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Detailed Guide to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Tips for visiting this popular San Diego attraction from long-time members

With 1800 acres of land, 300 species and more than 3,000 animals, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is one of 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 Global, 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, we’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. New health and safety measures are in place as of the park’s reopening on June 20, 2020 that have been woven into my advice.

I help readers save money at San Diego theme parks and may earn a commission if you purchase tickets using our links.


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A Short History

Formerly the San Diego 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, this park would be an even more open habitat for the animals where they could 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 and unique guest experiences ranging from opportunities to safely feed animals and even a zip line.

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 this 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 less people than you’d see on the weekends.

Planning Your Day

While you could probably see many 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.
  • 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).
  • Get excited by watching the animal cams.
  • Understand that distancing is required. Orange floor markers at exhibits indicate acceptable spacing between you and other guests.
  • Face masks for ages two and older are required.
  • Buy San Diego Zoo Safari Park tickets and tours in advance. Proceed straight to the turnstiles.
  • Prepare your group that most exhibits will be open, but some will temporarily remain closed. I promise that there will be plenty to see.

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 there is nothing 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’re still going to 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 between them.

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:

  • Face mask for everyone ages 2 and older
  • Sunscreen (any time of the year)
  • A hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Snacks (you may bring food into the park)
  • 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 Caravan Safari (Top Pick)

Caravan Safari at San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Safari Park

While there quite a few optional safaris to book that can upgrade your day, the Caravan Safari is one of the most popular paid activities at the 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 at least two of the free-range areas 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 four different versions of the safari to choose from. All of them except the Caravan Safari Kids are for visitors ages 8 and up, and any kids younger than a paid adult must accompany kids 15 years old and younger.

Note: selfie sticks are not allowed on any of the caravan safaris.

Caravan Safari Adventure

You can feed a giraffe on a Caravan Safari Adventure at San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Me feeding a giraffe on a Caravan Safari Adventure.

The most basic version of the safari, but still very fun and highly recommended. It does include the opportunity to feed giraffes and rhinos, if the animals are willing. Time: 2 hours.

Caravan Safari Twilight

This safari takes place later in the day, so you can take advantage of the cooler temperatures and see more animal activity. It’s only available during select months, so make sure to check ahead of time. Time: 2 hours.

Caravan Safari Deluxe

If you want to spend the most time possible with the animals, you’ll see on this safari, go with this version. Since it’s up to the animals’ discretion whether or not they come up to you (even if they’re lured with treats), this will give you a much better chance at interacting with them. Time: 3.5 hours.

Caravan Safari Kids

This Caravan Safari was created specifically for children and is open to visitors ages 6 and up. It’s a more educational safari as it includes a presentation by the guide, hands-on activities, and meetings with “animal ambassadors” in addition to a trip to see the African animals in their enclosure. Time: 2 Hours.

Other San Diego Zoo Safari Park Safaris

If you’re looking for something a little different from the Caravan 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 Caravan Safari, plan time for Africa Tram. Departing out of 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. It doesn’t open until 10 a.m., so if you come at opening don’t worry about rushing over to be the first passenger.

The lines can get very long on busy days. However, if you go at 3:30 p.m., during the Cheetah Run, you’ll (hopefully) experience shorter lines. 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 helium-air balloon that takes you 400 feet in the air and catch some unbelievable views.

Prices vary, and reservations aren’t available online, so ask when you arrive at the park. Time: 12 minutes; open to all ages.

Behind-The-Scenes Safari

This safari lets you get an inside look and learn about one animal exhibit of your choice (elephants, kangaroos, rhinos, tigers, lions, or platypuses). You’ll explore keeper-only areas to find out more about the animals and what it’s like to care for them.

All the options are for ages 3 and up. Time: 2 hours.

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

The Cart Safari will take you around one of two enclosures, depending on whether you choose the African or Asian option. Besides saving you time walking between 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. Guests also have an opportunity to offer a treat to wildlife in the field enclosure!

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 they remain on their parent’s lap. Time: 1 hour.

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

Get reserved seating for the Cheetah Run that ensures a great view, a private close-up with an additional animal ambassador before the show, and even a meet-and-greet with the cheetah afterward.

The Cheetah Safari is open to visitors ages 10 and up. 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 have your journey recorded 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 3 children between the ages of 8–15 for every one adult. The minimum weight is 60 pounds, so make sure that 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 zip line 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.

Jungle Ropes Safari

If ziplining sounds like a bit much for you or your companions, but you still want an active adventure, check out the Jungle Ropes Safari. You’ll get your adrenaline rush while sticking closer to the ground.

You’ll be able to choose one of three elevated courses to explore, each containing a different combination of obstacles to cross, like rope bridges and swinging platforms. You’ll receive your safety harness and full instructions from the staff, who will be there with you during the length of the course if anyone in the party needs assistance.

The Jungle Ropes Safari is open to ages 7 and up. There is a maximum of two children ages 7–11 for every one adult.

As with the Flightline Safari, you’ll be required to sign a waiver. Children ages 12–17 may go through the course alone if they have a legal adult sign the waiver for them at check-in. 90 minutes, including training.

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, all of them 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 (ages 3 and up). 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 all about both the 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.

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 get to craft your own experience depending on what you want to do at the park.

