Regarding 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 primary reason why people visit. However, 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 close walking distance of the San Diego Zoo. Expect to walk for at least 30 minutes. The good news is that driving there is 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 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 would be completely fine for a Zoo-centric visit.

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

Note from Katie: We independently choose all featured hotels. Booking methods mentioned are popular with our readers or ones we think offer the best value. If you book through select links, we may earn a commission and appreciate you supporting our business. Prices and amenities are subject to change. Our editorial guidelines.

1. Pendry San Diego

Neighborhood: Gaslamp Quarter
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, a social club nightlife experience, a rooftop lounge, an elegant hotel bar, and a signature farm-to-table restaurant.

The 317 rooms include 36 suites feature posh linens and stylish decor. I love the boutique hotel’s excellent service and location, which is 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 (I look forward to this)
  • 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 two queen room).

Good to know: Rooms do not have bathtubs (some suites do). Suites do not have sofa beds. It is part of Montage Hotels. All downtown hotels have a little bit of street noise so request a quiet room or book a high floor room. The pool area leans more adult-centric on weekends so it’s not really a place for families of small kids during these peak times, especially if there’s a pool party on the calendar.

Pendry San Diego Reservations

Through me, you have access to Virtuoso amenities at Pendry San Diego at no extra cost to you. These include:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Breakfast credit at Provisional Restaurant or In-Room Dining for two guests per bedroom daily ($30 maximum per person, per day)
  • $100 USD Resort or Hotel credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

See also: 13 Best San Diego Luxury Hotels

2. THE US GRANT, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Diego

Neighborhood: Gaslamp Quarter
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 aren’t so much of an issue.

This downtown San Diego hotel has experienced ups and 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 history. 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 or valet 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. If you need a bathtub, choose the Grand Deluxe Tub room.

THE US GRANT Reservations

THE US GRANT San Diego is also a Virtuoso hotel which means that I can add the following amenities at no additional cost to you.

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Full breakfast daily for up to two in-room guests in The Grant Grill or via room service (maximum value of $60 per day)
  • $100 USD Food & Beverage credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, no cash value if not redeemed in full, available in the Grant Grill or via room service only)
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

When booking Marriott hotels on, use only the number of adults traveling to get the correct rates. Kids may otherwise be priced as adults. We will add them after we follow up to collect your arrival details.

3. Courtyard Marriott San Diego Downtown

Neighborhood: Downtown San Diego
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 Marriott San Diego Downtown

Why go: The highly-praised Courtyard 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 Gold Reserve Kitchen and Bar, features 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 only (aka no self-parking available). Promotions are listed under the hotel website’s deals tab.

Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Reservations

When it comes to Marriott properties, I think it’s beneficial to sign up for Marriott Bonvoy (free to join) and book using the Bonvoy discount. You may also save by bundling your hotel and Zoo or other attraction tickets for extra savings in a vacation package.

4. Porto Vista Hotel

Neighborhood: Little Italy
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. It’s one of my favorite Little Italy San Diego hotels.

Porto Vista Hotel Reservations

Book directly or bundle your hotel and Zoo or other attraction tickets for extra savings in a vacation package.

5. Lafayette Hotel San Diego

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

The famous pool at Lafayette Hotel in San Diego.

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). Do plan time to unwind at the pool.

Speaking of Hollywood, the “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” bar scene in Top Gun was filmed here. The hotel just completed a gorgeous renovation, and prices accordingly.

Hotel amenities:

  • Free WiFi
  • Multiple dining options including a 24-hour diner and a Oaxacan-inspired Mezcalería (with a really nice food menu)
  • Fitness center
  • Dogs up to 45 lbs welcome with an additional fee
  • Two lane bowling alley available on a first come, first served basis
  • Rooms that open up to the pool
  • Room service

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. The pool can be crowded on weekends as residents have memberships to it. It does now lean more adult-centric so I would say it’s more appropriate for singles and couples looking to have a great time, who are also heading to San Diego Zoo.

Lafayette Hotel Reservations

Since the renovation, the best place to book Lafayette Hotel is actually on their website.

6. 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 within 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. No self-parking.

Hilton Garden Inn Bayside Reservations

Hilton Honors members receive slight discounts on rates, so it may be better to book with Hilton. Or, you may save by bundling your hotel and Zoo or other attraction tickets for extra savings in a vacation package.

7. 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 various 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 is available for a fee, and valet parking is also available for a fee. Guests may use a nearby fitness center for a discounted fee.

Marriott Vacation Club Pulse Reservations

When it comes to Marriott, I think it’s beneficial to sign up for Bonvoy and book that way. You may still save by bundling your hotel and Zoo or other attraction tickets for extra savings in a vacation package.

8. 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 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.

Best Western Cabrillo Reservations

If you are not going to bundle your hotel and Zoo or other attraction tickets for extra savings in a vacation package, it’s probably best to book through Best Western.

9. 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, is one of the hotels near San Diego Zoo that provides easy access to the Balboa Naval Hospital and Balboa Park. In fact, walking to the edge of Balboa Park from the hotel takes seven minutes, but the Zoo would take closer to 30.

Hotel amenities:

  • Free buffet breakfast
  • Free WiFi Internet
  • Fitness center
  • Meeting rooms
  • Outdoor pool with views of downtown San Diego
  • Onsite self-serve laundry

Good to know: They used to have an airport shuttle, but it no longer operates. Rooms can have street noise. It’s not my favorite part of downtown but it has gated parking and people tend to like it.

Holiday Inn Express Downtown Reservations

Holiday Inn is a member of IHG so if you join IHG Rewards (free) you enjoy a slight discount.

10. 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.

Inn at the Park Reservations

You may find this all-suite hotel on various vacation rental sites, but you can choose your preferred booking method below.

Don’t Forget Your Discounted San Diego Zoo Tickets

There are a variety of ways to buy discounted San Diego Zoo tickets so you will need to crunch numbers to decide whether you should bundle them with a hotel package. I have the best price on tickets that you don’t have to have a special membership to access.


I have the best final price on San Diego Zoo tickets available to the general public, with no membership required. For this reason, we can’t publish the promo code online, but can send it by text or email. The discounted price is $68/adult and $58/child (ages 3–11) — all taxes and fees included!

*By texting the word SDZOO to 1-833-490-0799 you agree to receive automated promotional messages with how to secure my deeper ticket discount and this agreement isn’t a condition of any purchase. Msg and data rates may apply. 2 msg/mo. Reply STOP to cancel. Read my full privacy policy.

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 50% depending on the length of the pass and how many days you’ll be here.

What are your favorite hotels near San Diego Zoo?

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

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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