San Diego Budget Itinerary

Thinking about visiting sunny San Diego? This San Diego budget itinerary is the perfect place to start! I’ll cover everything from accommodation, to food and activities you should check out during your stay.

Where to Stay

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I LOVE to stay at hostels because they’re affordable and provide a great environment for meeting new people. I wasn’t sure what area of San Diego would be best to stay in but I think it boils down to whether or not you’re going to spend most of your time by the beach or in the city.

Since I can’t get enough beach days, I chose to stay at ITH Beach Bungalow Surf Hostel at Pacific Beach! It’s a great budget option and you can’t ask for a better hostel location. It’s literally RIGHT on the beach and a quick drive from the city and other desirable locations. For those who work remotely, the wifi is reliable and you can even work from one of their hammocks in the common area! Meeting people couldn’t be easier at this hostel but if you’re still looking to make new friends, you can join a game of beach volleyball, beach yoga or talk to others at free breakfast in the morning.

Budget Itinerary

I usually structure my itineraries day by day but since there are a few great areas to check out, I’m going to separate them by area/activity instead! All of the activities are outdoors and free/affordable for any budget traveller.

Pacific Beach:

Pacific Beach has heaps to do! When you first arrive take a stroll down the boardwalk or relax right on the beach. Here are a few other activities going on in Pacific Beach:

  • Surfing – Board and wetsuit rentals will only set you back about $20-30. I got mine from the hostel I stayed at!
  • Pacific Beach Pier – The Pier seems like it’s private but you can walk along it between certain hours during the day and watch people surfing from above. I got some pretty amazing photos when I was up there ๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿผ.
  • Markets – On the weekends there are markets along the boardwalk where you can buy clothes, jewllery and more.
  • Eat lots of Mexican food – Pacific Beach has endless taco shops, some of which are open 24/7! Tacos are usually a few dollars each and a burrito is anywhere from $8-12.

La Jolla:

La Jolla is a short 15 minute drive up from Pacific Beach! There’s so much you can do in the area. I’d recommend spending at least a full day in La Jolla and make sure you stop by the cove to see sea lions and seals up close.

spellbound travels la jolla seals and sea lions

Here are a few other noteworthy stops in La Jolla:

  • Secret swings – Close to the aquarium, there’s a small hill up to a swing that overlooks La Jolla. It’s fun spot but it’s definitely no secret! It’s become quite popular for getting photos but when people clear out it’s a great spot to hangout for a bit.
  • Blacks beach – If you’re looking for a little walk by the beach, this is your best bet!
  • Windandsea beach – Pictured on the photo on the bottom left, Windandsea beach is quite unique. You have to climb down some rock to get to the beach and there’s often some great waves there for surfing.

Coronado Island:

You can access Coronado Island by driving across the bridge. Once you get there it doesn’t really feel much different than the mainland since it’s quite large. I spent a day at Coronado beach when I was there and it was a lot of fun! Just be careful about swimming because the waves can get pretty aggressive out there depending on the day!

Torrey Pines:

Of all the places on my San Diego budget itinerary, Torrey Pines was hands down my fave! I only made my way to Torrey Pines on my last day since it was a bit further north of Pacific Beach. I wish I had come here sooner and spent a full day because it’s a one of a kind spot! The beach is so unique with huge cliffs on one side and a large stretch of white sand.

Aside from the beach, you can also explore a wide range of trails at the park. Most are a relatively easy loop and all provide outstanding views of the cliffs and beach!

North Fortuna Summit:

If you’re after more local hikes, the North Fortuna trail is a 8.2 km loop that’s accessible year round. It’s rated as a difficult hike and mostly used as a workout route for locals but offers some pretty cool views from the top as well.

Balboa Park:

Balboa Park is the biggest park in San Diego! It’s home to museums, gardens, performing arts and so much more. You could spend an entire day wandering around the park if you’d like but I found that I only needed a few hours. I was mesmerized by the beautiful architecture and loved wandering through the different gardens.

Most are free to enter but some come at an additional cost!

Adobe Falls:

Adobe Falls is right across from the San Diego State University and it’s known for it’s crazy graffiti. I didn’t get a chance to check it out for myself and there’s currently a no tresspassing sign out front so do with that what you will!

Sunset Cliffs:

Sunset Cliffs is another one of my fave spots in San Diego! You could spend the day lounging by the cliffs or go cliff jumping if you’re feeling up for an adventure.

Iron Mountain Trail:

Iron Mountain trail is about a 40 minute drive from Pacific Beach in Poway and is a 8.4 km out and back moderate hike with scenic views! If you’re going to do just one hike in San Diego, I’d definitely choose this one.

Don’t Forget About the Food

This San Diego budget itinerary wouldn’t be complete without talking about the food! While I could’ve kept a list of all the Mexican restaurants I ate at, there wouldn’t have been much of a point because the Mexican food is good everywhere in San Diego. You’ll find food trucks in the city and so many small shops to pop into no matter where you are. I’m pretty sure I ate my weight in burritos in a mere 5 days but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

So that concludes my itinerary for now. I’ll be back next week with more budget travel content so I’ll see you then. In the meantime, you can stay up to date with my travels on Instagram and TikTok!


Amy xx

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