15 Best Things to Do Alone in San Diego for the Perfect Solo Trip [2024]

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Looking for the best things to do alone in San Diego?

San Diego is a fantastic city to explore on your own. As a frequent solo traveler myself, I always look for ways to enjoy a city to its fullest on my own! I’ve visited San Diego twice, and both times were a ton of fun. In this post, I’ll cover the best things to do alone in San Diego.

The city can please everyone from outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs to foodies and culture seekers. These activities offer a mix of relaxation, adventure and cultural exploration, ensuring a memorable solo trip in San Diego. 

Planning a trip? Use my favorite resources:

15 Best Things to Do Alone in San Diego

I love how friendly and laid-back San Diego is. It makes it much easier to enjoy as a solo destination because there’s always someone willing to chat or answer a question! So, let’s talk about the best things to do alone in San Diego.

1. Stroll the Coastal Walk in La Jolla 

View of San Diego coast with brown cliff in foreground, blue waters beyond and palm trees peeking in from the side

Coastal Walk starts in La Jolla, just off Torrey Pines Road and Prospect Street. From there you’ll enjoy a beautiful scenic walk all along the coast of La Jolla. It’s a fun sandy trail that is perfect to stroll along with an iced coffee in the morning or a smoothie mid-day.

You’ll want to stop along the walk to look at the sea caves in La Jolla Cove, the seals at Seal Rock and to admire the colorful birds.

Wear sunblock, bring a hat and your walking shoes to ensure you fully enjoy the trail. If you get tired, you’ll be right in La Jolla and can easily stop off at a cafe or somewhere to grab a quick bite. I love The Cottage and Better Buzz.

👉 Get Your Self-Guided Tour for Coastal Walk

2. See the Tide Pools in La Jolla

people in the distance exploring tide pools during low tide

At the end of the Coastal Trail, you’ll find the La Jolla Tide Pools. They’re some of the best in San Diego and a lot of fun to explore. 

The La Jolla Tide Pools are a series of natural pools filled with seawater located along the rocky coastline. They’re home to a variety of marine life, including crabs, small fish, lobsters, anemones and more. 

It’s best to time your visit to the tide pools closer to low tide to ensure the pools will be visible, and to avoid waves crashing into you as you explore!

3. Join a Kayak Tour through Sea Caves

looking at sea caves in San Diego in the distance, from the vantage point of being on the water

You may have caught this earlier, but there are sea caves in La Jolla that you can kayak into and explore. La Jolla Cove is a thriving eco-reserve with four microhabitats, making it extremely unique to visit. 

Taking a guided kayak tour, led by a naturalist/biologist, is a great way to explore the caves and meet some fellow travelers. I had an awesome time on my tour and no experience kayaking is required.

The guides are super friendly and they will share everything you may want to know about San Diego. My guide was really helpful and shared lots of local recommendations too! 

👉 Book a La Jolla Sea Caves Kayak Tour

4. Explore Balboa Park 

fountain in Balboa park surrounded by flowers and a castle-like building in the background

Balboa Park is a massive urban park that houses numerous museums, gardens and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. It’s a must visit for anyone on a trip to San Diego and you can easily spend an entire day here.

I’d recommend getting a Go City Pass and visiting many of the different attractions in the area.

Things to Do in Balboa Park

  • San Diego Museum of Art
  • Fleet Science Center
  • San Diego Natural History Museum
  • San Diego Zoo
  • Botanical Building (currently closed for 6 months)
  • Japanese Friendship Garden
  • Museum of Us
  • Numerous walking paths and gardens shaded by towering trees
  • Special events and displays

👉 Get Your San Diego Go City Pass

5. Take a Surf Lesson

If you’ve ever wanted to try surfing, San Diego is a great place to give it a go! Both Mission Beach and Pacific Beach are great beaches for a beginning surf lesson and you’ll get to meet some fellow travelers who are also interested in something adventurous. 

San Diego is one of the biggest surfing cities in the world. People come from miles around and even from around the world to experience some of the most excellent waves California has to offer.

You’ll also find plenty of places to rent a surfboard in San Diego, but on a solo trip, I think a lesson is more fun. You can either book a private lesson, or join a group surfing lesson as a way to meet new people as part of your solo trip!

👉 Book Your Spot in a Group Surf Lesson

6. Spend a Day at the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park

safari park entrance in San Diego, teepee shaped straw roof with San Diego Zoo Safari Park sign in red letters out front

The San Diego Zoo is one of the most famous zoos in the world. It is known for its extensive animal population and innovative habitats, with more than 12,000 animals of more than 680 species and subspecies. Its the most visited zoo in the United States.

If you’ve rented a car, I’d also recommend checking out the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. It is an expansive wildlife sanctuary that offers a unique and immersive experience.

A guided tour takes you through several large, open-field enclosures where you can see animals like rhinos, giraffes and antelopes in habitats that mimic their natural environments. You’ll also get to walk through exhibits like Walk About Australia and get up close to kangaroos.

7. Go Hiking in Torrey Pines State Natural Preserve

One of the safest and easiest places to hike in San Diego is in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve – 2,000 acres of coastal state park.

