Who’s ready for a safari adventure? With 1800 acres of land, 300 species, and more than 3,600 animals, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is one of the best things to do in San Diego for all ages. We’re proud members and have a lot of tips to offer for your next visit.

In addition to viewing an enormous variety of Asian, African, and other animals, visitors can participate in safaris ranging from trams to zip lines that bring them even closer to the animals.

It’s also important to note that the park, as part of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to playing an instrumental role in helping to bring 130 species back from the edge of extinction. Every dollar that you spend in the park goes toward operational costs and conservation efforts.

In this guide, I’ll tell you everything you’ll need to know about visiting this special place, including an overview of the animals, what to bring, how to buy tickets, and much more. 

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A Short History

Formerly the San Diego Wild Animal Park (also commonly referred to as Escondido Wild Animal Park), the park was opened in 1972 as a breeding facility with species conservation in mind for animals at the San Diego Zoo.

While the zoo has used more natural forms of containment like moats and sloped landscapes since opening in 1916, the Safari Park provides an even more open habitat for the animals where they have the space to live freely.

Over time, the park has changed and grown. They now have an extensive selection of enclosed exhibits in addition to the original free-range enclosures. Unique guest experiences range from safely feeding and interacting with animals to ziplining above them.

When to Visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

San Diego weather is fairly even all year round. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is more inland, so it tends to get hotter and colder than areas nearer the coast.

It’s a good idea to come early in the day during the summer. Most of the shows are in the morning, and that’s one of the times when the animals will be most active. Temperatures can reach the high 80s (and, on some days, well into the 90s) in summer.

The cooler months are a great time to visit since there are fewer people and a greater chance of rain. Don’t let the chance of rain discourage you. Elephants and rhinos, in particular, love to roll around in the mud, for example. You’ll want to wear layers even on sunny days as it is cold in the mornings.

Many animals give birth in the spring, so this may be a good time to see some adorable babies.

A Big Delivery: Elephant Calf Born at San Diego Zoo Safari Park
An almost two-day-old female elephant calf (left) and a 7-week-old male elephant calf (right) met for the first time on September 28, 2018, at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The adults were rescued in 2003 from the Kingdom of Swaziland where they faced being culled.

While the park is open for every holiday, the best time to go is definitely during a non-holiday weekday. You’ll see fewer people than you’d see on the weekends.

Planning Your Day

While you could probably see many of the exhibits (and maybe squeeze in a shorter safari) in half a day, I’d plan to spend a full day here if you want to get the most out of your experience. There’s a lot to see and do.

Before you go:

  • Take a look at the map with your group before you go to prioritize what you’d like to see.
  • Download the San Diego Zoo Safari Park app to your device for restaurants, things to do, a day planner (add your must-see animals), and a GPS-enabled version of the park map.
  • Reserve a safari (more details about each below).
  • Take a look at special dining events (some provide entry to the park an hour before it opens).
  • If you plan to eat at The Watering Hole, the park’s full-service restaurant and bar, reserve your table – recommended, not required.
  • Get excited by watching the animal cams.
  • Avoid the lines by buying San Diego Zoo Safari Park tickets and tours in advance. You’ll proceed straight to the turnstiles.
  • Import your tickets/memberships to your digital wallet for an even smoother entry.

It’s best to start your visit at the top of the park and work your way down since it gets hotter as the day goes on. Most of the shade is in the areas closest to the entrance.

The most important thing to note, especially during the summer, is that the animals will be most active when it’s not hot. Try to visit attractions earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon, avoiding right at midday.

For example, I would head to Walkabout Australia — where you walk into the kangaroo enclosure, and nothing is separating them from you (highly recommend) — at opening or around 4 p.m.

Also, keep in mind that while it’s less hilly than the San Diego Zoo, you’ll still be doing quite a bit of walking if you want to see the whole park. These are big animals in big exhibits, so it takes longer to walk from one to the next.

Complimentary carts pick up and drop off visitors at designated locations. The only other free transportation is the tram that travels around the African Plains. You may also rent strollers, wheelchairs, and electric scooters.

