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San Diego in August: Weather, Events, Things to Do, & Insider Tips

It's August so here are some tips for what to do in 2020 and planning advice for people coming to visit.

When it comes to things to do and weather, San Diego in August is among my favorite times of the year. Except, this hasn’t exactly been a normal summer.

The ongoing purpose of this post is to help people decide when the best time of year to visit San Diego is for them. For those of us who are already here and trying to stay sane with limited activities available, I’ve included a few fun sightseeing ideas that are actually possible in 2020. (If you make bookings using the links below, I may be compensated.)


San Diego August Weather

The sun shines brightly during most of August. Let me tell you what that actually means.

Our Microclimates

San Diego microclimates include coastal regions, inland valleys, mountains, and the desert in that order from west to east. San Diego weather in August that you care about depends on which of these microclimates you’ll spend the most time in.

I’m going to guess that it’s coastal, because most people are here in August to enjoy the beach and cram in one last vacation before school starts. Temperatures rise the further east you go with highs of over 100 °F not uncommon.

Either way, I always like to point out that when you see an average temperature for San Diego quoted on TV or online, it’s likely referring to the coastal regions where the San Diego International Airport and our beachfront San Diego resorts are located.

Glorious Summer Sunshine

San Diego August weather along the coast is the stuff that dreams are made of. It may get a little cloudy early in the morning but it usually burns off so that you can just hang out in your beachwear for the rest of the day, well into the evening.

It can get hot though, for San Diego. It’s August 1 as I type this and we’re in a heat wave alert for the weekend (though I’m finding it pretty temperate at my house).

For those of you who like weather stats, here they are for August:

  • Average temperature (high/low): 77°F/67°F
  • Rainfall: .1 inches
  • Days of sunshine: 70%
  • Daylight: 13.5 hours
  • Ocean temperature (high/low): 69°F/66.2°F

What the Beach Is Like

People swimming and sitting on the beach in San Diego on a sunny summer day.

San Diego beaches are busy and the good mood pretty much everyone there is in can be contagious. Bring your boogie board, beach games, and your best beach accessories.

Tourist season peaks in August and locals are at the beach, too. Like in July, they’ll be busy, but you’ll be able to find plenty of space for your towel and umbrella (don’t forget the shade) on big sandy beaches like La Jolla Shores Beach, Pacific Beach (especially at Law Street on the north side), Mission Beach, Coronado Central Beach, Moonlight Beach, Tamarack Beach in Carlsbad, or near the pier in Oceanside (pictured above). Take an Uber or arrive early to park your car.

Ocean Tips

Unless you’re planning to spend a long time in the ocean or headed out in the early morning, a wetsuit isn’t necessary. Kids in surfing lessons and surf camps may want one though. Be sure to shuffle your feet when entering the water to scurry away any stingrays that may be chilling near the shore.

Advice for Booking Hotels in August

San Diego hotels near the coast tend to sell out in August due to vacationers who want to enjoy our tourist attractions and beach activities.

Rates tend to increase closer to the date so reserve your room in advance to avoid disappointment. Keep in mind that three-star hotels near or by the beach will price like luxury hotels in other cities. You pay a premium for beach proximity.

If you’re entitled to a room upgrade subject to availability at check-in, like people who book my portfolio of hotels and holders of elite hotel program status are, don’t plan on receiving it. Book the hotel room that you really want to avoid disappointment.

Prices peak during the first and second week of August. Some kids return to school in the third week of August, while public schools in San Diego return the Monday before Labor Day weekend. This means that as far as hotel rates go, there’s a little sweet spot during the last week of August leading up to the Wednesday or Thursday prior to Labor Day weekend. Rates dip from August highs in this sweet spot.

Even though some schools are in session, we receive an influx of tourists during Labor Day weekend which sometimes starts in August.


San Diego August Events

We don’t have many big seasonal San Diego events during August even in normal times. They’re usually smaller street fairs and one-day events with the exception of the below.

People enjoy PETCO Park before a Padres game in San Diego.
People enjoy PETCO Park before the game starts.

Del Mar Racing Season

The horses are still running through Labor Day weekend. You can watch them and place bets online in 2020. In normal times, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club horse racing season is a festive multi-week event with family days on Sundays and live concerts on Fridays.

Padres Baseball Season

Baseball season started late this year at the end of July and without fans (or at least non-cardboard fans). A full month of Padres games though is on tap for the entire month of August that you can stream, watch on TV, or listen to on the radio.

Normally, it’s a great time of the year to buy tickets for a home game. PETCO Park offers some of the best sightlines in Major League Baseball. Some of our most popular restaurants have outlets in the park and games are family-friendly. Who doesn’t want soft-serve ice cream or Dippin’ Dots served in a mini helmet? Or a stellar fish taco from Blue Water Seafood? Next year, next year.

TIP: WATCH LIVE FROM THE MARRIOTT

While you can’t enjoy a live game from a seat at PETCO Park, some rooms at San Diego Marriott Gaslamp offer views of PETCO PARK. You can also watch from their outdoor rooftop bar, Altitude, though it’s operating with limited hours.

