December is one of the most popular times to visit San Diego. Festive spirit runs high as we ramp up to the holidays, and it’s truly a special place to be at the end of the year.

This year, we are thankful that so many of our beloved events and gatherings are back and better than ever!

You can save on tickets, tours, and hotels through my affiliations. If you make purchases through the links in this post, I may be compensated.


San Diego December Weather

San Diego weather in December is a mix of cold days and sunny warm days. So far this month, we’ve had a couple of shorts weather days along the coast, but they do end in the evenings with a need for a coat and Ugg boots.

Our Microclimates

I mentioned our sunny weather along the San Diego coast, but if you’re in the inland valleys, mountains, or deserts, the temperatures that you feel are usually more extreme. It does snow in the mountains occasionally in December, but usually, snowfall happens deeper into winter.

Most tourists are still visiting our coastal regions because that’s where most San Diego attractions and San Diego resorts are.

Blue Skies in Winter

People walk along a paved path at San Diego Botanic Garden under blue skies and sunshine in December.
Yep. Shorts weather. I was roasting in a long-sleeved T-shirt at San Diego Botanic Garden in December.

I like December in San Diego because we have mostly blue skies in which we can enjoy the various holiday twinkling lights, visits with Santa Claus, and tree lightings. Technically, it’s our coldest month, and we can have a few thunderstorms, but we don’t have a true rainy season

Here are the San Diego weather in December stats:

  • Average temperature (high/low): 65°F/48°F
  • Rainfall: 1.5 inch
  • Days of rain: 6
  • Days of sunshine: 73%
  • Daylight: 10 hours
  • Ocean temperature (high/low): 61.7°F/59.2°F

I can only remember a handful of times when it rained on Christmas in San Diego. Most of my memories are usually of the family hanging out in shorts in the backyard.


Can You Go to the Beach in December?

A frequently asked question by people planning winter break vacations here is whether the San Diego weather in December is warm enough to go to the beach. My answer is that it depends. We, locals, use it for walks, runs, picnics, watching the sunset, and water sports like surfing.

Visitors from cold weather climates tend to use San Diego’s beaches as we do in the summer. They’re used to snow and parkas. They find the idea of spending the winter holidays on the beach ultra appealing, which means they soak up the sunshine rays and head into the ocean.

SAN DIEGO OCEAN TIPS

So, what I tell out-of-state families is that if you want to get your Pacific Ocean fix and California sunshine, you can.

Just rent a wetsuit. Many of our surf shops and rental spots even have wetsuits for kids. Call ahead to see if kids’ sizes are available. A rental may not fit perfectly, but something is better than nothing.

Don’t let cold water temperatures hold you back from our best San Diego water sports. You CAN still take surfing lessons in December. Many of our best surfing schools, like Surf Diva, offer awesome winter break camps.

Wear a wetsuit if you plan to head in for more than a (chilly) minute or two.


Advice for Booking Hotels in December

The Hotel Del Coronado offers some of the best holiday events in San Diego from Skating by the Sea to Victorian tea.
What normally happens at Hotel del Coronado (courtesy photo).

If you plan to visit during winter break, you should book San Diego hotels as soon as they’re available for reservations. Winter holidays in mid-December are one of San Diego’s most expensive peak seasons, and room rates only increase throughout the holiday season.

So, I advise visitors and residents planning San Diego staycations to lock in a flexible rate directly through the hotel. These rates are easy to adjust in the rare event that rates fall. Most of the time, the hotel will just adjust your existing reservation instead of canceling and rebooking a new one. Easy.

Our hotels deck the halls literally with beautiful Christmas trees, Menorahs, poinsettias, and other decor. And each usually offers its own list of holiday programming, from opportunities to see Santa, holiday afternoon teas, tree lighting, Christmas dinners, holiday treats, and much more.

