Note: Some tour providers on this list may have limited or ceased operations due to COVID-19. Check with your tour operator about availability before you book.
Whether by land or by sea, you can’t go wrong with a guided tour of San Diego‘s top sights. Using both traveler sentiment and expert opinion, U.S. News determined 12 of the top tours in America’s Finest City. Whether you’re a nature lover or an adventure seeker, one of these tours is bound to tickle your fancy.
Sail San Diego – Sunset Sail
This three-hour sunset sail welcomes up to six passengers to either sail in the harbor or out in the open ocean. When you’re not admiring the colors of the sunset, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife like sea lions, dolphins, seals and whales (season depending). Tickets start at $99 per person and include beer, nonalcoholic drinks and snacks. Tours depart at 5 p.m. daily during the summer; there is limited availability in the fall. Reviewers say the captain is fun and the boats are clean. You can also book whale-watching tours and daytime excursions with Sail San Diego.
Another Side of San Diego Tours – Coronado Segway Tour
Ride your way through San Diego and Coronado Island on a Segway with this three-hour trip. The outing begins in the hip Gaslamp Quarter, visits the Embarcadero, and then heads to Coronado where riders will see the iconic Hotel del Coronado and Coronado Beach. It also includes a round-trip San Diego Bay ferry ride. Visitors say the Segways are easy to ride, and guides are both knowledgeable and safety-conscious. Tickets start at $169 per person. Tours depart multiple times Monday through Friday. Another Side of San Diego Tours offers additional themed Segway tours, as well as bike and van tours.
GoCar – Experience San Diego Tour
Tour-takers regularly describe GoCar as a fun and exciting way to see the sights. Each yellow GoCar is equipped with a GPS system and prerecorded narration to provide information about the sights. Because you drive the car yourself, you can park the car at any point to explore on foot. The route for the four-hour Experience San Diego outing takes you by Seaport Village, Petco Park, the San Diego Zoo and Old Town, among other locations. Each car holds two people and you must be at least 21 years old to rent the vehicle. Prices start at $202 per GoCar. Tours run daily and depart from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the hour. GoCar also operates shorter, two-hour tours of different San Diego neighborhoods.
Everyday California – La Jolla Sea Caves Kayak Tour
Enjoy a rare opportunity to explore sea caves off San Diego’s coast in the area of La Jolla. Everyday California takes kayakers multiple times daily to see the seven sea caves and paddle through La Jolla Cove. Along the way, you’ll likely spot sea lions on the nearby rocks and bright orange Garibaldi fish swimming below your kayak. Reviewers describe the tour as beautiful and educational, though some warn that some groups cannot go inside the caves due to unsafe water conditions. Tours last 90 minutes and are limited to 10 kayakers. Prices vary depending on the day and time you book, though you can expect to pay around $45 to $75 for a single kayak and about $85 to $105 for a double. Participants must be at least 5 years old to join the tour. Everyday California also offers seasonal whale-watching kayak tours and snorkeling tours.
Speed Boat Adventures – Speed Boat Adventure Tour
Hop in a speedboat and breeze by all the attractions along San Diego Bay, from the USS Midway Museum to Seaport Village. Limited to just three people, the narrated tour takes visitors on a 1 1/2-hour trip for a look at wildlife, the Coronado Bridge, the downtown skyline and the historic ships of the Maritime Museum. Travelers rave about their guides and say the trip is a great way to see the city. Tickets cost approximately $205 for three passengers; there are less expensive options for double or single riders. Tours leave several times throughout the day. The company does not recommend the trip for children 4 and younger. Speed Boat Adventures also offers a VIP experience where you can drive your own speedboat.
Adventure R.I.B. Rides – Whale & Dolphin Watching
Experience the majesty of whales in the wild with Adventure R.I.B. Rides. During the three-hour excursion, you may spot gray, minke, fin or humpback whales, depending on the season. Plus, dolphin pods are known to swim alongside the boats. Along the way, captains – who are also marine naturalists – provide information about the surrounding sea life. The tour, which accommodates up to 12 passengers, departs twice daily at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tickets start at $98 per person. Children must be at least 4 years old to join the tour. Reviewers describe the tour as awesome. They also appreciate the small boat for its ability to travel quickly to whale sightings and its lack of large crowds. Adventure R.I.B. Rides also offers private whale-watching excursions and tours of the Coronado Islands in Mexico.