What to Pack

Make sure you come prepared with:

  • Sunscreen (any time of the year)
  • A hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Snacks (you may bring food into the park, but no coolers)
  • Lightweight binoculars (nice to have for spotting animals in the larger exhibits if you are not booking a Caravan Safari)
  • Layers of clothing, as the morning can be cool and the afternoon can be quite warm
  • Swimsuits or change of clothes for kids who want to run through the splash pads at the Savanna Cool Zone (water is turned off during fall and winter)
  • Quarters come in handy for duck food, locker rentals, and telescopes for viewing animals in the larger enclosures

There are water fountains throughout the park, and any of the restaurants will refill a reusable bottle with filtered water.

The Wildlife Safari (Top Pick)

While there are quite a few optional safaris to book that can upgrade your day, the Wildlife Safari is one of the most popular paid activities at the park.

Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Safari Park

It’s the only standard safari where you get to visit multiple animal enclosures and interact with them up close. Unusual animals such as Cape buffalo, wildebeest, and East African crowned cranes can be seen in detail without the aid of binoculars.

You’ll take a safari truck through one or more of the savanna habitats to see Asian and African animals. The best part: you’ll have the chance to feed the giraffes and rhinos (if they are willing)!

There are five versions of the safari to choose from. The Wildlife Safari and the Twilight Wildlife Safari are for visitors ages 3 and up. The Deluxe Wildlife Safari and the Wildlife Safari: Southwest to Savanna are for guests ages 6 and up. Children 15 and younger must be accompanied by paid adults, with a maximum of 3 kids under 15 per paid adult. The Wine Wildlife Safari is for visitors ages 21 and up.

Note: outside food, beverages, and selfie sticks are not allowed on any of the wildlife safaris. Touching and feeding the animals is no longer an option on any of the safaris because it’s better for the animals.

Wildlife Safari Adventure

This is the most basic version of the safari, but still very fun and highly recommended. You’ll be accompanied by an expert guide who will answer all your questions. Ages 3 and up. Time: 1 hour.

Twilight Wildlife Safari

This safari takes place later in the day, so you can take advantage of the cooler temperatures and see more animal activity.

It includes an expert guide and a special stop at a viewpoint to enjoy the views with a glass of wine, beer, or non-alcoholic beverages and curated snacks. Ages 3 and up. Time: 90 minutes.

Deluxe Wildlife Safari

If you want to spend the most time possible among the animals, go with this version. You’ll get close-up views of rhinos, giraffes, and other animals.

This is a great choice for amateur animal photographers. Plus, you’ll learn how work at the Safari Park helps conserve wildlife worldwide. Ages 6 and up. Time: 90 minutes.

Wildlife Safari: Southwest to Savanna

This safari goes deep into the park and focuses on wildlife and their ecosystems from the American Southwest and the African Savanna.

It includes time in the park’s 900-acre Biodiversity Reserve. You’ll learn about coastal and savanna conservation efforts. Ages 6 and up. Time: 2 hours

Wine Wildlife Safari

This mid-afternoon safari is available only on selected weekends in September and October and on Wild Holidays. It starts with a meet-and-greet over wine served in souvenir aluminum glasses.

You’ll take a safari truck into the African savanna for up-close views of the animals, followed by a stop where you’ll enjoy more wine, savory snacks, and epic views of the African wildlife. Ages 21 and up. Time: 2 hours.

Behind-The-Scenes Safari

There are five versions of this safari. As the name suggests, these safaris give you an insider’s look into the animal exhibit of your choice, including elephants, kangaroos, rhinos, tigers, lions, and platypuses.

You’ll explore keeper-only areas to learn more about the animals and what it’s like to care for them. 

All behind-the-scenes safaris are subject to availability.

Deluxe Behind-the-Scenes Safari: African Forest

This safari is a two-hour experience where visitors trek with a guide through the African Forest exhibit to learn about reclusive forest animals.

Also, find out how experts care for these animals and how the work at the Safari Park supports the African Forest. Plan for walking over uneven terrain. Ages 3 and up. Time: 2 hours

Walkabout Australia

This behind-the-scenes safari is a walking tour viewing Australian wildlife with an expert guide. You’ll see various fascinating birds and a range of lovable marsupials.

Your guide will share interesting stories and what it takes to care for the wildlife here. Ages 3 and up. Time: 90 minutes.

Wildlife in Action

This safari takes you to various points across the park by cart and on foot to explore a global cross-section of wildlife. A primary focus is how domestic dogs are used to help save animals in the wild. Ages 3 and up. Time: 90 minutes.

Behind-the-Scenes: Saving Giants

Saving Giants explores the inner workings of the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center and Elephant Valley. You’ll travel by Safari Cart and by foot with an expert guide who will explain how the Safari Park’s Wildlife Alliance helps save rhinos and elephants worldwide.

