San Diego



A Guide to the Best Tours

San Diego, known as “America’s Finest City,” offers a wealth of attractions and activities for visitors to enjoy. One of the best ways to experience the rich culture, stunning landscapes, and vibrant history of this beautiful coastal city is through guided tours. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the various types of tours available in San Diego, providing detailed information on what each tour offers, how to book them, and what to expect. From walking tours and bus tours to adventure and culinary experiences, there’s a tour for every type of traveler looking to make the most of their visit to San Diego.

Types of Tours Available

San Diego’s diverse tour offerings cater to a wide range of interests and preferences. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or an adrenaline junkie, you’ll find a tour that suits your needs. Here, we delve into the different types of tours available, along with detailed descriptions and contact information for some of the best options in each category.

Types of Tours Available

Walking Tours

Walking tours are an excellent way to explore San Diego’s neighborhoods and landmarks up close. They provide a more intimate experience, allowing visitors to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the city.

1. Old Town Walking Tour

  • Company: Old Town Trolley Tours
  • Contact Information: 4010 Twiggs St, San Diego, CA 92110
  • Phone: (619) 298-8687
  • Website: Old Town Trolley Tours
  • Description: This tour takes visitors through the historic heart of San Diego, exploring the birthplace of California. Highlights include visits to the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park and various preserved historic buildings.

2. Gaslamp Quarter Walking Tour

  • Company: Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation
  • Contact Information: 614 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
  • Phone: (619) 233-4692
  • Website: Gaslamp Foundation
  • Description: Discover the vibrant nightlife district’s rich history, architecture, and colorful past. The tour covers Victorian-era buildings, former gambling dens, and stories of the early pioneers of San Diego.

3. Balboa Park Walking Tour

  • Company: San Diego Museum of Man
  • Contact Information: 1350 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
  • Phone: (619) 239-2001
  • Website: Museum of Man
  • Description: Explore one of the largest urban parks in the United States, home to gardens, museums, and the famous San Diego Zoo. The tour includes visits to iconic buildings from the Panama-California Exposition.

1. San Diego City Tour

  • Company: San Diego Scenic Tours
  • Contact Information: 1050 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
  • Phone: (619) 522-6155
  • Website: San Diego Scenic Tours
  • Description: This comprehensive tour covers major attractions such as Balboa Park, La Jolla, and the Gaslamp Quarter, providing a great overview of the city.

2. Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley Tour

  • Company: Old Town Trolley Tours
  • Contact Information: 4010 Twiggs St, San Diego, CA 92110
  • Phone: (619) 298-8687
  • Website: Old Town Trolley Tours
  • Description: With 10 stops throughout the city, this flexible tour allows visitors to explore at their own pace. Highlights include Coronado, Little Italy, and Seaport Village.

3. Coastal San Diego Tour

  • Company: Coastal Tours of San Diego
  • Contact Information: 789 W Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
  • Phone: (858) 999-0233
  • Website: Coastal Tours
  • Description: This scenic tour takes visitors along the beautiful coastline, stopping at popular beaches and coastal communities like Del Mar, Encinitas, and Carlsbad.

Bus Tours

For those looking to cover more ground, bus tours offer a convenient and comfortable way to see San Diego’s top attractions.

Adventure Tours

For thrill-seekers and nature lovers, adventure tours offer exciting ways to experience San Diego’s natural beauty.

1. Kayaking Tour of La Jolla Caves

  • Company: La Jolla Kayak
  • Contact Information: 2199 Avenida De La Playa, La Jolla, CA 92037
  • Phone: (858) 459-1114
  • Website: La Jolla Kayak
  • Description: Paddle through the stunning La Jolla Ecological Reserve, exploring sea caves and spotting marine life such as sea lions and leopard sharks.

2. Hot Air Balloon Ride

  • Company: Sky’s the Limit Ballooning Adventures
  • Contact Information: 951 Palomar Airport Rd, Carlsbad, CA 92011
  • Phone: (760) 602-0295
  • Website: Sky’s the Limit
  • Description: Soar above San Diego’s wine country and coastline, enjoying breathtaking views from the sky. This tour includes a champagne toast and light snacks.

