Cheap Things to do in San Diego

Although planning your trip to San Diego may feel predicatively expensive, there are plenty of free and cheap things to do in San Diego that will let your money go a long way. Navigate through the tabs below for suggested itineraries and information on the best free and cheap things to do in San Diego on vacation with your budget in mind!

Cheap things to do in San Diego
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Suggested One-Day Itinerary for Travelers on a Budget
Day One

  1. One thing you do not want to miss with only one day to spend in San Diego are the views around La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores and the best news is, you can check them out for free! Kick the day off with views of the stunning coastal cliffs at La Jolla Cove and see the sea lions and other exotic marine life up close! If you are up for an adventure, you can rent a kayak for as low as $15 for an hour and a half to go exploring around the caves. You will launch from La Jolla Shores and paddle about a mile out to the cove.

  2. If you are not already there renting or returning your kayak, head to La Jolla shores for some beach time. If you happen to be visiting August-September, rent some snorkel gear and you might be there on one of the many days hundreds of Leopard Sharks are grouped in the shallow waters in front of the La Jolla Shores Hotel and tennis club. Do not fear! These sharks are harmless to humans and are truly a spectacular site to see.

  3. Next, head 15mins up the coast to Torrey Pines Gliderport. Here, you don’t need to purchase a tandem paragliding or hangliding flight to have fun. A lot of people come to enjoy a tasty sandwich from the Cliffhanger Café while spectating the gliders launching, landing, and soaring along the cliff. After, you can hike down the cliff to Black’s Beach and/or continue just up the coast to hiking trail at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve for beautiful views across the Pacific Ocean.

  4. Head to Balboa Park, one of the most picturesque places to see in San Diego, where you can spend some time taking pictures of the Spanish-colonial architecture, enjoy the scenery, and relax in the grass if you want to take a rest. Balboa Park is also home to the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ which usually holds free shows on Sunday afternoons.

  5. To top off your one-day adventure in San Diego, head to downtown to walk around Seaport Village and the Gaslamp Quarter! Here you can easily be entertained for free just by walking around seeing street performers, art galleries, and a lively downtown nightlife.

Suggested Three-Day Itinerary for Travelers on a Budget
Day One

  1. One thing you do not want to miss with only one day to spend in San Diego are the views around La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores and the best news is, you can check them out for free! Kick the day off with views of the stunning coastal cliffs at La Jolla Cove and see the sea lions and other exotic marine life up close! If you are up for an adventure, you can rent a kayak for as low as $15 for an hour and a half to go exploring around the caves. You will launch from La Jolla Shores and paddle about a mile out to the cove.

  2. Spend the rest of the day at the beach! You can spend it at La Jolla Shores or head to another one of San Diego’s iconic beaches that offer vintage scenes and coastal shops like Pacific Beach or Ocean Beach.

Day Two
  1. Start the day off with breakfast in Old Town to witness the foundation of San Diego’s history with its historic buildings, markets, and museums which are free to tour.

  2. Next, head 15mins up the coast to Torrey Pines Gliderport. Here, you don’t need to purchase a tandem paragliding or hangliding flight to have fun. A lot of people come to enjoy a tasty sandwich from the Cliffhanger Café while spectating the gliders launching, landing, and soaring along the cliff. After, you can hike down the cliff to Black’s Beach and/or continue just up the coast to hiking trail at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve for beautiful views across the Pacific Ocean.

  3. Top off your day and head to downtown to walk around Seaport Village and the Gaslamp Quarter! Here you can easily be entertained for free just by walking around seeing street performers, art galleries, and a lively downtown nightlife.

Day Three
  1. Head to Balboa Park, one of the most picturesque places to see in San Diego, where you can spend some time taking pictures of the Spanish-colonial architecture, enjoy the scenery, and relax in the grass if you want to take a rest. Balboa Park is also home to the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ which usually holds free shows on Sunday afternoons.

  2. End your trip to San Diego with an evening hike at Iron Mountain or Cowles and witness the beautiful colors of a West Coast sunset.

Suggested Five-Day Itinerary for Travelers on a Budget
Day One

  1. One thing you do not want to miss with only one day to spend in San Diego are the views around La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores and the best news is, you can check them out for free! Kick the day off with views of the stunning coastal cliffs at La Jolla Cove and see the sea lions and other exotic marine life up close! If you are up for an adventure, you can rent a kayak for as low as $15 for an hour and a half to go exploring around the caves. You will launch from La Jolla Shores and paddle about a mile out to the cove.

  2. Spend the rest of the day at the beach! You can spend it at La Jolla Shores or head to another one of San Diego’s iconic beaches that offer vintage scenes and coastal shops like Pacific Beach or Ocean Beach.