Plan for walking over uneven terrain. Ages 3 and up. Time: 90 minutes.

Mission: Rhino Rescue!

This safari takes you into Frozen Zoo (a rare opportunity), Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Center, and Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center.

You’ll see first-hand what’s being done to bring animals back from extinction in the Frozen Zoo. You’ll also learn what’s being done to save the northern white rhino. Ages 3 and up. Time: 90 minutes.

Other San Diego Zoo Safari Park Safaris

If you’re looking for something a little different from the Wildlife Safari, there are still plenty of other worthwhile options. The safaris, minus the Africa Tram, do cost extra in addition to your entrance ticket, but they’re a fantastic opportunity to experience the park in a way you wouldn’t otherwise.

It’s a good idea to book in advance since they all fill up quickly, and tickets can be cheaper online than at the park.

Africa Tram (Free)

The Africa Tram passes by a large field exhibit as a type of deer drink from a trough.
The Africa Tram passes by African Outpost and other exhibits

The Africa Tram is the only safari included with your entrance ticket. If you are not booking a Wildlife Safari, plan time for Africa Tram. Departing from the African Outpost, the tram travels 2.5 miles around African Plains and gives you a look at the animals that reside in the field enclosures, such as white rhinoceroses, giraffes, Cape buffalo, Roosevelt’s gazelles, African crowned cranes, and more.

You can ride the tram as many times as you’d like. The first tram leaves from African Outpost at 9:15 a.m. This first-come, first-served free experience doesn’t require reservations.

The lines can get very long on busy days, with the highest demand being 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Time: 25 minutes; open to all ages.

Balloon Safari

The Balloon Safari in the sky over Africa Plains.

This safari gives you a chance to get a bird’s-eye view of the park and surrounding countryside of Escondido. Hop into a tethered helium-air balloon that takes you 400 feet in the air and catches some unbelievable views.

Prices vary, and reservations aren’t available online, so ask when you arrive at the park. The best time to ride for views is between 9 a.m. and noon. Time: 12 minutes; open to all ages.

Cart Safari

Passengers on a Cart Safari stop to look at giraffes at San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Safari Park

There are three Cart Safaris available, Cart Safari Africa takes you through the African savanna habitat. Cart Safari Asia explores the Asian savanna. And Deluxe Cart Safari lets you experience both.  

Besides saving you time walking among the exhibits, this is a more personalized experience — it’s up to you what you want to learn as you’re led by a tour guide who is there to answer every question you could have.

There are plenty of stops for photos, too. This is an excellent safari for anyone with very young children or even babies, as children younger than 2 years are allowed to join as long as they remain on their parent’s lap.

Time: 90 minutes for the Deluxe Cart Safari and 1 hour for each of the other two.

Sun Up Cheetah Safari

A cheetah runs after a toy during the Cheetah Run at San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The Sun Up Cheetah Safari begins at 8:30 a.m. before the Safari Park even opens. You’ll climb aboard a Caravan truck and head out to the original Cheetah Run location, where you’ll see the fastest land animal on earth in action.

After the Cheetah Run, it’s back on the Caravan truck to follow the same path as the African Tram, but with an expert giving you behind-the-scenes information. All ages. Time: 1 hour, including the Cheetah Run.

Flightline Safari

Two people zipline over exhibits on the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Flightline Safari,
Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Safari Park

If you couldn’t tell from the name, the 2/3-mile-long Flightline Safari is an excellent choice for any thrill-seekers. You can fly over the park via a secure zip line that will give you a fantastic view of the park from up to 130 feet in the air.

You’ll fly like a condor over rare and endangered species, including the Arabian oryx, greater one-horned rhino, Pere’ David’s deer, and Przewalski’s wild horse.

If you’re inexperienced, don’t worry. Not only will the able staff give you a thorough orientation before your ride, but you’ll also have the chance to do a practice run on a mini-zipline first to get your bearings. You can even record your journey with a camera on your helmet for an extra fee.

Make sure to wear closed-toed shoes and refrain from any alcohol before this safari, or else you won’t be allowed to join.

The Flightline Safari is only open to ages 8 and up, and there’s a maximum of 2 children between the ages of 8–15 for every paid adult. The minimum weight is 60 pounds, so ensure your child meets that in addition to the age requirements.

