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Is San Diego Safe To Visit? Here’s What Tourists Should Know

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When it comes to sun, sand, and surf, San Diego gets the gold medal. America’s Finest City is a haven for some of the best restaurants I’ve had the honor to eat at, world-class museums, and breathtaking beaches. Personally, visiting San Diego was love at first sight, and I’d move there in a heartbeat.

My first journey there was a memorable getaway with my parents (my dad attends annual conferences but takes extra days off so we can do small road trips). When I stayed at the Super 8 in Mission Valley, there was a Mexican restaurant a few doors down. I still crave it to this day. The Amigo Spot holds a special place in my heart.

Shoreline in La Jolla San Diego
Dancestrokes / Shutterstock

This city is a slice of paradise that sports the perfect weather year-round. San Diego’s climate is warm but doesn’t have that deathly humidity factor. Imagine being outside all day with perfect hair and minimal sweat!

With this heat in mind, let’s get to the burning question: Is San Diego safe? The short answer is yes.

San Diego is a great place and a safe destination to visit. You can safely enjoy the tourist areas without worry. Let’s take a look at San Diego, safety tips, and everything that the “Birthplace of California” has to offer.

See Related: San Diego CityPASS Review Is it Worth the Price?

Is San Diego Safe? Tips for Tourism Safety

Open passport with stamps
Maksym Yemelyanov / Adobe Stock

Before the Trip

Here are a few things to consider before jetting off to San Diego to give you a little peace of mind:

  • California is prone to natural disasters, including adverse weather and earthquakes. It’s vital to check weather alerts before booking. Thankfully San Diego has an exceptional Emergency Management Team. They are dedicated to providing a quick response and are prepared to tackle whatever comes their way.
  • You may need more travel documents depending on where you’re coming from. Double-check that you have all of the proper documentation for an easy trip. You can also make photocopies of your ID and Passport. A zippered folder is fantastic for carrying important papers.
  • Before you visit San Diego, it’s not a bad idea to purchase some travel insurance. Many travel insurance packages are available, including options from AIG Travel Guard or SafetyWing. The last thing you need is to worry about a canceled flight or an unforeseen medical emergency. It’s always better to have and not need than need and not have!
  • Finally, give a trusted friend or family member a copy of your itinerary. If you’re coming from an international destination, purchasing a phone plan that will work in the United States is also a good idea.

During the Trip

With all that good stuff considered, here are a few more things to remember once you arrive in San Diego (or anywhere, really):

  • Drink responsibly and know your limits! The same can also be said for California cannabis, which is legal for adult recreational use.
  • Always lock your hotel room, hotel safe, and car. Don’t leave valuables in your car.
  • Be aware of your surroundings when out and about.
  • Avoid people, places, or situations that make you uncomfortable.
  • Avoid walking alone at night in poorly lit areas.

See Related: San Diego vs Los Angeles: What’s the Difference?

Is San Diego Safe for LGBT, Solo Travelers, and Female Travelers?

Young Female Traveler in the Airport Terminal Hall
Vlad Teodor / Shutterstock

LGBTQIA+ Travelers

First, San Diego has a thriving community for the LGBTQ+ crowd. Neighborhoods like Hillcrest and North Park are particularly welcoming. These neighborhoods have tons of LGBTQ+-friendly restaurants, bars, clubs, and accommodations. San Diego also hosts LGBTQ+ events year-round.

Solo Travelers and Solo Female Travelers

Solo travel can be very fulfilling and healing, and you’ll be happy to hear that San Diego is pretty safe for solo travelers, including solo female travelers. As with any solo travel, it is advised to take extra precautions to ensure your safety.

  • Never tell anyone you’re traveling alone.
  • Don’t leave drinks unattended.
  • Avoid dangerous neighborhoods, especially at night.
  • Don’t accept rides from strangers.
  • If you are going out at night, make sure you have a ride back home.

San Diego’s Crime Rates and Crime Statistics

Crowded Mission Beach boardwalk San diego
Sherry V Smith / Shutterstock

Is San Diego dangerous? While the city has its fair share of criminal activities, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say San Diego is unsafe. Overall, citizens of San Diego will more than likely be a victim of property crime as opposed to violent crimes. The city’s crime rates are pretty low when considering national averages.

Compared to other large cities in the United States, violent crime rates are low in San Diego. This is according to data from the San Diego Police Department.

In 2022, San Diego had just under 31,000 reported cases of criminal activities. Out of those, only 51 were murder cases, which is astonishingly low for any major city in the U.S.

Most crimes committed in the city are property crimes. In 2022, around 80% of reported criminal activity is related to property crime. On a more positive note, this number has been declining since 2005.

