San Diego Winter – Enjoy fun times in America’s Finest City
Winter in San Diego is a great time. There are lots of things to do and enjoy, from fun Christmas events in December, Whale Watching in January, and Museum Month in February. Here are some of our favorite San Diego Winter activities you have to try!
2020 has successfully been kicked to the curb, and we’re so happy to be entering a New Year filled with a whole lot of fresh possibilities. This is the time when many make their New Years’ resolutions and goals for the upcoming year. But this year, how about starting out with a simple promise to yourself? Namely getting healthier in 2021 – or at least enjoying more of the great outdoors we are blessed with living in America’s Finest City.
Locals and tourists in San Diego are fortunate and can enjoy mild winter temps (certainly better than most places), plenty of sunshine, and a myriad of outdoor activities to keep us busy, happy, and healthy.
San Diego Winter Weather
It’s no exaggeration that San Diego sports almost picture-perfect year-round Mediterranean-like weather. With an average of 265 days of sunshine, this makes it always feel a bit warmer outdoors than the thermometer reading.
Average winter temperatures range from the mid-60s to 70s Fahrenheit in January and February, with over 10 hours of daylight. Though January is the wettest month of the year, that only means 6.7 average days of precipitation, decreasing by February. Not bad for nearly 60 days of cold, harsh winter weather elsewhere.
So double check those weather forecasts and head outside to explore our beautiful town and its environs.
Here are some suggestions for some really fun outdoor things to do, and where to find them.
Ocean Kayak Sea Caves & More
San Diego residents and visitors alike have a host of kayaking opportunities in and around San Diego.
Water and nature lovers can kayak the cove and spectacular La Jolla cave. This is an awesome experience if you’ve never done it before. Tour operators like La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks led by experts take kayakers fitted in wetsuits out on the water through the La Jolla Ecological Reserve to explore kelp forests, wildlife, and stunning sea cliffs. This time of year is perfect for spotting harbor seals, sea lions, sea turtles, and whales.
Entrance to the Emerald Cave is possible when sea conditions permit, and access to the caves is limited to guided tour only.
Other favorite locations for kayak adventures include Coronado Island, Mission Bay, and Carlsbad Lagoon. Local rentals can be found at each of these locations as well. The Pacific Ocean can be chilly any time of year, so a word to the wise, a wetsuit is a must. Especially during the winter. Most tour operators and kayak rentals will lend you a wetsuit for your tour.
Best Kayaking Tours in San Diego
- La Jolla Sea Caves Kayak Tour
- La Jolla Whale Watching Kayak Adventure
- Kayak Fishing Guided Tour in San Diego Bay
- Pedal Kayak Fitness Tour in San Diego Bay
Nature Hiking With a View
I don’t know about you, but, for me, there’s nothing that motivates me more about lacing up those hiking shoes and heading out to a place where the end prize is more than just a great workout –it yields a magnificent view.
One of my favorite places to do just that is Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
The reserve’s well-maintained wilderness paths lead to breathtaking vistas of the Pacific Ocean atop lofty cliffs that overlook miles of spectacular coastal beach. Surrounded by striking sandstone formations, the Reserve offers multiple winding trails of varying lengths and difficulties lined with picturesque pines, desert succulents and colorful wildflowers.
Sunset Cliffs may be the most relaxing enchanting and urban hike in San Diego showcasing 1.5 miles of fascinating tide pools and sea cliffs. Nature abounds here and those heading to the cliffs in the afternoon are likely to spot bottlenose dolphins frolicking in the surf and seals splashing along the rocks. Sunset Cliffs is aptly named as visitors here get to enjoy some of San Diego’s most inspiring and spectacular sunsets.
A rite of passage for more experienced hikers is to take on Poway’s Mount Woodson trek to a uniquely shaped outcropping known as Potato Chip Rock. Yes, the 6.4-mile hike over zig-zagging trails is a challenge, but the treats at the end are 1) to know you did it 2) to take that selfie proving it, and 3) to take in the magnificent panoramic views of Lake Poway and Palomar Mountain.
Learn To Surf
Hang ten and catch a wave. San Diego has some of the best surfing breaks on the Southern California Coast. Miles of open ocean coastline beckon visitors and locals alike to paddle out to catch the big one.
From south Imperial Beach to north Oceanside and lots of beaches in between, San Diego can be surfed year-round. And it is – just ask the surfers or go see for yourself. Local wave-riders here all have their favorite spots like Black’s Beach and La Jolla Shores, Del Mar, and Swami’s in North County Encinitas.
