K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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The San Diego Zoo is one of the most popular tourist attractions in San Diego. World-renowned for its endangered species breeding programs and conservation efforts, there are more than 3,700 rare and endangered animals here, representing some 660 species. It’s nestled in beautiful Balboa Park, a botanic paradise with lush gardens and trees just minutes from downtown. If you base yourself nearby, you’ll have easy access to the zoo and all of the other attractions in Balboa Park, as well as the waterfront and harbor cruises. These hotels are particularly ideal while being close to it all.
Situated at the northwestern edge of the Gaslamp Quarter, The Westin San Diego Gaslamp Quarter offers a prime location close to pretty much everything while offering a wide range of amenities. It has an outdoor pool with lounge chairs, a spa, and a fitness center open 24/7. Bronze Bird is the on-site restaurant serving Southern California comfort cuisine, while rooms have a calming feel that guests appreciate, especially after a long day of sightseeing. All come with flat-screen TVs, coffeemakers, mini-fridges, Wi-Fi, and spacious bathrooms with rainfall showers. Some of the higher-level rooms include views of the bay.
Andaz San Diego is a boutique Hyatt property with a gorgeous rooftop pool one of the world’s best hotels with an outdoor bar. There is also a fire pit and an elegant wine bar, one of the best outdoor bars at a hotel in the world. The Andaz wine bar is world-renowned for attracting VIPs that have even included Prince Harry, who enjoyed it on a visit in 2011. Weekend DJs offer a fun way to spend evenings too. There’s also a well-equipped 24-hour fitness center and a steakhouse on-site. The minimalist rooms feature extra-comfy beds with white linens, Keurig coffeemakers, iPod docks, and large flat-screen TVs. Upgraded options with living rooms and city views are available too.
Among the most romantic hotels in San Diego, Hotel Z is located in the Gaslamp District, the center of the action downtown and one of the most atmospheric neighborhoods with many Victorian homes and a wide range of eateries, galleries, bars, theaters, and live music venues. It’s known for its friendly staff, ideal location, and comfortable retro-style rooms that all come with flat-screen TVs and Keurig coffeemakers. There’s an Espresso bar on-site that offers coffee and light bites, while beach cruiser bikes are available for complimentary use.
Inn at the Park sits at the edge of Balboa Park, providing convenient access to all the attractions there as well as the popular Gaslamp Quarter and Little Italy downtown. An all-suite accommodation, the spacious studio and one- and two-bedroom suites all come with fully stocked kitchens and flat-screen TVs, while many have balconies with views of the park. Guests can also enjoy a piano bar, a rooftop lounge with sweeping vistas of the city and park, and a fitness center with cardio and weight-training machines.
Just under two miles from Balboa Park and the zoo, the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego is an icon on the city skyline, offering spectacular ocean views with the most impressive enjoyed from top-floor rooms. All include flat-screen TVs, coffeemakers, and mini-fridges. The property has two rooftop swimming pools providing panoramic views along with a lavish spa and multiple dining options, including a buffet eatery and a seafood restaurant.
A historic boutique hotel in the trendy North Park neighborhood near Balboa Park, just 1.5 miles from the zoo, The Lafayette Hotel, Swim Club & Bungalows has been accommodating guests since 1946. If you’ve ever wondered where the “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” bar scene in “Top Gun” was filmed, this is it. The former “Tarzan” star and Olympic gold medalist Johnny Weissmuller is responsible for designing the Weissmuller Olympic Pool. There’s also a fitness center and on-site dining at Hope 46 and Red Fox Steakhouse. Nightlife is impressive here, too, with a comedy club, regular live music, and “dive-in” movies. A variety of rooms are available, with the private two-story bungalows being the most glamorous, featuring original moldings and reclaimed wood floors, plus full kitchens. Many rooms include French doors that open to a patio around the pool area.
Just minutes from the zoo and within walking distance to many restaurants and various attractions, Hilton San Diego Mission Valley is an excellent choice for families, as there are children’s menus and supplies like high chairs, cribs, and playpens. At his top-notch San Diego Hilton hotel, you can even bring the family dog with pets of up to 75 pounds allowed. The property includes an outdoor heated pool, a whirlpool with a sundeck and loungers, and a fitness center with a good range of Precor cardio and strength-training equipment. Dining can be enjoyed at the Polanco Kitchen & Bar, which serves Latin cuisine with a Baja twist.
