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10 Best Hotels Near San Diego Zoo

You might still need a car, but you'll also be close to other top attractions

When it comes to accommodations, many people I speak with about San Diego itineraries ask for hotels near San Diego Zoo. This makes sense because it’s our top attraction and a main reason why people visit. Choosing a hotel based only on proximity to the Zoo is a bit difficult.

The first thing to know is that there aren’t hotels within a close walking distance to the San Diego Zoo. Expect to walk at least 30 minutes. The good news is that driving there is actually easy to do thanks to its large and free parking lot. Alternatively, you can take Uber or even the Old Town Trolley to its Balboa Park stop.

The Downtown, North Park and Hillcrest neighborhoods all surround Balboa Park where the San Diego Zoo is located, which means that this list of hotels near San Diego Zoo is a bit more varied than other lists that I’ve put together. My choices here suit different types of travelers including those who want hotels closest to the Zoo, luxury travelers, families who require large but reasonably-priced suites, boutique hotel lovers, and more. You can also read my list of best downtown San Diego hotels as any of them would be completely fine for a Zoo-centric visit.

See also: How to Buy Discounted Tickets to the San Diego Zoo

Important: Some hotel offerings and amenities may be modified due to current circumstances. Free shuttles are typically not running. Check with the hotel to see what is on offer during your stay. If you book using the links in this post, I may be compensated.

Pendry San Diego

Distance to San Diego Zoo: 3.1 miles (12 minutes by car)

The Pendry San Diego hotel pool surrounded by lounge chairs on a sunny day.

Why go: Pendry San Diego is a top downtown San Diego hotel choice for luxury travelers. Its specialty is blending modern with tradition throughout the entire hotel including rooms, a beer hall, social club nightlife experience, rooftop lounge, elegant hotel bar, and signature farm-to-table restaurant.

The 317 rooms include 36 suites feature posh linens, stylish decor. Travelers praise the boutique hotel’s excellent service and location within walking distance of dozens of bars and restaurants, as well as the San Diego Convention Center and Petco Park.

Hotel amenities:

  • Six restaurants and bars
  • Rooftop pool with cabanas and poolside service
  • 24-hour fitness center
  • Spa Pendry
  • Pet-friendly
  • Custom amenity program from renowned parfumerie MiN New York
  • Luxury bedding, fully stocked mini-bar, 50″ TVs
  • Luxury bathrooms with marble countertops and accessories by Waterworks
  • Complimentary WiFi
  • 24-hour room service

For larger families: Connecting rooms are available in the same view type (king to a double).

Good to know: The resort fee is $40.60/night includes and valet parking at the Pendry is $51/night. Rooms do not have bathtubs (some suites do). Suites do not have sofa beds. It is part of Montage Hotels.

See also: 13 Best San Diego Luxury Hotels


THE US GRANT, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Diego

Distance to San Diego Zoo: 2.1 miles (8 minutes by car)

The US GRANT, a Luxury Collection Hotel San Diego King room interior.

Why go: One of the two luxury hotels near San Diego Zoo, THE US GRANT, is across the street from Horton Plaza and within walking distance to many of San Diego’s best restaurants. It’s close enough to the downtown buzz, yet far enough away so that noise and chaos isn’t an issue.

The downtown San Diego hotel has experienced ups, downs and ownership changes throughout the years but has a fascinating history. Fourteen U.S. Presidents and countless celebrities have stayed there over its 100-year life. It was also a speakeasy and a place where women’s rights were won. Now, after careful restoration to modernize while preserving historic features, THE US GRANT is better than ever.

Hotel amenities:

  • Concierge
  • Free wireless Internet access in the lobby
  • Self-parking ($39/night) or valet parking ($49/night)
  • Nightly turndown service
  • 24-hour fitness center and personal training
  • 24-hour business center

For larger families: Legacy, Landmark, and Signature suites range from 400 to 750 square feet and have separate living rooms. Connecting rooms are also available.

Good to know: The hotel allows pets weighing 35 lbs or less. There is also no swimming pool or full-service spa. Spa treatments (massages, facials, and some body treatments) can be arranged in the Spa Suite. If you need a bathtub, choose the Grand Deluxe Tub room.


Porto Vista Hotel

Distance to San Diego Zoo: 2.8 miles (9 minutes by car)

A room interior with neutral colors accented by green and orange at Porto Vista Hotel near San Diego Zoo.
Photo courtesy of Porto Vista Hotel

Why go: Located in the popular Little Italy neighborhood of San Diego, the Porto Vista Hotel is a family-owned boutique hotel. Originally a motel starting in 1983, the hotel was expanded and remodeled to have 191 mid-century style guest rooms. Guests also enjoy the art collection throughout the property.

