Best Time to Visit San Diego for Weather, Prices, and Crowds

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A body of water with palm trees and a city in the background
San Diego has different seasons that offer unique experiences for travelers

San Diego offers the quintessential Southern California experience. With its miles of idyllic beaches, year-round comfortable climate, and renowned family attractions, it's no surprise that America's Finest City is on many travelers' must-visit lists.

But even though the weather remains pretty consistent throughout the year, some months and seasons can offer a better trip to San Diego than others.

So when is the best time to visit San Diego? That depends a lot on what you plan to do, your budget, and whether you prefer a bustling tourist atmosphere or a relaxed local vibe.

Regardless of whether you're coming for sunny days at the beach, theme park memories with the family, or to watch pods of whales pass through the bay, timing your experience is everything.

By the time you're done with this article, you'll understand San Diego's different seasons and how you can plan to get the most from your vacation.

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San Diego Vacation Planning Questions

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There are things to consider when planning a visit to San Diego
A train on the tracks with buildings in the background and a sidewalk with trees
The best time to visit San Diego is outside of peak season, from April to October

When is the best time to visit San Diego?

The largest number of tourists come during the summer months of June through September. But, according to many savvy travelers, the best time to visit San Diego is just before or after peak season.

April and May offer comfortable, warm weather and a lower chance of precipitation than the rainy winter months (December-March).

Plus, local plant life is coming alive in San Diego as April brings the Coronado Flower Show. Billed as the largest tented flower event in the United States, the show has been a spring (March-June) must-do for over 100 years.

The early fall months of September and October provide similar temperatures and crowds, with more sunny days than in the spring.

A white boat sailing on the water with an island and palm trees in the background
Thousands of whales visit the San Diego coastline annually

When is the best time for whale watching in San Diego?

Whales live near the San Diego coast year-round, but for the best whale watching, you'll want to visit during the winter (December-March).

This is when you can spot gray whales close to shore during their annual migration to warmer Mexican waters.

Humpback and fin whales can be seen during most months, although typically in greater numbers during the winter.

Traveling during the summer (June-September)? You'll have a chance to catch massive blue whales as warm waters and an abundance of food bring thousands to the area.

There are great spots to whale watch from the shore, such as Cabrillo National Monument at the tip of Point Loma.

For the best experience, though, you'll want to consider getting out on the water with a whale-watching cruise. This is especially true for spotting blue whales, which typically stay farther offshore.

A large ship in the water with a city in the background
San Diego sees about two inches of precipitation per month during its rainy season

When is the San Diego rainy season?

The San Diego rainy season starts toward the end of November and lasts through most of March. But San Diego is known for its mild weather, and rainfall is no exception.

San Diego's rainy period sees, on average, just two inches of precipitation per month. However, the occasional light rain won't interfere with your vacation if you're prepared for it.

If you're planning to visit for a quick weekend in San Diego, there's a chance you'll miss the rain altogether.

Some people even prefer to visit San Diego during the rainy off-season as crowds are sparse, and there's still plenty to see and do.

In fact, the rainy season is the best time of year to visit San Diego to go whale watching as thousands of gray whales pass along the coast.

A green sign "San Diego Zoo" with pandas on it
A visit to the San Diego Zoo in the winter is great as crowds are smaller

When is the best time to visit the San Diego Zoo?

Thanks to the area's temperate climate, there's rarely a bad time to visit the San Diego Zoo. However, the best time to go is generally the winter (December-March).

This is when crowds are at their lowest. Daytime temperatures average 65 degrees Fahrenheit, making exploring the zoo more pleasant than during the summer (June-September) when temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit are common.

The spring (March-June) is another popular time to visit the San Diego Zoo. The weather is mild, and summer crowds haven't arrived yet. Plus, spring is when most baby animals are born and viewable by the public.

While the summer tourist season brings many visitors to the zoo, insiders recommend forgoing the crowds and visiting during the slower months for a more intimate experience.

Waves crashing on a beach with palm trees and grass in the background
In late summer and early autumn, San Diego offers the best surfing experiences

When is the best time to surf in San Diego?

Southern California is known for its world-class surfing, but not all seasons offer the same experience.

The late-summer and early-autumn months of August through November are the best time to surf in San Diego.

Southern swells bring quality sets to breaks all along the coast. The waves are consistent, and surface conditions are ideal.

Surfers hunting for the largest waves will want to visit in winter (December-March) when northern storms churn up the biggest swells of the year.

Crowds are also at a minimum during the winter, meaning fewer people competing for the waves.

The water temperature can drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit during these months, so come prepared with an appropriate wet suit (or rent one locally).

