A Business Traveler’s Guide To San Diego


The challenge of going on a business trip to San Diego is not in being productive on the road. It’s having the will to get back on the plane to return home. 

California’s second-largest city welcomes millions of travelers each year, for pleasure and business. If you’re among them, check out this guide to make the most of your trip.


  • Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo landed in San Diego Bay in 1542 and claimed the area for Spain.
  • 1.4 million people call San Diego home, making it the eighth-largest city in the country and second-largest in California.
  • San Diego hosted two World’s Fairs, 1915-16 and 1935-36; buildings from the two expositions make up the foundation of Balboa Park.
  • San Diego has more than 7,000 farms, the most for any one city in the United States.
  • Should this post rhyme? Dr. Seuss called San Diego home.

San Diego International Airport (SAN)

Where to Go:

Travel to and from the airport is a breeze (especially compared to LAX). If you have time to kill while awaiting a flight or departing one, consider these options:

  • Carry a Centurion or Platinum American Express card? Lucky you! You get complimentary access to the Airspace Lounge. But anyone can get in for $35, which gets you snacks, coffee, and a shower if you wish.
  • Enjoy local beer selection at the appropriately named Craft Brews on 30th St.
  • Download AtYourGate and have food, snacks, and goodies delivered to you.
How to Get to Downtown San Diego

Cost: $2.50
Time: 10-15 minutes

Cost: $15
Time: 10-15 minutes

Cost: $10
Time: 10-15 minutes

Aerial view of Mission Bay & Beaches in San Diego, California

Dos & Don’ts In San Diego

San Diego has almost perfect weather all year round, and its citizens are, understandably, laid back. But the most well-meaning travelers should still stick to these tidbits of advice.


  • Limit your itinerary outside of your work obligations. San Diego is too big to visit all of its hot spots in one or two days. It’s best to pick one area and make the most of it if you have a short amount of time.
  • Visit a farmer’s market if you have to pick up groceries. There are several that offer fresh produce in lieu of supermarkets, etc.
  • Look twice before crossing the boardwalk to get to the beach. It’s always buzzing.



  • Get caught inside for too long. Many establishments, including workspaces in the city, offer outdoor seating.
  • Plan on parking in the city. It’s scarce and expensive, so if you must rent a vehicle, find your spot at the hotel and pull up your favorite rideshare app.
  • Drop that Anchorman quote. You know the one. Actually, the other one. No Anchorman. How’s that for a rule?
Electric scooters parked on a sidewalk

Five Tips To Master San Diego Transportation

Check the blogs or ask the locals about parking in San Diego, and they’ll all have negative reviews. With that in mind, the biggest tip is to leave the rental car at the hotel or skip renting one altogether. Here are five other things to think about as you prepare to travel around San Diego:

1. There's limited public transportation

If you’re limiting your stay to a small area near downtown, then the public transportation—specifically the trolleys—is convenient. If you’re not, plan to use rideshare apps or cabs pretty extensively.


2. Download the OneBusAway app

OneBusAway app iconThe first item shouldn’t prevent you from downloading the OneBusAway app, which provides users with up-to-the-minute bus information for San Diego. Because of the low fares, the bus is still an efficient way to get around the city. You should also bookmark the MTS On the Go webpage.


3. Biking & scootering can get you around

Hey, it’s 70 degrees outside and sunny. Embrace the weather by scootering or biking mid-length distances instead of hopping in a car. San Diego has both rideshare scooters and bikes, and they often offer the least expensive, most fun way to get from point A to point B.


4. Pay attention when crossing the boardwalk

This may not come into play based on your plan, but if you do find time to hit the beach, make sure you’re mindful of traffic on the boardwalk. There are bikers, skaters, rollerbladers, runners, walkers, and scooterers. 


5. Splurge for a convertible if you rent a car

Why not? It’s the perfect city for one, especially if you get a few free hours. A drive up the coast with the top down can make any business trip a successful one.

San Diego Skyline at sunset from Coronado

Your San Diego Soundtrack

The San Diego sound came to prominence in the 1990s and early 2000s as natives defined the music of the time: Eddie Vedder and grunge; blink-182 and pop-punk; Switchfoot and P.O.D. and Christian rock; Jason Mraz and adult contemporary. Before them, Tom Waits and Frank Zappa set the standard. Here’s your musical tour of the city.

Cropped photo of a businessman walking through hotel lobby with suitcase

Best Hotels For Business In San Diego

The competition to offer comfort, luxury, and views is fierce in the San Diego hospitality industry. And you win no matter what. Consider these six hotels when selecting lodging for your business trip:

Omni San Diego

No matter what room you end up in, you’re promised a stellar view. To one side, you get the ocean and bay. To another, you’ll stare out on downtown San Diego. To a final one, you’ll see beautiful Petco Park, home to the San Diego Padres (and if they’re in town, you can slide over to catch a ballgame). The poolside Terrace Bar & Grill is another perk for relaxation and comfort.


