Fall in San Diego: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

Yachts across San Diego Bay at sunrise, looking towards downtown.
Witold Skrypczak / Getty Images

The first day of the fall season traditionally happens in mid-September in most other places, but in San Diego, the fall visitor season runs from the first of September through November.

After school starts, family-oriented attractions will have fewer visitors. Fall brings fewer conventions, too. It will be mostly dry through September and October and often into November. In fact, September and October could easily be the best months all year for a trip.

San Diego Weather in Fall

San Diego beaches can be foggy in the summer (a phenomenon knows as "June Gloom"), but in fall, the skies will be clear. In September, you can still expect temperatures into the high 70s, but the highs will gradually drop to the mid- and low 70s by October and November, respectively. You can get a look at average high and low temperatures, rainfall and hours of sunshine in the San Diego weather and climate guide.

For beach days, water temperatures stay near summer highs when fall begins, hovering a little below 70°F (21°C) through September, but they drop sharply in October. By November, the water is almost 15°F colder than it was in September and too chilly for most people to consider swimming.

What to Pack

Any time of year, San Diego attire is casual, and you won't need dress clothing unless you're attending an event that requires it. In fact, if you get too glammed up, everyone will know at a glance that you're a tourist.

Near the ocean, layers are always a good idea, especially into the later months of fall when lows can dip into the 50s.

Rain is unlikely at the beginning of the season, but you'll have higher chances of precipitation toward October and November, so consider bringing an umbrella or rain jacket to stay dry while exploring.

Fall Events in San Diego

Fall holidays include Halloween (October 31) and Thanksgiving (celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November). You can also honor your lost loved ones and immerse yourself in traditional Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations. Here are some other events to check out during a fall trip:

  • Food Events: In September, local restaurants offer some special deals during San Diego Restaurant Week, making it an excellent time to sample some of the city's best cuisine at reduced prices. You can also sample San Diego brews at the annual Festival of Beer in September.
  • Airplanes and Boats: Fleet Week is the city's annual tribute to the USA's seagoing military, held in October. You can also watch the aerial acrobatics—including the famous Blue Angels precision flying team—at the Miramar Air Show which is held in late September or early October.
  • Leopard Sharks: Hundreds of harmless leopard sharks migrate to La Jolla Shores coastal waters from August to October. Here's how to see them.
  • Fall Apple Harvest: If you dropped into the city of San Diego without a calendar, you might have a hard time knowing that it's fall, but the nearby town of Julian is in the mountains and fall is a good time to visit, during the apple harvest.
  • Carlsbad Village Street Faire: This is the largest one-day street festival in the country, and it happens in early November.

Fall Travel Tips

  • Even though average hotel occupancy is more than 70% in the fall, hotel rates are average or lower than average, and with fewer people in town, it gets easier to find bargains, packages, and incentives.
  • The exceptions to lower fall prices are three-day weekends (Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day) and Thanksgiving holiday week (fourth week of November). Conventions, though less common in the fall, can also fill the downtown hotels when they're in town. You can check for them during your planned trip dates at the San Diego Convention Center website, which also shows how many people are expected to attend.
  • With fewer visitors, attractions may cut back on their hours and activities, and some of them may be closed on weekdays, so check the websites for local businesses and activities before you make your plans.