Walter Cicchetti/
A red "City Tours" bus on a street
The best months to explore San Diego are April, May, September, and October

What is the average temperature in San Diego, CA?

Southern California maintains a fairly consistent climate throughout the year. As such, the average temperature in San Diego, CA, doesn't fluctuate much.

The average high of 77 degrees Fahrenheit in August drops slightly more than 10 degrees to an average high of 65 degrees in January.

It never really gets cold in San Diego, with typical winter (December-March) lows around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Even with a steady year-round temperature, the best months to visit San Diego are before or after the busy summer (June-September) season.

April, May, September, and October are when you'll find it easiest to explore San Diego's landmarks and neighborhoods with fewer crowds and near-optimal weather.

Roaming Panda Photos/
A sign "North Park" over a street with a Christmas wreath decoration
December is considered the "rainy season" in San Diego

When is the rainy season in San Diego?

Visitors are usually pleased to find out there isn't much of a rainy season in San Diego. The months from November to March get more rainfall than the rest of the year, but even then, they typically receive less than 2 inches of precipitation per month.

Compared to other popular West Coast destinations, you could say this light rainfall is just a drop in the bucket.

There's still plenty going on during the rainy season in San Diego, and most travelers will find that the infrequent storm won't impact their plans much.

If you want to avoid clouds and rain altogether, plan your trip for July or August when the sun shines nearly every day.

The best time to visit San Diego for discounts on admissions is October
In October, many museums and attractions in San Diego offer deals on admission

When is the best time to visit SeaWorld San Diego?

January and February are the best times to visit SeaWorld San Diego. Fewer crowds during the slowest winter months mean shorter lines and less time spent waiting.

Travelers with kids might want to consider visiting in October. Another slower time of the year, many museums and attractions offer children free admission with paying adults.

SeaWorld San Diego is always one of the most popular places, but other kid-friendly attractions, including LEGOLAND and the San Diego Zoo, make the month great for a budget family vacation.

Avoid SeaWorld during the summer, when the school break brings huge crowds and long lines.

A street with buildings and an arch with the words "Historic Heart of San Diego"
January and February are the cheapest times to visit San Diego

When is the cheapest time to go to San Diego?

The cheapest time to go to San Diego is the beginning of the year. The months of January and February see the fewest travelers coming to the city.

Airfare and hotel rates typically reflect this slow off-season, and visitors are welcomed with some of the cheapest prices you'll find all year.

But even though it's the winter (December-March) rainy season, the region's temperate climate makes January and February a good time to visit San Diego.

Prices are low, and the infrequent rainfall won't prevent you from checking out some of the most famous San Diego landmarks. But be sure to pack an umbrella or raincoat, just in case!

An airplane flying over a city with roads and many buildings
January is the cheapest time for flight and hotel deals in San Diego

When is the cheapest time to fly to San Diego?

For most visitors, the cheapest time to fly to San Diego is in January. While many travel destinations' off-peak season is after the start of the year, few offer the comfortable climate you'll find in San Diego.

The daily high in January averages around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. And while it is peak rainy season, you'll only see about two inches during the entire month.

This weather, combined with cheap flights and low hotel rates, makes January the perfect time to fly to San Diego.

February offers similarly cheap flights, although Valentine's Day and President's Day weekend can bring slightly higher prices.

Baseball fans traveling during these months would be wise to take advantage of the smaller crowds and go on a behind-the-scenes tour of Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres.

A rocky beach with a large cliff in the distance and a clear blue sky
The San Diego beaches in September and October offer warm water and small crowds

When is the best time to visit San Diego beaches?

There's hardly a bad time to visit the beach in San Diego. Even during the winter months (December-March), temperatures average around 65 degrees Fahrenheit and can reach the 70s some days.

The best time to visit San Diego beaches is during the early fall months of September and October. The temperature averages around 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and rainfall is almost unheard of.

During these months, the water temperature is still warm enough for most swimmers, especially those visiting from colder climates.

Although the summer months (June-September) have the warmest air and water temperatures, they also bring the year's biggest crowds to San Diego beaches.

A wooden bench facing a body of water with buildings in the distance
The San Diego County Fair takes place in the summer

When is the best season to visit San Diego?

Choosing the best season to visit San Diego will depend greatly on what you want to do on your vacation.

Are you traveling as a family? If so, you might find the summer (June-September) months ideal as kids are on break from school, and the weather is warm and sunny nearly every day.

You'll find some of the year's biggest events over the summer, including the month-long San Diego County Fair. However, you can expect large crowds and higher prices throughout the season.

