Is it possible to get around San Diego without renting a car?

My family is traveling to San Diego soon, and I would like to know if it is possible to get around the city without renting a car. Our plans are to go to the Zoo, Sea World, the beach, and see the sights. Also if you have any recommendations to what we could do there please add them.

Yes… Though whether it’s easy or not depends on how big your family is (are there really young kids?), where you plan on staying, and how much time do you have.

I suggest you stay in downtown area and get a MTS day pass for each adult (can buy them at vending machines at Trolley stations or at Transit Store at 1st and Broadway). They’re $5 a piece and is good on buses and trolley for the day (every Saturday & Sunday, two children 12 and under ride free with any paying passenger 18 and over). You can pick up specific bus route maps/timetable at the Transit Store, Santa Fe Depot, or at the local library (the central library in downtown is on E St. just east of 8th St).

Hopefully you’ll have at least 3 days to spend… Remember these buses ( http://www.sdmts.com/Tripplanner.asp ):
#923 – Downtown – Ocean Beach : takes you thru the Embarcadero pass the airport and thru Pt. Loma to Ocean beach (a bit of walking at the end will take you to Sunset Cliff – an ideal spot to watch the sun setting into the ocean in the evening).
#28 – Old Town – Shelter Island : if you get off #923 at Rosecrans Blvd, you can catch this bus west to Shelter Island Drive and then catch the
#84 that’ll take you to Cabrillo National Monument & Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery (spectacular view of the bay and downtown skyline on a clear day). Make sure you know the bus schedule, tho, the last bus back from Cabrillo leaves there at 5:28PM and you really don’t want to miss it. Should allot at least 4 hrs to visit Cabrillo and be sure to get down to the tide pools.

#30 – downtown – UTC/VA Hospital : This is the bus that takes you from downtown via a scenic route to La Jolla. You can catch this bus north, then transfer to #101 at VA Hospital, which will take you north along the 101HWY (if you want to visit Torrey Pines State Reserve & beach, Solana Beach, Del Mar… where the horse track is). Or you can get off at the corner of Girard and Silverado in downtown La Jolla, head left on Silverado until you hit ‘Coast Blvd’ and walk north (right) along the spectacular shoreline. You’ll pass the famous Children’s Pool where the seals are, and keep walking on the walkway along the coast pass Ellen Browning Scripps Park and La Jolla Cove. You’ll see a ‘Cave Store’ as the path goes uphill… if you pay $4 per adult there, you can go down a long and narrow stair down to Sunny Jim’s Cave ( http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1745014/walk_the_la_jolla_coast_great_hiking.html?cat=16 ). La Jolla is full of boutique stores and great restaurants. You can spend an entire day down there (but hopefully no less than 4 hrs).

#8/#9 Old Town – Pacific Beach loop : These two run the same route the opposite way from Old Town Transit Center thru Mission Bay (where Sea World is) to Pacific Beach. From downtown, I’d hop on the blue line trolley at Santa Fe Depot to Old Town Transit Ctr. If you plan on visiting Old Town in the morning then catching the #9 to Sea World in the afternoon, that’s one very good sight-seeing day! Don’t forget to visit the Presidio, Heritage Park Row of Victorian era houses, and Whaley House when you’re in Old Town.

#3 Euclid Trolley – UCSD Hospital in Hillcrest : if you want to visit Hillcrest neighborhood or Balboa Park (where the zoo is, but it’s on the other end, so a long walk). This one goes up 5th Ave and down 4th. Get off at Laurel and walk east (left) to get to Balboa Park.

#7 Downtown – La Mesa : this one goes up Park Blvd/12th Ave. The bus to get on if you want to go to the Zoo, Ruben Fleet Science Ctr at Balboa Park.

#901 Iris Trolly – Downtown : this one goes across the Coronado Bridge to Coronado Island and down Silver Strand to Imperial Beach ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jN7M5LHR4OY ). You won’t be able to get off on the bridge (it is a car-only bridge. No pedestrian), so be sure to sit on the right side of the bus with camera ready when you cross to Coronado. The bus takes you past the gate to North Island Naval Air Station, downtown, Hotel Del Coronado (beach access). Really should spend at least 4 hrs here. If possible, I’d take a bus there, and return via the Coronado – San Diego Ferry (it’s only $3.75 one way adult fare).

