*This is a budget-friendly hotel
The retro Kings Inn located in in Mission Valley West is just a few minutes’ drive from Balboa Park and a good base for families. The double queen rooms run around US$100 per night on average, and offer mini-fridges and full-sized tubs. The kids will love the on-site Waffle Spot and the outdoor pool with floaties, while parents can try the Jacuzzi and the hotel restaurant’s tequila selection. —Mandy Savoie
This laid-back property sits at the far end of Shelter Island, a man-made peninsula in San Diego Bay that is located just 20 minutes from downtown and 10 minutes from the airport. Blue and turquoise touches accent the bright standard rooms, and the resort’s 41 new suites feature coastal designs incorporating hand-hewn wood beams and come with large balconies overlooking the bay. Relax by the adults-only pool and indulge in a Himalayan Salt Stone massage at the spa before renting a cruiser bike to explore the palm-lined waterfront park, or—if aquatically inclined—enjoy stunning views of the San Diego skyline from a paddleboard. The resort’s Vessel Restaurant offers a menu of coastal fare and views of its yacht-filled marina. The porcini-dusted sea bass with confit potatoes, avocado and wild mushrooms is a must-try. End your night with a private bonfire on the beach.
Nearby: San Diego has high standards for Mexican food and Miguel’s Cocina, less than a 10-minute bike ride away, has been serving some of this border city’s best for 36 years. —Fabian Mayer
La Jolla, California (located right outside San Diego)
Situated seaside in San Diego, beachfront La Jolla is an idyllic jewel box of a suburb, with its ocean views and quaint streets lined with independent eateries and shops. The Pantai Inn is the perfect hotel counterpart to this refined village, offering intimate, boutique-style accommodations featuring Balinese-inspired details that are anything but cookie-cutter. Located directly across from the Scripps Park shoreline—close enough, if you leave the windows open, you can hear the waves crashing while lying in bed—the Pantai offers many inviting touches, including complimentary breakfast, locally made Eclipse chocolate bars at turndown and a fragrant private garden with water features and outdoor firepits. —Alyssa Schwartz