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3-day travel itinerary in San Diego

San Diego is a vibrant and diverse city located on the southern coast of California. It is known for its mild year-round climate, beautiful beaches, and stunning natural scenery. San Diego is also a major economic and cultural center, with a thriving tourism industry and a growing tech sector.

As you can imagine, the city attracts tourists from all over the world. Visitors are drawn to the city’s beautiful beaches, its world-class attractions, and its laid-back Southern California lifestyle. And it’s a must-add destination if you’re visiting Southern California. It is only 2 hours away from Los Angeles, and about an hour away from the Mexico border.

If you only have 3 days to explore San Diego, here is a perfect itinerary to help you make the most of your time:

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Day 1 of your San Diego itinerary


Spend the day in Balboa Park: Visit Balboa Park, one of the largest urban cultural parks in the United States. Balboa Park is home to 17 museums, gardens, theaters, and other attractions, including the San Diego Museum of Art, the Fleet Science Center, and the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

Balboa Park


Have dinner in Little Italy: Little Italy is a lively and vibrant neighborhood that is famous for its delicious Italian cuisine. There are plenty of fantastic restaurants to choose from, each with its own unique flair and charm. After your meal take a stroll and take in the sights and sounds of this bustling community.

Little Italy sign

Day 2 of your San Diego itinerary


Hit the beach: San Diego has over 70 miles of coastline, so there’s a beach for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly beach with calm waters, a surf spot with awesome waves, or a secluded beach where you can relax and escape the crowds, you’re sure to find it in San Diego. Some of the most popular beaches include Coronado Beach, La Jolla Shores, and Pacific Beach.

AND/OR Take a surfing lesson: San Diego is a great place to learn how to surf. There are a number of surf schools that offer lessons for all skill levels.

Pacific Beach, San Diego


Catch a baseball game at Petco Park: Petco Park is home to the San Diego Padres, Major League Baseball team. The park is known for its beautiful location in downtown San Diego and its intimate atmosphere.

Petco Park entrance


Hangout in the Gaslamp Quarter: Have dinner in the Gaslamp Quarter, a vibrant historic district in downtown San Diego. The Gaslamp Quarter is home to a variety of restaurants, bars, and clubs.

Downtown San Diego

Day 3 of your San Diego itinerary


Visit SeaWorld San Diego: SeaWorld San Diego is a marine park and theme park that’s home to a variety of marine animals, including dolphins, whales, sea lions, and penguins. SeaWorld is also known for its educational programs and shows.

SeaWorld San Diego show

OR Visit the San Diego Zoo: The San Diego Zoo is one of the most popular zoos in the world, and for good reason. It’s home to over 3,500 animals from all over the globe, including many rare and endangered species. The zoo is also known for its innovative exhibits and conservation programs.

San Diego Zoo


Have dinner and drinks in PB: PB aka Pacific Beach’s nightlife scene comes alive as the sun sets. Beachside bars and restaurants offer both casual beers and fancy cocktails, and the ocean breeze adds a refreshing touch to the atmosphere. The night scene in Pacific Beach is not to be missed for those who want to experience the best of San Diego’s beach culture.

Pacific Beach, San Diego

Here are some tips for visiting San Diego, California:

  • San Diego has a mild climate year-round, but it can be cooler in the evenings, especially near the coast. Be sure to pack a jacket or sweater, even if you’re visiting in the summer.
  • It’s a popular tourist destination, so it’s important to book your hotel and rental car in advance, especially if you’re visiting during peak season.
  • SD is a car-friendly city, but there is also a public bus system. If you’re staying in downtown San Diego, you can also get around by walking or biking.
  • It’s a great place to enjoy outdoor activities, such as swimming, sunbathing, surfing, and hiking. Be sure to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.
  • San Diego has a diverse culinary scene, so be sure to try some of the local restaurants. Some of the most popular dishes include fish tacos, burritos, and carne asada.
  • The city is a pet-friendly city, but be sure to check the rules of any attraction or restaurant you’re visiting before bringing your pet.
  • It is a relatively safe city, but it’s always important to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions against petty theft. I hope this travel itinerary and tips help you have a great trip to San Diego!

If you are staying additional days or don’t love some of my suggestions in this travel itinerary I recommend reading my blog post 15 things to do in San Diego for more activities ideas!

And if you need help booking your budget-friendly San Diego vacation, read my blog about the best websites to book affordable travel. Or check out my services and let me personally help you!

Heads up: As a way to earn passive income, this post may contain affiliate links. This means that if you buy something through one of those links, I might get a commission at NO extra cost to you. I appreciate your support! 💕

Pacific Beach, San Diego

October 19, 2023

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