La Jolla Mom

10 Best Hotels Near San Diego Zoo

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

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When it comes to accommodations, many people I speak with about San Diego itineraries ask for hotels near San Diego Zoo. This makes sense intellectually because it’s our top attraction and a reason why many people go to great lengths to visit our fine city. Choosing a hotel based on this criterion alone is a bit difficult.

The first thing to know is that there aren’t hotels within a close walking distance (expect to walk at least 30 minutes) to the San Diego Zoo. The good news is that driving there is actually easy to do thanks to its large and free parking lot. Alternatively, so is Uber or even taking 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 others I’ve put together. The reason is that it needs to suit different types of travelers including the ones who want to be as close to the Zoo as possible, 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

Pendry San Diego

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

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 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 $25/night includes and valet parking at the Pendry is $49/night. Rooms do not have bathtubs (some suites do). Suites do not have sofa beds. It is part of Montage Hotels.

Booking tip: Pendry San Diego is a Virtuoso hotel which means that I can add complimentary breakfast for two, a $100 resort credit and more to your room at no additional cost to you.

Book a Virtuoso Rate* *If on a mobile device, scroll to the footer on and click “Full Site” to access online rates and booking.

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)

Hotels near San Diego Zoo: US Grant

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
  • Valet parking ($49 per night – underground parking)
  • 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.

Booking tip: THE US GRANT is a Virtuoso member hotel which means that I have value-added amenities to add to reservations booked through me (like complimentary breakfast for two, a $100 hotel credit, and more).

Book a Virtuoso Rate* *If on a mobile device, scroll to the footer on and click “Full Site” to access online rates and booking. For this hotel, do not enter the number of children traveling as it may price them as adults. Enter them into the notes section at time of booking and I’ll add them in when I double-check everything.

Porto Vista Hotel

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

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

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 from into the current 191 guest room, full-service hotel. 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
  • Glass Door Bar & Restaurant with views of San Diego Harbor
  • Complimentary shuttle

Good to know: Dogs up to 40 pounds are welcome. The free airport shuttle to and from the airport, Convention Center and other San Diego locations is available from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily.

Bundle Hotel + Zoo Tickets for Extra Savings

Best Western Cabrillo Garden Inn

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

Hotels near San Diego Zoo: Best Western Cabrillo Garden Inn

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 35 minutes. The shops and restaurants of the Gaslamp are a 10-15-minute walk away though.

Hotel amenities:

  • Free continental breakfast
  • Free high-speed wireless Internet
  • 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 $15.00 per night (this is low for the area). No pets allowed.

Bundle Hotel + Zoo Tickets for Extra Savings

Holiday Inn Express Downtown

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

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. 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
  • Fitness center
  • Meeting rooms
  • Outdoor pool with views of downtown San Diego

Good to know: Hosted happy hour happens Tuesday—Thursday from 5:00–6:30 p.m., with free soda, wine, beer and snacks. Fresh cookies are available in the lobby each night at 8:00 p.m. (complimentary). IHG Rewards members receive a slight discount on rates.

Book on IHG

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.

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 $47/day. No self-parking available. Promotions are listed under the hotel website’s deals tab.

Bundle Hotel + Zoo Tickets for Extra Savings

Hilton Garden Inn San Diego Bayside

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

Best Hotels Near San Diego Zoo: Hilton Garden Inn Bayside

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 is incredibly popular with families traveling to San Diego and it does have the microwave and mini-fridge, it’s a good option with a prime location.

Hotel amenities:

  • Complimentary in-room WiFi
  • In-room microwave and mini-refrigerator
  • Hotel restaurant (Pacific Standard Coastal Kitchen)
  • 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

For larger families: Connecting rooms are available.

Good to know: Panoramic city views from the rooftop pool. Pets allowed. Valet parking $42 per day. No self-parking. It’s typically best to book San Diego Hilton hotels using the Hilton Honors discount.

Book on

Lafayette Hotel San Diego

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

Hotels Near San Diego Zoo: Lafayette Hotel

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.

Hotel amenities:

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

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 $18/night. The pool can be crowded on weekends as residents have memberships to it.

Bundle Hotel + Zoo Tickets for Extra Savings

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 $15/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.

Bundle Hotel + Zoo Tickets for Extra Savings

Marriott Vacation Club Pulse

Why go: The Marriott Vacation Club Pulse is a 264 room hotel located in downtown San Diego, just steps from Copley Symphony Hall and a few blocks from San Diego’s Historic Gaslamp Quarter, with its myriad of restaurants. Rooms and suites are newly 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.

Bundle Hotel + Zoo Tickets for Extra Savings

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: Click to apply a 10% discount on All-Inclusive Go San Diego passes through June 30, 2020.

Alternatively, the best way to buy discounted tickets to only the San Diego Zoo (or San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park together) 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?

Best hotels near San Diego Zoo

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