Where to Stay in San Diego without a car – 6 Best areas

Wondering Where to stay in San Diego without a car? In this article, we will help you to decide the best areas and neighborhoods to stay in San Diego without a car, how to get around without a car, and the best hotels in San Diego without a car for all budget visitors.

It is possible to get around San Diego without a car. The city offers several transportation options to navigate the area without the need for a personal vehicle. Some ways to get around San Diego without a car are by bus, trolley, Uber, Lyft, taxi, and ferry.

San Diego is a city located in the southern part of California, United States. The city is on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, near the border with Mexico. This proximity to Mexico adds to the city’s cultural diversity and provides opportunities for cross-border commerce and tourism.

The city’s tourism industry thrives due to its beautiful beaches, parks, and cultural attractions. Popular tourist spots include Balboa Park, home to museums and the San Diego Zoo, as well as the historic Gaslamp Quarter, Coronado Island, and Seaport Village.

San Diego has a significant military presence, including the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. The city is home to several military bases and is an important hub for defense-related industries.

San Diego has an extensive transportation network, including highways, public transit, and an international airport. It also has a trolley system that serves the city and surrounding areas.

The city’s natural surroundings offer ample opportunities for outdoor activities such as surfing, hiking, biking, and sailing. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and Mission Bay Park are popular outdoor destinations.

Where to stay in San Diego without a car?

The best areas to stay in San Diego without a car for tourists are Downtown, Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy, Old Town, Mission Beach, and La Jolla. All of these neighborhoods have public transportation options, making it feasible to explore the city without a car.

Each area has its own unique charm and attractions. The best area to stay in San Diego without a car depends on your interests and priorities. 

In general, Downtown, Gaslamp Quarter, and Little Italy are often known as the best areas to stay in San Diego for first-timers and travelers without a car due to their central location and easy access to transit options.

Old Town is a great location to experience the history of San Diego, while Mission Beach and La Jolla are the best places for a beach holiday.

Overviews of best areas to stay in San Diego without a car

Here is an overview of recommended areas in San Diego for visitors without a car and why you should stay in each area: 

Best areas in San Diego without a carWhy should you stay in this area?
Downtown San DiegoThe heart and transport hub of the city with many hotels, restaurants, shops, and attractions like Gaslamp Quarter, Seaport Village, and USS Midway Museum.
Gaslamp Quarterpart of downtown, known for its vibrant nightlife. you can easily walk to many of the area’s attractions and restaurants.
Little Italya charming neighborhood with a European feel, close to downtown and easily walkable.
Old Townoffers a taste of San Diego’s history and Mexican heritage. It’s a bit farther from downtown, but it’s still accessible by public transportation.
Mission Beacha beachfront community with a lively boardwalk and beautiful sandy beaches. You can walk or bike along the boardwalk, and many amenities are within walking distance. Public buses serve here.
La Jollapicturesque coastal community offers a more tranquil and upscale experience compared to some of the busier downtown areas.

Map of the best areas and neighborhoods in San Diego without a car:

Map of best areas to stay in San Diego without a car
Map of best areas to stay in San Diego without a car

How to get around San Diego without a car as a tourist?

Getting around San Diego without a car is entirely possible thanks to a variety of transportation options available in the city. Here are some ways to navigate San Diego without a car:

Public Transportation: 

MTS (San Diego Metropolitan Transit System) has buses and trolleys throughout the city. You can use their website or a mobile app to plan routes and buy tickets. 

The San Diego Trolley is very safe and has three main lines, the Blue connecting downtown to the Mexican border, Orange connecting downtown to La Mesa and El Cajon, and Green lines. It is convenient to see popular areas like downtown, Old Town, and Mission Valley. 

The Old Town Trolley Tour. The Trolley is a convenient way to see popular areas of Old Town, Little Italy, Gaslamp Quarter, Seaport Village, Coronado, and Balboa Park. 


San Diego has a growing network of bike lanes and bike-friendly streets. Many areas, especially along the coastline, have dedicated bike paths. You can rent a bike from a local bike shop or use bike-sharing services like DecoBike or LimeBike.


San Diego’s climate is generally mild, making it a pleasant place for walking. Many neighborhoods and attractions are within walking distance of each other, especially in areas like downtown, Gaslamp Quarter, and Little Italy.

