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

Taking a San Diego Harbor Cruise
Taking a San Diego Harbor Cruise.

Prayitno / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

In May, you'll find lots of things to do in San Diego. Winter rains will be gone, and in most years, June Gloom won't start at the beaches until later in the year. Summer vacation season hasn't started yet, and the tourist attractions are less busy than they will be.

During May, you can join San Diegans to celebrate Cinco de Mayo (May 5) or take Mom out for a day she will love. On the last Monday of the month, summer kicks off with the three-day Memorial Day weekend.

San Diego Weather in May

May begins the drier part of the year in San Diego, with lots of sunshine and little rain. You can also get more information about weather and events this time of year in the guide to San Diego in the Spring.

  • Average High Temperature: 68 F (20 C)
  • Average Low Temperature: 59 F (15 C)
  • Water Temperature: 65 F (17 C)
  • Rain: 0.23 in (0.3 cm)
  • Sunshine: 59 percent
  • Daylight: 13.5 to 14 hours

If you want to know the warmest month in San Diego, when the rainy season happens — or to compare May's weather conditions to what San Diego is like the rest of the year, you can find that all in one place in our guide to typical San Diego weather.

What to Pack

What should you wear in San Diego in May? Start by thinking about the weather. San Diego starts to warm up in May, moving toward summer. Days will be sunny, but as the year progresses toward June, you may find morning fog at the coast. 

Pack a mid-weight jacket, especially if you plan to spend time near the ocean. Bring short-sleeved shirts and lightweight pants, with a light layer or two. You may want to wear shorts on the warmest days. 

If you’re going to the beach, you may want to wiggle those ten fine toes in the sand. But getting that sand off your feet and out of everything else you own can be hard. To make it easier, pack a little bit of baby powder or cornstarch to put into your day pack. Sprinkle it on your skin and the sand will brush off much easier.

Holidays in May

Cinco de Mayo (May 5) has become one of California's most popular festival days, and San Diego hosts one of the biggest celebrations in the U.S. The date celebrates a Mexican military victory, not — as some people may say — independence day. Festivals are often held on the weekend nearest to the fifth.

In the United States, Mother's Day is the second Sunday of May. To find some ideas Mom is sure to love, check out this California Mother's Day guide.

The first big summer holiday, Memorial Day happens on the last Monday of May. Get some ideas for things to do.

May Events in San Diego

  • Del Mar Horse ShowThe horse show at Del Mar is a three-week event, held in April and May. It's one of the most popular equestrian events in Southern California. It's not just for riders, but something everyone will enjoy, with evening performances and gorgeous horses to see.
  • San Diego Dragon Boat Festival: Head to Mission Bay to watch local teams compete. Rowing to the beat of a drum, participants paddle long, thin dragon boats decorated with Chinese dragon heads and tails. The family-friendly event also features food vendors and cultural performances.
  • Crystal Pier Outrigger Canoe Race: If you miss the dragon boats, you can cheer on the teams of rowers at this event.

Things to Do in May

  • Carlsbad Flower FieldsNear the town of Carlsbad, bulb growers raise fields of colorful, showy, Giant Ranunculus flowers. When they flower in the spring, they open the fields for visitors to see them. Depending on the weather, that happens between early March and early May.
  • Balboa Park's world-renowned Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden will be in full bloom in May and seeing it is a lot more fun than smelling the rose garden in your neighbor's front yard. Just don't get lost among the three acres of blooming roses or run down your camera battery taking selfies with its more than 130 varieties.
  • You can also see something uniquely California in May: the annual grunion run. That's when thousands of tiny, silvery fish mate by the light of the full moon (or the new one). See the schedule. The best San Diego beaches to watch them are La Jolla Shores, Pacific Beach between Tourmaline Park and Lifeguard Tower 20, Mission Beach between Lifeguard Towers 19 and 10, Ocean Beach between Mission Bay Channel and the Ocean Beach Pier and on Coronado between the Hotel del Coronado and Dog Beach.

If you're looking for a fun concert, sporting event or theatrical performance during your San Diego visit, try these resources:

May Travel Tips