Motor vehicle theft may be increasing in the San Diego area. The city saw a spike in 2021.

Although rental cars usually have theft protection as part of the package, you may want to avoid the risk altogether and skip renting a car. It’s not a bad idea since San Diego has a well-established public transportation system.

As with the rest of the U.S., hate crime is also something that’s increasing in the city. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, hate crimes have risen in the last few years.

As for petty crime, tourist areas will inevitably be a target. Just keep an eye on your belongings, avoid conversations with strangers, and use common sense.

Overall, citizens of San Diego will more than likely be a victim of property crimes rather than violent crimes. Crime rates are low when considering national averages.

How Safe Is San Diego Compared to Other Cities

Compared to other large cities in the United States, San Diego has lower crime rates. For a quick glance at San Diego compared to other major cities in the U.S., Numbeo has developed two indexes to rate safety.

The Numbeo Crime Index considers crime levels, the overall feeling of safety, survey responses from residents, and actual instances of property and violent crime over 36 months. Any Crime Index below 20 is considered very low, crime levels between 20 and 40 are low, crime levels between 40 and 60 are moderate, crime levels between 60 and 80 are high, and crime levels higher than 80 are very high.

The Safety Index also takes into account user-generated data by polling residents and locals about how safe and secure they feel in their community. The higher the safety score, the more safe an area is perceived to be.

City Crime Index Safety Scale
San Diego (CA) 40.58 59.42
Los Angeles (CA) 52.65 47.35
San Francisco (CA) 61.36 38.64
Portland (OR) 56.08 43.92
Chicago (IL) 65.88 34.12
Dallas (TX) 51.69 48.31
New York (NY) 49.42 50.58
Philadelphia (PA) 65.54 34.46

Is San Diego a Safe Place to Live?

San Diego, California Skyline
SeanPavonePhoto / Adobe Stock

The city of San Diego is a fantastic place to live and raise a family, and with every city, some neighborhoods are safer than others.

According to Niche.com, Del Mar Mesa is one of the safest neighborhoods in San Diego, with its A+ safety rating. Other examples of San Diego’s best neighborhoods are Torrey Hills, Black Mountain Ranch, Carmel Valley, and Solana Beach.

The Safest Places to Stay in San Diego

While I could go on for ages about the best places to stay in San Diego, someone beat me to it. So, while it’s not as easy a task as I thought it’d be, let me talk about the safest places to stay in San Diego.

La Jolla

Ocean view from La Valencia Hotel balcony
La Valencia Hotel / Booking.com

La Jolla is one of the best neighborhoods to stay for safety. It’s a heavenly neck of the woods that screams “dream vacation.”

If luxury travel is more up your alley, La Jolla is the place to be, with incredible views, a suburban feel, and Instagram-worthy beaches. For a unique experience, visit the sea lions nearby at La Jolla Cove. Prefer to be in the water? Snorkel and kayak the day away!

If you’re looking for places to stay, La Valencia guests can enjoy a full breakfast, two restaurants, a cafe, and a pool.

See Related: Things to Do in La Jolla

Del Mar

Best Western Premier Hotel Del Mar building
Best Western Premier Hotel Del Mar / Hotels.com

Del Mar is a safe suburban neighborhood and one of the best places to stay and live in San Diego. It’s peaceful, quiet, and plenty charming, sitting on the seafront.

Traveling with a furry friend? Head down to the Del Mar Dog Beach. Foodies will find no shortage of great grub at Del Mar Plaza without forking over downtown San Diego prices.r

The deals continue when it comes to accommodations. The Del Mar vacation rental game might be the most bang for your buck in the city.

There aren’t many hotels in Del Mar proper, but there are a few sensibly-priced ones. The local Best Western Premium Hotel has glowing reviews from guests. Kids get to stay for free, and the hotel offers free cribs and infant beds.

Coronado Island

Hotel Coronado at sunset San Diego
HannaTor / Shutterstock

Thanks to its historic status as San Diego’s own resort town, Coronado Island is one of the safest places to stay in the San Diego area and has been beckoning vacationers since the 19th century. And what trip to Coronado Island would be complete without viewing this beauty? The famous Hotel del Coronado was one of the first commercial structures to be illuminated by electricity.

At the historic Hotel del Coronado, you can make all of your social media followers jealous. There are a ton of photo ops with stunning views.

You can also break a sweat and enjoy the view with Coronado Island Bike Tours. If guided walking tours are more your thing, you’ll love the Coronado History and Highlights tour.

What Are The Most Dangerous Neighborhoods In San Diego?

