The Best Time To Visit San Diego

San Diego skyline of skyscrapers with mountains in the back and a body of water in the bottom third of the photos. There are sailboats of various sizes throughout the water

David Toussaint / Moment / Getty Images

If you search year-round destination, there’s a good chance San Diego will pop up due to mild temperatures, limited rainfall, and 266 days of sunshine to enjoy 70 miles of beaches, 150 craft breweries, and a long list of annual cultural, outdoorsy, and family-friendly events and attractions. The best time to visit San Diego is before May and after Labor Day weekend to avoid summer tourist throngs, crowded coastlines, and reliably overcast months.

Of course, what time frame makes for the best getaway depends on what you want to do while in town. For example, if your idea of fun is dressing up like a superhero, don’t miss July's nerd nirvana known as Comic-Con, the largest pop culture event in the U.S. But expect to pay a premium at any hotel in town. Stoked to surf?  Late August and early September usually provide the warmest water and hottest days. Fall and winter often bring cheaper hotel rooms, shorter lines at theme parks and attractions, film and arts festivals, and holiday-oriented events.

That’s where this guide to San Diego’s weather, social calendar, and popular pastimes will come in handy. 

The Weather in San Diego

San Diego is basically a desert with beaches. Most months are have mild temperatures (average of 72 degrees), sunshine (usually 266 days a year), cooler nights, and cooling ocean breezes. 

Like many California cities the area experiences the May gray/June gloom phenomenon. This is when a marine layer moves in overnight and causes low clouds to hover overhead, darkening skies and blocking out the sun until early afternoon. Sometimes it translates to lower lodging prices due to less demand.

November and December tend to be the brightest months of the year followed by January through April. However the highest temperatures occur between July and October, especially in the fall when the Santa Ana winds blow hot air in from the desert. 

The likelihood of rain is greatest December through March, but it isn’t usually enough to ruin entire trips. 

Peak Season in San Diego

Summer is peak season in San Diego because of the good weather and frequent sunshine. Locals are an active, fit bunch who love to play outside year round with their dogs in parks, at outdoor markets, and on hiking trails, running paths, waterways, the sand, and on bar rooftops and restaurant patios. They live for summer but are only slowed, not stopped, by spring gloom, cooler temps, or light rain. When scheduling your sojourn, consider visiting in late fall and winter. Especially if you hail from a place with snow because San Diego’s worst will feel positively balmy.

Surfing and Other Water Sports

As previously mentioned, the Pacific Ocean, especially around La Jolla Cove and off of La Jolla Shores, heats up in August and September to around 70 degrees, making swimming, kayaking, SUP-ing, surfing, and snorkeling more pleasant.

The biggest swells usually come out of the north, generated by Alaskan storms, December through February. Spring month waves (March-May) are inconsistent and unpredictable. Generally, San Diego’s best surfing season is August through November. In early fall, southern swells team up with the Santa Anas to produce sweet barrels. 

Courtesy of SanDiego.Org 

Theme Parks and Outdoor Events

If these kinds of things make up your dream itinerary, avoid visiting during holiday breaks or summer when kids are out of school. Weekdays are usually less crowded as well. May and June’s haziness can also mean shorter lines at attractions like Legoland, the Safari Park, or the San Diego Zoo. Speaking of animal attractions, you're most likely to see new baby animals in the spring and early summer. It can also make for slightly more comfortable experiences at Padres baseball games, outdoor festivals, and concerts as direct sun exposure is limited.

January 

Important to note that California as a whole was particularly rainy in 2018/19. Historically, January is the wettest month in San Diego with an average of 2.11 inches but traditionally has the lowest percentage of humidity.

Events to check out:

  • Start the new year by eating well with San Diego Restaurant Week. More than 180 eateries offer special discounted prix-fixe, two-course lunches and three-course dinners.
  • Sports fans can see PGA Tour masters at work at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course.

