Balboa Park, San Diego, California

San Diego

California

Known for its parks, family attractions, and 70 miles of beaches; there is something for everyone while backpacking San Diego. The San Diego Zoo, Legoland, and Sea World are some of the most popular parks in the world. Enjoy a huge culinary culture as well as almost 100 golf courses, a rich military history and tons of outdoor activities.
For information on currency, vaccinations, best time to travel, budget tips, and more visit our page on Traveling America

Activities

Kayak the La Jolla Caves

La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks offers a 1.5 hour tour around the beautiful caves of La Jolla. This unique area of the San Diego coastline has five different marine environments within 2 square miles. Explore everything from sandy beaches to steep cliffs and deep water canyons. You may come across sea lions, pelicans, giant bat rays, leopard sharks and many more creatures along your journey. Put La Jolla at the top of your list while backpacking San Diego!

Balboa Park, backpacking San Diego, California

Explore Balboa Park

A massive 1200 acre area in San Diego encompassing gardens, walking paths, museums, theaters, and The San Diego Zoo. Some highlights include the Balboa Golf Course, The San Diego Air and Space Museum, and The Spanish Village Art Center. You will also find restaurants, gift shops, and recreational facilities within the boundaries of the park.

Visit theThe San Diego Zoo

Regarded as one of the best in the world The San Diego Zoo does not disappoint. The massive park boasts many different areas including The Outback, The Panda Canyon, The Northern Frontier, The Elephant Odyssey, The Asian Passage, and much more. Your day pass costs $54 USD per person and includes optional guided bus tours, a ride on the Skyfari Aerial Tram and admission to many of the shows. Do not plan any less than a full day to explore this Zoo while backpacking San Diego, you will need it!

TIP: If you are planning to pack a lot of attractions into a few days, check out the Go San Diego Card. It gives you access to the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, Sea World, Legoland, USS Midway Aircraft Carrier, Harbor Cruises, Whale Watching Tours, and over 40 other area attractions for $199 USD per person.

Ride the Giant Dipper

The Mission Beach Roller Coaster is a wooden roller coaster that was built in 1925. It is located in Belmont Park which is a small waterfront amusement park with free admission and free parking! Along with some other classic midway rides, they have lazer tag, a rock climbing wall, and mini golf.

Experience Old Town

Visit the heart of San Diego and take a trip back in time. Old town has shops, museums, history, a theater and even a trolley. Walk the streets and explore the markets or take a ghost tour of the Whaley House which is known to be the most haunted house in America. Make sure to grab a bite to eat at one of the many authentic Mexican restaurants.

Walk Around at Point Loma

A beautiful park with walking trails, restaurants, and history exhibits on a rugged peninsula. Here you’ll find the famous Cabrillo National Monument, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, Liberty Station, and live music!

Visit Torrey Pines State Reserve

About 25 minutes north of San Diego is 1550 acres of rugged and untouched ocean side land. Explore 8 miles of hiking trails and walk along the stunning beach. The Torrey Pines State Reserve opens at 7:15 AM and the parking/entrance fee is $20 USD per day.

Torrey Pines, backpacking San Diego

Take a Whale Watching Cruise

There is no shortage of whale watching tours in San Diego. What sets R.I.B. Rides apart is that their smaller inflatable boats are faster and more maneuverable, allowing you to cover a lot more ground than a larger boat. The price is $85 USD per person and each boat takes six passengers at one time. Most groups see at least a few whales and pods of dolphins playing around the boat. From January to April you will see Gray, Fin, and Humpback whales. From May to December you will see Blue, Minke, Fin, and Humpback whales.

Explore Del Mar 

Del Mar is a town 25 minutes north of San Diego with a lot of character. You can watch a horse race at the Del Mar Race Track for $5-10 USD depending on what day of the week you go. It is also home to the San Diego County Fair which runs annually from June 1 to July 4. Take a hot air balloon ride, Golf at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, or explore the Village of Del Mar with shops dating back to the 1880`s!

SUP Then Brewery Tour

This is a small tour through Airbnb with two local guides. You will start by Stand Up Paddle-boarding to Coronado Bridge for a photo op with your knowledgeable guide Vicki. You will then hop in a Mercedes Sprinter for a brewery tour of San Diego’s best independent breweries that are off the beaten path. They are happy to take lots of photos with your camera, and lunch is included as well as 3 beers and water. The entire tour is about 3.5 hours and costs $97 USD per person. Click here to check out this unique experience while backpacking San Diego! 

Food

The Taco Stand in La Jolla: Delicious tacos, burritos, quesadilla, and breakfast creations in homemade corn tortillas. The freshest ingredients and you cant beat the price!

Veranda Fireside Lounge: Enjoy beautiful views from the veranda while enjoying your meal. Soups, salads, seafood, steak, chicken, burgers, and much more is available.

Casa Guadalajara: The best Mexican food I have ever had! You have to come and enjoy the atmosphere, the generous portions and the margaritas! 

Travel Guide: The Top 10 Things to do in San Diego

Accommodation

Airbnb: Hotel prices in San Diego were quite expensive, so we opted to stay in an Airbnb instead! There is no shortage of options in great locations to help you save money while backpacking San Diego.