For tourists with flexibility as to when they visit, the best time to travel to San Diego is in April and October, as crowds are smaller, prices are lower, and the weather is agreeable.

Fishing poles in a row next to a body of water
Southern California's mild water temperatures make fishing possible year-round

When is the best time to go fishing in San Diego?

Mild water temperatures make Southern California a great spot to fish throughout the year. But for serious anglers, the warmer months of April through October are the best time to go fishing in San Diego.

Inshore fishing during these months will yield bass, rockfish, and halibut, while offshore boaters can reel in tuna, amberjack, and marlin.

Although deep-water fish may be scarce during the colder months from November to March, nearshore species will still be in abundance. As well, the spiny lobster season begins in October.

Looking for a casual fishing experience for the whole family? Check out the San Diego Pier for a pier fishing tour with all gear and instruction provided by a seasoned, local pro.

Boats docked at a pier with buildings in the background
San Diego's lobster season runs from early October to mid-March

When is the lobster season in San Diego?

Lobster season in San Diego typically runs from early October through mid-March. More specifically, recreational spiny lobster hunting is allowed starting on the Sunday before the first Wednesday of the month. The season runs until the Wednesday evening following March 15th.

All lobster hunters must be licensed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and must fill out and submit a CDFW Spiny Lobster Report Card logging all their catches.

Hungry for lobster but prefer to stay on dry land? Local restaurants start serving the sweet crustaceans about a week after the recreational season begins. The delay is due to the waiting period before commercial boats can hit the water.

Weather, Prices, and Crowds in San Diego

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When planning a visit, it is important to consider weather, prices, and crowds

San Diego in January

January is the slow season in San Diego. Travelers will find the cheapest rates of the year on hotels this month.

Many airlines also offer great fares to the city this time of year. As a result, January is the best month to visit San Diego on a budget.

But January in San Diego is anything but boring, with the chances of spotting a migrating gray whale high.

As well, the San Diego Brew Fest takes place in January, allowing attendees to sample more than 200 beers from breweries throughout California and beyond.

Although the water may be too cold for swimming, January is a great time to check out the coastal tide pools to spot all sorts of sea creatures, from rock crabs to ghost shrimp.

San Diego in February

February is San Diego's wettest month of the year, but with a monthly average rainfall of just two inches, your vacation is unlikely to be interrupted by the occasional shower.

However, the weather is still chilly, with daytime highs averaging 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring a light jacket if you're traveling to San Diego in February.

Gaslamp Mardi Gras is San Diego's biggest party every February. Set along Fifth Avenue in the historic Gaslamp Quarter, the multi-day celebration takes place on Fat Tuesday and the preceding Friday and Saturday.

February is San Diego Museum Month. Over 60 area museums offer half-priced admission to visitors throughout the month. From the San Diego Automotive Museum to the New Children's Museum, you'll find something for everyone.

San Diego in March

The slow travel months are over as the spring (March-June) brings San Diego to life in more ways than one.

Rainfall causes flowers to bloom around San Diego in March, with the Flower Fields of Carlsbad as one of the region's biggest flower-viewing destinations.

Although the mildly chilly winter (December-March) temperatures persist, March sees less rainfall than January or February, especially toward the end of the month.

Thanks to the spring school holiday, tourism heats up in San Diego, and popular events, like the San Diego Latino Film Festival, also draw crowds to the city.

San Diego Restaurant Week kicks off at the end of March with more than 100 area venues offering specially curated prix fixe menus for the event.

San Diego in April

April's weather begins to warm slightly, although nighttime temperatures typically remain below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The chance of rain declines significantly in April, making it the perfect time to hop on a trolley and explore the city.

Insiders generally consider spring (March-June) the best time of year to go to San Diego because of the gorgeous scenery, minimal crowds, and plethora of unique events.

The Del Mar National Horse Show is a three-week competition typically held every April at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Divided into Dressage, Hunter & Jumper, and Western weeks, the horse show has been a local favorite since 1946.

San Diego in May

Be prepared for cloudy skies if you're visiting San Diego in May. Although chances of rain are minimal (less than half an inch typically falls during the month), heavy fog and overcast skies are common.

Referred to as May Gray by the locals, these seasonally predictable conditions shouldn't interfere with your vacation. Just don't plan to spend your days sunbathing on the beach.

Evening temperatures average above 60 degrees Fahrenheit in May, perfect for checking out some of the fun things to do at night in San Diego.

If you're visiting San Diego in May, plan your trip before the Memorial Day weekend kicks off the busy summer season (June-September) at the end of the month.

San Diego in June

With most kids finishing up the school year, tourists begin piling into San Diego in June. The weather tops 70 degrees Fahrenheit most days this month, and rain is rare.