Want to do the course from the Jungles Ropes Safari and get reserved seating at the Cheetah Run? Feed giraffes? Get even more behind-the-scenes access to the animal exhibits? This is the safari for you.

While 5 hours is the default runtime, you can spend up to 8 hours on this tailored-to-you experience. 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.

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 with no barrier between you and the wallabies and kangaroos sprinting around.

Tip: The kangaroos are let out into the enclosure shortly after the park opens and they are full of energy. Plan to be in their enclosure during this time.

You’ll also see the brand new platypus exhibit. Yes, San Diego Zoo Safari Park is the only facility to have platypuses outside of Australia! Note that 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.

Lemur Walk

Animal encounter: Ring-tailed lemur

They are free to swing about the exhibit around you.

The Lemur Walk is another exhibit that allows you to walk uninhibited through the habitat of some cute little creatures. While visitors are asked not to touch the animals, it is neat to see them swing around you. They’re very curious, so sometimes they’ll even venture close enough to sniff you. but at other times, they’re sleeping (and still cute). Lemur Walk is for visitors ages 5 and up.

Lorikeet Landing

Animal encounter: You can buy lorikeet food and feed them

Two lorikeets try to feed from a small cup of nectar that my daughter is holding.
My daughter feeds lorikeets

Lorikeets are some of the most stunning, not to mention adorable, birds you’ll ever see. Another interactive exhibit, Lorikeet Landing lets you meet them and physically interact with them. You can buy a small cup of their favorite treat, sweet nectar, to coax them over. You’ll more than likely make several new friends who have no problem perching on your outstretched arm.

On busy days, you’ll want to go to Lorikeet Landing in the morning as they will get full (and disinterested in your cup of nectar) as the day progresses. However, I would say even if you visit during a time staff tells you that they’re full, grab a $4 cup of nectar anyway. You never know if a few will have a change of heart.

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.

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

Shows

Shiley’s Cheetah Run

The Cheetah Run is one of the most popular shows at the park. You’ll watch one of the park’s cheetahs show off running skills by sprinting along a track at breakneck speeds of up to 70 miles an hour in less than 4 seconds. It’s an impressive feat. You can even feel them run by if you sit close enough. Time: 3:30 p.m. at the Lion Camp (weather permitting).

Frequent Flyers Bird Show/Training Talk

Watch some of the most powerful birds around take flight right over your head. Frequent Flyers is another very popular activity that’ll keep all ages entertained: trainers will teach you about the birds and just what makes them so unique.

If you want to know how these birds are trained for free-flight, come a little earlier to join in on a Training Talk from one of the experts. Times: 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. at the Benbough Amphitheatre (AKA the Bird Show Amphitheatre); Training Talks are held at 10:30 a.m.

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 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, as well as 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: 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. at the Safari Base Camp, but there are additional showings at the Okavango Outpost (African Outpost) at 2 p.m. and near the Benbough Amphitheatre at 12:30 p.m.

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 the 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 likes 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 that 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. An 8-year-old male named Birrarungand and a 15-year-old 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 fresh water 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.

Conservation Carousel

The Conservation Carousel, just inside the entrance to the park, and 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 www. sdzsafaripark.org and looking under “Videos and Cams.” You can also watch top highlights of prerecorded videos under “Videos.”

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 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. All of them 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 with new additions (like artisan sandwiches) to some of the basic favorites (like the chicken strips). There’s both indoor and outdoor seating.
  • The Sheared Sheep is the newest eatery and 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 Asian bowls 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.
  • Samburu Terrace in the African Woods serves fast and fresh Mexican options, along with burgers, kid’s meals, and gluten-free/vegetarian options. Covered outdoor seating.
  • Thorntree Terrace is located in the Safari Base Camp and is the only restaurant that offers breakfast foods in addition to the rest of their daytime menu. Covered outdoor seating.

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 at the Safari Coffee Outpost (which will be one of the only food outlets open early). Don’t forget to grab a warm mini-Donut.
  • The Oasis Deli has a good selection of 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 brew, and small plates.

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 on the rise, the park also works with San Diego Zoo Global 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 Global 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, but 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. Build your own pass or choose an all-inclusive pass good for 1, 2, 3, 5, or 7, days.

EXCLUSIVE LA JOLLA MOM DISCOUNT

Apply an extra 5% off All-Inclusive Go San Diego sightseeing passes.
Offer expires on August 31, 2020. Stacks on top of sale rates!

aRes Travel

One of the most popular tickets that readers purchase through my is the 1-Day San Diego Zoo Safari Park ticket. You can use promo code lajollamom to save $6 off of adult and child 1-Day tickets. They are an authorized ticket seller of San Diego Zoo Safari Park tickets that you can go straight to the gate with.

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.

Kids Free October

Every October, Kids Go Free with a paid adult to over 100 attractions, restaurants and hotels around San Diego with a paid adult. 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

In 2020, San Diego Zoo Safari Park offered free admission to seniors for the first time. The program has been such a huge success that it is likely to be repeated. Stay tuned.

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

It’s understandable that visitors to San Diego would want to fit as many attractions as possible into their time here, but 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 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. When the park reopens, the $15 per vehicle fee will temporarily be waived as fewer spaces will be available, due to require distancing.

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 use and taking photos 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.

Cheetah Run at San Diego Zoo Safari Park is not-to-be-missed!
Detailed Guide to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Tiger Trail at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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