You will also be required to sign a liability waiver. Children ages 16–17 can ride the zipline on their own if they have a legal adult over the age of 18 sign the liability waiver for them at check-in. Time: 1 Hour, including training.

The Deluxe version of this safari includes a tour of the savanna habitats by Safari truck before taking the same thrilling zipline safari. Ages 8 and over. Time: 90 minutes.

Roar and Snore Safari

Three people hang out outside their tent on a San Diego Zoo Safari Park Roar and Snore Safari.
Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Safari Park

This safari gives you the unique opportunity to sleep over inside the park! There are four different options, and the activities will depend on which one you choose.

However, they all include after-hours access to the animals in the park, guided tours, dinner/breakfast/snacks, and of course, a campfire, not to mention a unique wake-up roar from the lions.

All-Ages Roar and Snore

This is the best choice for families, especially those with young children. You’ll ride around the park on the Africa Tram and personalize your experience with one of several guided walks.

Adults-Only Roar and Snore

For ages 21 and up. This safari includes hikes that might be a little much for young ones, along with some topics that are suitable for older age groups (one Valentine’s Day topic covers the mating habits of the animals). You’ll also get more personal encounters with the animal ambassadors.

Girl Scouts Roar and Snore

For ages 5 and up, this Safari focuses on educating your troop about the animals in the park through guided walks, activities, and crafts in addition to the standard Roar and Snore Amenities.

School Nights Roar and Snore

This safari for children is a field trip kids won’t soon forget. Your class will get a hands-on lesson about animals and current preservation efforts in the wild. It’s an excellent way for children to have a ton of fun while continuing to learn outside the classroom. Grades 3 through 12.

Supreme Roar and Snore

Upgrade your overnight adventure with this option. Your adventure begins with a Flightline Safari over the savanna habitats, followed by a Night Vision Safari, where you’ll observe wildlife through night vision binoculars. Morning brings breakfast and a VIP wildlife ambassador encounter.

Your adventure ends with a Wildlife Safari into the savanna in the back of a Safari truck. Available for All Ages and Adults Only Roar and Snores. Check-in is 4:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (The truck for the Flightline Safari leaves promptly at 4:45 p.m.)

The VIP Experience: Ultimate Safari

As the name indicates, this is by far the most inclusive and full-access safari. It’s super personalized. You can craft your own experience depending on what you want to do at the park.

Want personalized service at its best with your own tour guide? Wish you had even more behind-the-scenes access to the animal exhibits? This is the safari for you. 

Choose either 5 hours or 7 hours on this tailored-to-you experience. Both versions include a sit-down lunch. At the time of this writing, the cost is $675 per person.

Age minimums will depend on which activities you decide to include in your experience. Minimum 72-hour advanced reservations are required. Ultimate Safaris are subject to availability.

Top Animal Interactions

Aside from the upgraded safari experiences, you can interact with animals at these popular exhibits.

You can visit daily shows to see them in action, but there are also plenty of chances to interact with the animals too.

Walkabout Australia

Animal encounter: Wallabies and kangaroos

I’m standing just a few feet from the kangaroos with no barrier between us.

Walkabout Australia is one of the most up-close-and-personal exhibits. You can walk along a path without barriers between you and the wallabies and kangaroos sprinting around.

You’ll also see the platypus exhibit. Yes, San Diego Zoo Safari Park is the only facility with platypuses outside of Australia!

Since they are nocturnal, the exhibit is dark, but you can see them splashing around (forget about taking photos unless one climbs out of the water and stays put).

Other exhibits here include cassowaries and a lovely bonsai garden.

Petting Kraal

Animal encounter: Goats

This is the only exhibit where you can actively go up to the animals to pet and groom them. The Petting Kraal, filled with adorable goats, is an excellent stop for young children or anyone who wants unlimited animal time.

Just make sure not to bring in your maps or papers. The cheeky goats are known for tricking visitors into letting their guards down and then making a quick snack out of their belongings.

Located in Nairobi Village, the Petting Kraal opens at 10:00 a.m.

Nairobi Station

Animal encounter: Various small animals

At various times of the day, you can stop by Nairobi Station in Nairobi Village (near the Petting Kraal) to see if there is a keeper with a small animal for you to interact with and learn about.

Lagoon Loop

Animal encounter: Ducks

Be prepared for the kids to ask for a lot of duck food here. The ducks seem to never lose their appetites.