It is within walking distance of the major downtown attractions and the shops and restaurants of Little Italy are right outside your door. It’s a fantastic choice for people who want a nice, reasonably-priced hotel in a good location that isn’t part of a chain.

Hotel amenities:

  • Free WiFi
  • Cable TV
  • Gym
  • Free breakfast at the hotel restaurant
  • Air conditioning
  • GlassDoor restaurant and bar with views of San Diego Harbor
  • Complimentary shuttle to the airport, Convention Center, and cruise ship terminal
  • A small “spool” (spa/pool combination)

Good to know: Dogs up to 40 pounds are welcome. The free shuttle is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. It’s one of my favorite Little Italy San Diego hotels.


Best Western Cabrillo Garden Inn

Distance to the San Diego Zoo: 1.6 miles (6 minutes by car)

King room interior at Best Western Cabrillo Garden Inn in San Diego.

Why go: The Best Western Cabrillo Garden Inn is a small Spanish-Colonial style boutique hotel in downtown San Diego. It gets great reviews for being friendly, clean, comfortable, and having more character than other corporate budget hotels.

You may read reviews from people who say that you can walk to the Zoo from here (it is one of the closest hotels near San Diego Zoo by distance) but it will take about 30 minutes. The shops and restaurants of the Gaslamp are a 10-15-minute walk away though.

Hotel amenities:

  • Free continental breakfast
  • Free high-speed WiFi
  • Cable satellite television
  • In-room refrigerator
  • In-room coffee/tea maker
  • Free local telephone calls

For larger families: Adjoining rooms are available.

Good to know: Parking fee of $20.00 per night (this is low for the area). No pets allowed.


Holiday Inn Express Downtown

Distance to San Diego Zoo: 2.6 miles (7 minutes by car)

Street view of Holiday Inn Express Downtown, one of the best hotels near San Diego Zoo.

Why go: This Holiday Inn Express located in Downtown San Diego has recently completed renovations to the interior and exterior.

They’re one of the few hotels near San Diego Zoo to operate a free shuttle to/from it in addition to the airport and train station which makes it an outstanding option for those who want to go carless. (Note the shuttle is temporarily on pause.) Plus, their list of freebies is robust.

Hotel amenities:

  • Free buffet breakfast
  • Free WiFi Internet
  • Complimentary shuttle to/from the airport, Zoo and Cruise Port (on pause)
  • Fitness center
  • Meeting rooms
  • Outdoor pool with views of downtown San Diego
  • Onsite self-serve laundry

Good to know: During normal times, there is a hosted managers reception happens Tuesday—Thursday from 5–6:30 p.m., with free soda, wine, beer, and snacks. Fresh cookies are available in the lobby each night at 8 p.m. (complimentary). Both are temporarily on pause.


Courtyard By Marriott San Diego Downtown

Distance to San Diego Zoo: 2.6 miles (8 minutes by car)

The old bank vault turned conference room at Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Downtown.
Photo courtesy of Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Downtown

Why go: The highly-praised Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Downtown is located in the former San Diego Trust & Savings Bank dating from 1928, on Broadway at the northern edge of the Gaslamp Quarter (one of the conference rooms is behind the bank vault door).

As a result, its decor is a blend of historic and modern, while restaurants and nightlife are just a couple blocks away. The trolley stop is just a block away. It’s a very nice Courtyard by Marriott.

Hotel amenities:

  • Complimentary WiFi
  • Fitness center
  • Hotel restaurant, The Lobby, featuring California cuisine and daily happy hour
  • Onsite laundry and vending machines
  • Sundry store
  • Room service

For larger families: They have one-bedroom suites that are typically reasonably-priced.

Good to know: On-site Starbucks. Valet parking at the hotel is $50/day and there is no self-parking available. Promotions are listed under the hotel website’s deals tab.


Hilton Garden Inn San Diego Bayside

Distance to the San Diego Zoo: 3.2 miles (9 minutes by car)

Hilton Garden Inn Bayside pool with view of San Diego Bay.

Why go: The Hilton Garden Inn San Diego Bayside is walking distance to Little Italy, Downtown San Diego, and to San Diego Bay with quick access to nearby San Diego International Airport as well.

It’s not the closest hotel to the San Diego Zoo, but since Hilton Hotels in San Diego are incredibly popular with families and it does have the microwave and mini-fridge, it’s a good option with a great location.

Hotel amenities:

  • Complimentary in-room WiFi
  • In-room microwave and mini-refrigerator
  • Hotel restaurant (Bayside Kitchen and Bar)
  • Heated rooftop pool and spa
  • 24-hour fitness center
  • Business center
  • 24-hr Pavilion Pantry Market
  • ATM
  • Bar area
  • Complimentary beverage area
  • Coin laundry
  • Laundry/valet service
  • Room service
  • Child’s menu
  • Cribs
  • Safety deposit box
  • Digital Key access

For larger families: Connecting rooms are available.