Courtyard by Marriott

You get all the benefits of the location at a low rate. The Courtyard by Marriott puts you in the heart of San Diego, blocks away from the Gaslamp Quarter and a short walk from the convention center. Splurge on an executive room for the best views.


Hilton San Diego Bayfront

The name says it all. This hotel puts you right on the water, with nothing but blue to see from your window. Even the pool is dozens of steps from the bay, but you’re also close enough to the convention center and other downtown spots to make it a convenient stay.


Westin San Diego

This is the hotel to balance work and play, especially for a short stay. Its downtown location makes it ideal for business travelers heading between the airport (three miles away) and convention center (one mile away). And once you’re done with work, a dip in the rooftop pool is quite nice.


US Grant

Luxury and history are the two words here, and you’ll pay handsomely for the former. It fits in your budget, a stay here is one of the most unique in San Diego. Ulysses S. Grant, Jr., built the hotel and named it in honor of his father. Today, it’s on the National List of Historic Places, but still features modern amenities like a 24-hour fitness center.


Manchester Grand Hyatt

A third-floor, 21-plus, rooftop pool. A Top of the Hyatt restaurant and lounge on the 40th floor. A complete 24-hour fitness center. Plus, the “Business Plan” room selection gives you a desk and chair as well as complimentary steam or press for one item of clothing. Don’t think twice and book a room at the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

People working at conference table in a coworking office

Best Places To Get Work Done In San Diego (That Aren't Your Hotel Room)

Work won’t necessarily feel like work when you find yourself at one of these San Diego locations:

Union Cowork

With three locations in San Diego (and seven overall), Union Cowork gives business travelers the flexibility to pick a spot that works for them. You’ll find a unique San Diego environment that’s dog-friendly and has both kombucha and local craft beers on draft.


Downtown Works

What’s not to like here? This coworking space offers similar amenities to any other, with the added bonus of boasting a food delivery system, weekly happy hours, local beers on draft, and a downtown San Diego roofdeck area.



Novel is another coworking space done right. This Gaslamp Quarter locale has conference rooms available to rent starting at $30/hour, so it’s a perfect spot for business travelers who need to sit with clients. Once you’re done with the meeting, head up to the roofdeck to relax.


Coffee & Tea Collective

This drink collective in North Park serves local tastes and supports local artists. Art covers Coffee & Tea Collective’s walls, making the spot a rotating gallery. There’s indoor and outdoor seating as well, and make sure to take notes on your favorite brews or teas—they ship outside of San Diego.


San Diego Central Library 

The San Diego Central Library is a simply stunning modern piece of architecture. The building features natural lighting in addition to an open-air terrace area. Head there to answer emails in a unique setting or consider attending one of the library’s free “Lunch and Learn” courses.


Woman learns how to surf on beach

6 San Diego-Only Workouts To Stay Fit On The Road

You want to explore the culture of the city. You want to sneak a workout in. Why not do both in San Diego?

San Diego Surf School

If you find the time and some brave colleagues, surf lessons might be the perfect San Diego way to exercise your mind and body. Book a one-on-one session at the San Diego Surf School for $94, or bring three friends and get private instruction for $59.


San Diego Skateboarding

Skateboarding wasn’t exactly born in San Diego (in fact, it was popularized 135 miles up the coast in Santa Monica), but the city did produce the most famous skater of them all: Tony Hawk. You can follow Hawk’s legacy by taking a lesson through San Diego Skateboarding.


Run in Balboa Park

The 1,200-acre Balboa Park has a little bit of everything, and its most popular residents are animals (the world-famous San Diego Zoo is here). Runners can get their fix along 65 miles of trails. Just make sure to watch out for the other exercisers.


Bike the Silver Strand Bike Path

A narrow, glorified sand dune connects Coronado Island to mainland California to the south—and you can bike it. The Silver Strand Bike runs about 12 miles from Coronado to Chula Vista. Rent a bike, chart your path, and take in the ocean on all sides.


Pura Vida Yoga

“An urban oasis in the heart of San Diego,” Pura Vida Yoga promises something for all levels of yogis.


Buy a pool pass

San Diego has 13 public pools that offer recreational and lap swimming. For $4, you can get your aquatic exercise in an outdoor setting, all year round. Check out the public pool site here.


Cocktail in glass with orange garnish

Best Happy Hours To Unwind During A San Diego

When your clients or colleagues suggest grabbing a quick bite or drink after work in San Diego, offer up one of these locations. You won’t be sorry.


