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

Winter Storm Brings High Surf to Southern California Beaches
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Some of the best reasons to visit San Diego in the winter are the holiday celebrations. You can go ice skating within sight of the beach, watch a big balloon parade, or see Santa Claus ride a surfboard. Except during the year-end holidays, you can also get lower prices on hotel rooms.

Unfortunately, winter isn't perfect, even in sunny San Diego. Winter is the rainiest and cloudiest time of the year. The maximum average rain is only a couple of inches per month—but it can all fall within a day or two, and if you're the unlucky visitor who arrives during a rainstorm, you'll need a Plan B, which would be to try some of the things to do on a rainy day in San Diego.

Winter is also a bad time to go swimming or surfing. That is unless you're used to the cold Pacific Ocean and have a warm wetsuit. Water temperatures dip to about 60 F (16 C) by December and stay there through February.

All Southern California tourist attractions get very busy over the end-of-year holidays, making them less enjoyable.

Winter Weather in San Diego

Winter's daytime temperatures are generally comfortable, but it can be cloudy and rainy, a real disappointment if you were dreaming of a sunny getaway. A Californian will tell you that winter is the wettest time of year in San Diego — and the coldest, but of course, it's all relative. What seems cold to Californians may feel like a summer day if you live in a cold climate.

Southern California rainfall varies widely from year to year, so use the averages with care. In a dry winter, you might see nothing but blue skies and sun. In a wet one, you might get drenched in a downpour. The only way to find out what conditions will be during your trip is to check the forecast a few days ahead of time.

  • Average High Temperature: 65 F
  • Average Low Temperature: 50 to 55 F
  • Water Temperature: 60 F
  • Rain: 1.5 to 2 inches per month
  • Rainfall: 6 to 7 days per month
  • Daylight: 10 to 11 hours
  • Sunshine: 7.5 hours
  • Humidity: 65 %
  • UV Index: 3 to 4

You can get a look at the average climate conditions year-round in the San Diego weather and climate guide.

What to Pack

Use the average values as a starting point for wardrobe planning. Instead of letting rain gear take up too much of your suitcase, take a medium-weight waterproof jacket with a hood. That will get you through all but the rainiest of days.

Most of the time, you can wear casual, comfortable clothing that's appropriate for the weather. For a meal in a fancy restaurant, men can get by with nice jeans and a collared shirt. For women, casual dresses are perfect.

If you want to spot migrating whales from the land, don't forget your binoculars. And if you plan to go across the border to visit Tijuana, take your passport. They won't let you in without it. And even worse, US Immigration won't let you back in.

Winter Events in San Diego

Winter holidays include Christmas (December 25) and New Year's Eve (December 31).

  • Christmas Events: You'll find a lot of enjoyable Christmas-themed events in San Diego at Christmas guide. Many visitors enjoy the local Christmas parade, which takes place in the water.
  • Ice Skating by the Beach: At the Hotel Del Coronado, you can go ice skating within sight of the beach.
  • Big Bay Balloon ParadeThose folks in New York City aren't the only ones who can put on a parade with big balloons. In fact, San Diego's version has more enormous balloons than any other parade and is held in late December. 
  • Holiday Bowl: The annual NCAA football game takes place in late December.
  • Whale Watching: San Diego Whale watching season runs from December through March.

Winter Travel Tips

Except during the year-end holidays, you can get reasonable prices in the winter on hotel rooms, package deals, and other incentives. It's also an especially good time to use these fantastic tips to get a lower cost than you might think possible.x

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