It’s easily accessible from San Diego, being within the city limits, and there are always people hiking the trails which makes me feel safer as a solo traveler.

You’ll love taking in the beautiful views. The state beach there is really pretty and great for anyone who enjoys surfing or just taking in the sights. Low tide — when the red-tinged bluff is reflected in the mirror-like expanse of wet sand — is the perfect time to stroll the beach.

Parking here is limited, so it’s best to go in the morning to beat the crowds. There are two parking lots – one at the south end and one at the north end. A flashing light on top of the parking kiosks alerts visitors when a lot is full.

8. Wander Old Town San Diego

Plaza surrounded by green grass and bushes with a white steeple looking structure in the background

Did you know that historic Old Town San Diego is known as the birthplace of California? This is because it’s the site of the first European settlement (and colonization) in California.

There, you’ll find restored adobe buildings, museums and shops that showcase life during the 1800s. Many of the museums and exhibits are free, and ideal for history buffs. Mariachi bands frequently perform around Old Town, and people in period costumes stroll around answering questions while sharing the area’s history.

Colorful markets, historical reenactments and unique boutiques with fun souvenirs create an immersive experience that celebrates San Diego’s cultural roots and diverse history.

A fun way to explore Old Town San Diego is by joining this local-led group tour combining a historic walking tour, with foodie stops for tacos and tequila along the way.

👉Join the Old Town Tales, Tacos & Tequila Tour

9. Take in the Views from Cabrillo National Monument 

White painted home with lighthouse tower extending out, atop a grassy hill with blue skies behind it

For a little more history, but this time with views, head to Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma.

This area is part of the National Parks system and commemorates the landing of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, the first European to set foot on the West Coast of the United States in 1542. This historic site was originally home to the Kumeyaay tribe. It offers visitors stunning views, rich history and diverse natural landscapes.

Each year, the descendants of the Kumeyaay tribe participate in the Cabrillo Festival in September.

When you visit, make sure to stop by the Visitor Center to see exhibits on Cabrillo’s voyage, the area’s natural history and the military history of Point Loma. Then, make your way to the lighthouse.

The historic lighthouse, built in 1855, offers a glimpse into the life of 19th-century lighthouse keepers. You can tour the lighthouse and visit the adjacent museum, which showcases maritime history.

After exploring history, head down to the tide pools. You can hike from the top along a trail or drive down to explore the cliffs. The rocky intertidal area at the monument is one of the best tide-pooling spots in San Diego. During low tide, visitors can explore the pools to find various marine life, such as sea stars, anemones, and crabs. 

This area is also excellent for whale watching so keep an eye out for whales and enjoy panoramic views of San Diego!

10. Rent a Bike and Bike Along the Coast 

woman standing on a rocky, but also grassy, beach looking out at the water

There’s something special about the wind in your hair, smelling the fresh coastal air, and literally coasting along on a bike while you listen to crashing waves! You can choose to do a tour to be more social along with some other travelers or head out to do this one on your own. 

One of the best areas to do this in is Carlsbad, just about 20 minutes north of San Diego. Coronado Island is also a popular place to rent a bike and enjoy the coast!

👉 Check Bike Rental Availability

11. Take a Wine-Tasting Day Trip to Baja California

Depending on long your trip is, you may be able to dedicate one full day to an exciting excursion! This fun day trip will take you down the Baja coast to Valle de Guadalupe.

You’ll experience a small group tour with a fun expert guiding you along the way. Enjoy food and wine pairings, embracing the sun as you explore vineyards, and the chance to make new friends!

👉 Book Valle de Guadalupe Wine and Food Tour

12. Go Whale & Dolphin Watching

Feeling adventurous? Then book a whale and dolphin watching expedition and take to the waters, led by your trusty captains! You’ll have the chance to see a variety of incredible whales and dolphins up close, from the smaller sized boats used for this experience.

👉 Book the Whale & Dolphin Watching Adventure

Things to Do on a Solo Trip to San Diego at Night

San Diego’s evening scene and nightlife are worth exploring as well, and even as a solo traveler you have options to do so safely:

13. Join a Food Tour or Bar Crawl

One of the best ways to enjoy an evening in San Diego is with a food tour or bar crawl. The culinary scene in San Diego is strong. There’s no shortage of incredible food to find here so what better way to try some and make new friends than with a food tour?

Food tours are one of my favorite things on a solo trip because you really get to know others while bonding over excellent food or drinks! Book the 4pm time slot on this 5-star rated food tour for a fun and delicious dinner experience.

Afterward, you can explore San Diego’s nightlife with new friends from the food tour. Or, join this club crawl to get a taste of the party scene safely and with local guides.

14. Enjoy a Rooftop Bar with a View

San Diego has incredible sunsets and what better way to enjoy them than with a drink on a rooftop bar?

Here are a few to consider:

15. Admire Sunset from the Sunset Cliffs 

The Sunset Cliffs is a 68-acre nature park on the west side of Point Loma. The cliffs overlook the ocean, making it a beautiful spot for sunset. Pappy’s Point is a good place to head around sunset, but this area does get crowded, so plan plenty of time to get there. 