3. Whale Watching Cruise

  • Company: San Diego Whale Watch
  • Contact Information: 1717 Quivira Rd, San Diego, CA 92109
  • Phone: (619) 542-9931
  • Website: San Diego Whale Watch
  • Description: Set sail on the Pacific Ocean to observe majestic whales in their natural habitat. This tour offers the chance to see gray whales, blue whales, and dolphins.

1. Little Italy Food Tour

  • Company: Bite San Diego
  • Contact Information: 1501 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
  • Phone: (619) 634-8476
  • Website: Bite San Diego
  • Description: Sample delicious Italian cuisine while learning about the history and culture of San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood. Stops include local restaurants, bakeries, and gelaterias.

2. North Park Beer Tour

  • Company: Brewery Tours of San Diego
  • Contact Information: 1050 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
  • Phone: (619) 961-7999
  • Website: Brewery Tours
  • Description: Explore San Diego’s craft beer scene with visits to top breweries in the North Park area. Includes tastings of various beer styles and a behind-the-scenes look at the brewing process.

3. Gaslamp Quarter Food Tour

  • Company: So Diego Tours
  • Contact Information: 402 W Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101
  • Phone: (619) 233-8687
  • Website: So Diego Tours
  • Description: Discover the culinary delights of the historic Gaslamp Quarter, with stops at popular restaurants and food shops. Enjoy tastings of local dishes and learn about the area’s history.

Culinary Tours

Foodies will delight in San Diego’s culinary tours, which offer tastings of the city’s best dishes and insights into its vibrant food scene.

Historical Tours

Historical tours provide a deeper understanding of San Diego’s rich past and its significant landmarks.

1. Old Town San Diego Tour

  • Company: Old Town Trolley Tours
  • Contact Information: 4010 Twiggs St, San Diego, CA 92110
  • Phone: (619) 298-8687
  • Website: Old Town Trolley Tours
  • Description: Explore the birthplace of California, visiting historic buildings and learning about the early settlers of San Diego.

2. Cabrillo National Monument Tour

  • Company: Cabrillo National Monument Foundation
  • Contact Information: 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr, San Diego, CA 92106
  • Phone: (619) 557-5450
  • Website: Cabrillo Foundation
  • Description: Discover the history of Juan RodrĂ­guez Cabrillo’s landing in San Diego, with visits to the monument, lighthouse, and tidepools.

3. Maritime Museum Tour

  • Company: Maritime Museum of San Diego
  • Contact Information: 1492 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
  • Phone: (619) 234-9153
  • Website: Maritime Museum
  • Description: Explore historic ships and learn about San Diego’s maritime history. Highlights include the Star of India and the USS Dolphin submarine.

1. San Diego Ghost Tour

  • Company: San Diego Ghosts
  • Contact Information: 2750 Historic Decatur Rd, San Diego, CA 92106
  • Phone: (619) 618-6613
  • Website: San Diego Ghosts
  • Description: Discover the haunted history of San Diego with a nighttime walking tour of the city’s most haunted locations. Learn about local legends and ghost stories.

2. San Diego Safari Park Behind-the-Scenes Tour

  • Company: San Diego Zoo Safari Park
  • Contact Information: 15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd, Escondido, CA 92027
  • Phone: (760) 747-8702
  • Website: Safari Park
  • Description: Get up close and personal with exotic animals on this behind-the-scenes tour. Includes visits to animal enclosures and interactions with wildlife keepers.

3. San Diego Brewery Tour by Bike

  • Company: San Diego Bike & Kayak Tours
  • Contact Information: 2158 Avenida De La Playa, La Jolla, CA 92037
  • Phone: (858) 454-1010
  • Website: Bike & Kayak Tours
  • Description: Combine fitness and fun with a bike tour of San Diego’s best breweries. Includes bike rentals, guided routes, and tastings at several local breweries.

Unique and Specialty Tours

San Diego offers several unique tours that provide experiences you won’t find anywhere else.