Good to know: Enjoy panoramic city views from the rooftop pool. Self-parking is $30/day and valet parking is $45 per day.


Lafayette Hotel San Diego

Distance to San Diego Zoo: 1.6 miles (8 minutes by car)

The Weissmuller pool at Lafayette Hotel surrounded by lounge chairs on a sunny day.

Why go: The Lafayette is a historic San Diego boutique hotel in the hip North Park neighborhood near Balboa Park that opened in 1946. At the heart of the hotel is the Weissmuller Olympic Pool designed by Johnny Weissmuller (former Tarzan star and Olympic gold medalist).

Speaking of Hollywood the “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” bar scene in Top Gun was filmed here. Bungalows are also available, in addition to guest rooms. Do plan time to unwind at the pool.

Hotel amenities:

  • Free WiFi
  • Hotel restaurant (Hope 46) and bar
  • Fitness center
  • Refrigerator rental
  • Cribs (by request)
  • Laundry facilities
  • Room service

For larger families: The Suze suite has a king bed and twin bunk beds in a separate room. The Bungalows also two-story, two- or three-bedroom units.

Good to know: Unlike many other hotels on this list, this hotel is NOT located in downtown San Diego. North Park is well-known for some of San Diego’s best casual restaurants and cool shops. Parking is $22/night. The pool can be crowded on weekends as residents have memberships to it. You can board dogs across the street at Bark Boulevard.


Inn at the Park

Distance to San Diego Zoo: 1.9 miles (8 minutes by car)


Why go: The Inn at the Park is located in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego, at the edge of Balboa Park. It’s a historic hotel with studio, one- and two-bedroom resort suites. Hillcrest is another San Diego neighborhood that is well-known for its outstanding casual dining. You can technically walk to the Zoo from here though it will take 30 minutes.

Hotel amenities:

  • Wireless internet in rooms (for a fee)
  • Fully-stocked kitchens
  • Apartment-sized refrigerator and stove in each room
  • Laundry room
  • Fitness center
  • Rooftop sun-deck

Good to know: The hotel has 82 suites and is one of the hotels near San Diego Zoo with hallmarks of an older property. Valet parking is $20/night or you can park on the street, which is usually challenging. It is part of the Wyndham Extra Holidays so you may receive a timeshare pitch which you can decline. You will pay an additional fee for housekeeping.


Marriott Vacation Club Pulse

Distance to San Diego Zoo: 2.3 miles (8 minutes by car)

Marriott Vacation Club Pulse San Diego for large families up to 10 people.

Why go: The Marriott Vacation Club Pulse is a 264 room hotel located in downtown San Diego, adjacent to Symphony Hall and a few blocks from San Diego’s Historic Gaslamp Quarter, with its variety of restaurants.

Rooms and suites are recently renovated and it’s popular with large families who want the comforts of home as rooms and suites have kitchenettes with a microwave, a mini-refrigerator, a sink, silverware, and dishes.

Hotel amenities:

  • SHAKE cocktail bar/lounge
  • Business center
  • Computer station
  • Flat-panel TV in-room
  • Free newspaper
  • Free WiFi
  • Gift shop
  • In-room safe
  • Indoor pool
  • Laundry facilities
  • Microwave
  • Room service
  • Cribs

For larger families: They have a two-bedroom suite with a maximum occupancy of 10 people that is usually reasonably-priced in addition to a one-bedroom king (4 people) and one-bedroom double suite (6 people). Both have sofa beds. Take a look at the options.

Good to know: No pets. Self-parking available for a fee and valet parking is also available for a fee. Guests may use a nearby fitness center for a discounted fee.


Discount San Diego Zoo Tickets

There are a variety of ways to buy discount San Diego Zoo tickets so there is rarely a need to bundle them with a hotel reservation. People who are visiting San Diego and plan to see multiple attractions typically choose our most popular bundled attractions pass, the Go San Diego pass which can save up to 55% depending on the length of the pass and how many days you’ll be here.

LJM Exclusive: Use code SDOSUMMER5 for an extra 5% discount on All-Inclusive Go San Diego passes through August 31, 2020.

Alternatively, the best way to buy discounted tickets to only the famous San Diego Zoo or San Diego Zoo Safari Park is through my exclusive discount on 1-Day adult and child tickets with code LAJOLLAMOM at aRes Travel. You’ll save a few dollars and be able to go straight to the gate with a printed or mobile ticket.

What are your favorite hotels near San Diego Zoo?

See also: Top Things to Do at the San Diego Zoo for Kids

Best hotels near San Diego Zoo

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