San Diego stretches over nearly 350 square miles of beachfront and city, nature reserves and vibrant multicultural enclaves. The options for lodgings are nearly as varied as the terrain, from a pet-friendly, boutique-style high-rise to a historic grande dame in the heart of downtown. Here are the ones we love.
Best for: Pet friendly
Just north of the Gaslamp Quarter, Kimpton’s Alma treats pets almost as well as their human companions. Expect all the basics and then some—even if you’re traveling with non-traditional critters (past guests have included a flying squirrel and a snake).
The contemporary 20-story property has decor inspired by the city: a beachy palette, south-of-the-border textiles, graffiti-style murals in some rooms, and street culture artwork, such as a skateboard wall installation, in common areas. Among the three restaurants (the rooftop Leave of Absence bar is due to re-open spring 2024), the Desmond draws locals for chef Jason Neroni’s winning culinary creations (try the octopus al pastor and fish crudo), while the casual Café is a good choice for steak frites and charcuterie.
Good to know: Rooms on the 15th floor and above have the best city views and select ones have balconies. Two parks are within walking distance: Horton Plaza Historic park (two blocks away) and Neighborhood Park (seven blocks).
Best for: Wallet-friendly
Among the budget options in Mission Valley’s “Hotel Circle,” it’s hard to miss Kings Inn’s crown-shaped, plum-hued 1959 sign. The family-owned motor lodge tips its hat to the mid-century (stone siding and angular rooflines) but renovations have brought 21st-century necessities (free Wi-Fi/gym) and sunny rooms.
Affordable parking ($15/day) and proximity to popular sites—Balboa Park, Mission Bay, Pacific Beach, and Old Town are five- to 15-minute drives away—make this an attractive extended stay option. The two onsite themed restaurants are just as popular with locals as they are with visitors. Stop by the kid-friendly Waffle Spot for diner fare and festive Amigo Spot for cocktails.
Good to know: Hotel guests get 10 percent off at both restaurants.
Best for: Travelers with kids
The modest-sized check-in area and living-room-like lobby hint at this Mission Bay resort’s laid-back family vibe. The property has an open, easy-to-navigate layout which makes it easy for parents to keep young ones in sight while enjoying activities, such as biking, kayaking, and morning yoga. Ample green space allow for outdoor games. Paved paths lead to a narrow beach, where children can splash in calm bay waters. Grownups have perks too, including a spa, nightly live music, and pool with bayside views.
All the rooms come with patios or balconies and sliding glass doors that let in plenty of natural light. The tower’s Bay View rooms have impressive vistas, while Waterview rooms in the one- and two-story buildings are steps from the beach. The resort is located between two family-friendly public parks: Playa Pacific Park with Leisure Lagoon, a popular swimming spot, and Tecolote Shores Park, which features two massive playgrounds.
Good to know: Travelers with smaller children can request a pack-and-play for their room.
Best for: Eco-conscious
Located in a prime spot along San Diego Bay and across from the San Diego Convention Center, this popular Hilton is also a top choice for eco-conscious travelers. Not only is the glass-and-steel high-rise ISO-certified, it has a long list of other sustainability honors and practices, from a laundry water reclamation system to onsite Blink EV-charging stations and motion-sensor room thermostats. Guests even receive a complimentary reusable aluminum bottle, handy for taking along on walks to the Gaslamp Quarter or elsewhere by hopping the light-rail trolley nearby.
Good to know: Two onsite beehives produce honey sold by the jar at the Cannery Market & Supply and used to sweeten dishes served at nearby Hudson & Nash restaurant. Try the fruit and poppyseed yogurt for breakfast or the tepache–brined grilled pork for dinner, while taking in the waterfront views.
Best for: History buffs
While the 1888 Hotel del Coronado is the most storied in the area, the Guild highlights San Diego’s military history. Through 1970, it was the downtown home of the Armed Services YMCA, a hub of social and recreational activities for more than 125 million service personnel. A 2019 renovation has preserved Lincoln Rogers’ 1924 Italian Renaissance-style building, including the original sign and ornate carvings framing the entrance arch. Today’s visitors can indulge in craft cocktails at the inviting Farniente lobby bar and courtyard dining area.
Good to know: The Guild is close to the Broadway Pier, Seaport Village, and the Little Italy neighborhood.
Best for: Splurge
Hollywood legends including Mary Pickford, Gregory Peck, and Ginger Rogers flocked to this hotel painted a flamingo pink in the 1950s for pampering in one of the city’s ritziest neighborhoods.
Perched atop the La Jolla coastline, Reginald Davis Johnson’s 1926 Spanish Colonial Revival-style building, with its domed tower, palm tree-decked pool, and Pacific Ocean views, is still one of the most glamorous hotels in town. For the best panoramas, spring for the 800-square-foot Sky Suite penthouse. Sixteen villas come with a cozy balcony or terrace. The Mediterranean Room restaurant leans California coastal. For more options, the hotel’s well-regarded Les Clefs d’Or concierge can steer you to other top dining rooms in the area.