For those who’ve never surfed but always wanted to, San Diego is home to numerous surfing schools for every age group and experience level. Lessons range from one-on-one sessions to small groups. Established in 1997, Pacific Surf School and San Diego Surf School are widely recognized as the best surf schools in San Diego for beginner surfers. You can book your surf lessons here>>
One of our favorite outdoor activities is beach biking. San Diego has so much oceanfront and bay area paths ideal for pulling out those beach cruisers and heading out for an afternoon of “fun in the sun.”
We love Coronado Beach’s long strand that passes by that elegant grand lady of San Diego, the Hotel del Coronado and some other stunning hotels in Coronado. The Pacific Beach Boardwalk sports some of the best people-watching in all of San Diego. Mission Beach’s boardwalk is likewise perfect for biking, and Mission Bay’s Bike Path touts an impressive 12-mile circuitous route along a picturesque waterfront.
In North County, the Carlsbad Coastal and Solana Beach Rail Trails run alongside the train tracks and the waterfront with numerous places to stop and admire the scenery.
Don’t have your own beach cruiser? Not a problem in San Diego, as there are numerous places to rent bikes throughout the entire county. Or you can go on a guided Beach Cruise tour around Coronado.
Walking or Running the Beach
For the more serious-minded fitness conscious, San Diego beaches offers many opportunities for a stroll or even beach run. With 70 miles of pristine sand along a stunningly beautiful coastline, you have to admit, the outdoor scenery sure beats the inside of a gym! Half of the fun of course is trying to outrun the rising tides.
Those of us with dogs know well how much our canine family members love running the beach – and it’s great exercise for them as well. Like us, they benefit from the combination of fresh air and vitamin D. Take a look at all the San Diego dog beaches here>>
We love our amazing beaches not only for shoreline walks or runs, but many offer places to relax after a good workout. Coronado State Beach is famous for its wide-open spaces where you can run and walk on the sand or on a paved path running along the beach.
La Jolla beaches provide the opportunity to begin your jaunt at La Jolla Shores and run north towards Torrey Pines State Reserve.
While paths at Ocean Beach (following Sunset Cliffs Blvd) aren’t located directly on the sand, the views are simply spectacular, especially during the golden hour. This is magical time of day when the sun setting against the massive golden cliffs is absolutely mesmerizing.
Though Mission Bay isn’t technically on the beach, the paved paths throughout Mission Bay Park perfect for running. They are fairly level, and again, the bay water views are lovely.
Tips for running on the Sand
Just remember that if you’re running on the sand, to run on the flat, wet surface if possible. Sand provides more resistance, so, don’t overdo it if you’re not conditioned to beach running.
Put on running shoes. As tempting as it is to go toes in the sand, you want to avoid any sharp coastal plants or objects that may have washed ashore.
Winter is the perfect time of year for whale spotting. From mid-December through April, more than 20,000 gray whales make a 10,000-mile round-trip Pacific journey from Alaska to the lagoons of Baja California, Mexico. The waters of San Diego just happen to be directly in the migration path offering views of this impressive parade of gentle giants.
Landlubbers can see these magnificent sea creatures at vistas near the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the Cabrillo National Monument, and from Torrey Pines State Reserve hiking trails.
For a more awe-inspiring up-close-and-personal experience, a whale-watching cruise is the way to go. Not only do these cruises head to the places where these ocean leviathans are most frequently spotted, but these 2.5 to 3-hour cruises are narrated by certified marine biologists with in-depth knowledge of the habits and behaviors of the whales, dolphins, and other sea life. If you’ve never done it, we highly recommend it. If you have, consider doing it again, as guaranteed, each whale watching experience is unique.
An even more adventurous way to see the whales is doing a kayak tour to see the whales up close and personal. Such a cool experience! You can book your tickets here>>
Read our full review on the best whale watching tours in San Diego here>>
Did you know that San Diego has some of the best bird watching in Southern California? Which is a good reason to grab your binoculars, and plan some outdoor trail adventures to see some incredible avian life.
Imperial Beach is home to one of San Diego’s largest coastal wetlands. This natural habitat for 370 species of birds and six endangered species is usually popular during spring and fall migrations when shorebirds, waterfowl, and neotropical birds along the Pacific Flyway stop to forage on the beach and in protected wetlands. But winter months bring special opportunities to view waterfowl, shorebirds, and raptors who over-winter here in the salt marshes.
One of the most notable sites in Imperial Beach is the Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center (part of the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve). The Reserve offers four miles of walking trails where you’ll find not only birds, but, lizards, brush rabbits, and other native flora and fauna.
Here’s hoping this article provides some ideas for exploring the fun things to do in San Diego this winter. Please be sure to share your experiences, as well as other suggestions for opting outside and finding great ways to stay healthy and happy.
Fun San Diego Winter Activities You Have To Try was written by Noreen Kompanik for San Diego Explorer.
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Last Updated on February 11, 2021 by Maria Haase