Cacti guard the entrance, a scene that doesn’t fit with the restaurant’s self-description of being “unassuming.” But the happy hour promises cheap drinks—$5 local drafts and well drinks—as well as vegan delights like chickpea-battered greens and spicy-seeded taco “meat” tostadas. The setting, with a sunken bar and a chandelier, is also second-to-none and sure to impress any client or colleague.


Ironside Fish & Oyster

If your group asks for a seafood happy hour, suggest Ironside Fish & Oyster. It runs 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., with $1 oysters from both coasts. It’s also a central location, mere miles from the airport, neighboring downtown, and almost equidistant from the bay and Balboa Park.


Mister A's

Business travelers in search of a cocktail with a view should look no further than Mister A’s. The upscale establishment has indoor and outdoor seating available with views of the San Diego skyline and bay. Drink specials include local craft beer, wine by the glass, and specialty cocktails.


You & Yours Distilling Company

San Diego has earned its reputation as a haven for craft breweries, but the city also has stepped up in producing quality spirits. You & Yours Distilling Company, located in the East Village, specializes in vodka and gin. Head there post-work for a cocktail-making class. Like what you taste? The company’s reach continues to expand nationwide.


The Rabbit Hole 

A classic happy hour that delivers the staples: $5 craft beers. $6 glasses of wine. Half-priced appetizers. There on a Tuesday? Stay for karaoke. A Wednesday? Test your smarts at trivia. The Rabbit Hole serves comfort food and just plain comfort, for all travelers.


Mexican tacos served with rice and beans

5 Places To Grub Out In San Diego

Room service just doesn’t cut it in a city like San Diego. Make sure these five restaurants are in your meal plans.

The Crack Shack

With lawn games readily available, and a literal “shack” appearance, the Crack Shack may look more southern United States than Southern California. Well, that’s not an accident, and the fried chicken is divine.


Lola 55

This East Village eatery specializes in San Diego favorites: tacos and cocktails. It’s as simple as that. Lola 55 serves up nine different taco variations (from filet mignon to squash blossom relleno) in addition to Mexican desserts like the vegan churro.


Grand Ole BBQ y Asado

Barbeque is never a bad choice, especially in a city that draws migrants from all over the country. Texas is the taste here, and it’s a popular one. Grand Ole BBQ y Asado routinely ranks among San Diego’s most popular restaurants, specifically for its brisket.



Kindred, perhaps ironically named, isn’t necessarily for everyone. Mostly, you’ll need to prepare for the heavy metal music. But the vegan food, big on spice, and friendly staff are sure to make up for any other discomforts.



Grab your colleagues or go alone to Searsucker, a downtown restaurant with a little bit of everything, and, thus, something for everyone. The patio area is great for people watching. The menu features all sorts of cuisines. And the lounge is one of the most popular in the Gaslamp Quarter.


People riding bikes along the San Diego beach

San Diego Bleisure Travel Done Right

In a city that promises near-perfect weather, you can’t really go wrong when it comes to activities. You could explore La Jolla, or spend all day in Balboa Park, where you’ll find the San Diego Zoo. Our only advice would be this: If you have the opportunity to take a bleisure day in San Diego, do it. This is one suggested itinerary.

Get a breakfast burrito at Werewolf American Pub.

Whether it’s for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Mexican food is a must for any San Diego visitor. Why not start your day right with a breakfast burrito at this popular Gaslamp Quarter establishment? Werewolf’s offering includes eggs, bacon, jack cheese, potatoes, cilantro house sauce, and of course, smashed avocado.


Take the ferry to Coronado Island.

Once you’re good and stuffed, slide over to the oldest-working wooden ferry in the United States for a scenic trip across the San Diego Bay to Coronado Island. Have your phone handy to snap photos of some of the best views the city has to offer.


Lounge on the beach.

Ah, the endless possibilities of Coronado Island and its pristine beach. You could find something active to do, or pull up a beach chair and relax. After all, you are on a business trip, and it’s important to decompress.


Try your hand at surfing.

Being lazy is only fun for so long. Channel your true Southern California self by catching some waves. The Coronado Surfing Academy offers one-hour, one-on-one lessons for neophytes. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be hanging 10 by mid-afternoon.


Catch dinner at the Bluewater Grill.

Having the claim to the “best seafood” in an oceanside city is a big deal. Bluewater Grill, located on the bayside of Coronado, regularly gets votes for that distinction. It’s the perfect place to unwind after a day in the water, with a menu filled with fresh fish and local craft brews.


Sip drinks at the Level 9 Rooftop Bar.

Retire back to the Gaslamp Quarter to find the Level 9 Rooftop Bar. This lounge on the ninth floor of Hotel Indigo blends potent cocktails with sweeping views of San Diego. You won’t want to leave, the bar or the city.



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