And while you’re visiting downtown, you might want to also visit the Maritime Museum on the Embarcadero ($17 discovery package entry fee also includes a 45 minutes bay cruise), Seaport Village, Gaslamp Quarter (where the hip nightlife is), Petco Park. Be sure to go up to the 40th floor of the Harbor Tower at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel. There’s a lounge up there that also serves as the highest waterfront observational deck on the US West Coast. Great view!

7 Comments

  • Monica

    IT IS VERY DIFFICULT BUT POSSIBLE….SAN DIEGO HAS A PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM AND IF U SEARCH ONLINE U CAN FIND THE ROUTES NEEDED….THERE IS ALSO A TROLLEY BUT THAT IS LIMITED….SEA WORLD AND THE BEACH MIGHT BE POSSIBLE AT ONCE BECAUSE SEA WORLD IS AT MISSION BEACH AND THE ZOO IS DOWNTOWN SO THERE MIGHT BE A TROLLEY….AND MOST OF THE SIGHT SEEING IS DOWNTOWN WHICH IS ACCESSABLE BY TROLLEY OR IF ALL ELSE FAILS TAXI.
    References :

  • ღJaeღ

    It’s possible, but it would be EASIER with a car. You can take public transportation which includes buses, trolleys or coasters. The problem with San Diego mass transit is buses can be unreliable or crowded. The trolley system is good, but doesn’t go to North County, nor does it go to places like Seaworld, the Zoo nor the beach. In order to get to those places, you could take the trolley, but then you will end up on a bus. It costs $5 for an all day pass, but in the end, I think it saves you money to rent a car if you want to save time and get more places.
    References :

  • Dave

    Not very well and if you want to see all these sights you’ll be spending Way Too Time on transit buses! Getting to the Zoo is not’;t bad, however, the beaches and Sea World is another story. I’d suggest you check out Enterprise rental car at a location near the Airport and they have some solid deals (Google for daily and weekly discounted coupon rates).
    References :
    Visit SD 3-4 a year.

  • OpernKatz

    Yes… Though whether it’s easy or not depends on how big your family is (are there really young kids?), where you plan on staying, and how much time do you have.

    I suggest you stay in downtown area and get a MTS day pass for each adult (can buy them at vending machines at Trolley stations or at Transit Store at 1st and Broadway). They’re $5 a piece and is good on buses and trolley for the day (every Saturday & Sunday, two children 12 and under ride free with any paying passenger 18 and over). You can pick up specific bus route maps/timetable at the Transit Store, Santa Fe Depot, or at the local library (the central library in downtown is on E St. just east of 8th St).

    Hopefully you’ll have at least 3 days to spend… Remember these buses ( http://www.sdmts.com/Tripplanner.asp ):
    #923 – Downtown – Ocean Beach : takes you thru the Embarcadero pass the airport and thru Pt. Loma to Ocean beach (a bit of walking at the end will take you to Sunset Cliff – an ideal spot to watch the sun setting into the ocean in the evening).
    #28 – Old Town – Shelter Island : if you get off #923 at Rosecrans Blvd, you can catch this bus west to Shelter Island Drive and then catch the
    #84 that’ll take you to Cabrillo National Monument & Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery (spectacular view of the bay and downtown skyline on a clear day). Make sure you know the bus schedule, tho, the last bus back from Cabrillo leaves there at 5:28PM and you really don’t want to miss it. Should allot at least 4 hrs to visit Cabrillo and be sure to get down to the tide pools.

