The 16 Best San Diego Tours

Take advantage of the adventures this coastal city has to offer with a guided trip.

U.S. News & World Report

The 16 Best San Diego Tours

Best San Diego Tours

San Diego is a well-known seaside town, but its fun extends well beyond its waters.(Getty Images)

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 collected 16 of the top tours in America's Finest City. Whether you're a nature lover or experience a city through its food, one of these tours is bound to tickle your fancy.

San Diego Beer, Wine & Spirits Tours – Winery Train Tour

Sit back and watch the Pacific roll by in between tastings of 15 different local wines at urban wineries. The five-hour train tour also includes a light lunch (complete with wine pairings), walks in historic villages and an optional brewery stop. Reviewers say you'll learn about wine, the city and local restaurants on this excursion. Ticket prices start at $98 per person, though the price does not include the train ticket. The tour is open to anyone 21 or older. Tourgoers ages 18 to 20 may join, but may not be allowed inside some establishments. Those 17 and younger are not permitted. The company also offers additional wine tours, beer excursions and distillery tours.

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. You may even spot wildlife on your sail, including sea lions, dolphins, seals and possibly whales. Tickets start at $95 per person and include beer, wine, nonalcoholic drinks and snacks. Tours depart at 5 p.m. daily during the summer with varying departure times and 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 excursion from Another Side of San Diego Tours. The trip 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 $149 per person. Tours depart multiple times daily. Another Side of San Diego Tours offers additional ways to see the city, including electric bike tours, food tours and hiking tours.

Duffy of San Diego – Captained Public Wine Cruise

Pair your tour of San Diego with wine and cheese on this cruise of Mission Bay. A captain will guide you through the bay as you enjoy a bottle of wine of your choice and a cheese and cracker plate in the spacious cabin. In addition to the panoramic views, you may also see some of the local wildlife. Tourgoers describe the boat's captain as friendly and informative. They also say both the snacks and the wine are tasty. Ninety-minute tours are limited to six passengers. Pricing varies depending on the number of people in your party. A party of two can expect to pay approximately $200 total. Kids are welcome. You can opt for an additional bottle of wine or upgrade to a charcuterie board for an additional fee. In addition to wine cruises, the company offers private charters and boat rentals.

Enjoy San Diego's bars and scenery while getting a work out when you join a tour from Social Cycle.(Courtesy of Social Cycle)

Social Cycle – Downtown Route

Ready to help pedal your way through downtown San Diego? Hop on board Social Cycle, where you and a group of up to 16 people pedal a bicycle to a variety of different bars through the Gaslamp Quarter and the East Village of downtown. Stops along the two-hour ride include a mix of breweries and craft cocktail bars. Reviewers say the experience is unforgettable and definitely a workout. Tours run Thursday through Sunday at varying times, and riders must be 21 or older. Tickets start at $60 per person. The company also offers routes through Little Italy, Pacific Beach, North Park and Hillcrest.

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 20 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 whale-watching kayak tours and snorkeling tours.

Bite San Diego – Downtown San Diego Walking Tour

Get a feel for San Diego's foodie side on this three- to four-hour guided walking tour through the city's Gaslamp Quarter, downtown and Little Italy neighborhoods. The tour, which is limited to 15 participants, stops at five or more local restaurants for dishes like curry, pizza and dessert. Along the way, your guide offers interesting tidbits about the city and its history. Tourgoers largely recommend the tour and guides, though some say the food leaves something to be desired. Tickets start at $47 per person, and tours run Fridays and Saturdays at noon, though only the Friday tours stop in Little Italy. Participants must be 21 or older to tour. Bite San Diego also offers food and walking tours of Coronado and La Jolla, among other areas.

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, and 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.

Hop aboard Seal Tours' semiaquatic vessel to see San Diego's wildlife.(Courtesy of San Diego Seal Tours)

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 start at $79 per person. When you're ready for more, Nation Tours also offers a Segway tour of Little Italy and an evening Segway tour of downtown.

Sail Stars & Stripes USA-11 – Public Sail

Tourgoers relish the opportunity to help sail this 78-foot yacht that 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 are offered multiple days a week (specific days vary) at 1 p.m. and include free photos and video for passengers. 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.

Hornblower Cruises & Events – Whale & Dolphin Watching Tours

Spot magnificent humpback whales, pilot whales and a variety of dolphins on this cruise with Hornblower. 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 $55 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.

See terrific sights while getting your workout in with a tour from San Diego Fly Rides.(Courtesy of San Diego Fly Rides)

San Diego Fly Rides – Cali Dreaming

This two-hour tour from San Diego Fly Rides travels about 10 miles and hits some of the city's highlights with an easy ride that skips big hills. Riders pedal electric bikes through the areas of La Jolla and Pacific Beach, visiting shorelines surfers love and spotting sea lions and harbor seals that call the area home. Reviewers say the electric bikes are fun to ride and the guides are informative. Riders must be 15 or older to take the tour, which costs approximately $80 per person. San Diego Fly Rides offers a variety of electric bike tours, including a 90-minute coastal trip for travelers short on time.

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. Tours are capped at six people. Ticket prices start at $99 per person. Snacks and drinks are available to purchase on board; your first glass of beer or wine is free of charge. 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 a sunset tour with a similar itinerary and also runs whale-watching excursions.

Old Town Trolley Tours

For a hop-on, hop-off option in San Diego, consider Old Town Trolley Tours. The 25-mile loop stops at 10 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 guides are informative, though sometimes difficult to understand. One-day tickets, which cost approximately $40 for adults and $25 for children ages 4 to 12, also include entrance to 10 museums and coupons to area attractions. Trolleys run daily starting at 8:50 a.m.; the time of the last trip varies by season. The company also offers ghost tours, daytrips to La Jolla and an evening tour to see the city lights.

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, 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 is limited to six passengers, departs twice daily at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tickets start at $85 for adults and $70 for kids 5 to 12. 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.

Lyn Mettler, Contributor

Lyn Mettler has written for U.S. News since 2014 covering a range of travel topics, including ...  Read more

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