Butterfly Jungle (Seasonal)

Animal encounter: Butterflies

A Giant Owl butterfly lands on a child's head during Butterfly Jungle.
Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Usually, around 30 species of butterflies are highlighted during the seasonal Butterfly Jungle event each spring.

Guests can walk through the blooming aviary (home also to birds, lush greenery, and flowers), and, as you can see, the butterflies land on you.

Shows

Animal Ambassador Stage

A wild cat animal ambassador on stage at San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Safari Park

This a great activity for anyone who wants to learn as much as possible about the many different kinds of animals that reside in the park.

You’ll have the chance to see and learn about animals from the popular exhibits, like cheetahs and alligators, and lesser-known species like the serval.

Keepers are there to answer any questions you might have and give you fun facts about these fascinating “animal ambassadors.”

Times: Check the day’s scheduled shows upon arrival at the Zoo Safari Park. You may be lucky enough to catch a show at Nairobi Station, Animal Ambassador Stage, or Okavango Outpost.

Since most shows have been suspended due to animal safety and a large construction project, you may also happen upon an informal animal ambassador roaming the park with an expert trainer.

Can’t-Miss Animal Exhibits

What makes this park so unique is, first and foremost, its massive collection of exotic animals. From perennial favorites like elephants to species you haven’t even heard of before, there are what seem like endless exhibits to visit.

Gorillas

You have to see these big friendly giants. Their habitat includes both an open area and some caves where they can seek relief from the heat, so they might be a little hard to spot at first. If you’re quiet enough, they’ll come out so you can see them.

The best time to see the gorillas is between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. when the giant bag of food is dropped down into the area by the keepers. Gorillas love to eat, so they’re guaranteed to be out and about.

Make sure to visit by 4:30 p.m. since the animals are taken off the exhibit around 4:45 p.m.

Elephants

What zoo would be complete without elephants? This is a particularly special exhibit, too; it’s home to a baby elephant, Zuli, who was born on International Elephant Day.

If you want to see something cool, check in with the staff when you arrive to find out what time feeding is planned for. With the elephants in one yard, the keepers put their meal in another and open the gates. The result is that you can watch all of the elephants make a run for their lunch.

Tigers

A tiger walks toward the window of the Tiger Trail exhibit at San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
A window separates you from the tigers.

It’s incredibly rare to see a Sumatran tiger out in the wild, especially now with the rise in poaching that has put them on the endangered species list.

Like most of animals, it’s best to see them early in the morning or later in the evening so that they’ll be more active. However, if you walk down the stairs to a little dip right next to the exhibit, you’ll see up-close one of the tigers who like to hang out there for most of the day.

If you have time, definitely check out the Tiger Keeper Talk that’s held on the Tiger Trail to learn more about these beautiful big cats. A little playground for kids is also located here.

Every once in a while, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park hosts Breakfast with Tigers, which allows guests to enter the park an hour before it opens for an exclusive look and learning experience with the tiger keepers.

See also: Meet the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Sumatran Tigers

Platypuses

A platypus on a log in the exhibit at San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Your chance to see platypuses in action outside of Australia is only at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. A male named Birrarungand and female named Eve live in a state-of-the-art facility that allows them to be active during the day for prime viewing even though they are nocturnal animals.

This means that the exhibit is a bit dark, but you can catch glimpses of them scurrying around. They’re here as ambassadors for freshwater habitats that are being affected by pollution and climate change.

Docents are on hand to tell you more about how unique these egg-laying mammals are.

Other Fun Activities for Kids

Most of the more kid-friendly exhibits and Petting Kraal are located in Nairobi Village but look out for the below.

The Conservation Carousel, just inside the entrance to the park, lets you choose from 60 endangered species to “ride.” It’s a lot of fun and always a big hit with young kids.

For $6, you get unlimited rides from 10 a.m. to closing.

Play Areas

Kids play on the play structure in Tiger Trail at San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Play area in Tiger Trail

There are play areas all over the park with different jungle themes. They’re a good place to take a break while any younger visitors get some extra energy out.

There are also splash pads throughout the park that operate in the spring and summer, so it’s a good idea to bring swimsuits or a change of clothes for the kids.

Animal Cams

Didn’t get to see one of the exhibits you were excited about, or didn’t get enough? Check out one of the park’s many online animal cameras.

You can watch popular exhibits like the condors, elephants, tigers, and now giraffes by visiting the parks live cameras.