Like every major city on the planet, San Diego has its rough spots. To ensure you have a safe, happy, and healthy trip, avoid the most dangerous parts of San Diego. There’s no sense in risking your vacation or yourself!

The following areas have higher crime rates than other neighborhoods in San Diego. To stay safe, avoid heading into these dangerous neighborhoods, especially at nighttime.

East Village

East Village is located in downtown San Diego and is one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city. According to FBI Crime Data gathered by AreaVibes, you have a 1 in 8 chance of being a victim of crime. Residents also state that some are even scared to leave their homes. The rate of violent crime in East Village is an astounding 848% higher than the national average.

Kearny Mesa

Kearny Mesa is another dangerous area to stay away from. Just like East Village, you have a 1 in 8 chance of being a victim of crime. The majority of the crimes in Kearny Mesa are related to theft and burglary.

Horton Plaza

Horton Plaza is another dangerous neighborhood to avoid. Violent crimes skyrocket here, as according to the data above, the percentage of violent crime is 539% higher than the national average.

City Heights

City Heights is another area that receives an F in safety according to data gathered by AreaVibes. Crime in City Heights is 50% higher than in other neighborhoods in the nation. The majority of these crimes are related to property and theft.

San Diego’s COVID-19 Precautions

Qualified people above 50 years old making a long line on a hot day waiting to get a first dosis of Covid-19 vaccine at the Border View Family YMCA location
Hernando Sorzano / Shutterstock.com

The Coronavirus pandemic changed the world of travel, and things are starting to return to normal (and in some cases coming back with a vengeance). Despite the U.S. and the World Health Organization declaring the COVID-19 emergency over, be prepared for lingering protocols and for the rules to change.

Here are a few quick points regarding Covid-19 policies and procedures in San Diego.

  • Vaccine passports are not required anymore! Vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals may enter the United States.
  • Wearing a face mask isn’t a requirement, but is still recommended. Remember that private businesses can have their own mask rules, so it’s best to keep a few masks stashed with you just in case.
  • Guests with accommodations will be happy to hear that sanitization is still a priority – you’d hope it was always a priority, but I could tell you things that’d put you off hotels for life. Many hotels, spas, and resorts still have extra safety and cleaning measures adopted during the pandemic.

Staying Safe on the Beach

Mission Beach in San Diego
Feoktistoff / Shutterstock

It’s safe to say that San Diego’s beaches are a five-star experience. Visitors can enjoy basking in the sunlight and enjoying the waves as the beaches are very safe.

First time at the beach? No worries, we all start somewhere. The good news is San Diego is the perfect place to enjoy your first beach. Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to brush up on some basic beach safety.

If you’d prefer a less crowded beach, I recommend checking out Carlsbad Beach or Manhattan Beach. These beaches are less popular and in smaller neighborhoods, without lacking any dreamy, quaint seaside vibes.

While the beaches are generally safe, sometimes sewage can contaminate the water. If this is the case, the beaches will be signposted, but be a travel pro and check if there’s a beach advisory set out for your San Diego sandy destination before you head out. Do you want to come out of the water with three arms? I didn’t think so.

It’s worth reviewing the risk of rip currents before heading into the water. If you don’t know how to spot them, the Red Cross has some good information to help keep you safe.

Of course, if you’re going to be spending time in the warm California sunshine, you’ll also want to stock up on sunscreen. I’m a big fan of reef-safe and eco-friendly sunscreen, like Sun Bum Mineral or Raw Elements.

How Safe Is Public Transportation in San Diego?

San Diego Hop On Hop Off Trolley Tour
San Diego Trolley Tour / Viator

Forgoing a car in San Diego is a legitimate strategy if you want to save money, thanks to the city’s public transportation system. Because San Diego is a large city, you have a few options for public transportation with great reach across the entire metro area. Hop on a bus, train, or trolley to explore the city.

The public transportation systems are typically safe and clean. The San Diego Trolley is particularly safe and a popular choice for tourists.

They’re easy to find as trolleys stop at many of the city’s major attractions. As with any public transit, use caution at nighttime.

San Diego Attractions

In San Diego, the world is your oyster. It would take years to truly check off everything there is to do in San Diego. For those of you who don’t have years, here are a few ideas of things to do in San Diego.

Feast at Local San Diego Restaurants

Tacos and sandwiches from Carnitas Snack Shack San Diego
Management / TripAdvisor

As a Certified Professional Foodie (not a legally-binding title), I can confirm that the San Diego area is a hotspot for anyone who loves to eat.

