Best Sightseeing in San Diego

Enjoy Sightseeing in San Diego by Land, Sea or Air

Sightseeing in San Diego is a must, as difficult as it might be to tear yourself away from the beach or one of our best attractions. The good news is that it can be done via the expertise of a local and at a pace you're comfortable with. The other decision you'll need to make is whether you'll like to see San Diego by land, sea or sky. Either way the gorgeous Pacific Ocean will likely be in view.

Not only will kayaking in the ocean burn enough calories to enable a splurge on a meal at one of San Diego's best waterfront restaurants, it's an opportunity to explore ocean caves and marine life. La Jolla Kayak can safely guide you on a kayak, snorkel or even a biking tour which stops at another fabulous sightseeing spot in La Jolla, Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial, for a 360 degree panoramic view of the city and an opportunity to take pause and honor war heroes.

If you've ever wanted to take to the skies, Torrey Pines Gliderport is ranked the number one paragliding school in America. Take a lesson, ride tandem or just enjoy the view from the ground.

For families and those who like to tour on their own schedule, Old Town Trolley Tours, lets riders get on and off at their leisure at stops that include Old Town, Coronado and more.

So, shake the sand off. Get out there and do some sightseeing on your own or with a tour at one of San Diego's 10 best sightseeing venues. It's much better than the gym.


Hornblower Cruises in San Diego can handle everything from weddings to birthday parties to just a nice evening for two out on the San Diego Bay. Dinner cruises depart nightly and last for 3 hours. Cruises leave from San Diego Grape Street pier at 6:30pm, which is within walking distance of a number of downtown hotels. Not to worry if you have the kids in tow, there's a menu for them, too. Hornblower has a fleet of seven ships. The dinner cruise boat, Lord Hornblower, is inspired by designs of historic steamships. Book wildlife excursions such as whale watching and more.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: Cruising the San Diego Bay is an excellent way to check out the city skyline, watch for seals and see Pt. Loma.

Katie's expert tip: On the weekends they offer a 3-course lobster dinner cruise.

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Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and Beach

There are two sections here. Along the bluffs overlooking the sea there are eight miles of trails through the unique landscape (the twisted Torrey pine tree is found in only two places on earth: in this park and on an island almost 200 miles to the north), and due to conservation efforts the park is one of the wildest, most undeveloped spots in the state. Three hundred feet below at the base of the bluffs is a beach. The northern portion is popular for families, with lifeguards and bathrooms, but you'll find a number of residents come for morning exercise with a view.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: The park is like an oasis in the city with spectacular views and a chance to see the flora and fauna of coastal San Diego.

Katie's expert tip: The park and beach are great for families. To visit the park, you just need to buy a parking pass otherwise admission is free.

Read more about Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and Beach →

Quite possibly the largest tour company in San Diego, Another Side Of San Diego Tours can customize any itinerary you'd like from shopping tours to VIP helicopter or hot air balloon tours. They've got wine tasting, horseback, hiking, skydiving, fishing and more already organized tours than we could possibly list. If you've always wanted to try out a Segway, their tours are ranked number one on TripAdvisor. The company is run by highly-trained travel agents and they have a long list of corporate clients who use them for team building and guest entertainment. They can set you up with a tour of any part of San Diego, too.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: Want to tour San Diego by helicopter, bicycle or yacht? If you can dream it, this company may be able to make it happen.

Katie's expert tip: Another Side Of San Diego claims they have the ability to make any tour you want a reality. Send a request through their website, where their enormous list of offerings is available for viewing.

Read more about Another Side Of San Diego Tours →


This is San Diego's only bus-boat amphibious tour that starts at Seaport Village, traversing bayside roads while listening to interesting and witty commentary about San Diego history, wildlife, the military and more. Then, the Coast Guard-approved vehicle dives into the bay for a look at the highlights from a different perspective. This tour is fun for the whole family. Tours last about 90 minutes and are fully narrated. Interestingly enough, the tour spots more sea lions than seals. They offer a 100% money-back guarantee but you won't need it. This is definitely how San Diego was meant to be seen--by land and by sea!

Recommended for Sightseeing because: Take this tour at the beginning of your vacation if based downtown. It's a good way to get the lay of the land.

Katie's expert tip: A map of the tour and videos are available on the San Diego Seal tour website. Have a look at the crazy bus-boat so you'll know what it is if you see it driving around Downtown.

Read more about San Diego Seals Harbor Tour →

Cabrillo National Monument
Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo is credited with discovering San Diego in the 16th century. The Cabrillo Monument, located on the cliffs of Point Loma where he is thought to have first set foot, is dedicated to telling the story via displays and films at the Visitor's Center. The view of Downtown San Diego over the Pacific Ocean from here is postcard-perfect. Snap away and then also pose next Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo's giant statue. There is also a two-mile walking trail, areas for picnics, tidepools to explore and much more for a fun half-day out. Whales can be seen from here during the early winter months.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: It's San Diego's only National Park with spectacular views, picnic areas, historic tidbits and tidepools.

