6 San Diego Tours First-Time Visitors Should Experience

Explore the best of San Diego on one of these local tours.

By Darcie Czajkowski, ContributorDec. 8, 2016
By Darcie Czajkowski, ContributorDec. 8, 2016, at 9:00 a.m.
U.S. News & World Report

6 San Diego Tours First-Time Visitors Should Experience

Fragment of the trolley and a building in Old Town State Historic Park in San Diego, Caifornia, USA

Next time you're in San Diego check out the Old Town Trolley Tour.(Getty Images)

In a city like San Diego where there's so much to do both on land and in the water, a guided tour can provide a fun and efficient way to hit the highlights. Whether you're interested in witnessing marine life up close, sampling local beer and food or taking in one of San Diego's diverse neighborhoods, there is something for every age and interest.

Here are six tours that in-the-know San Diegans say should be on your radar when you visit.

Old Town Trolley Tour

Local experts consistently say the Old Town Trolley Tour is an absolute must for first-time San Diego visitors. This tour is known for providing a rich, detailed history with fun facts and anecdotes about San Diego. "The tour gives you a really nice overview of the city," says Christopher Jorgens, chief concierge at the Hotel Del Coronado.

This 25-mile hop-on, hop-off tour includes stops in Old Town, the Gaslamp Quarter and Coronado Island. Tickets can be purchased online for roughly $35 for adults and about $17 for children ages 4 to 12.

La Jolla Kayak Tour

For ocean lovers, a two-hour kayaking tour through the La Jolla Ecological Reserve is a great option.

This tour, which requires no previous experience, explores the sandstone formations in seven sea caves. Kayakers may see dolphins, sea lions, leopard sharks and Garibaldi fish. "It's really easy, they show you what to do ... [and it's] fun to ride the wave when you're coming back in," says Andrew Tellez, chief concierge at The Westin San Diego. "During the winter season, you can see the California gray whales."

The tour, offered through San Diego Bike and Kayak Tours, starts at $39 per person, but prices depend on the day and time. Check the website for details and savings. Children as young as 5 can participate.

San Diego Beer, Wine & Spirits Tours

Experience the culture of an urban winery or local brewery with San Diego Beer, Wine & Spirits Tours. Brett Hamblen, chief concierge at the Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa, says, in particular, "the beer ones are becoming incredibly popular," given San Diego's thriving craft beer scene.

There are several different tours to choose from. Mark Peak, chief concierge at The US Grant, recommends a train or trolley tour. The five-hour train tour provides a behind-the-scenes peek at wineries up and down the Southern California coast. The trolley tour shuttles you around San Diego, stopping at a number of local breweries. There are also chauffeured tours to local wineries, breweries and distilleries, as well as walking tours. The tours start in either San Diego or the North County town of Carlsbad.

Tour lengths, times and prices vary.

Bite San Diego

Foodies should check out the Bite tours. Choose a neighborhood – North Park, La Jolla, Coronado, Liberty Station, downtown and Little Italy, or Encinitas – and a guide will take you on an approximately 2-mile walking tour where you'll sample the best eats in the area.

During the walk, you'll learn about each restaurant you visit, the food you're sampling and the history of the San Diego food scene. The cost is $47 per person, and the tours last three to four hours and hit five or more restaurants.

Segway Tours

Experience the sights and sounds of San Diego from a unique perspective by hopping on a Segway. They're "incredible and a lot of fun, and once people ride them, they get hooked," says Robert Marks, head concierge at the Omni San Diego Hotel. Marks often recommends this activity for families because it doesn't require any particular skill.

The length of the tours vary, and, depending on which one you choose, you can explore the Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy, the Embarcadero, Balboa Park, La Jolla or Mission Bay. Prices start at $89 per person.

Freefall Bike Tour

The Freefall Bike Tour leads guests on a biking tour of La Jolla and Pacific Beach. It starts at Mount Soledad, a veteran's memorial with stunning panoramic views of the city and Pacific Ocean. Then, you'll begin the descent to Pacific Beach, stopping at Crystal Pier, La Jolla Children's Pool, La Jolla Cove and the renowned surfing spot at Windansea Beach along the way.

This tour, also from San Diego Bike and Kayak Tours, lasts roughly three hours and covers a little more than 12 miles. Prices start at $49 per person, and bikers must be age 12 and older.

To experience more of what San Diego has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.

Darcie Czajkowski, Contributor

Darcie Czajkowski writes about travel for U.S. News. She is an avid traveler, who has visited ...  Read more

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