Rideshare Services and Taxis: 

Uber and Lyft operate in San Diego, providing convenient on-demand transportation. You can use their apps to request rides to and from various destinations.

Traditional taxi services are also available in San Diego, and you can easily hail one on the street or call a local taxi company.

Coaster and Amtrak: 

The Coaster and Amtrak trains connect San Diego with neighboring cities like Oceanside, Carlsbad, and Los Angeles. These options are great for longer trips along the coast.


If you need to cross the bay, consider taking a ferry. The Coronado Ferry and San Diego Bay Ferry provide scenic transportation to Coronado Island and other waterfront destinations.

Rental Scooters: 

Electric scooters are available for rent in many parts of the city. Companies like Bird, Lime, and Razor offer these scooters, which you can unlock and ride using a smartphone app.

Planning Apps: 

Utilize public transportation apps like Google Maps, Transit, or Moovit to find the best routes, schedules, and real-time updates for buses and trolleys.

6 Best areas to stay in San Diego without a car are:

1. Downtown San Diego

Downtown San Diego is a convenient and vibrant area to stay in without a car, with good access to public transportation and many amenities within walking distance. 

Downtown San Diego is known for its walkability. You can easily explore the Gaslamp Quarter, Seaport Village, and the waterfront area on foot. Many restaurants, bars, shops, and attractions are within walking distance.

Additionally, Downtown San Diego is well-served by buses and the San Diego Trolley. This can make it convenient to access popular destinations like Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo, Old Town, and the beaches.

If you’re interested in cultural attractions, the USS Midway Museum, the San Diego Convention Center, and the Maritime Museum are all located downtown. You’ll also find a variety of dining and entertainment options.

Downtown offers a range of accommodations, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly options, making it suitable for various budgets.

However, there are some factors to keep in mind:

If you plan to rent a car for day trips or other reasons, parking in downtown San Diego can be expensive and may not be included with your accommodation.

While you can use public transportation to reach the beaches, staying in a beach neighborhood like Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, Mission Beach, or La Jolla might offer more direct access to the coastline.

Best places to stay in Downtown San Diego without a car:


2. Gaslamp Quarter

The Gaslamp Quarter is an excellent area for first-timers and travelers who want to experience San Diego’s nightlife, entertainment, and central attractions without a car. It is a historic neighborhood in downtown San Diego.

The Gaslamp Quarter’s central location means it’s within walking distance of many downtown attractions, including the San Diego Convention Center, Petco Park (home of the Padres), and the waterfront area.

Gaslamp Quarter is highly walkable, with numerous restaurants, bars, shops, theaters, and art galleries within a short distance. You can easily explore on foot and by trolley system.

The neighborhood boasts a historic and charming atmosphere, with well-preserved Victorian-era buildings and a unique character.

If you enjoy nightlife and entertainment, the Gaslamp Quarter offers a variety of options, from bars and nightclubs to live music venues.

Due to its nightlife and entertainment options, Gaslamp Quarter can be noisy, especially during weekends and holidays. If you’re a light sleeper, this may be a drawback.

Best places to stay in Gaslamp Quarter without a car:


3. Little Italy

Little Italy is one of the most popular neighborhoods in San Diego for travelers without a car due to its vibrant atmosphere, great restaurants, and proximity to downtown attractions. 

Little Italy is a trendy and vibrant neighborhood located close to downtown San Diego, and it is known for its rich Italian heritage and culture, as well as its lively atmosphere, delicious Italian cuisine, and charming streets.

Little Italy is renowned for its diverse and authentic Italian restaurants, cafes, and bakeries. You can savor a wide range of Italian dishes, from pizza and pasta to gelato and espresso.

The Little Italy Mercato is a popular farmers’ market held every Saturday morning, offering a variety of fresh produce, artisanal goods, and prepared foods. It’s a great place to explore local flavors.

Little Italy is situated near the San Diego Bay, making it easy to take a stroll along the waterfront and enjoy beautiful views of the harbor and the city skyline.

Best places to stay in Little Italy without a car:


4. Old Town

Old Town is a great location to stay in San Diego without a car, especially if you want to experience the historical and cultural aspects of San Diego and prefer to rely on public transportation or walking.