Hop aboard Seal Tours’ semiaquatic vessel to see San Diego’s wildlife.(Courtesy of San Diego Seal Tours)
This tour lets visitors experience the city both on land and on water by traveling in a boat with wheels. The 90-minute trip takes participants past key San Diego sights, such as the USS Midway, Point Loma and Seaport Village. Once you glide into the San Diego Bay, you’ll see the local sea lions and seals. Trips spend about 30 minutes on land and 60 minutes in the water. Tours, narrated by live guides, depart multiple times daily. Ticket prices start at $42 for adults, $25 for children ages 4 to 12 and $10 for children 3 and younger. Reviewers speak highly of the guides and describe the tour as delightful and fun. The company offers two departure locations: the Embarcadero and Seaport Village.
Nation Tours – Historic Gaslamp Quarter and Embarcadero Coast Segway Tour
Hop on a Segway and explore the city sights as you coast through the Gaslamp Quarter, the Embarcadero and waterfront areas, learning interesting facts and history along the way. You’ll see the Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade, Broadway Pier, Petco Park and more. Participants describe the tour as scenic and the guides as friendly and informative. Tours begin daily at 9 a.m. and last two hours. Tickets cost about $80 per person. When you’re ready for more, Nation Tours also offers an evening Segway tour of downtown.
Sail Stars & Stripes USA-11 – Public Sail
Tourgoers relish the opportunity to help sail this 78-foot yacht, which competed in the 1992 America’s Cup held in San Diego. Aboard the yacht, passengers can help raise and trim the sails or even try steering the boat during the three-hour adventure. What’s more, you’ll cruise through the bay at twice the speed of the average sailboat. Public sails run at 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Fees include free photos and video for passengers as well as water and soda. Tickets start at $125 for adults and $75 for children ages 5 to 18. Visitors can also book private charters or racing tours with the company.
City Cruises by Hornblower Cruises & Events – Whale & Dolphin Watching Adventure
Spot magnificent minke whales, fin whales and a variety of dolphins on this cruise with Hornblower. Depending on the season, you may also see gray whales or blue whales. Onboard naturalists from the San Diego Natural History Museum narrate the journey as you cruise through the open ocean. Plus, if you don’t see a whale during your roughly four-hour excursion, you’ll receive a pass to take another tour. Yachts have a snack and beverage bar on board. Cruises run in the winter, spring and summer Friday through Monday at 9 a.m. Tickets start at $59 for adults and $27.50 for children ages 4 to 12; children 3 and younger ride for free. Most tourgoers say they are able to spot at least one whale and greatly enjoy the experience. However, others express disappointment with the large number of passengers on board. Hornblower also offers dining cruises and harbor cruises, among other options.
San Diego Sailing Tours – Signature Daytime Sailing Tour
Discover San Diego Bay on a luxury yacht with San Diego Sailing Tours. Departing from Harbor Island, the two-hour tour takes visitors past the downtown skyline, Coronado Island and Point Loma, while the captain shares history and sailing information. Ticket prices start at $89 per person, though you’ll pay a bit more for trips departing on the weekends. Tours depart at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. daily. Reviewers offer high praise for the captains and say the tour is a relaxing experience. San Diego Sailing Tours sails private charters and charters its boats for families and other parties.
For a hop-on, hop-off option in San Diego, consider Old Town Trolley Tours. The 25-mile loop stops at 11 key locations, including Balboa Park, where tourgoers can get on and off at their leisure for further exploration. A live conductor narrates each tour aboard the iconic green and orange trolleys. Reviewers say the tour is a good value and that guides are informative, though sometimes difficult to understand. One-day tickets, which cost approximately $45 for adults and $25 for children ages 4 to 12, also include coupons to area attractions. Trolleys run Wednesdays to Mondays starting at 9 or 9:30 a.m.; the time of the last trip varies by season. The company also offers ghost tours and an evening tour to see the city lights.