Katie's expert tip: Plan to spend some time at the tide pools, one of the last and best-preserved rocky Intertidal areas open to the public, located below the Cabrillo Monument.

Read more about Cabrillo National Monument →


Initially conceived as a memorial to Korean War veterans, this site now features a series of walls paved with black granite plaques that honor individual figures from all wars and from all branches of the service. A 43-foot cross stands atop Mount Soledad, and a large flag flies to honor US military personnel. Along with being a memorial, the area offers a panoramic view of greater San Diego and the Pacific Ocean from atop 822-foot Mount Soledad. It's also an excellent place to have a picnic or to enjoy spectacular sunsets. Don't forget your camera and pets are welcome, too.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: Go for tranquil 360 degree views of San Diego combined with an important memorial.

Katie's expert tip: It can get a little bit windy up here but it's one of the only places for a true 360 degree panoramic view. Don't go if it's foggy though.

Read more about Mount Soledad →

Tour Balboa Park, La Jolla, the Gaslamp, Torrey Pines, Pacific Beach and Mission Bay, Old Town, Coronado, Cabrillo Monument or the San Diego Waterfront on electric bikes. If that sounds like too much effort, don't panic. Electric bikes have small, eco-friendly motors that help riders go up hills and provide assistance with long journeys. However, you can pedal the entire way, if you like. Bikes come equipped with a fully charged battery, a basket for personal items, and an adjustable helmet for safety. Bottled water is provided. Riders must be age 16 or older. Rent the bikes and tour on your own, if you lik

Recommended for Sightseeing because: Electric bikes require less pedaling than you might think. Given our sunshine, this is a great way to explore.

Katie's expert tip: If you're staying at a Downtown hotel and rent two or more bikes for the day, San Diego Fly Rides will deliver them to your hotel and pick them back up when you're done. We're bike appropriate attire--no flip flops!

Read more about San Diego Fly Rides →

Located in the La Jolla Shores area, La Jolla Kayak offers snorkel, bike and kayak tours. Hop in a kayak and explore marine life such as Sea Lions, Leopard Sharks, and Garibaldi around the famous Seven Caves and the La Jolla Underwater Park. Do a little whale watching, brunch and kayak, enjoy sunset out on the water or participate in their other specialty tours. Stand-up paddle boarding and surfing is also an option. For an out-of-water experience, bike up Mt. Soledad and down to Windansea beach on their coastal bike tour. If a tour isn't for you, they also rent equipment.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: La Jolla has an underwater park full of interesting sea life and this is a great way to explore it.

Katie's expert tip: Book the weekend brunch and paddle with Piatti's, a popular Italian restaurant across the street from La Jolla Kayak. You'll burn calories kayaking and then wind up at Piatti's for their woodfired pizza, pastas and more.

Read more about La Jolla Kayak →

The orange and green trolleys have been touring San Diego for over 20 years. Trolleys depart every 30 minutes from 11 stops (covering over 100 points of interest), so guests can hop on and off at their leisure. The eco-friendly trolleys run on propane, too. You can start and end your trolley tour at any of their stops. It was also voted the best way to see the city by the online version of San Diego's major newspaper. The trolley map is on their website, should you want to plan your day in advance.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: See San Diego at your leisure, without a car but hopping on an off the trolley.

Katie's expert tip: The trolley allows sightseeing without worrying about driving or parking. They do stop in Old Town where you'll surely want a fish bowl margarita, right?

Read more about Old Town Trolley Tours →

Ranked the #1 paragliding school in America since 2000, Torrey Pines Gliderport is a city-owned private-use glider airport. You can't really beat the view from the sky, but it's pretty spectacular from the ground, too. You can take lessons, fly tandem or just enjoy the view from a cliff above the famous Black's Beach. There's the Cliffhanger Cafe for those who would like a family-friendly casual place to enjoy a gourmet sandwich, soup or snacks while checking out dolphins in the water or the colorful gliders in the sky. Bring a picnic, if you like, and don't forget your camera.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: It's a quintessential San Diego experience involving a panoramic ocean view, (usually) sunshine, hiking (if you like) and entertainment (gliders).

Katie's expert tip: This is one of the most amazing places in San Diego to watch the sunset. Seeing paragliders do their thing is much more entertaining than you might anticipate.

Read more about Torrey Pines Gliderport →


Meet Katie Dillon

Katie Dillon originally moved to the seaside community of La Jolla to attend UC San Diego. When the opportunity presented itself, she and her husband set off for a 7 year stint overseas as...  More About Katie