Are you looking for your next dose of nature? San Diego is overflowing with stunning gardens that offer visitors a peaceful place to relax and unwind.
Maybe you’re staying in the city or along the seaside, a tranquil paradise awaits regardless of your location. Keep reading to find out about the most stunning San Diego gardens.
San Diego Gardens – Balboa Park Gardens
San Diego Botanical Building & Lily Pond
The postcard cover of Balboa Park is the San Diego Botanical Building and Lily Pond. Constructed in 1915 – 1916, the Balboa Park Botanical Building is one of the biggest lath buildings on the planet.
As you walk through this enclosed quiet space, you’ll be treated to 2,100 permanent plants with a selection of lovely orchids and tropical plant species. You’ll quickly realize why this is not only the best garden in the city but also one of the most popular things to do in San Diego.
This Balboa Park icon is currently closed for renovations and we all hope they can complete it as promised in 2023. Stay tuned for updates!
Check out these Balboa Park Tours:
★ Balboa Park Walking and Photography Tour
★San Diego Balboa Park Highlights Small Group Tour with Coffee
★Private Balboa Park Segway Tour
★San Diego Balboa Park Scavenger Hunt Adventure
One of Balboa Park’s hidden gems is the gorgeous Palm Canyon. This secluded walking trail takes visitors through vibrant forests before reaching a striking wooden rope bridge to the Alcazar Gardens.
Open 24 hours a day and home to 450 palms, recognizable from their large green fronds, you won’t be able to get enough of the Palm Canyon.
Zoro Garden/Butterfly Garden
What was once home to nudists is now overflowing with butterflies. Surrounded by serene rock pools and august ficus trees, Zoro Garden was originally meant to be a territory for those who love to roam free while unclothed.
This six acre garden features everything a butterfly needs to live a long-lasting healthy life, including verbena, nectar plants, lantana, and blanket flower. You’ll love the beautiful butterflies here.
Veterans Memorial Garden
Another one of the beautiful San Diego gardens is the Veterans Memorial Garden, set up to celebrate the lives of the men and women who have fought in the United States military.
It’s a small one acre space split into three parts, the sea, land, and air gardens. In the middle of all three is a huge statue of a WWII B-24 Liberator.
Trees For Health Garden
Enjoy three and a half acres of 70 species of medicinal plants at the Trees For Health Garden. This garden was set up to promote the power plants contain to help people heal.
Keep an eye out for the five plaques which describe each species’ taste and smell.
Kate O Sessions Cactus Garden
Are you bored of flower gardens? Then go and see the largest cactus in the whole of Balboa Park at Kate O Sessions Cactus Garden.
The area was developed in 1935 and is filled with imported African and Australian protea plants. This garden will make visitors feel like they’re in a foreign country.
Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden
If you’re in San Diego between March and December, you need to visit Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden.
These public gardens showcase 1,600 roses which are in peak bloom from April through May. Try heading down there on a Tuesday or Thursday, and you’ll see the Balboa Park Rose Garden Corps hard at work maintaining their beauty.
Florida Canyon Native Plant Preserve
Substitute your usual walking route for the miles of trails in the Florida Canyon Native Plant Preserve. Discover endless flora and fauna while wandering through these San Diego gardens.
Don’t feel comfortable navigating them on your own? The San Diego Natural History Museum often hosts informative guided tours at various times throughout the week.
Healing Peace Garden
Another garden in San Diego where you can learn about healing plants is the Healing Peace Garden. Saunter through food forests with tropical fruits and raised vegetable beds while listening to the sound of birds chirping in the background.
Why try to understand the process of plant healing alone when you can join one of the many workshops available to the public? They cater to all groups, from schoolchildren to adults.
California Native Plant Garden
Next up, we have the California Native Plant Garden comprising homegrown plants native to our great state.
This small display only has 36 plants that are drought tolerant and can be used for landscaping at home. Finding this spot can be a little bit tricky, go to the west end of the tennis courts at Morley Field, you’ll see a sign which will show you the way.
Casa Del Rey Moro Garden
Identical to the Moorish Gardens in Spain, the Casa Del Rey Moro Garden is a fabulous estate that was constructed for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition.
Over the years, the grounds have been redesigned to keep up with the times. A model of a well in the Guadalajara Museum of Gardens has even found a place there.
The Desert Garden
Situated on a small 2.5 acre of land, the Desert Garden houses 1,300 plants from all over the planet. Some of those being alluring succulents and admirable drought resistant plants, perfect for water conservation.
To see the plants bloom, visit the Desert Garden from January through March. Of course, you can visit at any other time and there will still be plenty to see.
San Diego is the second home for Australian plants since our climates are quite similar.
Head over to the Gold Gulch Canyon for an awe-inspiring presentation of plant species that make up the Australian Garden, including Grevillea, Callistemon, and more. It’s a flower lover’s heaven!
San Diego Japanese Friendship Garden
A list of botanical gardens in San Diego’s stunning Balboa Park wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the charming Japanese Friendship Garden. It’s a unique representation of the friendship between San Diego and the Japanese city of Yokohama.
Following a traditional Japanese design, the grounds are some of the most well-maintained in the state. They feature undisturbed koi ponds, creative stone designs, and various forms of Japanese architecture. Plus, of course, unbelievable views wherever you walk.
To enter the Japanese Friendship Garden, you must purchase tickets online beforehand. The great thing is that they don’t have a specific date, so you can use them whenever you wish.
Throughout the year, the Japanese Friendship Garden holds festivals that coincide with those in Japan, such as the world-renowned Cherry Blossom Festival, where you can see the famous bloom with your own eyes. It saves you from taking a trip over the Pacific.
Last but certainly not least of Balboa Park Gardens is the Alcazar Garden.
Inspired by the gardens of Alcazar Castle in Seville, this space is surrounded by boxwood hedges and filled with soothing features. These include colored Moorish tiles, intricately shaped fountains, and an impressive pergola.
It’s no wonder past visitors have described the space as a Garden of Eden.
San Diego Gardens – San Diego Botanical Garden Encinitas
Immerse yourself in the 37 acre enchanting San Diego Botanical Garden Encinitas. Embark around 4 miles of mysterious trails where you’ll be able to take in breathtaking seaside vistas.
View over 5,300 plant species while popping between 29 special garden spaces, each increasingly different from the other and containing plants from regions all over the globe.
The San Diego Botanical Garden Encinitas has something for everyone. Send your little ones to the biggest children’s garden along the west coast. While they’re at play, meander through Amazonian rainforests in search of the premise’s huge bamboo collection, known to be the most sizeable in North America.
Although tickets for the San Diego Botanical Garden Encinitas can be purchased at the front desk, it’s recommended you reserve them online before because they tend to sell out, especially during the high season.
As you can see, there are so many wonderful gardens in San Diego. From secret grounds to urban oases, choosing where to go on your next stroll has never been so exciting.
Which garden will you visit first?
Last Updated on May 9, 2023 by Maria Haase