US Sand Sculpting Challenge (Postponed Until 2021)

While this doesn’t sound like the most riveting of events, it’s actually really neat. Tons (literally) of sand is brought to Broadway Pier in downtown San Diego for artists to sculpt large, life-like sand creations. It’s a competition but also three days worth of spectator entertainment including food trucks, kids’ activities, and live music.


Things to Do in San Diego in August

This post’s publish date is August 1, 2020, so let’s discuss ideas for what to do this month that are actually possible.

Go to the Beach

Yes, the top things to do in San Diego in August always involve the beach not matter what’s happening in the world. Ocean temperatures peak in August which means taking a dip in the Pacific is incredibly pleasant.

Swim or Snorkel with Leopard Sharks

Two snorkelers swim with leopard sharks in La Jolla.
Really, you can do this.

The beach in front of The Marine Room restaurant on La Jolla Shores Beach is home to the largest annual aggregation of leopard sharks in the world. They start to arrive in June with numbers usually peaking in August and September. If this is the first you’re hearing of this incredible natural event, don’t panic. They’re harmless and we let our kids swim with them.

You can see them on your own in knee-deep water or with your own snorkel gear. It helps to stay as still in the water as possible to avoid scaring them away with kicking. The best way to see them is via a snorkeling tour that focuses on this part of the La Jolla Underwater Park. I recommend tours for people who are unfamiliar with the area or for residents who are looking for a new-to-them outdoor activity.

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Go to the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park (!!!)

Both of these outdoor attractions are open and could use our support (we’re members and love them so much). With the state’s mixed messaging about zoos and aquariums, I’m learning that most residents and visitors are still assuming that they’re closed. Some of their indoor activities and high-touch areas like playgrounds are closed as are the trams and buses that take people around the parks.

However, the majority of the exhibits are OPEN. We have a new baby pygmy hippo at the Zoo, the polar bears still plunge, and there is always something to see!

I have an exclusive San Diego Zoo tickets promo code and a San Diego Zoo Safari Park ticket promo code that saves $6 off of 1-Day tickets. Use code lajollamom below.

Explore a Pretty Garden

Outdoor areas in Balboa Park are open and this includes the Japanese Friendship Garden. You can very easily spend an hour or so exploring the artful placement of rocks, plants, and bridges in this gorgeous space while admiring the show-quality koi collection. Have lunch at the Tea Pavilion before or after to enjoy their curated tea or sake offerings.

The San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas is also open though a timed ticket is required.

Ride the Old Town Trolley

Finally, Old Town Trolley is back in operation at a limited capacity. Spend the day hopping on and off at various stops including Balboa Park, Old Town San Diego and downtown throughout the day. Enjoy the sunshine and breezes that blow by your seat. Get your tickets.

Visit the USS Midway Museum Hangar Deck and Flight Deck

The USS Midway Museum is open but you do need a timed ticket and a temperature check is required. You’ll be able to visit the over 30 aircraft on the Hangar Deck and Flight Deck which is always a fun way to spend some time downtown — outside.

You can see my other tips for summer in San Diego with kids for more ideas.

Visit the La Jolla Seals and La Jolla Cove Sea Lions

For a full run down and map, see how to visit the La Jolla seals and sea lions. However, since Children’s Pool Beach where the seals hang out is open to the public in August, they vacate early in the morning and return to the beach in the evening.

If you want to try to see them, I suggest arriving before 8 a.m. The chatty sea lions at La Jolla Cove are usually around. It’s easy to walk between these two La Jolla beaches along the boardwalk.


What to Wear in San Diego in August

What to pack for San Diego in August includes layers, but it’s not the end of the world if you forget them. It simply helps to have a light sweater for evenings after sunset, which happens around 7:45 p.m. on most evenings.

Athleisure and beachwear are what we residents are wearing in August. There’s really no need to dress up unless you’re going to clubs downtown (check required dress codes) or to one of our nicer restaurants. The packing list is similar to July:

  • Face covering — required everywhere you’re not 6′ from someone
  • Bathing suit
  • Rashguard or UV shirt for sun protection
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Flip flops
  • Bathing suit cover-up
  • Shorts
  • T-Shirts
  • Tank tops
  • Light sweater or wrap for evenings
  • Comfortable walking shoes for sightseeing
  • Casual dress or collared shirt and nice jeans (only if you plan to dine in one of our nicer restaurants — even on the patio)

Lifestyle: What Residents Are Up To

Right now, I’m cycling through the list of things I meant to do earlier in the summer and am trying to figure out how to jam them into August. Granted, it hasn’t been an exactly normal summer.

In our circle, I can tell you that there is plenty of spontaneous beachgoing. We’re barbecuing and eating at San Diego restaurants with patios and ocean views.

And, because it’s hotter outside than it was in June or July, visiting parks and attractions becomes a morning activity. So, I wake my daughter up early to head out. Days are usually finished with a late afternoon at the beach session.

Staycations are still in full effect at the best resorts in San Diego which are now all open, with the exception of one that is renovating. If you aren’t ready to sleep over, a nice happy medium is to buy a ResortPass, which gives you access to hotel pools, including cabanas for the day.

If you live here, please share your thoughts about San Diego in August!

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