The best time to visit San Diego, America’s Finest City near the Pacific Ocean, is any time you can. Our city is known for its warm, dry summers and mild winters, but I live here, so I will tell you what it’s really like during certain months.

Tall palm trees against a blue sky in San Diego, California.
You can catch a blue sky like this in any month of the year.

It only rains about 42 days a year, and almost all those days will have some moments of sunshine. The average annual daily temperature is 70° Fahrenheit, which means you’ll want to wear sun protection and pack shorts in any season.

I’ll tell you about the weather by month, which months typically see lower hotel rates, events to attend (or avoid), and offer practical advice. I’ll combine it with data on San Diego’s ocean temperature to help you envision what your beach vacations will be like.

We’re at the beach year-round (my husband regularly swims in the ocean in all seasons), so we know when people are sunbathing or wearing wetsuits.

A Note About San Diego Ocean Temperature

A surfer on a wave near sunset in Pacific Beach.
Surfers enjoying late afternoon waves in January

It’s important to note that everyone’s version of cold is relative. The Pacific Ocean at San Diego is generally known for being cold compared to Hawaii, for example. But if you’re looking for the best time to visit San Diego for water sports, here’s some helpful intel.

The hottest ocean temperatures occur in August, with the official records recording the water temperature of 68° F. Conversely, expect the ocean to be at its coldest in February when the temperature can dip to 57° F.

Of course, these are averages. In August 2019 and 2020, the ocean temperature hit 79.5° F, the highest ever recorded, topping the previous high of 78.6° F recorded in July 2018. The only previous temperature that came close to that was in 1931, when it was recorded at 78.4° F.

It’s important to remember that you can swim, surf, stand-up paddleboard, kayak, snorkel, and dive in the San Diego ocean year-round. During cooler months, though, you’ll want to wear a full wetsuit, which you can rent at various surf shops around town, even in kids’s sizes.

Remember that if it’s 80° F on a sunny day in March, the ocean does not warm up in tandem. It just means that your tolerance for colder water is higher because you can dry off in the warm weather.

Best Time to Visit San Diego by Month

January

January is the coldest month of the year, where you’ll see San Diegans bundle up with parkas and boots when the temperature dips to its lowest of 49°, but in that same month, the high reaches 65°. Visitors from the East Coast and colder winter climates tend to think our winter months are warm, understandably.

  • Temperature ranges from a low of 49° to a high of 65°.
  • Approximately seven days of rain and 216 hours of sunshine.
  • Average ocean temperature is 58° (wear a full wetsuit).

Ring in the New Year by running in the Carlsbad Marathon and Half-Marathon. The race starts at the Shoppes in Carlsbad, continues through Carlsbad Village, and continues along the oceanfront Pacific Coast Highway.

Restaurant Week usually happens during the third week of January, when restaurants across the county offer set menus at a set price, making dining out an excellent value during San Diego’s low season, which starts after winter break ends.

However, it’s also a prime whale-watching season as gray whales migrate to and from warm Mexico waters to give birth. Learn more about San Diego in January.

February

February, if you can avoid Presidents Day weekend and the few days surrounding it, is another value month for hotel rates and activities around town. You’ll still want to pack more sweaters than short sleeves for your San Diego vacation.

  • Temperature ranges from a low of 51° to a high of 65°.
  • Approximately seven days of rain and 212 hours of sunshine.
  • Average ocean temperature is 57° (wear a full wetsuit).

February is San Diego Museum Month, when more than 60 museums offer half-price admission. Our museums cater to all interest groups. For example, we love the San Diego Natural History Museum, Maritime Museum of San Diego, Fleet Science Center, and everything in between.

You’ll need to pick up a San Diego Museum Month coupon at an easy location that changes yearly. Learn more about San Diego in February.

March

Hotel rates start to rise during the second or third week of March in anticipation of spring break, which varies depending on the school.

Book early if you’re looking for a family room (double queen or specialty suite for larger families) during the spring break season from mid-March to mid-April.

