Beach and Pier, Point Loma Community Park, Dusty Rhodes Park Area, Fiesta Island Park, and Mission Bay Bike Path.

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina – Just a gentle stroll away from the beach, this stunning hotel is located on the panoramic Mission Bay neighborhood. Guests here stay at contemporary rooms equipped with avant-garde facilities. They can enjoy a massage therapy at the on-site spa or have fun at the pool and water slides. There is a full-service private marina for some serious outdoor adventure sports, including kayaking, sport fishing, and whale watching. Great for all kinds of travelers, including big groups of up to 6 members.
  • Bahia Resort Hotel – A stone’s throw away from the beach, Bahia Resort Hotel boasts luxurious guestrooms, a refreshing outdoor pool, a massive hot tub, and a private beach. You could start your day with a powerful workout at the hotel’s gym or spend the evening enjoying a friendly tennis match. The on-site restaurant and bar offer a delectable menu. Perfect for solo travelers, couples, and small families.
  • The Dana on Mission Bay – A breezy walk from the beach, this luxurious hotel offers well-appointed guestrooms fitted with facilities such as free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV, a mini refrigerator, and an ensuite bathroom with free toiletries and bathrobes. The property features a seaside contemporary restaurant, a seasonal pool bar, two outdoor pools and hot tubs, and a wonderful concierge. Suitable for all kinds of travelers, including big groups of up to 6 members.

La Jolla

La Jolla Shores, San DiegoSource: Dancestrokes / shutterstock
La Jolla Shores

Known for its dramatic seashore and astonishing views, La Jolla is among the most popular beach towns in California. Neighbored by the sea on three sides and Mt Soledad serving as the backdrop, the vistas and the natural beauty to be experienced here are second to none. Matched with its upscale village atmosphere and abundance of popular activities makes it “the jewel” of the city of San Diego. Boutique hotels to casual seaside retreats, unique boutiques, art galleries and museums, outdoor activities, and innumerable wining-and-dining choices – you name it and La Jolla has it. Scripps Park is a popular family hangout area, known for its Fourth of July fireworks.

Good for: All kinds of travelers.
Other Highlights: La Jolla Tide Pools, Cuvier Park, La Jolla Cove, La Jolla Shores Park, and Torrey Pines Gliderport and Beach.

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Inn by the Sea, at La Jolla – Two blocks from the Pacific Ocean and less than five minutes from the beach, this stunning property in La Jolla neighborhood comprises spacious, well-designed guestrooms with top facilities. Guests can unwind themselves at the on-site heated outdoor pool or indulge in one of the many outdoor recreational activities popular in the area. Great for all kinds of travelers.
  • Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine – Featuring modern rooms with a 42-inch flat-screen TV, iPod docks, seating area, and ensuite bathroom, Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine offers extravagant facilities to its guests. An outdoor heated pool and hot tub welcome guests to revitalize themselves while a fine collection of wine, beer and cocktails ensure that they have a great evening. Sports enthusiasts can indulge in a game of basketball or tennis at the on-site sports facilities. Perfect for all kinds of travelers.
  • La Jolla Beach Travelodge – A short walk from the neighboring beach, this beautiful hotel offers complimentary Wi-Fi and an outdoor pool that can be enjoyed year-round. Guests stay in well-appointed rooms with comfy beds, cable TV, and private bathroom. A complimentary breakfast is served daily. Suitable for all kinds of travelers.

Hotel Circle

Hampton Inn, San DiegoSource: booking.com
Hampton Inn, San Diego

Encompassing quite a few popular areas of the city, Hotel Circle in San Diego is ideally just an informal neighborhood best known for its budget accommodation options and amazing accessibility to all major landmarks in the city. A sub-neighborhood of Mission Valley, Hotel Circle is lined with shopping arcades and family restaurants. Also, if you are driving to the area, parking is extremely convenient and mostly free. Divided by Mission Valley Freeway into two halves, Hotel Circle North and Hotel Circle South, the area is also very close to San Diego’s main beach area, Mission Bay.

Good for: All kinds of travelers, especially backpackers and those on a budget.
Other Highlights: San Diego River, Old Town State Historical Park.

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Kings Inn – Boasting an expansive outdoor pool and multiple dining facilities, Kings Inn is a short drive away from San Diego International Airport. Guestrooms come equipped with cozy double beds, free Wi-Fi, TV with cable channels, and a private bathroom. Guests can avail free parking facilities at the property. Suitable for solo travelers and couples.
  • Hampton Inn San Diego Mission Valley – Known for its 24-hour exceptional fitness center and a business center with latest facilities, this classy hotel features charming guestrooms with top-class amenities and services. Guests can enjoy a splash at the outdoor pool and enjoy tea or coffee at any time of the day. A complimentary breakfast with waffles, pastries, fruits, and a selection of meats is served daily. Perfect for all kinds of travelers.
  • Residence Inn San Diego/Mission Valley – This wonderfully-decorated hotel offers well-furnished guestrooms with extra-large double beds, TV with pay-per-view channels, kitchenette, seating area, and ensuite bathroom with free toiletries. A large outdoor pool lets guests refresh themselves and the on-site fitness center keeps your fitness in check. Great for all kinds of travelers, including big groups of up to 5 members.


Coronado Beach, CASource: WaitForLight / shutterstock
Coronado Beach

A favorite among couples, Coronado is a resort city within the San Diego County, located just across San Diego Bay. Also known as Coronado Island (it’s actually a peninsula), the area is connected to mainland San Diego via Silver Strand, a narrow 7-mile tombolo partially located within Silver Strand State Beach. The site for annual Silver Strand Half Marathon, the strand is a popular spot for joggers and cycling enthusiasts. Dubbed as the “Crown City,” Coronado offers an ethereal experience, estranged from the daily nuisances of a city life and all the chaos that comes with it. Coronado Beach, a star attraction in the area, was named the best beach in the United States in 2012.

Good for: All kinds of travelers.
Other Highlights: Sunset Park, Coronado Tidelands Park, Solstice Clock, Fidler’s Cove Marina and RV Park, and Grand Caribe Shoreline Park.

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Crown City Inn Coronado – With the beach at its doorstep, Crown City Inn Coronado provides its guests with remarkable rooms decorated in pastel hues and fitted with latest features. Guests at the hotel can bring their pets for a holiday here. The on-site restaurant offers gourmet French and special American cuisine while the bar menu offers a fine selection of wines and cocktails. An outdoor pool refreshes the guests after a busy day exploring the city. Suitable for all kinds of travelers.
  • Best Western Plus Suites Hotel Coronado Island – Set within close proximity of Coronado City Beach, this luxurious hotel boasts elegant guestrooms with superb facilities as well as free Wi-Fi in all rooms, a spacious outdoor pool, a 24-hour front desk, and a hot tub. A complimentary breakfast is served daily. Great for all kinds of travelers, including big groups of up to 5 members.
  • Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton – Just a minutes’ walk from the beach, this fine-looking luxury hotel boasts opulent guestrooms set in a historic building. With the Pacific Coast engulfing the surrounding landscape, the hotel welcomes its guests to experience first-class amenities with world-class hospitality. An outdoor pool, beach-side spa treatments and massages, full-day reserved waterfront seating, and a delectable food and beverages menu are some of the things guests can look forward to. Perfect for all kinds of travelers, including big groups of up to 6 members.

Where to Stay in San Diego – Neighborhoods & Area Guide:

  • Gaslamp Quarter
  • Little Italy
  • Old Town/Mission Valley
  • Mission Bay
  • La Jolla
  • Hotel Circle
  • Coronado