Whether you’re looking for a lively girlfriend getaway, a romantic trip for two, or a beachy family vacation, I’ve got you covered in my ultimate guide to the best vacation rentals in San Diego.
And when I travel, Airbnb and VRBO are one of my favorite ways to get a phenomenal value along with insider tips from locals, whether I’m road tripping California or heading farther afield.
I’ve even included a brief description of each neighborhood so you can find the stay that is exactly right for you. Here is where to stay in San Diego:
Best San Diego Vacation Rentals
1. Oceanfront cottage on the sand in Ocean Beach.
About Ocean Beach: Ocean Beach is your classic Southern California beach town.
Join the local Obecians (“oh-bee-shuns”) for a stay here if you like the idea of a main street where organic groceries are mixed in with surf boutiques, taquerias and brewpubs. The pier here is fabulous.
Where to stay in Ocean Beach: Imagine listening to the sound of the waves while stepping directly onto the sand from your front door.
Beach vacations don’t get any better than this (even in winter). In fact, you can watch the waves roll in as you sip your coffee on your private porch.
If you’re looking for beach houses for rent in San Diego, this adorable oceanfront cottage has one bedroom but sleeps four.
Each sofa folds down into one full-sized bed for adults or kids. There’s even air conditioning in the bedroom (queen-sized bed).
Ocean Beach is a great base in San Diego as it’s minutes to the zoo, Gaslamp Quarter for nightlife, and a quick hop over to Coronado Island.
Guests rave about this friendly, helpful host, too.
Guest review: This place is AMAZING! Great location on the beach. If you want a relaxing home with awesome views, the sound of waves every night and close to everything this is the place to be. We will definitely be back!
2. Cozy luxury loft in the heart of the Gaslamp.
About the Gaslamp: If you’re all about the urban nightlife, head to the Gaslamp. Known for its cocktail lounges, restaurants, and lively scene in the evenings, the Gaslamp is at the heart of it all.
Plus, Horton Plaza—a multi-level outdoor shopping extravaganza—is in the neighborhood.
Where to stay in the Gaslamp: You’ll love this historic luxury loft as you can walk to all the amazing Gaslamp bars and cafes here.
Plus, it comes with one parking spot in a covered garage.
You’ll only drive a few blocks to jump on the freeway to head to the convention center, airport, Petco Park or Balboa Park in minutes.
There is one beautiful bedroom, complete with spacious bathroom and bathtub. Gorgeous cityscape views and a responsive host complete the guest experience.
Guest review: “We very much enjoyed our stay in this historic property. Great location near TONS of restaurants, shopping, and activities.“
3. Waterfront studio in Mission Beach.
About Mission Bay & Mission Beach: San Diego’s Mission Bay is a water playground!
It makes a great base for your San Diego vacation if you’re into kayaking, stand up paddle board, sailing, water skiing or just playing in the waves!
In fact, Mission Bay is the world’s biggest aquatic park.
Sea World is nearby as are several leash-free dog parks. And, in winter, you can catch a whale watching tour from here to watch the gray whales migrate down to the Baja Peninsula in Mexico.
(You could also head just over the border for wine tasting and whales in Valle de Guadalupe, too.)
Where to stay in Mission Beach: Mission Beach is the best place to stay on Mission Bay.
This professionally designed waterfront studio is located on a sandy swim friendly bay in the heart of Mission Beach.
You may never want to leave this waterfront patio! It reminds me of some of my favorite vacation rentals in Maui.
The second-floor apartment sleeps two and includes a plush king bed with sunrise views, beach chairs, beach towels, and plenty of parking. What more could you possibly need?
It’s also an easy walk to the best local restaurants in Mission Beach.
Guest Review: “No question the location is perfect, lovely view, lots of things within walking distance, and not too far from Downtown San Diego/Old Town/La Jolla. Kitchen is well equipped.”—Gil
4. Luxe Tropical Hideaway in Balboa Park
About Balboa Park: Balboa Park is San Diego’s 1,200 acre urban park and you absolutely cannot miss it on any trip to San Diego.
The world-famous San Diego zoo is here, not to mention 17 culturual museums. The botanical gardens and Spanish Colonial Revival architecture are unparalleled.
Be sure to reserve a table at El Prado outdoors for a drink or a meal. It’s one of my favorite spots.
Where to stay near Balboa Park: If you’re looking to relax and reset, this gorgeous two bedroom home in Balboa Park is just what you’ve been dreaming of.
Just minutes to the zoo, beaches, and downtown, this place is meticulously outfitted for comfort.
Relax into the buttery Danish leather recliners and turn the recessed lights down low.
Bedrooms (one king, one queen) come with privacy and light filtering shades and top tier linens.
French doors lead to a private tropical patio with lush greenery and a serene fountain.
There’s a chef’s kitchen with professional grade copper cookware, forged German cutlery, and a whisper quiet dishwasher. Plush robes provide the final pampering touch.
Guest review: It’s a beautiful and comfortable place. The host is very responsive, helpful and personable. We have already booked for next year.—Eric C.
5. Cozy, Tranquil 36 Foot Boat in San Diego Harbor
Why to stay near the San Diego Harbor: If you love the marina life, stay here and watch the sailboats bob on the picturesque bay at sunset.
History buffs will love the opportunity to tour the famous USS Midway Museum. Seaport Village offers 14 acres of seafront shops and dining.
Where to stay near the San Diego Harbor: You can walk here from the airport! And then use the two beach cruisers that come with the boat to pedal around San Diego’s scenic bike paths.