Robert the Zebra

Robert the cartoon zebra on a TV screen is powered by a real human.
Our conversation with Robert.

Robert the Zebra is a funny cartoon virtual reality zebra that you can interact with in Nairobi Village.

A real human powers Robert so rest assured that your conversation is real (and often witty). So, if he’s live, do stop by and ask him whatever you want.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park Dining

There are plenty of places to eat in the park. They are small casual restaurants or kiosks, but some have covered seating.

Some of them have gluten-free or vegetarian options, and pretty much all locations offer different kinds of beer, wine, and other drinks. (It is not uncommon to see guests walking around the park with a local craft beer or margarita in hand.)

For something substantial:

  • The Watering Hole at Kijamii Overlook (top pick) offers fantastic views of the animals wandering the African Plains, along with sandwiches, salads, and a full bar. It’s technically open-air since there are no walls, just the overhead cover.
  • Okavango Outpost is also located in the African Plains but has a more extensive menu, including new additions (like artisan salads and grilled paninis) to some of the basic favorites (like the chicken strips). There’s both indoor and outdoor seating.
  • The Sheared Sheep is located in Walkabout Australia. It’s best for simple wraps and sandwiches, but you can grab a signature grilled sausage if that’s what you’re craving. There’s plenty of indoor seating and can fit a good amount of people.
  • Mombasa Cooker, in Nairobi Village, has everything from pasta and burgers to their signature hand-battered chicken tenders and entree salads. They also have vegetarian, gluten-free, and kids’ meals. It’s a good stop for groups and families with young children. There is overhead cover and a soothing nearby waterfall.
  • Mawazo Kitchen in the African Woods serves fast and fresh Mexican options like Baja-inspired tacos and asadas, along with burgers, kid’s meals, and gluten-free/vegetarian options. Covered outdoor seating. Located near Mawazo Jungle Gym.
  • Thorntree Terrace is located in the Safari Base Camp and is the only restaurant that offers breakfast foods in addition to an Asian-inspired daytime menu. Covered outdoor seating.
  • Barking Deer Beer and Pizza is located in the Safari Base Camp and offers Neapolitan-style hand-tossed pizzas cooked in a brick oven. You’ll also find specialty sandwiches and salads, plus craft/draft beers.

For small bites and snacks on the go:

  • If you’re getting to the park early in the morning, you can get a much-needed caffeine boost with a specialty coffee at the Safari Coffee Outpost (which will be one of the only food outlets open early). Don’t forget to grab some warm mini-Donuts.
  • The Oasis Deli has a good selection of soups, sandwiches, salads, snacks, and drinks, not to mention the freshly-made fudge.
  • Get your sugar fix by grabbing some soft-serve at Kibo Cones and Snacks or a DIY slushie at Lion Camp Slush and Snacks. They have churros, too.
  • Bamburi Boat Bar is a fun spot to unwind with specialty cocktails, craft brews, and small plates.
  • Tucker Truck is in Walkabout Australia. You can grab an authentic Aussie Jackfruit Wrap or for the less adventurous, a bacon cheeseburger. You’ll also find chips, drinks, and freshly baked cookies.
  • Kalahari Cupboard is a snacker’s paradise with stuffed pretzels, funnel cakes, loaded tater tots, and ice cream. It’s located in Nairobi Village.

You can also bring your food with you. This is a good option for groups since buying meals can get pricey. The park’s food policy is that you’re allowed to take in snacks and refreshments as long as they’re not in a cooler. There are picnic tables throughout the park as well.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

As mentioned earlier, San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park are both dedicated to ending extinction which is part of the reason why it’s easy to advocate visiting these parks.

Since poaching is rising, the park also works with San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance to protect and breed animals that aren’t safe in their native environments, most notably 11 elephants saved from execution by a zoo in Swaziland.

The Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center houses six rescued rhinos. Their cutting-edge white rhino surrogacy program is the only program of its kind and the best chance to bring the species back from the edge of extinction (there are now only two left in the world). These are just a few examples of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park conservation efforts.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park also played an instrumental role in the comeback of the California condor. And, there is a lot more to say about how San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance helps animals worldwide.

Another fun fact is that animals are treated at the Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Center, which is the largest of its kind in the world.

Best Ways to Buy San Diego Zoo Safari Park Tickets

Africa Tram Safari at San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Photo courtesy of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

I have written in great detail about how to buy discounted San Diego Zoo Safari Park tickets. Still, the bottom line is that either people use our popular sightseeing pass or they buy discounted 1-Day tickets using my promo code, which is the lowest available.

