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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Good reasons to visit San Diego in the winter start with 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 good prices on hotel rooms.

But winter isn't perfect even in San Diego. Winter months bring the most precipitation of the year. Depending on how much it rains where you live, it may not seem like much—a maximum average of a couple of inches per month—but it can all fall within a few days.

Winter is also a bad time to go swimming or surfing unless you're used to the cold Pacific Ocean. Water temperatures dip to about 60 degrees F (16 degrees 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

A Californian will tell you that winter is the rainiest time of year in San Diego - and the coldest, but of course, it's all relative. Daytime temperatures are generally comfortable, but it can be cloudy and rainy, a real disappointment if you were dreaming of a sunny getaway.

Southern California rainfall varies widely from year to year. In the winter, you might see nothing but blue skies and sun or 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 a few days ahead of time.

If you visit and get caught in the rain, find things to do using the San Diego rainy day guide.

  • Average High Temperature: 65 degrees F
  • Average Low Temperature: upper 40s to 50 degrees F
  • Humidity: 65 percent
  • Rainfall: 1.5 to 2.4 inches
  • Sunshine: 72 to 73 percent

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

What to Pack

Use the average temperature as a starting point for wardrobe planning. Pack an umbrella or rain jacket with hood for rainy days and a warm jacket if no rain is predicted.

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 some of the migrating whales from the land, don't forget your binoculars. And if you plan to go across the border to visit Tijuana, you'll need a passport.

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. 

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 amazing tips to get a lower cost than you might think possible.