With near-perfect weather year-round, the 17mi (27km) drive along the San Diego coastline – from hidden coves to miles-long sandy stretches and wave-battered surfing beaches – is naturally among the city’s main attractions. When not spreading your towel in the sand, cycling along the boardwalk, hitting the waves on a surfboard, or watching the sunset cocktail in hand, you may wish to explore this southern California city’s other draws – such as the famous San Diego Zoo and the vibrant dining scene of the historic Gaslamp Quarter. But first, let us introduce you to some of the best San Diego beach hotels – bookable on Culture Trip.
A lobby filled with cool designer furniture, knickknack-filled shelves and vintage video games delivers a playful welcome to guests of this charming San Diego beachfront hotel right on the 3mi (4.8km)-long Pacific Beach boardwalk. The horseshoe-shaped complex embraces an ocean-facing deck where you can chill in the heated pool and hot tub, overlooked by a hip wall-sized mural. Fall asleep to the crashing waves in surf-chic rooms – where yellow accent walls add a sunny touch and plump premium mattresses help you drift off to dreamland.
Smack bang in the heart of the Pacific Beach ‘hood, this family-owned San Diego beach hotel has a pedigree going back to 1967 but long ago traded its historic tiki looks for a contemporary-cool vibe. There’s plenty of elbow room in breezy rooms accented with surf photographs and industrial lamps – while the best ones have beach-facing balconies overlooking the iconic Crystal Pier. Only a glass façade separates the pool deck from the boardwalk and the stretch of sand. Pack light: beach towels and robes are free and there’s a laundry facility on-site.
From tots to old-timers, this lushly landscaped resort – with smart rooms and its own marina – makes everyone feel welcome, including dogs: ask for the “Dana for Dogs Arrival Kit”. Splash around in the two pools, hop on the free daily shuttle to SeaWorld or head out on the water by kayak, SUP, or waverunner. The lively poolside Firefly restaurant bar serves local microbrews, over 40 wines by the glass, seasonal cocktails and inventive plates featuring herbs and veg harvested in the on-site garden.
Not one for introverts, this upbeat hostel has you based within stumbling distance of happening bars, breweries, buskers and indie boutiques in Ocean Beach. The color-drenched façade and interiors channel the hip neighborhood’s “never-die” hippie flair – as do the ample communal areas with hammocks, wicker sofas and guitars for impromptu strumming sessions. Freshly renovated dorms and private rooms – some with sinks or attached bathrooms – feature plenty of space and small lockers. Freebies include linen, towels, Wi-Fi, breakfast and access to a well-equipped guest kitchen.
What’s 1.2mi (1.6km) long and a few hundred feet wide? Shelter Island: the enviable location of this upscale resort that injects a dose of Aloha spirit into SoCal. High-ceilinged rooms at this beloved San Diego beach hotel flaunt tropical sophistication accented by beamed wooden ceilings and plantation shutters. Entertainment is taken very seriously here – with happy hour, a nightly live music club and a summertime outdoor concert series that brings in international acts. Fun fact: Shelter Island is actually a built-up sandbank.
For more options, discover our guide to the best hotels in Chula Vista, San Diego, and book now on Culture Trip.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.