  • For authentic Mexican eats and killer sandwiches (not to mention the best salsa I’ve had in my life), head over to Carnitas Snack Shack in Embarcadero. Be sure to enjoy the views of Broadway Pier!
  • Sabor A Vida Cafe & Deli is a plant-based restaurant in Vista, California. The owners, Mario and Veronica, are from Mexico City. I’m sure you can just imagine how delicious their creations are.
  • With San Diego situated right by the ocean, delectable seafood is a must! Point Loma Seafood is a tourist favorite. As a bonus, you have a great waterfront view while you feast.
  • Want to unleash your inner Gordan Ramsay? (Happy Ramsay, not Amy’s Baking Company Ramsay- this is a good restaurant) If so, check out ADDISON. It’s the first restaurant in San Diego to receive a three-star Michelin rating. I highly recommend making a reservation.

I said it would take years to truly check off everything there is to do in San Diego; the first decade could be devoted to restaurants. So if you have limited time in town, you might want to consider a San Diego food tour or a harbor cruise with dinner!

See Related: Things to Do in Point Loma, San Diego

Day or Night Action at the Gaslamp Quarter

Marquee sign in the Gaslight Quarter San Diego
f11photo / Shutterstock

The Gaslamp Quarter is about a 5-minute walk away from Petco Park. In this district, you can shop, eat, drink, and have a great time. Grab a souvenir from The San Diego Shop.

Enjoy a fancy feast at Asti Ristorante. I spent a significant of time and money at Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop. Highly recommend.

If you prefer nighttime activities, dance at the Onyx Room Nightclub. If the party scene isn’t your thing, ghost-walking tours are also available at night, or you could join another food tour!

See Related: Best Breweries in San Diego

The Whaley House Museum

The Whaley House
Sherry V Smith / Shutterstock.com

Yearning for some history and culture, or perhaps a bit of a fright? The Whaley House is said to be one of the most haunted places in the United States. Come check out this chilling destination located in San Diego’s Old Town!

Although currently a museum, The Whaley House began life as a family home and saw the untimely demise of three of the Whaleys. As time passed, it became a courthouse and a general store, and at one point, an execution site.

For decades, countless people have reported instances of paranormal activity and overall spookiness, myself included, and I’m a skeptic! During the tour, my brand-new camera kept turning on and off. Then, it stopped working. Haunted, or just a coincidence?

See Related: Best Museums in San Diego

San Diego Zoo

The entrance area at the San Diego Zoo
James Kirkikis / Shutterstock

If you’re traveling with kids, checking out the San Diego Zoo should be at the top of your list. The zoo is home to over 4000 animals, so you’ll need a good chunk of the day to see them all!

The San Diego Zoo is one of the city’s most popular attractions; some visitors even claim it’s the best zoo they’ve been to. See the zoo at new heights with the Aerial Tram, let your kids burn off energy at the Tree of Dreams play area, or stop for a coffee at Jungle Java.

If you’re planning to visit some of the top San Diego attractions, it’s worth investing in a San Diego CityPASS. The San Diego Zoo and Safari Park are just two of the attractions included in the pass.

See Related: Day Trips from San Diego

Final Thoughts: Is San Diego Safe to Visit?

A whale watching boat in San Diego Bay with the San Diego skyline in the distance
Rosamar / Shutterstock

Yes, San Diego is a safe place to visit. It’s one of the safest large cities in the United States. Although the crime rate will depend on the neighborhood, citizens of San Diego will more than likely be victims of property crimes over violent crimes, and petty crime may also be more common in tourist destinations. Even so, the crime rate in San Diego is much lower than other major U.S. cities.

My last trip to San Diego was right during the 2020 election time. Although I expected it to be hectic, I was surprised at how normal everything was.

You couldn’t tell the election was happening unless you turned on the TV or glanced at a newspaper. For me, that experience typifies San Diego: San Diego isn’t just gorgeous, it’s also pretty chill.

If you decide to visit San Diego, I can assure you that it’s safer than just about anywhere in the U.S., and you won’t regret it!

FAQs

Is San Diego a Safe City for Tourists?

San Diego is one of the safest cities of its size. It’s also perfectly safe for a solo traveler to explore.

The crime rate in San Diego is much lower compared to other major cities in the United States. As long as you avoid the dangerous areas, you’ll have a great stay.

Is it safe to walk around at night in San Diego?

San Diego is mostly safe at night, provided you’re avoiding the dangerous neighborhoods and taking extra precautions. It’s best to avoid walking around downtown San Diego alone at night time.

Is Tijuana Safe to Visit?

Although tours over the Mexican border to Tijuana are available, I’d exercise caution. Tijuana is one of the most violent cities in the world. The level of crime is extremely high, and the crime rate has increased in the last three years.

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