San Diego tours are a great way to learn about America’s Finest City while enjoying our famous sunshine.
You’ll pass many points of interest, learn about the discovery of California and military history, bask in ocean breezes, get out on the water, laugh (a lot), and maybe even get some exercise.
I’ve identified the best San Diego tours for various ages, activity levels, and interests to add to your trip itinerary.
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1. Old Town Trolley Tours
One of the best San Diego tours for sightseeing is the Old Town Trolley. The orange and green, open-air buses transport guests on a fully narrated tour of a 25-mile loop that extends from Coronado Island to Old Town San Diego (including Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo), passing over 100 points of interest along the way.
And, with an Old Town Trolley Tours ticket, you can hop on and off the trolley at leisure all day. It’s a fun way to spend the day and helps visitors in downtown and Coronado avoid getting rental cars.
The best ways to buy Old Town Trolley tickets include through Trusted Tours and Attractions as Historic Tours of America owns both companies. It’s also part of the Go San Diego pass, useful when visiting multiple San Diego attractions.
2. San Diego SEAL Tours
Ride in an amphibious bus-boat on land and then into the sea. Yes, it’s a boat with wheels.
You’ll spend about 30 minutes on land and 60 minutes in San Diego Bay while learning about our rich military history, passing famous sights, and spotting plenty of our resident seals, sea lions, and other marine life along the way. The narration is cheeky, and kids love it.
These fun San Diego tours depart from either the Embarcadero or Seaport Village. Seats are first come, first served.
3. Speedboat Adventures
Here’s a fun way to tour the bay. Be the captain of your own mini boat as you drive a 13-mile tour that passes Navy ships, the USS Midway Museum, the Coronado Bridge, historic ships of the Maritime Museum of San Diego (including the Star of India), the cruise ship terminal, Seaport Village, and the downtown San Diego skyline.
Listen through your boat’s speakers to a guide in the lead boat who narrates the tour. Boats seat up to three people. Not to worry if you’ve never driven a boat as these are simple to operate.
Tip: The way to guarantee your date and time at the time of booking is to book directly, though Speedboat Adventures is also a part of the Go City San Diego pass.
4. San Diego Beer, Wine and Spirits Tours
Join the #2 wine train in the country right here in San Diego. San Diego Beer, Wine and Spirits tours provide multiple ways to explore our urban breweries, wineries, and small-batch distilleries, including beer trolley tours, the wine train, and walking tours.
Incredibly knowledgeable guides also take you in groups or on private tours out to the vineyards and tasting rooms where the grapes are grown and wines are made. It’s a great way to enjoy without worrying about driving.
5. Food and Beer Walking Tours
So Diego is a fabulous local tour company specializing in highly-rated food and beer walking tours, some with fantastic themes. The names of the tours speak for themselves:
- Vino! Vino! Little Italy Wine Stroll
- Little Italy Pizza, Pasta and Piazzas
- Tequila, Tacos, and Tombstones: A Culinary and History Tour of Old Town
- Gaslamp Quarter Brothels, Bites, and Booze: A Culinary Tour of SD’s Questionable Past
- Hipster Hops: North Park Brewery Tour
- La Jolla: Sip, Savor & Sea
6. Electric Bike Tours in San Diego
Forget hills, join a San Diego Fly Rides electric bike tour of La Jolla, Pacific Beach, or Balboa Park. Electric bikes are awesome in that you can pedal for maximum exercise or let them give you a bit of help.
Note that for most tours, the minimum age is 15.
- Cali Dreamin’ Electric Bike: Tour of La Jolla and Pacific Beach (can also be booked on Viator).
- SoCal Riviera: Ride through La Jolla uphill to Mount Soledad Veteran’s Memorial for panoramic views to Mexico (can also be booked on Viator).
You can also rent your own e-bikes around town and take a self-guided tour. There are also Segway tours and fat tire scooter tours.
7. Themed Bay Dinner Cruises and Tours
Flagship Cruises is a family-owned local business that runs a variety of highly-rated bay tours to suit multiple ages and interests. The one- and two-hour professionally narrated Harbour Cruises onboard luxury ships introduce visitors to San Diego landmarks and our military history with views of wildlife along the way.
Also look at their nightly dinner cruises, cocktail cruises, Friday craft brewery cruises (featuring local brews), Sunday Champagne brunch, and Sunday prime rib dinner cruises.
Flagship Cruises also owns the Patriot Jet Boat, a 45-minute thrill ride in the bay that reaches high speeds with a few twists and turns, all while listening to rock music.
Use the button above to book the Patriot Jetboat, too. It’s so fun and one of my favorite extreme San Diego adventures.
8. La Jolla Kayak and Snorkeling Tours
My hometown of La Jolla is home to a spectacular underwater park that outdoor enthusiasts will want to explore in several ways.
The most popular tours are either kayak tours or combination kayak and snorkel tours. The latter kayak out from La Jolla Shores to the near the sea caves where kayakers get into the water and snorkel for a bit.
The water here is relatively clear for California, and the various underwater terrain is home to quite a bit of marine life, including Garibaldi (or state fish) whose orange color you can see from a kayak, guitarfish, (harmless) leopard sharks, and, of course, our friendly La Jolla seals and sea lions.
Both pass our sea caves. All but one of our seven La Jolla sea caves are only visible from the water. Just an FYI, you don’t kayak into the caves. There is a small one that tour leaders may take kayaks into one at a time if conditions permit.
Options include (make sure to book vendors located in La Jolla Shores):
- Kayak, Snorkel and Bike Tours from Hike Bike Kayak
- Snorkel with Leopard Sharks/Kayak and Snorkel Combo Tour from La Jolla Kayak
- Tours (including kayak), lessons, and rentals at Everyday California (I’ve taken a kayak tour with them and it’s super fun)
EXCLUSIVE EVERYDAY CALIFORNIA DISCOUNTUse code LJMOM20 for a 20% discount on kayak and snorkeling tours, lessons, and rentals. Book now.
9. Birch Aquarium Tours
Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the public outreach center for Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, offers a variety of seasonal programming that visitors and residents should take advantage of.
Their tours highlight fantastic seasonal events in nature, including late-night guided grunion runs, tide pool tours during winter low tides (highly recommend as the naturalists find all sorts of creatures you might not see — I’ve done this), summer snorkeling with leopard sharks in La Jolla, and guided walks on the (normally closed to the public) Scripps Pier to learn about various research projects.
These unique experiences are a must for any budding oceanographer or anyone with an interest in marine life. They even offer summer camps for kids!
10. Specialty San Diego Tours
If you’re looking for something a little bit outside-the-box, rest assured that San Diego tours deliver. Here are a few examples
Open Cockpit Biplane Tour
Soar over San Diego in an open cockpit biplane where you and a friend sit in the front, and the pilot flies the plane from the back seat. Choose how thrilling you’d like your ride to be (I’ve seen these planes make loops over the ocean). Check out San Diego Sky Tours.
Haunted San Diego Tour
San Diego has a few haunted sites, and there’s no better way to explore them than with the experts at Haunted San Diego. Board their “Ghost Bus” and let the costumed guides share their knowledge of the spooky side of San Diego history. You’ll do some walking, too, into attractions like The Whaley House, San Diego’s oldest graveyard, and more. Be ready for some corny jokes, also. Check out Haunted San Diego.
Top photo credit: So Diego Tours