    #30 – downtown – UTC/VA Hospital : This is the bus that takes you from downtown via a scenic route to La Jolla. You can catch this bus north, then transfer to #101 at VA Hospital, which will take you north along the 101HWY (if you want to visit Torrey Pines State Reserve & beach, Solana Beach, Del Mar… where the horse track is). Or you can get off at the corner of Girard and Silverado in downtown La Jolla, head left on Silverado until you hit ‘Coast Blvd’ and walk north (right) along the spectacular shoreline. You’ll pass the famous Children’s Pool where the seals are, and keep walking on the walkway along the coast pass Ellen Browning Scripps Park and La Jolla Cove. You’ll see a ‘Cave Store’ as the path goes uphill… if you pay $4 per adult there, you can go down a long and narrow stair down to Sunny Jim’s Cave ( http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1745014/walk_the_la_jolla_coast_great_hiking.html?cat=16 ). La Jolla is full of boutique stores and great restaurants. You can spend an entire day down there (but hopefully no less than 4 hrs).

    #8/#9 Old Town – Pacific Beach loop : These two run the same route the opposite way from Old Town Transit Center thru Mission Bay (where Sea World is) to Pacific Beach. From downtown, I’d hop on the blue line trolley at Santa Fe Depot to Old Town Transit Ctr. If you plan on visiting Old Town in the morning then catching the #9 to Sea World in the afternoon, that’s one very good sight-seeing day! Don’t forget to visit the Presidio, Heritage Park Row of Victorian era houses, and Whaley House when you’re in Old Town.

    #3 Euclid Trolley – UCSD Hospital in Hillcrest : if you want to visit Hillcrest neighborhood or Balboa Park (where the zoo is, but it’s on the other end, so a long walk). This one goes up 5th Ave and down 4th. Get off at Laurel and walk east (left) to get to Balboa Park.

    #7 Downtown – La Mesa : this one goes up Park Blvd/12th Ave. The bus to get on if you want to go to the Zoo, Ruben Fleet Science Ctr at Balboa Park.

    #901 Iris Trolly – Downtown : this one goes across the Coronado Bridge to Coronado Island and down Silver Strand to Imperial Beach ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jN7M5LHR4OY ). You won’t be able to get off on the bridge (it is a car-only bridge. No pedestrian), so be sure to sit on the right side of the bus with camera ready when you cross to Coronado. The bus takes you past the gate to North Island Naval Air Station, downtown, Hotel Del Coronado (beach access). Really should spend at least 4 hrs here. If possible, I’d take a bus there, and return via the Coronado – San Diego Ferry (it’s only $3.75 one way adult fare).

    And while you’re visiting downtown, you might want to also visit the Maritime Museum on the Embarcadero ($17 discovery package entry fee also includes a 45 minutes bay cruise), Seaport Village, Gaslamp Quarter (where the hip nightlife is), Petco Park. Be sure to go up to the 40th floor of the Harbor Tower at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel. There’s a lounge up there that also serves as the highest waterfront observational deck on the US West Coast. Great view!
    References :
    live here…

  • VampireDog

    Public transportation in San Diego is extremely poor and erratic.

    There are no beaches near the Trolley line which is the most reliable form of public transport. The zoo and sea world are also far from any trolley station.

    It would be well worth the expense to rent a car. I would not try ever to get around San Diego without an auto.

    You will wait and wait for buses and wait and wait for connections and travel in discomfort sometimes with people you’d rather not have your children be exposed to.

    Rent a car. Rent a car. Rent a car.

    I’ve lived her for many years.
    References :

  • luvSD

    Yes, you can get around San diego by public transportation but it would take you a long time and given taht you are a tourist, it would be more efficient that you rent a car and actually spend your time enjoying the city instead of waiting for a bus.

    There is a bus route that goes to almost all the major attractions. See here:
    http://www.san-diego-travels.com/san-diego-bus.html

    But some of routes run once per hour and if you happen to miss a transfer, you would have to hang around for an hour before the next bus comes around.

    It is 2.50 per bus ride, or $5 for a day pass. If there is 4 of you, that would come out to $20 per day to get all of you to your destination. Maybe use that as a measure whether renting a car is worth it or not.

    Here is a site which shows you a slice of what San Diego has to offer:

    http://www.san-diego-travels.com/san-diego-travel.html
    References :

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