Expect a bit of a crowd at the cliffs, but know it doesn’t diminish the views at all. You’ll find all kinds of travelers and locals here, from families to groups of friends and solo travelers reading a book or setting up their cameras to get the perfect shot.

Where to Eat as a Solo Traveler in San Diego 

San Diego has a diverse food scene with a strong emphasis on Mexican cuisine, fresh seafood and innovative farm-to-table dining.

Lucha Libre

Getting a California burrito while in San Diego is a must, and this casual spot is where to go. A California burrito (traditionally) has french fries, carne asada, guacamole, pico de gallo and cheese all wrapped up together in a warm tortilla. 

Lucha Libre has been featured on several different food shows and their food is absolutely delicious! They’ve got a few locations, and provide a bag of chips and salsa with each burrito order.

Farmers’ Markets

One of my favorite things to do as a solo traveler is visit local farmers’ markets, and San Diego has some great ones.

Check out the Little Italy Mercato (Saturdays from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm and Wednesdays from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm) or the Ocean Beach Farmers’ Market (Wednesdays from 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm) to experience local produce, crafts and street food.

Fish 101

If you want a quick, casual spot for some excellent seafood then Fish 101 is a great option. They have a few locations around San Diego. It’s a great stop to combine with visiting the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, on the drive back to San Diego. Or, if you’re staying on the north side of San Diego. 

You order at the counter and sit where you choose. The communal seating across long tables offers the perfect opportunity for solo travelers to strike up a conversation with fellow diners, if you so choose..

Where to Stay During a San Diego Solo Trip

 There are lots of great places to stay in San Diego as a solo traveler!

🏨 Luxury: The US Grant 

aerial view over the buildings of San Diego

For elegance and historic charm, book your stay at The US Grant Hotel. With features such as in-room massages, a signature onsite restaurant, expert concierge and prime location you’ll want for nothing when you stay at this property.

👉 Check Prices & Availability for Your Travel Dates

🏨 Mid-Range: The Shoal La Jolla 

view of La Jolla California at sunset in the distance

Nestled in the heart of La Jolla, Shoal at La Jolla Beach is right around the corner from the best surf spot in San Diego – Windansea Beach. The beach is a five-minute walk away, and you’ll enjoy relaxing at the heated outdoor pool year-round.

👉 Check Prices & Availability for Your Travel Dates

🏨 Budget: Samesun Ocean Beach 

People at Ocean beach in San Diego

Right on Ocean Beach, this hostel is an award-winning accommodation. It offers dorm-style rooms as well as private rooms. The surrounding area is great for exploring, with plenty of restaurants and breweries. The hostel features a large common space, surfboard and bike rentals, and friendly staff.

👉 Check Prices & Availability for Your Travel Dates

How to Get Around San Diego Alone

San Diego’s public transportation system, including buses and trolleys, is efficient for getting around the city center. If you plan on exploring quite a bit outside of the city center, it is most efficient to rent a car.

Several places you may want to visit are not easily accessible via public transportation, or would take double the amount of time to get to, so renting a car is best.

Alternatively, you can also use Uber or Lyft for quick and easy transport to such destinations.

Insider Tips for a Solo Trip to San Diego

Here are some insider tips to help you make the most of your San Diego solo trip:

  • Free Museum Tuesdays: Many museums in Balboa Park offer free admission on specific Tuesdays of the month. Check the schedule in advance.
  • Participate in art walks such as the First Thursday Art Walk in the downtown area to explore local galleries and meet artists.
  • San Diego has a great happy hour scene. Take advantage of happy hour deals, especially in neighborhoods like Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy and North Park.
  • Keeping on the food theme, San Diego has a vibrant food truck scene. Try local favorites like tacos from Tacos El Gordo or seafood from Mariscos Nine Seas.
  • San Diego’s weather can vary. Pack layers to stay comfortable throughout the day.
  • The weather in San Diego stays pretty mild year-round, but May and June are known for being on the gloomy side. Keep this in mind when planning a trip if you’re looking for sunny weather!

FAQ: Solo Trip San Diego

Here are some important things you should know before a solo trip to San Diego.

Is San Diego safe for solo female travelers?

San Diego is generally considered safe and welcoming for Is San Diego walkable?

While various pockets or neighborhoods within San Diego themselves are walkable, these tend to be spread out from each other. So, you’ll likely public transportation or a car to travel between them. For example, Old Town is walkable and Little Italy is walkable. But to get between the two you’ll want another mode of transportation.

Is San Diego expensive?

San Diego is generally considered an expensive city to visit, particularly in comparison to national averages. But, there are ways to manage costs and still enjoy the city’s offerings. Expect to budget around $150 a day depending on your accommodations.

Final Thoughts: Things to Do Alone in San Diego

You’ll love visiting San Diego and exploring it on a solo trip. As you can see, there are tons of great things to do alone in San Diego, from exploring the outdoors to delving into the city’s history and culture. Have an incredible trip!

About the author: Meghan is a frequent solo traveler and creator of Meghan the Traveling Teacher. Living in Alexandria, VA, just outside Washington, DC, she has visited over 30 countries and loves sharing her travels with others looking to check off their bucket list while finding the best deal.