Pricing and Booking Information

Tour prices in San Diego vary depending on the type of tour, duration, and level of exclusivity. Here are some general price ranges:

  • Walking Tours: $20-$50 per person
  • Bus Tours: $40-$80 per person
  • Adventure Tours: $60-$150 per person
  • Culinary Tours: $50-$100 per person
  • Historical Tours: $25-$60 per person
  • Unique and Specialty Tours: $30-$200 per person

Factors that may affect pricing include group size, season, and any additional perks or exclusive access offered.

Booking Process

Most tours can be booked online through the tour company’s website, via travel agents, or on-site at the tour location. It’s advisable to book in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons. Be sure to read the cancellation policy, as some tours may have fees for last-minute cancellations or changes.

Cancellation Policies

Cancellation policies vary by company, but generally, you can cancel a tour up to 24-48 hours in advance for a full refund. Some exclusive or specialty tours may have stricter policies, so it’s important to check the terms and conditions when booking.


To ensure a comfortable and enjoyable tour experience, consider the following tips:

  • Clothing: Dress appropriately for the weather and tour type. For walking tours, comfortable shoes are essential. Adventure tours may require athletic wear and sun protection.
  • Gear: Bring necessary gear such as water bottles, hats, sunscreen, and cameras. Some tours may provide specific equipment, like life jackets for kayaking tours.
  • Essentials: Carry a small backpack with snacks, a map, and any personal items you might need during the tour.

Physical Demands

Tours vary in their physical demands:

  • Walking Tours: Generally require moderate walking and may include stairs or uneven terrain.
  • Bus Tours: Minimal physical exertion, but may involve some walking at stops.
  • Adventure Tours: Higher physical demands, such as kayaking, hiking, or cycling.
  • Culinary Tours: Light walking between food stops.
  • Historical Tours: Moderate walking, often including indoor and outdoor locations.

Check with the tour operator if you have any concerns about accessibility or physical requirements.

Knowledge and Insights

Guided tours provide valuable insights and knowledge from local experts, enhancing your understanding and appreciation of the destination. Guides often share stories, historical context, and little-known facts that you wouldn’t discover on your own.


Tours offer the convenience of having transportation and itineraries planned out, especially beneficial for exploring remote or logistically complicated destinations. This allows you to relax and enjoy the experience without worrying about the details.

Exclusive Access

Some tours provide exclusive access to areas or experiences not available to the general public, such as behind-the-scenes tours, private tastings, or interactions with local artisans and wildlife.

Pros and Cons


  • Expert Knowledge: Gain insights and stories from experienced guides.
  • Convenience: Stress-free planning and transportation.
  • Access: Exclusive experiences and access to special locations.


  • Less Flexibility: Tours have set itineraries and schedules.
  • Group Size: Larger groups may reduce the personal experience.
  • Cost: Guided tours can be more expensive than independent exploration.

Safety Measures

Tour companies in San Diego prioritize safety, especially for adventure and wildlife tours. Common safety measures include:

  • Professional Guides: Trained and experienced in ensuring participant safety.
  • Equipment Checks: Regular maintenance and safety checks on all equipment.
  • Briefings: Pre-tour safety briefings to inform participants of any risks and precautions.

Comfort Tips

To ensure your comfort during the tour, consider bringing:

  • Snacks and Water: Stay hydrated and keep energy levels up.
  • Sun Protection: Hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen are essential for outdoor tours.
  • Comfortable Clothing: Dress appropriately for the activity and weather.

Final Thoughts

San Diego offers a wide range of tours that cater to diverse interests and preferences, providing unique and enriching ways to experience the city. From historical walking tours and scenic bus rides to adventurous kayaking excursions and delicious culinary journeys, there’s something for everyone. Guided tours offer the convenience of expert knowledge, planned itineraries, and exclusive access, making them an excellent choice for maximizing your travel experience.

We encourage you to explore the various tour options available in San Diego, check availability, and book a tour that aligns with your interests. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, guided tours provide an exceptional way to discover the many facets of this beautiful coastal city. Happy exploring!