Hotel del Coronado is the most festive place to stay, thanks to its beachfront ice skating rink, complete with a rink-side lounge, holiday market, and tree lighting. Rent skates right at the Hotel del Coronado and chill out at your private igloo while roasting s’mores over the fire pit.

Another spot to get your holiday spirit on is at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar. This year’s holiday festivities include glice (synthetic ice) skating, a holiday market, a tree lighting, and other holiday activities.

Beach valet services should be up and running so visitors can clock in beach time and enjoy the California sunshine. Our outdoor swimming pools are heated year-round, so pack swimsuits for the whole family for your Christmas Day celebration! 


San Diego December Events

Rudolph and friends in front of holiday decor at SeaWorld San Diego's Christmas Celebration.
Rudolph and friends at SeaWorld (Photo courtesy of SeaWorld San Diego)

Our mild San Diego weather offers the perfect opportunity to enjoy San Diego events in December with loved ones that focus on holiday fun. Parades with marching bands and drill teams, holiday markets, holiday events at theme parks, and a boat parade fill the entire month of December as we gear up to celebrate Christmas.

Check my ultimate guide to San Diego Christmas and holiday events for the full list, but here are a few.

Balboa Park December Nights

San Diego’s Balboa Park December Nights is a two-day, time-honored holiday tradition where the numerous museums and cultural institutions in Balboa Park, the nation’s largest urban cultural park, open their doors free of charge.

Guests also look forward to live music, holiday light displays, dance performances, and food trucks from around the world. This year the event will be happening on December 2—3rd.

San Diego Zoo Jungle Bells

Jungle Bells at San Diego Zoo occurs this year between December 9th – January 1st. The celebration includes holiday lights, seasonal food, hot chocolate, live animal presentations, holiday decor, and more.

And, remember that you can buy discount San Diego Zoo tickets through me. It’s the best price you’ll find.

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Christmas at SeaWorld San Diego

Celebrate Christmas at SeaWorld San Diego from November 14th through January 8th! Meet Santa and Rudolph, catch Donner and Blitzen’s Lazer lights show, or enjoy the sounds of the Holiday Brass band. Admission is included with regular park admission

Refer to my post about buying cheap SeaWorld San Diego tickets. Reservations are required.

Holidays at LEGOLAND California

Kids always look forward to seeing the world’s largest LEGO Christmas tree (30′ tall). Beginning November 19th – January 8th, the entire resort will be decked out in holiday décor and more during the Holidays at LEGOLAND, California.

In addition, you’ll see LEGO Christmas characters, including LEGO Santa, and enjoy special events including a holiday light show.

CHRISTMAS PARADES IN SAN DIEGO

What is Christmas without a parade or two? The La Jolla Christmas parade and holiday festival is on December 4th this year and features floats, horses, marching bands, and an antique plane flyover. Stay after to enjoy the best Christmas festival La Jolla has to offer, complete with crafts, food, games, and Santa.

Where else can you see an armada of boats decked out with inflatable Santas, reindeer, and snowmen? The answer is at the San Diego Bay Parade! This parade showcases boats decorated with festive lights that will bring out the holiday cheer.

It starts at Shelter Island and heads towards Seaport Village and the Coronado Ferry landing. There are plenty of opportunities to catch the parade, especially as it will run on both December 11th and December 18th. 

SNOW N GLOW HOLIDAY FESTIVAL

Del Mar Fairground transforms into a winter wonderland between December 8th and December 22nd this year with their Snow N Glow holiday festival.

Enjoy over one million festive lights, tubing with real snow, holiday treats, visits with Santa, and more. Save money with a Groupon and get ready to make new holiday memories this Christmas in San Diego.


Things to Do in San Diego in December

If the above San Diego December events aren’t your cup of tea, or you’re looking for something else, there are still plenty of things to do in San Diego.

Go Tide Pooling

Keep an eye out for our twice-daily low tides that happen during daylight hours. If you check the online tide charts, you will likely find minus tides in December that are perfect for tide pooling.