February

Still cool enough to cuddle for Valentine's Day, February averages a high of 66 degrees and a low of 50.

Events to check out:

  • Forty area museums offer half-price admission for the entire month with a pass that can be picked up at select libraries. 

March

March tends to have the coldest nights of the year, so don't forget to pack a windbreaker or light sweater.

Events to check out:

  • The largest St. Patrick’s Day parade west of the Mississippi happens here and the party continues until midnight at ShamROCK, a 25-year-old celebration of whiskey, green beer, Irish music, and dancing in the Gaslamp Quarter.

April

Flowers blanket the hills and green spaces, parks start to fill up with visitors, and temperatures inch toward the high 60s.

Events to check out:

  • Little Italy hosts the Mission Federal ArtWalk late in the month. The trendy neighborhood also offers a giant farmers’ market, the Little Italy Mercato, every Saturday rain or shine.
  • In April the famous Flower Fields of Carlsbad are in full bloom. Opening day is usually in March, but Visit Carlsbad organizes Petal To Plate in April, a two-week promotion where local chefs, mixologists, and wellness experts create dishes, drinks, and treatments inspired by the wildflowers.
Courtesy of Visit Carlsbad 

May

May gray is here so expect to see the sun a lot less. It's also the start of San Diego's most humid season.

Events to check out:

  • Experience lowrider cars, lucha libre wrestling, and live mariachi music for free at Fiesta Old Town in honor of Cinco de Mayo. Plus, you can eat your weight in tacos.
  • Run of all the new weight off to cool tunes at the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon.

June

Despite June gloom darkening skies and moods, temperatures usually tip into the 70s for the first time of the year.

Events to check out:

  • The county fair comes to town with fried food, farm animals, concerts, rides, and carnival games at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and doesn’t pack up until July 4.  
  • Pack a picnic and head for the outdoor stage to hear the sweet sounds of the San Diego Symphony at Bayside Summer Nights. 

July 

Summer is in full swing and crowds have descended on the city filling theme parks and hotels. Comic Con is this month so, unless you're participating, try to avoid visiting that week. No need for a plan B as July historically averages .01 inches of rainfall and the sun is out 70 percent of the time.

Events to check out:

  • Big Bay Boom, Southern California’s largest fireworks display, explodes over the bay. Pro tip: InterContinental San Diego is one of the best-positioned hotels from which to watch the light show with plenty of bay views. VIP viewing packages with BBQ will be available to guests.
  • San Diego's LGBT community and its allies organize several joyous Pride events — a parade, festivals, business mixers, brunches, and a 5K —in July.
  • Pop culture fans flock to the city by the thousands for Comic-Con. They then spill into restaurants, bars, and hotels, which makes it incredibly difficult and expensive to book a room.
Courtesy of SanDiego.org 

August

Dress for warm weather this month as temperatures hit the 80s. It's also when the ocean's at its warmest.

Events to check out:

September

This is when the Santa Anas are most likely to strike, bringing hot, desert air and extending beach season.

Events to check out:

  • Restaurant Week returns for a second installment.
  • The MCAS Miramar Air Show, the largest military air exhibition in the U.S., is always a big draw.
  • The three-day KAABOO offers more than great music. There’s a Vegas-style pool, art galleries, a comedy club, and even a spa.

October 

Trick-or-treating is a breeze as days are still in the 60s even after the sun goes down and there's barely any rain.

Events to check out:

Courtesy of Pure Project Brewing and SanDiego.org 

November

November is the brightest month of the year with sun coming out 75% of the time.

Events to check out:

  • Nicknamed America’s Craft Beer Capital, it’s only fitting that San Diego’s Brewers Guild puts on a 10-day celebration of all things beer.
  • Wine lovers should check out the San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival, with more than 40 culinary events including a grand tasting at Embarcadero Marina Park North.

December 

When much of the country is covered in snow, San Diego has plenty of mild weather and sunshine.

Events to check out:

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