When to Go

San Diego’s weather is so ideal that most locals shrug off the high cost of living and relatively low wages as a "sunshine tax." Along the coast, average temperatures range from the mid-60s to the high 70s, with clear skies and low humidity. Annual rainfall is minimal, less than 10 inches per year.

The peak season for sunseekers is July through October, but the best months for surfing are August through November. In July and August, the mercury spikes and everyone spills outside. Beaches are a popular daytime destination, as is Balboa Park, thanks to its shady groves and air-conditioned museums. Summer’s nightlife scene thrives with the usual bars and clubs, plus outdoor concerts, theater, and movie screenings. Early fall is a pleasant time to visit, as many tourists have already left town and the temperature is nearly perfect. If you're into sportfishing, June through October is tuna season. From mid-December to mid-March, whale-watchers can glimpse migrating gray whales frolicking in the Pacific.

San Diego has miles of beaches and bays, numerous lakes, mountains, and deserts to explore. With balmy average temperatures and less than a foot of rain per year, the lure to go play outside is hard to resist. That said, Southern California isn’t as seasonless as some claim. Although the weather is generally mild and sunny year-round, the seasons do bring different outdoor activities.

Check WaveCast (www.wavecast.com/tides) for tide schedules, wave reports, and water temperatures.

Hotels. If you're planning to book a hotel, the best months (for low cost and occupancy) are January, September, November, and December. Avoid July when Comic-Con takes over the city and August when visitors from warmer states escape their summer swelter.

Summer. This is the best time to plan your trip from an outdoor activities point of view (this is peak tourist season for a reason). San Diego’s proximity to the ocean offers an almost endless selection of water activities. Rent kayaks at La Jolla Cove, take a charter boat off Point Loma for deep-sea tuna fishing, or simply hit the beach and go for a swim. Action Sport Rentals, operating out of the Bahia Resort at Mission Bay, offers paddleboards and sailboat rentals to help you enjoy the shimmering bay. This is also when the Del Mar Races kick into full swing, running mid-July through Labor Day.

Visitors planning a trip in early summer should be aware of the phenomenon known as "May Gray and June Gloom," when fog often blankets the coast in the morning. Things usually clear up by the afternoon, but occasionally the fog lasts all day, making a trip to the beach a damp and chilly affair.

Fall. The temperature begins to cool down for winter, but before it does, Santa Ana winds usher a warm dry spell throughout Southern California through the fall. Santa Ana winds generally bring in offshore winds, a favorite for surfers. Fall is the perfect time to shoot 18 holes at the Park Hyatt Aviara in Carlsbad, or take a hike at the Bayside Trail at Cabrillo National Monument—fall’s cloudless skies allow for a crisp, clear vision of the Pacific. And although the foliage in San Diego doesn’t turn into burnished reds and golds, you can appreciate the rare species of evergreen at Torrey Pines State Reserve.

Winter. This time of year in California is hardly bitter or harsh, but the weather certainly gets too cold for water sports. Serious surfers love the breaks best in winter, when the swells are high. Thick wet suits are a must, because water temperatures can drop into the high 50s. Black’s Beach continues to be one of the most challenging surfing beaches in San Diego. Winter is also when gray whales migrate to warmer waters. Charter boats offer whale-watching trips between December and April. View the whales with San Diego Harbor Excursion or with one of the more intimate sailboat charters offered around town. Sunsets can be particularly spectacular during the winter months.

Spring. Southern California's best wildflower display begins to appear in the Anza-Borrego Desert. At the Carlsbad Ranch, Southern California's largest bulb farm, 60 acres of Tecolote Giant Ranunculus bloom mid-March through early May. At its peak, there are more than 70 million blooms.

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