Still, you’ll find your San Diego March weather means more sunshine and beachgoing due to daylight savings enabling longer days.

You will start to see more people in swimwear on the beaches than in prior months, especially tourists in the water without wetsuits, completely enjoying the ocean.

  • Temperature ranges from a low of 53° to a high of 66°.
  • Approximately seven days of rain and 262 hours of sunlight.
  • Average ocean temperature is 58° (locals will wear a full wetsuit).

A big March event is the family-friendly Kia Classic LPGA Golf Tournament in Carlsbad.

Baseball lovers can experience the first game of the season by attending a Padres game at Petco Park in downtown San Diego. The seasonal Butterfly Jungle exhibit at San Diego Zoo Safari Park opens for a few short weeks, and the Carlsbad Flower Fields open to the public. Learn more about San Diego in March.

April

San Diego April weather starts to turn sunnier, and after Easter passes, this is another good shoulder season for hotel rates before the peak season summer months get busy.

  • Temperature ranges from a low of 56° to a high of 67°.
  •  Approximately five days of rain and 242 hours of sunlight.
  • Average ocean temperature is 56° to 57° (you’ll see people in spring and full wetsuits).

The Mission Federal ArtWalk is where over 300 artists show and sell their work on Little Italy’s streets, where you will find art galleries and quaint restaurants. The Carlsbad Flower Fields, full of blooming ranunculus, will still be open, as will Butterfly Jungle. Learn more about San Diego in April.

May 

Many schools finish for the year in May, but we have a seasonal condition called “May Gray,” where we receive overcast skies that sometimes burn off into hazy sunshine along the coast.

Don’t fret. Tourism escalates, and it’s never really cold, nor does it rain much in May, so outdoor sightseeing is still quite pleasant.

How many days of May Gray we receive changes every year. It is usually sunny during Memorial Day weekend. However, that was not the case in 2019 or 2023.

  • Temperature ranges from a low of 59° to a high of 67°.
  • Approximately two days and 261 hours of sunlight.
  • Ocean temperature is 61° to 63° (people are swimming without wetsuits, but the ocean is still a bit chilly).

Enjoy four days of live music on seven stages when you visit Gator by the Bay at the Spanish Landing across the airport. Pounds and pounds of crawfish are brought in from Louisiana, keeping with the southern cuisine theme.

You’ll also see some smaller festivals pop up around town, like Fiesta Del Sol in Solana Beach. Learn more about San Diego in May.

June

May Gray turns to June Gloom as the overcast conditions continue. The skies usually, but not always, clear to sunnier skies later in the afternoon. Some days won’t be gloomy at all, while others will have all-day gray skies.

When it’s sunny outside you will see lots of people at the beach and in the ocean.

  • Temperature ranges from a low of 62° to a high of 71°.
  • Approximately one day of rain and 253 hours of sunlight.
  • Ocean temperature is 64° to 65° (by now, most people swimming recreationally are not wearing wetsuits until September).

The San Diego County Fair held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds kicks off at the beginning of June and runs through July 4th weekend. There is something for everyone, from serenely strolling through the flower show to soaring and spinning through the sky on a carnival ride. Entertainment, decadent fair food, exhibits, petting zoos, you name it.

Additionally, people come from all over to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon and to attend the San Diego International Beer Festival. Learn more about San Diego in June.

July

A San Diego surfing school sets up on the beach during a sunny day.
Surf camp in full force during July

June gloom is usually gone and San Diego July weather equals mostly really sunny days. It’s a fantastic time to visit and summer crowds start to peak in July (and so do hotel room rates).

  • Temperature ranges from a low of 66° to a high of 76°.
  • Approximately 0 days of rain and 293 hours of sunlight.
  • Ocean temperature is 66° to 67°.

This is the month for Comic-Con, an entertainment and comic book convention held in downtown San Diego. If you are lucky enough to secure tickets (which often sell out on release day), escape from reality and immerse yourself in the world of comic book characters and Hollywood blockbuster movies.