Go San Diego

If visiting multiple San Diego attractions, the Go San Diego pass is usually your best bet. Explore a set number of attractions or choose an All-Inclusive pass good for 1, 2, 3, 5, or 7 days.

PLEASE NOTE: Go San Diego passes are not qualifying tickets for the annual Kids Free San Diego promotion in October.

EXCLUSIVE LA JOLLA MOM DISCOUNT

Use promo code LJM10SDO to apply an extra 10% off ALL Go San Diego sightseeing passes! This discount stacks on top of sale rates!

aRes Travel

One of the most popular tickets that readers purchase through my site is the 1-Day San Diego Zoo Safari Park ticket through aRes Travel. They are an authorized ticket seller of San Diego Zoo Safari Park tickets. You can go straight to the gate with this option. Request my promo code to save even more.

ACCESS MY EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT

Check for unpublished deeper savings on tickets through my partnership with aRes Travel, an authorized San Diego Zoo Safari Park ticket seller.

*By texting the word SAFARI 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.

aRes Travel also sells a variety of combo deals that can be helpful if visiting LEGOLAND, SeaWorld San Diego, and/or San Diego Zoo also during your vacation, in addition to hotel and ticket vacation packages.

Kids Free October

Every October, kids go free with a paid adult to over 100 attractions, restaurants, and hotels around San Diego. This offer always applies to San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Be sure to hold a valid ticket which can be bought directly through San Diego Zoo Safari Park or aRes Travel. (Go San Diego pass admission doesn’t apply to this promotion.)

Seniors Free in February

San Diego Zoo Safari Park offers a free 1-Day pass to seniors ages 65+ in February. Seniors need to bring a photo ID to a ticket booth during this promotion to receive the free ticket.

San Diego Zoo and San Diego Safari Park in One Day?

Understandably, visitors to San Diego would want to fit as many attractions as possible into their time here. Still, I don’t recommend that anyone try to see both the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in one day.

Besides being over 40 minutes away (35 miles) from the San Diego Zoo, the Safari Park is a daylong adventure on its own. You won’t get nearly as much out of either experience by seeing both on the same day (you would be exhausted by all of the walking) as you would by visiting each separately.

The other thing to consider is that the I-15 freeway between the two attractions can be quite trafficky during the weekday work commute. On most days, San Diego Zoo Safari Park hours are from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (check the calendar).

For those who are keen to power-sightsee, it is far more realistic to see San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park on the same day, as they’re right next door to each other.

Need to Know: Hours, Address, Directions, Parking

San Diego Zoo Safari Park Hours

The park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day of the year. Yes, 365 days per year.

Address and Directions

San Diego Zoo Safari Park Address
15500 San Pasqual Valley Road
, Escondido, CA 92027

Directions to San Diego Zoo Safari Park are quite easy, thanks to signage that you’ll see after exiting the freeway. The drive from the I-15 freeway to the park takes a little less than 10 minutes.

  • From I-15 South (Temecula): Exit at Via Rancho Parkway (Exit 27), head east, and follow the signs to the Park.
  • From I-15 North (San Diego): Exit at Rancho Parkway exit (Exit 27). Go east and follow the signs to the Park. 

San Diego Zoo Safari Park Parking

At the time of this writing, parking for standard automobiles is $15 and $20 for RVs/Campers. Preferred parking, available on weekends or holidays, is an extra $18 in addition to the regular fee ($33 total).

Final San Diego Zoo Safari Park Tips

While all ages are welcome in the park, there are some activities with an age minimum, the safaris in particular. All safaris require children 15 and younger to be accompanied by a paid adult, but additional requirements vary with each safari, so make sure to check terms and conditions if you’re planning on bringing young children.

Download the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Safari Park app to help you navigate your day. Bring a battery charger as a full day of taking photos and using the app can drain your battery.

When you enter the park, check in with a volunteer or a staff member to see what’s new. Sometimes animals have been moved, and sometimes there’s even a new baby animal that you can see.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or directions. The staff is very passionate and friendly. They’re happy to point you the right way. With such a big park, it’ll be nice to have a helping hand.

You may want to also consider some other things to do in Escondido, while you are in the area. Or, stay in one of the hotels near San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

We love San Diego Zoo Safari Park and hope you will, too.

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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