It's not quite beach weather, though, as May Gray has turned into June Gloom. Most days feature heavy fog and cloudy skies, especially in the mornings and early afternoons.

However, a few clouds won't stop San Diegans from spending June outdoors, as some of the year's most popular outdoor events take place this month.

The long-running Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon takes race participants through some of the city's most iconic neighborhoods, including Old Town, Mission Hills, and University Heights.

San Diego in July

July is the busiest time of the year for San Diego as great weather and world-class events draw huge crowds.

Daytime temperatures average around 75 degrees Fahrenheit in July. The overcast weather of May and June clears, leaving sunny, blue skies. Rain is almost unheard of this time of year.

For comic and sci-fi fans, July is the best month to visit San Diego, as the renowned San Diego Comic-Con takes place at the San Diego Convention Center with ancillary events and parties held at countless local venues.

It's also a festive month for the Mission San Diego de Acalá as the annual Festival of the Bells celebrates the landmark's July 1769 founding.

San Diego in August

August is the hottest month of the year in San Diego. Daytime highs often top 80 degrees Fahrenheit, although the coastal breeze makes outdoor activities comfortable most days.

Despite the warm weather, August is one of the busiest months for visiting San Diego. It's the perfect month for sunbathing on local beaches, as clear skies and warm waters draw locals and tourists alike.

The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club holds its racing season in August, drawing spectators to the iconic Del Mar Racetrack for races, concerts, and other activities for the whole family.

Taking a last-minute summer (June-September) vacation with the kids? Hop on the amphibious San Diego Seal Tour for a family-friendly tour of the city from both land and water.

San Diego in September

If you're planning to visit San Diego in September, you're in for a great vacation. The weather is cooling after summer (June-September) highs, and the crowds have left town as kids start back to school.

September is another excellent beach month, with many visitors enjoying the still-pleasant water temperature and fewer people than during the other busy summer months.

You'll find the San Diego Bayfair festival in mid-September. Centered on the namesake hydroplane race in Mission Bay, the multi-day affair also hosts a car and motorcycle show, and a land-based festival with activities for the entire family.

San Diego in October

October is one of the best times to visit San Diego as a family. This is especially true if you're trying to plan a memorable vacation on a budget.

That's because October hosts the hugely popular Kids Free San Diego event, which sees museums, attractions, and theme parks across San Diego County offering free admission to children with a paying adult.

Families can save a lot of money visiting destinations like SeaWorld and LEGOLAND California during October, with other kid-popular attractions like the Birch Aquarium and Comic-Con Museum participating as well.

Traveling kid-free? There are still plenty of unique things to do in San Diego to make the most of October's mild weather and smaller crowds.

San Diego in November

November is a great time to visit San Diego, although rain is picking up and temperatures are starting to drop.

Fleet Week San Diego is held in early November to honor current service members and celebrate the city's deep military heritage. The event hosts concerts, high-tech demonstrations, and tours of active Coast Guard and Navy vessels.

San Diego Beer Week, sponsored by the San Diego Brewers Guild, is an annual November occurrence that highlights the local brew scene.

Travel starts picking up in San Diego by the end of November, as Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season. Expect prices to rise from the third week of the month and stay higher until the end of the year.

San Diego in December

San Diego's mild winters (December-January) make it a popular destination for the holiday travel season.

Apart from the peak summer travel period (June-September), December sees some of San Diego's largest crowds and the highest prices for airfare and hotels. The good news is that if you're traveling in December, you'll find plenty of seasonal events to fill your schedule.

The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights is a weeklong December tradition. The event features a nightly procession of dozens of brightly lit and colorfully decorated boats traveling from Shelter Island to the Ferry Landing at Coronado.

For more than four decades, Balboa Park December Nights has been a must for locals and tourists alike. The annual holiday celebration occurs on the first Friday and Saturday of the month.

In Summary

Thanks to its comfortable coastal desert climate, San Diego is a great city to visit any month of the year.

But if you're looking for the most enjoyable vacation experience, your best bet is to visit during the late-spring months of April and May or later in the year during September and October.

Warm, sunny days make summer (June-September) the busiest time for San Diego, although the crowds also bring higher prices and longer waits.

No matter when you choose to visit San Diego, you'll find a pleasant, welcoming destination with a unique and exciting collection of attractions sure to make your trip enjoyable.

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Written by Jonathan Davis

JDavis WRITER Jonathan is a Florida-based travel writer who can't seem to stay in one place for long. With more than two decades of trips under his belt, Jonathan has a wealth of information to share about travel within the United States and abroad.

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