One of the best Marriott hotels in San Diego located just a mile from Balboa Park and within walking distance of many of the city’s top restaurants, THE US GRANT is a luxury hotel with a rich, century-old history that includes an impressive guest list with 14 U.S. presidents and countless celebrities. You’ll be close to the buzz downtown, too, yet far enough that you won’t have to worry about noise. Enjoy classically elegant rooms with upscale amenities like nightly turndown service, comfortable beds with white linens, and flat-screen TVs, with in-room spa treatments available. Upgraded options include features like separate living areas, and there are even some bi-level suites with beautiful bay views. A 24-hour fitness center and personal training are right on-site, along with a highly acclaimed restaurant and chic cocktail lounge.
Located downtown in the former San Diego Trust and Savings Bank building, the Courtyard San Diego Downtown is a historically elegant property that dates back to 1928. It’s managed to retain many original features, including an old vault that was transformed into a meeting space. Enjoy an ideal mix of historic and modern at the northern edge of the Gaslamp Quarter, with a trolley stop just a block away. There are plenty of nightlife venues nearby, while the zoo and Balboa Park are just a 20-minute walk or a 5-minute drive away. The Lobby restaurant and bar is on-site, serving handcrafted California fare, beer, wine, and cocktails. There’s also a fitness center, guest laundry facilities, and a sundry store, while the spacious rooms include flat-screen HDTVs with quality cable channels, pay-per-view movies, and free Wi-Fi. Some come with views of the bay.
The Best Western Cabrillo Garden Inn is a small Spanish Colonial-style boutique hotel and one of the closest downtown hotels to the zoo, while shops and eateries in the Gaslamp Quarter are just a 10-minute walk away. It’s a basic but clean, comfortable, and budget-friendly option with more character than most chain budget hotels. Guests enjoy a free continental breakfast and rooms that include free high-speed Wi-Fi, coffeemakers, refrigerators, and cable TVs with in-room movies.
Kimpton Alma is a new addition after being recently reimagined with a $25 million makeover. Nestled in the Gaslamp Quarter, all of the stylish rooms and suites, the pool area, and the restaurants were refreshed. Guests can enjoy the fabulous rooftop pool and hot tub, a rooftop bar and lounge, and a hip Mexican eatery. Free bike rentals are available for exploring, and massage can be enjoyed upon request. Rooms are spacious and sunny, with large windows, while big HD plasma TVs and iHome sound systems come standard. The Skyline rooms are especially impressive with their subtle surf designs and urban minimalism. Many come with either floor-to-ceiling windows or private balconies for enjoying a spectacular view.
The chic Pendry San Diego offers a prime location near great shopping, dining, and nightlife and just over a 5-minute drive from the zoo and Balboa Park. It provides an ideal mix of elegance and a cool Southern California vibe that extends to the rooftop, where you’ll find a pool with private cabanas. There are a half-dozen bars and eateries, including a basement social club and a beer hall. At Lionfish, guests can enjoy fresh-caught fish along with oysters and sushi, while Provisional is the place to go for seasonal California cuisine. There’s a fitness center to help you work off those calories and a spa for some pampering. Rooms feature huge flat-screen TVs, Bluetooth speakers, and fully stocked minibars.
Hotel Indigo San Diego Gaslamp Quarter is not only one of the best Gaslamp District hotels and, therefore, close to everything, but it also offers a fabulous rooftop with 4,000 square feet of green space, fire pits, and a bar where you can sip drinks while gazing out at the jaw-dropping view. Dining can be enjoyed at the restaurant in the lobby, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner focused around locally sourced ingredients, while the rooms feature hardwood floors, flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, spacious bathrooms, and fantastic views of downtown San Diego.
Solamar San Diego is located adjacent to the vibrant Gaslamp Quarter, just over a 5-minute drive to Balboa Park. It offers some fun boutique property perks like free bicycles for exploring the city and a complimentary beer and wine hour hosted every evening. There’s a gorgeous rooftop pool, cabanas, a poolside bar, and a 24/7 fitness center. Guests can also enjoy yoga on Sunday mornings. There’s no reason to leave your four-legged best friend at home as it’s pet-friendly and includes water bowls, treats, and pet beds. The rooms are impressive, featuring honor bars with organic options, yoga mats, and flat-screen TVs with DVD players. Plus, bathrooms have large jetted tubs that you can soak in just before getting into your comfy, animal print robe.