Day Two
  1. Start the day off with breakfast in Old Town to witness the foundation of San Diego’s history with its historic buildings, markets, and museums which are free to tour.

  2. Next, head 15mins up the coast to Torrey Pines Gliderport. Here, you don’t need to purchase a tandem paragliding or hangliding flight to have fun. A lot of people come to enjoy a tasty sandwich from the Cliffhanger Café while spectating the gliders launching, landing, and soaring along the cliff. After, you can hike down the cliff to Black’s Beach and/or continue just up the coast to hiking trail at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve for beautiful views across the Pacific Ocean.

  3. Top off your day and head to downtown to walk around Seaport Village and the Gaslamp Quarter! Here you can easily be entertained for free just by walking around seeing street performers, art galleries, and a lively downtown nightlife.

Day Three
  1. Head to Balboa Park, one of the most picturesque places to see in San Diego, where you can spend some time taking pictures of the Spanish-colonial architecture, enjoy the scenery, and relax in the grass if you want to take a rest. Balboa Park is also home to the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ which usually holds free shows on Sunday afternoons.

  2. End your trip to San Diego with an evening hike at Iron Mountain or Cowles and witness the beautiful colors of a West Coast sunset.

Day Four
  1. Spend the day in the California Historic Landmark of Julian. Here, you can spend the day hiking or go mountain bike one of the beautiful remote trails that take you through green rolling hills, oak trees, cows, and wildflower country. Or you can stay in town exploring the heart of the historic district and enjoying some of the renown Julian apple pie. It is truly a quaint mountain town with the upmost charm.

Day Five
  1. Check the visitor info for the Cabrillo Tide Pools to see if it is low tide. If your timing is right, head to Point Loma to visit! If it is not optimal time to visit the tide pools, head to Sunset Cliffs to walk along the coast and enjoy the stunning views or be sure to head here after tide pools if you do get to see them.

  2. Complete your trip to San Diego by walking around some of the diverse neighborhoods to check out some of the local bars and restaurants. North Park is a great neighborhood to explore and is home to trendy venues like Soda & Swine, Polite Provisions, and North Park Brewing Company. Other neighborhoods like Hillcrest and Little Italy also have a lot of character and things to see around the main streets. Be sure to check out the neighborhood websites to check for events as they often host street fairs and art festivals.


Best Free & Cheap Things to do in San Diego

1. Balboa Park


Balboa park is a 1,200 acre urban cultural park located just minutes from downtown San Diego and houses attractions such as the San Diego Natural History Museum, San Diego Zoo, botanical gardens, theaters, historical buildings, and much more.



2. Gaslamp Quater


As the West Coast’s premier entertainment district, guests can immerse themselves in our rich Victorian architecture and history, dine with world-renowned chefs, and dance the night away at nationally recognized nightlife venues.



3. Torrey Pines State Beach


Torrey Pines State Beach offers unforgettable views and is a popular destination for surfing, fishing, relaxing and hiking along the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve trail.



4. Chicano Park


Established by Chicano activists on April 22, 1970, Chicano Park has received international recognition as a major public art site for its commanding mural paintings of the past and present struggle of Mexican and Chicano history.



5. Black's Beach


Black's Beach offers incredible views of the Pacific Coast and the cliffs that surround it. It is also located at the bottom of Torrey Pines Gliderport, which paragliders and hang gliders soar most days. One thing to note before you go is that this is a nudist beach...clothing is optional!



6. Mission Beach


One of the most popular beach areas in the City of San Diego, Mission Beach draws large crowds in the summer to its oceanfront and adjacent Belmont Park.



7. Pacific Beach


Pacific Beach offers some of the best surfing during the day and some of the best bars and restaurants at night.



8. Sunset Cliffs


Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is a must see in San Diego. This beautiful regional park stretches 1.5 miles along the Point Loma Peninsula and offers views of the Pacific Ocean along spectacular cliff and caves .



9. La Jolla Beaches


La Jolla has several beautiful beaches that are surrounded by cliffs, sea lions and clear water. La Jolla is one of the best spots in Southern California to snorkel, surf, swim, kayak, and dive!



10. Seaport Village


Looking for things to do in San Diego? Seaport Village offers waterfront dining, shopping, events and tours, making it your one-stop for fun.



11. Ocean Beach


Ocean Beach is a small beach community with a vintage, laid-back California vibe. One of the favorite beach communities to visit in San Diego!



12. Imperial Beach


Visit the southernmost beach in Southern California, which is bordered by Tijuana, Mexico to the South and Coronado, California to the North.


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