Downtown San Diego hotels sell out, and rates skyrocket in neighboring towns like Coronado and La Jolla due to attendee overflow during and in the days surrounding the convention. The San Diego County Fair typically runs through July 4th weekend. Learn more about San Diego in July.

August

For peak sunshine and ocean temperatures, visit during August. Some kids go back to school in the second and third weeks of August, which means that beaches, attractions, and hotels have fewer crowds during the final week of the month (except for Labor Day weekend). The best time to visit San Diego if you can swing it is mid to late August for this reason.

  • Temperature ranges from a low of 67° to a high of 77°.
  • Approximately zero days of rain and 277 hours of sunlight.
  • Average ocean temperature is 68°.

(August 2023 was strange, thanks to Hurricane Hilary, a weather anomaly. So, it did rain quite a bit across a couple of days, but this is highly unusual.)

You’ll see many small one-day festivals around town, but what most people are doing is enjoying the beach and outdoor attractions. One of our favorite things to do (which actually starts in June) is to attend the family-friendly San Diego Symphony Bayside Summer Nights outdoor concerts. Learn more about San Diego in August.

September (Top Pick)

Once Labor Day weekend passes, September becomes one of the best months to visit San Diego. Hotel rates begin to decline as kids return to school, but the days are long, and the weather is fantastic, with crisp, clear, blue-skied sunny days. The first week or two can be ideal beach weather here in Southern California.

Attractions like the San Diego Zoo become less crowded, too, and you typically don’t need a wetsuit unless you’re out surfing early in the morning. We residents are still going to the beach as we do in the summer.

  • Temperature ranges from a low of 66° to a high of 77°.
  • Approximately one day of rain and 255 hours of sunlight.
  • Average ocean temperature is 66°.

September also brings a myriad of events to San Diego. There is the San Diego Bayfair with the world’s fastest boats roaring around Mission Bay, the Miramar Air Show, the Kaboo Music Festival, Padres baseball games at Petco Park, and more. Learn more about San Diego in September.

October (Best for Families)

People wading into the water at La Jolla Cove on an October morning.
What 9 a.m. on a late October sunny day looks like — this beach was packed an hour later.

Thanks to daylight savings, days toward the end of October become shorter, but there is a lot to enjoy throughout the month. It’s still warm outside, especially in early October. If a Santa Ana is blowing through, it can be classified as hot on some days.

  • Temperature ranges from a low of 65° to a high of 73°.
  • Approximately three days of rain and 234 hours of sunlight.
  • Average ocean temperature is 63° to 65° (wear a spring or full wetsuit toward the end of the month for prolonged swimming or surfing).

Every year, Kids Free San Diego is on for the entire month of October. Kids (usually ages 9–12 and under with a paying adult) stay, play, and eat for free at over 100 attractions, hotels, and restaurants throughout the county.

This includes San Diego Zoo, LEGOLAND California, SeaWorld San Diego, and many attractions with otherwise high ticket prices. If you can come as a family in October, you will save on sightseeing and enjoy great San Diego October weather.

It is by far one of the best times for visiting San Diego if you have younger kids who can skip school or who have a fall break. Learn more about things to do in San Diego with Kids and San Diego in October.

November

Many travelers choose Thanksgiving break as a time to visit San Diego. However, if you can come earlier in the month, you’ll typically be blessed with some of the lowest hotel rates of the year despite cooler weather (that is still fairly mild)

  • Temperature ranges from a low of 54° to a high of 69°.
  • Approximately four days of rain and 236 hours of sunlight.
  • Ocean temperature is 61° (wear a full wetsuit).

November is a fantastic time for foodies as the roughly 10-day-long San Diego Beer Week events happen all around town, and the San Diego Bay Food and Wine Festival is also a popular event.