Old Town San Diego is easily accessible and is located just a few miles from downtown San Diego. It’s a popular destination for visitors looking to learn about California’s history.

Old Town is home to the Old Town Transit Center, which  is an important transportation hub, served by the Green Line trolley, several bus routes, and the Coaster commuter train. 

Old Town is a vibrant tourist destination with numerous shops, restaurants, and boutiques. You can find a wide range of Mexican and Californian cuisine, as well as souvenir shops offering Mexican crafts and other goods.

Old Town San Diego’s history dates back to the Spanish colonial period. It was established as the Presidio of San Diego and the Mission San Diego de Alcalá, which were the first European settlements in what is now California. It later became a Mexican pueblo in the early 19th century before California became part of the United States.

Today, Old Town San Diego State Historic Park preserves and recreates many of the historic buildings and structures from the 19th century. Visitors can explore adobe houses, museums, gardens, and other attractions that offer a glimpse into the area’s history.

In addition to the state historic park, there are other historic sites in the area, including the Whaley House Museum, which is rumored to be one of the most haunted houses in America, and the Mormon Battalion Historic Site.

Old Town is centrally located, making it convenient to visit popular San Diego attractions like Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, and downtown. The area is relatively walkable, and you can explore many of its attractions on foot.

Best hotels in San Diego Old Town without a car:


5. Mission Beach

Mission Beach is one of the best areas for a car-free vacation in San Diego if you prioritize beach access and a vibrant, beachfront atmosphere. 

Mission Beach features a wide, sandy beach that stretches for approximately two miles along the Pacific Ocean. It’s a popular destination for sunbathing, swimming, beach volleyball, and other water sports like surfing and bodyboarding.

The neighborhood is relatively walkable, with many restaurants, bars, and shops along the boardwalk and nearby streets. You can also rent bikes or use scooters to explore the area.

One of the main attractions in Mission Beach is Belmont Park, an amusement park that has been a fixture in the area since the early 20th century. The park features a historic wooden roller coaster called the Giant Dipper, as well as other rides, games, and a variety of dining options.

The Boardwalk runs along the oceanfront, allowing pedestrians and bicyclists to enjoy scenic views, people-watching, and easy access to the beach.

Mission Beach is located near several other popular San Diego attractions, including SeaWorld San Diego, San Diego Zoo, and Balboa Park. They are just a short Uber ride away.

Accommodation prices in Mission Beach can vary, so consider your budget when choosing where to stay. Generally, beachfront properties tend to be more expensive.

Best places to stay in Mission Beach without a car:


6. La Jolla

La Jolla is a beautiful coastal community in San Diego known for its stunning beaches, upscale dining, and cultural attractions. It is the best area to stay in without a car if you plan to primarily explore La Jolla and enjoy its local attractions and beaches.

Advantages of staying in La Jolla without a car:

Walkability: La Jolla Village, the main commercial area, is pedestrian-friendly with shops, restaurants, and entertainment within walking distance.

Beach Access: If you want to spend your time at the beach, you’ll have easy access to some of San Diego’s most iconic beaches, including La Jolla Cove and Windansea Beach.

Scenic Views: The coastal views in La Jolla are breathtaking, and you can explore much of it on foot.

Public Transportation: While La Jolla doesn’t have its own dedicated public transportation system, San Diego’s public transit network does serve the area. Buses can take you to other parts of San Diego.

Best hotels to stay in La Jolla without a car:


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In conclusion, Downtown San Diego, Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy, Old Town, Mission Beach, and La Jolla are some of the best places to stay in San Diego without a car. Each area has its own unique advantages, so it really depends on what you’re looking for in your stay.

If you want to be in the heart of the city’s action, Downtown or the Gaslamp Quarter are great locations for travelers and first-timers without a car. If you prefer a quieter and more beach-focused stay, Mission Beach or La Jolla may be more suitable. 

About Author: Linda Smith

I'm Linda Smith, the Hotel Expert, an experienced travel blogger who passionate about traveling. I'm here to share with you all my travel experiences and tips. I cover a wide range of travel topics, specializing in sharing information about the best areas, neighborhoods, and hotels in each city. I hope all these things will make your travel easier.

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