Use my list of best tide pools in San Diego to find out where to go, but you can find multiple tide pools in La Jolla along the La Jolla seal trail to hit a few popular spots like La Jolla Cove and Shell Beach.

As I said last month, be sure to practice good etiquette by leaving the tide pools as you find them. The most commonly-seen creatures include hermit crabs, sea anemones, sea cucumbers, limpets, and small crabs. You can’t remove anything other than trash from tide pools in the La Jolla Ecological Reserve.

Visit San Diego Botanic Garden

San Diego’s Botanic Garden has 4 miles of trails for exercise, letting kids blow off steam in a pretty garden-like setting with some edutainment activities woven in.

Enjoy Our Outdoor Shopping Areas & Malls

If you need to do some Christmas shopping, head over to Westfield UTC mall, the shops in the Village of La Jolla, Cedros Avenue in Solana Beach, North Park, and more.

Tours on the Water

San Diego weather in December is perfect for enjoying tours on the water. You can tour the La Jolla sea caves by kayak, a harbor tour, or ride the Patriot Jet Boat with Flagship Cruises and Events. For a special treat, we love City Cruise’s holiday cruises.

Gather your family and friends for a fun and unforgettable brunch, lunch, or dinner cruise on the San Diego Bay over the holidays this year.

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Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Hit up some of the best hiking trails San Diego offers at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. For some extra cardio, check out Guy Fleming and Parry Grove trails.

Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument is the only national park in San Diego and well worth a visit. Head to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse and Visitor Center for a history lesson and walking trails with magnificent views.

The Cabrillo sea cave is also nearby with tide pools to explore, and during the right season, you’ll want to keep an eye out for migrating whales.

Climb at Belmont Park

Belmont Park is a historic, beachfront amusement park that opened in 1925 and is a San Diego icon. With no admission fee, you can wander the park before summoning the courage to climb on the Giant Dipper roller coaster or Octotron. The park is decorated for the holidays in December for an extra festive spin. 


What to Wear in San Diego in December

Your San Diego packing list for December involves more sweaters, long-sleeved T-shirts, and a medium-weight jacket if you plan to be out in the evenings.

Although, as I type this, it’s hot outside, and people are walking around the Village of La Jolla in shorts. So, don’t forget the shorts because here in San Diego, you might need them in December and maybe even January!

Here’s what to put in your suitcase:

  • Medium-weight jacket for the evenings
  • Portable umbrella
  • Bathing suit and warmer cover-up
  • Rashguard or UV shirt for sun protection and warmth
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Flip flops for the beach and pool
  • Shorts for beachgoing
  • T-Shirts (mostly long-sleeved)
  • Pants or jeans
  • Sweaters or sweatshirts
  • Comfortable walking shoes for sightseeing
  • Casual wool/warm dress or collared shirt and nice jeans (if you plan to dine in one of our nicer San Diego restaurants )
  • Sweaters and sweatshirts
  • Ugg boots
  • Wetsuit, if you have one (otherwise, they’re easy to rent)

People here generally do not wear traditional raincoats. Part of the reason is that it very rarely rains in San Diego. Do not pack fur coats or fur accessories to keep you warm. They generally are not well-received.


Lifestyle: What Residents Are Up To

Normally, San Diegans are prepping for the holiday season. We’re eating too much, staying up too late, and shopping in our outdoor malls. San Diego is such a fantastic place to live and visit, and we can’t wait to welcome you here.

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

Weather and temperature sources: seatemperature.orgcurrentresults.com, NOAA

Katie Dillon headshot

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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One Comment

  1. Loved Your Post And Description About San Diego. Most Of The Time I Am Busy In My Jumping English Saddle Work And IN The End Of The Year Love To Go On A Long Vacations But In This Situation It Is Better For Everyone To Stay At Home. But Whenever The Time Is Right I Will Go To Visit San Diego.

    Thank You For Writing This Post.