San Diego Hotel, Airport, and Public Transportation Guide
San Diego Airport Surprise
San Diego visitors get a nice surprise when they arrive at San Diego International Airport. San Diego’s Lindbergh Field is located just 1 mile from downtown San Diego. (The airport is named after Charles Lindbergh because it is the location where the famed aviator’s Spirit of Saint Louis was built.)
Within minutes of arriving in San Diego, visitors have access to several of San Diego’s top attractions, hotels, and the convention center. TourGuideTim reveals more information about the San Diego Airport.
Rent a Car or Use Public Transit in San Diego?
Visitors often ask, ‘Do I need to rent a car in San Diego?’. Well, the answer depends on what attractions you want to visit and what forms of transit you are willing to take. Most people enjoy taking the San Diego Trolley. It is generally clean and safe but it only reaches a limited number of tourist destinations.
For each attraction described in this travel guide, TourGuideTim reveals whether public transportation is available. TourGuideTim also provides a public transportation guide to San Diego, which explains what major attractions in San Diego are served by transit and provides links to transit maps and a transit planner. You can also read the hotel review farther down this page to learn whether you should rent a car depending on where your hotel is located.
As for rental cars, San Diego is served by all of the major carriers, which you will find using Expedia. Hertz, Avis, and National Car Rental have facilities across the street from the San Diego Airport. All other major car rental companies are about a mile away. The car rental agencies provide frequent bus service from the airport to their respective car rental lots.
Review of San Diego Hotels by Location
Hotels in San Diego are grouped by location on Expedia. Here is a review of the locations. Note that Expedia provides a “View Hotels on a Map” feature so you can easily see where they are located.
Downtown – San Diego Airport: The hotels located in downtown San Diego (shown just east of the San Diego Harbor and south of highway I-5 on the Expedia Map) are ideally located within walking distance of downtown San Diego attractions and the San Diego Trolley (light-rail). The only downside is you may hear train horns late in the evenings at the hotels near the harbor.
The other hotels listed in this section will generally require guests to take a hotel shuttle, taxi, or city bus to reach the downtown attractions or light rail Trolley.
Mission Valley – Old Town: This area is located a few miles north of downtown San Diego. It is centered between SeaWorld (to the northwest in Mission Bay) and the San Diego Zoo (to the southeast in Balboa Park).
The Hotels in Old Town (shown southeast of where highways I-5 and I-8 intersect on the Expedia Map) are ideally located within walking distance of Old Town attractions and the San Diego Trolley (light-rail).
The hotels located along highway I-8 between highways I-5 and SR-163 are in an area known as Hotel Circle. Most of the hotels face the highway but the rooms in the back of the hotels generally face an undeveloped hillside or open space. These hotels generally offer lower rates and free parking. The light-rail trolley service is close but the stations are not within easy walking distance. Some of the hotels do offer free van rides, as needed, to nearby attractions.
The Hotels in Mission Valley (shown east of highway SR-163 on the Expedia Map) are generally located within walking distance of restaurants and shopping malls. They are also a short Trolley ride away from the attractions in Old Town and Downtown San Diego.
Beach Cities: The hotels near San Diego beaches are obviously close to the beaches. They are also a short drive from SeaWorld, which is located in Mission Bay Park. Hotel parking is generally free. Some hotels do provide free van rides, as needed, to nearby attractions. However, if you plan to do anything more than visit SeaWorld and the beaches, it probably behooves you to rent a car.
La Jolla: Only the hotels located between Torrey Pines Road and Coast Boulevard on the Expedia Map are within walking distance of the Village of La Jolla. City bus service is the only public transportation available to guests staying in La Jolla so it is recommended you rent a car if you want to see attractions in other parts of San Diego.
Del Mar & Carlsbad-Oceanside: These hotel areas are generally near the beach areas that are farther north of downtown San Diego and near the attractions in the North County Coastal area. Hotel guests in this area should plan on renting a car. However, visitors staying at hotels west of highway I-5 will be close to a commuter train service called the Coaster, which offers limited service to Downtown San Diego.
Escondido-Wild Animal Park: These hotels are farther north of downtown San Diego and inland, away from the beaches. However they are near a number of attractions in North County Inland, including the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park Safari. Hotel guests in this area should plan on renting a car. However, visitors staying at hotels near highway SR-78 will be close to a commuter train service called the Sprinter, which offers service to the beach areas in North County Coastal San Diego near Oceanside.
South Bay: These hotel areas are located south of downtown San Diego approaching the border with Mexico. This area is good for visitors wanting to visit attractions in the South Bay area. Guests at most hotels in this area will want to rent a car. However, visitors staying at hotels near I-5 between Downtown San Diego and the Mexican Border do have access to the San Diego Trolley and the attractions it serves.
Central San Diego: The hotels in this area are generally focused on business travelers. They do not have easy access to public transportation other than city buses. It is recommended you rent a car if you stay at hotels in this area.