Thanksgiving week begins holiday season events at major hotels like Skating by the Sea at Hotel del Coronado. Learn more about San Diego in November.

December

Many travelers flee the cold and head to San Diego in December for its mix of good weather and festive events. Where else can you ice skate in shorts by the beach?

Two of the most festive hotels with long rosters of holiday activities include Fairmont Grand Del Mar’s Winter Wonderland and Hotel del Coronado’s Skating by the Sea and other holiday events. Plan to book San Diego hotels during winter break as early as possible.

  • Temperature ranges from a low of 48° to a high of 65°.
  • Approximately six days of rain and 217 hours of sunlight.
  • Ocean temperature is 59° (wear a full wetsuit).

San Diegans delight in celebrating the December holiday season. You can experience:

  • The Holiday Bowl Parade, along with marching bands and elaborately decorated floats, is the country’s largest balloon parade.
  • December Nights at Balboa Park has festive light displays, choirs, dancers, bands, food, and other entertainment.
  • Watch from the harbor as more than 80 lavishly decorated boats pass by during the annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights.
  • Visit the Cygnet Theater in Old Town for a unique presentation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! at the Old Globe Theater in Balboa Park.
  • The California Ballet annually presents The Nutcracker at the Civic Theatre.

As you can see, the best month to visit San Diego is whichever month has the weather, ocean temperature, and activities that you and your family are hoping to enjoy. Learn more about San Diego in December.


FAQs About the Best Time to Visit San Diego

These are the questions I am asked the most by people who can be flexible about when to visit San Diego.

What is the best month to visit San Diego?

The best month to visit is September after Labor Day crowds have left and kids are back in school. Hotel prices tend to fall, San Diego beaches are less crowded, and the weather is still fantastic.

Can you swim in San Diego in the winter?

Yes, you can swim in San Diego in the winter, though wearing a full wetsuit in the ocean is advisable unless you’re taking a quick dip. If it’s a San Diego hotel pool that you seek, rest assured that most are heated.

Is March a good time to go to San Diego?

Yes, March is a fantastic time to visit San Diego. It can rain, and the ocean is still chilly (by San Diego resident standards), but it is mostly shorts weather. Usually, we don’t consider it beach weather in that you would lay out all day sunbathing and swim in the ocean for long periods of time.

It’s the month I’m asked about most, likely because kids tend to be out of school for spring break. See my list of San Diego family hotels and things to do in San Diego with kids.

When is the rainy season in San Diego?

San Diego’s rainy season is from November to March, but many days of sunshine are sprinkled in between during these months.

What is there to do in San Diego when it’s cold?

It’s never cold enough to skip our top attractions (though you may want to forego sunbathing on some days). If it’s raining, however, Balboa Park museums are a fantastic indoor activity. Personally, I prefer to explore San Diego theme parks when I’m less likely to get sunburned.

How should I dress in San Diego?

No matter when you decide to visit San Diego, pack layers. Even on the hottest summer days, when the sun slips beneath the horizon, it cools down, and you’ll be grateful for a light sweater or wrap. See our full list of what to pack for San Diego.

What are the hottest months in San Diego County?

August is the warmest month in San Diego, but we also can have stretches of Santa Ana wind conditions that cause temperatures to spike for several days in a row in September and October. (Another perk of October is that kids receive free admission to major attractions.)

Where can I rent a wetsuit?

Wetsuits and other beach rentals can be found all over San Diego, even for kids. If you arrive and decide that the ocean is too chilly, picking up a wetsuit is no problem. Many of the companies that offer San Diego surfing lessons also rent wetsuits and gear.

Can you enjoy San Diego beaches during the winter?

Yes! Remember that during the winter or when the ocean is cold (many local kids, including mine, run straight in year-round), we still go to the beach, though a bit differently.

We do more walking, shelling, tide pooling, and sunset watching than in summer. There will be sunny days. The beach is an asset year-round that is meant to be enjoyed.

Sources:
U.S. Climate Data
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Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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