Choosing between Los Angeles vs San Diego?
You feel the draw of the sunshine state calling your name. You hear the sound of the crashing waves. Los Angeles vs San Diego. Which city is better if I only have a few days to explore?
Do you choose the glamor and class of Hollywood or the mellow quintessential surfer lifestyle of San Diego? The world-famous San Diego Zoo or Disneyland? The Padres or the Dodgers?
It’s true; there is something to be said for each city. You’re going to enjoy stunning beaches lined with palm trees at either location. It’s just a different experience at the beach and getting to the beach depending on the city you choose.
At International Traveler’s House in San Diego, we will argue that there is no comparison, and hands down San Diego is your best bet. Mickey Mouse may be great, but he’s no comparison to the relaxed and Pura Vida vibes San Diego provides. As for the glamour of Hollywood, it might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
We also know that Los Angeles as a city has been dumping way more marketing dollars into the abyss to attract you. That’s not a solid argument. It’s just something to consider.
In case you don’t believe us, here’s a play by play of what you can expect in each city:
Both cities offer the Southern California vibe you are looking for with loads of sunshine, diverse cuisine and trendy styles.
Los Angeles is way more crowded and spread out across hundreds of miles. Being so gigantic, Los Angeles doesn’t have the community vibe that you would find in San Diego. Los Angeles is a major hub for business and feels like a major city not necessarily for vacationing.
San Diego’s main attractions is the beautiful weather, beaches, and landscapes which creates the perfect destination for leisure travelers. San Diego is much smaller than Los Angeles and feels like the little brother who is happily relaxed within itself.
Beaches in Los Angeles vs San Diego
We enjoy over 70 miles of pristine beaches in San Diego. Bright, gorgeous blue waters as far as the eye can see. What’s even more impressive is that the longest stretch of continuous beach on the west coast is Pacific Beach. We have La Jolla, Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, Coronado Beach, and Mission Beach, all worthy of your time. North County San Diego as the locals call it, also offers more family-style beach experience travelers to get an Airbnb and take it slow.
Let’s not forget mentioning Slomo, the famous San Diego skater who can be seen cruising the boardwalks in Pacific Beach!
Los Angeles also showcases long stretches of beaches. The more notable are Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Malibu, and South Bay. There’s no denying they are stunning. The masses flock there in swarms. Unfortunately, it causes massive traffic jams and difficulties finding a spot to spread out on the beach.
Venice Beach offers to most culture out of the beaches in LA but our favorite beach is Malibu for the majestic scenery.
Los Angeles is home to people who want to be a musician or movie star, so it’s easy to say the nightlife and entertainment top San Diego. They have the famous clubs like Avalon Hollywood, Bardot, Sound and more. Don’t forget your camera because you are bound to bump into celebrities when you go out in Hollywood.
San Diego is more known for day drinking and enjoying a craft beer in the sunshine. Although, San Diego’s night scene has been drastically growing. Our own FLUXX and OMNIA give the clubs to the north a run for their money every weekend. Check out our Spring Break guide for the lowdown on the San Diego nightlife.
Food & Drinks
Being located in the such great climate, both cities offer delicious food that can be harvested locally or caught from the Pacific Ocean. The diverse cultures in Southern California provide endless food options for all palettes.
You will find more high-end and gourmet restaurants in Los Angeles if you are a foodie. San Diego is home to endless local smaller restaurants that will open you mind to how food can be prepared.
Both cities have a huge influence of Mexican cuisine being located so closet to Mexico. One thing Los Angeles doesn’t have is the California Burrito, a local tradition for all San Diegans which comes with Carne Asada, cheese, and french fries.
San Diego prides itself on having some of the best breweries in the craft beer scene including Stone Brewing and Ballast Point Brewing.
Los Angeles tops the list of “Worst Traffic in the Country” pretty much every year. Occasionally, it falls second to Washington DC. When recounting the time spent in a typical commute, the time is measured in days and months. Los Angeles is very spread out, so to get anywhere you are looking at 30 minutes to an hour and a half in traffic.
All the attractions in San Diego are less than 15 minutes apart. If you stay in Downtown San Diego, you are only 15 minute drive to five different beaches.
If you find yourself in either Los Angeles or San Diego, always plan to go to the beach earlier for less traffic. Weekends can also be chaotic, so try to do your beach days mid week.
Uber is going to be the best way to explore the cities. You can quickly get a ride at an affordable price for anywhere you want to go. Also, there are shared Ubers which sometimes cut the price in half.
San Diego is spoiled with countless significant attractions. There is the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, the Coronado Bridge, Sea World, and the list goes on. To make it a fair fight, we’ll pause there.
Los Angeles doesn’t do half bad. They have Disneyland, Universal Studios, Knott’s Berry Farm, the Observatory, and the Hollywood sign. Although, if you had to choose between a famous mouse and a real-life baby rhinoceros, what would you choose?
Not sold? Check out this YouTube channel.
Overall Awesomeness of Los Angeles vs San Diego
The vibe of San Diego is laid back, relaxed, and ready to have a good time. Our neighbors to the north are more fast-paced and busy trying to become stars.
It must be all the time stuck in traffic that raises blood pressure.
Here we really do embody that quintessential SoCal vibe in every aspect of the city. Spending a day at Balboa Park? Why not take a yoga class while you are over there? A simple trip to the beach could turn into a surfing lesson. Exploring the zoo will charm and delight.
When you tally everything up, we’re confident you’ll make the right decision. Here’s a little more evidence backing up our claim just in case you were wavering.
How to Have the Best Trip in San Diego
Have you settled on San Diego? You made the right choice. You can avoid the misery of regret like many other travelers who cut their San Diego stay short to visit LA. It’s true! We regularly have travelers stay with us, head up to Los Angeles, and then retreat back to San Diego merely a day or two later. Skip that step. Choose San Diego for the entirety of your beach getaway.
Here’s our biggest insider tip to having the best Southern Californian experience: Stay at an International Traveler’s House property and let our friendly staff host you with the ultimate local experience.
With three properties in the San Diego area, we have something that will fit your unique style while offering all the unmatched perks of staying with us. At ITH, we value the importance of our guests’ experiences. To us, you are a friend we haven’t met yet. And when friends come to visit, it’s customary to show them around and feed them. Which is why we provide a free breakfast and activities daily.
If we haven’t convinced you that you would be far better off in our beautiful city, check our guide to the SoCal Trifecta. It will give you the lowdown on hitting Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and the phenomenal San Diego.
Just do yourself a favor. Book a little extra time in San Diego. You’ll thank us later.