The options for flat, easy cycling here are endless!
World-class view of the San Diego skyline are yours for the taking when you stay in this cozy, clean 36 foot boat Airbnb in San Diego Harbor.
Waking up on the calm water is a unique and wonderful experience.
The main berth, or bedroom, includes a comfy queen bed.
Best of all, you’ll enjoy full access to amenities that include a pool/spa full shower facilities, and fire pits on the beach. Plus, this cabin is fully equipped.
Guest review: “Such an awesome experience! The boat is beautiful and sparkling clean. Waking up and being able to drink some coffee while watching the sunrise on the deck was amazing.” — Melissa
6. Classic Bunaglow on Coronado Island
Why to stay on Coronado: Looking to stay above the fray? Welcome to island life!
Just over the bridge from downtown San Diego is sparkling Coronado Island, home to the iconic Hotel Del and miles and miles of beautiful beachfront and bike trails.
Where to stay on Coronado Island: This beautiful bungalow puts you in the very heart of Coronado for easy walking to the beach, restaurants, shops, and grocery store. It’s easy to get here on the ferry, too.
Decorated with clean lines in soothing neutrals, this upscale space is the best of classic Coronado.
This makes a great option if you’d rather skip San Diego’s traffic and are looking for a relaxing coastal getaway. You can ride bicycles everywhere.
Guest Review: Would stay here again in a heartbeat! Location cannot be beat… we loved walking to the beach and restaurants on orange ave.
7. Panoramic Ocean Views in Point Loma
Why to stay near Sunset Cliffs: Sunset Cliffs near Point Loma is a fantastic residential neighborhood to base in during your San Diego visit.
The dramatic cliffs here at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park are more reminiscent of the Central California coast than San Diego.
If you don’t stay here, be sure to enjoy the scenic coastal drive here and stop for sunset. And don’t forget your camera!
Where to stay near Sunset Cliffs: Looking for beach fun with a group? This beautiful three bedroom home in Point Loma comes with 180 degree unobstructed views of Sunset Cliffs, Mission Beach, and La Jolla.
Watch sunsets and surfers from the huge 700 square foot deck in this peaceful residential neighborhood.
Groceries, coffee, and scenic walking trails are just a 5 minute drive away.
Guest review: “Spectacular! This home was perfect for our stay. Fantastic views and outdoor spaces. Close proximity to hikes, beach, shopping, restaurants. Home was spotless and well stocked. Would gladly stay again!“
8. Contemporary Oceanfront Cottage in La Jolla
Why to stay in La Jolla: Beautiful coastal La Jolla is about a 25 minute drive north of the airport and is one of San Diego’s most beautiful and affluent neighborhoods.
The village itself is home to historic homes draped in bouganvilla, scenic La Jolla Cove, glittering waterfront restaurants, and one-of-a-kind boutiques and art galleries.
Stay in La Jolla if you like the idea of a tony, picturesque seaside village a bit removed from the hustle and bustle of San Diego itself.
Where to stay in La Jolla: If you’re traveling with two couples, you can’t beat this oceanfront condo overlooking beautiful Windansea beach.
You’ll see the ocean from every room, waking up to the sound of surf.
This is a bucket list property. It’s flooded with natural light and conveniently located to the village.
This two bedroom two bath La Jolla condo sleeps four.
Guest review: Absolute perfection! Everything about this condo is spectacular, from the location to the view, to the extremely well-appointed kitchen and expertly decorated interior. —Ann R.
9. Dream Studio in Bankers Hill (near Little Italy)
Why to stay in Bankers Hill: Bankers Hill is home to swank Victorians and Craftsmans as well as modern condos.
It’s a favorite residential neighborhood for affluent residents who want to be within walking distance to leafy Balboa Park and good eats in Little Italy while still just a short hop to the airport.
If you’re looking for calm, quiet, and upscale while still being in striking distance of the best of San Diego, stay here.
Where to stay in Bakers Hill: Location, location, location!
This wonderful luxe studio is within walking distance of Little Italy Farmer’s market, museums, theaters and San Diego’s finest restaurants. Hospitality is this host’s passion and it shows.
Guest review: “Absolutely loved our stay! Beautiful historic home in San Diego. Went above and beyond with great amenities, comfortable furniture, and a modern style. Each unit has its own private hot tub, foosball table, BBQ and more. —Jaclyn M.
10. Luxury Villa in Hillcrest
Why to stay in Hillcrest: Hillcrest is lively and happenning! It’s at the very heart of San Diego’s LGBT scene.
It holds a huge Pride parade annually and hosts some of the best restaurants, brunch spots, and coolest thrift shops in San Diego.
There’s also a wonderful weekly farmers market here on Sunday mornings.
Where to stay in Hillcrest: This stylish canyon home has three bedrooms (two queens + 1 king) and two baths in a beautiful open floor plan.
Playful colors and sleek appliances make this modern space a delight. You’ll feel like a local in this quiet neighborhood that is also central to everywhere you want to go.
Guest review: “San Diego gem! Centrally located to enjoy beaches, zoo, restaurants and more, yet tucked away in a charming, quiet, and peaceful neighborhood. Deck overlooking the canyon is an oasis to bookend active days. Highly responsive owner. —Lisa M.
There are so many lovely Airbnbs and vacation rentals in San Diego.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic upscale oceanfront stay or family fun, San Diego vacation rentals come in every size and budget to ensure a memorable stay. Enjoy!
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