woman on bike reaching for man's hand behind her also on bike
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17 Cheap Romantic Things to Do in San Diego


You’ve come to the right place because here I’ve highlighted 17 cheap romantic things to do in San Diego. How do I know these are the most romantic San Diego activities?

My partner and I have traveled to a lot of cities that offer romance on a budget. And San Diego is a romantic city for sure. From twilight picnics on golden beaches to quaint walks through historic neighborhoods, we’ve experienced it all without spending a fortune.

brown dome building

Want to surprise your partner with something romantic in San Diego? Book this Balboa Park Scavenger Hunt Adventure — which is a lot of fun, a great bonding experience, and also a great way to learn about the park and its history.

Not into scavenger hunts? There are plenty of other options! Located south of California, San Diego is known for its gorgeous beaches, stunning hikes, the historic Gaslamp Quarter, Mexican heritage, and incredible nightlife. 

The town’s natural beauty and many activities also make it one of the best places for a romantic getaway for two. Whether you are looking for adventure, relaxation, or something in between, San Diego has it all. 

Ready to learn about some of the best things to do in San Diego for couples? Let’s dive in!

17 Cheap Romantic Things to Do in San Diego

1. Scavenger hunt in Balboa Park

brown dome building
Balboa Park

Embark on a whimsical scavenger hunt through the cultural heart of San Diego with your special someone. Balboa Park transforms into your personal playground, where every corner offers a clue and every pathway tells a story.

For about the cost of movie tickets for you both, you can engage in a playful adventure, guided by your smartphone, that leads you to the park’s renowned and hidden treasures.

As you solve riddles and overcome challenges, you’ll be immersed in the local history surrounded by the park’s lush landscape.

It’s a three-hour journey that invites you to explore the stunning architecture, tranquil gardens, and artistic installations that make Balboa Park a beloved destination.

2. Enjoy a picnic at Sunset Cliffs

Sunset Cliffs
Sunset Cliffs

This natural park, renowned for its majestic cliffs and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, provides the perfect backdrop for an intimate evening with your significant other.

Pack a simple meal, perhaps some local artisanal cheeses and a bottle of San Diego wine, and find a spot to lay your blanket. As the name suggests, the cliffs are an ideal location to watch the sunset, painting the sky with vibrant colors that reflect off the ocean’s surface.

The area is a local favorite and offers more than just stunning views. It’s a place where you can listen to the waves, watch surfers, and maybe catch a glimpse of migrating whales during the right season.

Remember to arrive early to secure a good spot and to be mindful of the environment.

3. Learn more about San Diego beaches on a coastal driving tour

Torrey Pines State Beach

Embark on a narrated driving tour along San Diego’s picturesque coastline. Depart from Del Mar Heights Road and conclude your journey at Cabrillo National Monument.

You’ll traverse iconic beach communities, hike at Torrey Pines State Reserve, explore La Jolla’s village, and marvel at panoramic views from Cabrillo National Monument.

Besides the listed spots, you’ll also visit the Birch Aquarium at Scripps and Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial​. This self-guided tour is perfect for couples seeking a budget-friendly, romantic activity with a personal touch.

The tour, lasting 3–6 hours, includes an app and tour download, but note that entrance fees to certain attractions like Torrey Pines and Cabrillo National Monument are not included​​.

Remember to pack a picnic to take with you on this road trip. Take also sunscreen and a bathing suit with you!

4. Visit Moonlight Beach for a night of bonfires​

fire on fire pit during night time

Visit Moonlight Beach in Encinitas for an evening that combines romance with the timeless tradition of beach bonfires. This activity is not only light on the wallet but also rich in charm.

The beach provides fire pits on a first-come, first-served basis, so aim to arrive early to claim one.

Bring your own wood and marshmallows for toasting, and snuggle up as the stars begin to twinkle overhead. The sound of the waves and the crackling fire create a natural symphony perfect for an evening of conversation and connection.

Remember to pack a blanket and some cozy layers, as it can get cool by the ocean at night.

5. Learn to kayak on the beautiful San Diego Bay

person riding on orange kayak during daytime

San Diego Bay offers a relaxed kayaking experience that’s perfect for beginners looking to add a splash of adventure to their romantic outings.

With no prior experience required, you’ll receive a lesson on kayak safety and basics before setting off.

This was a pretty cool experience, I highly recommend it for any first timers.

Rosio_A (see more reviews)

Imagine spending an hour leisurely paddling through the serene waters, discovering hidden waterways that are exclusively accessible by boat. It’s an intimate way to connect with nature and each other, away from the city’s hustle.

You can paddle at your own pace, making it a stress-free way to explore the bay’s beauty together.

6. Build a sandcastle on Coronado Beach

brown wheat field near body of water under blue sky during daytime
Coronado Beach

Coronado Beach is famed for its sparkling golden sand and picturesque views, making it an idyllic spot for couples to indulge in some creative fun.

All you need are your hands, a bucket, and a shovel to start constructing your own sandy fortress. This activity not only fosters teamwork but also ignites a sense of childhood joy. Sandcastle building is a chance to laugh, design, and maybe even engage in a friendly competition with each other.

Coronado Beach is also known for its wide, flat shoreline. After you’ve built your masterpiece, take a stroll along the shore to admire the historic Hotel del Coronado or watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.

7. View the San Diego skyline from a harbor cruise

white and black boat on body of water near city buildings during daytime
San Diego harbor

A San Diego Harbor cruise is a fantastic and affordable way to enjoy a romantic time with your significant other.

During a 1 or 2-hour tour, you can unwind and soak up the sun while taking in the breathtaking sights of the San Diego skyline.

We saw both the south and north side of the bay. The tour was very informative and relaxing. I would certainly do this again.

Kenya_H (see more reviews)

This fully-narrated journey not only offers exceptional views but also passes under the iconic Coronado Bridge. It’s also a chance to see the dynamic US Naval fleet up close and, if luck is on your side, to spot the playful sea lions that call the harbor home.

It’s a blend of relaxation, education, and entertainment—all with the stunning backdrop of one of America’s most picturesque cities.

8. Hike trails at the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

green tress mountain range near sea
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

This coastal state park is home to the rare Torrey pine tree and offers miles of unspoiled beaches and a lagoon that is vital to migrating seabirds.

Choose from a variety of trails, each promising its own unique views. The Guy Fleming Trail is a gentle loop that provides stunning ocean vistas, while the Beach Trail leads you down to the water’s edge.

Hiking here doesn’t just offer exercise; it’s an opportunity to witness some of the most breathtaking natural beauty that San Diego has to offer.

The reserve’s trails are well-maintained and suitable for all levels of hikers.

Remember to bring water, wear sunscreen, and pack a camera to capture the memories.

9. Tandem kayak at La Jolla Cove

a group of people standing on top of a sandy beach
La Jolla Cove

Kayaking at La Jolla Cove allows you to explore the clear waters together, paddling side by side and navigating the cove’s stunning sea cliffs and caves.

La Jolla Cove is part of a marine ecological reserve, which means you’ll be kayaking over thriving kelp beds and might even spot some of the area’s abundant wildlife, such as sea lions, dolphins, and a variety of fish. Renting a tandem kayak is relatively inexpensive and gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace.

The calm waters of the cove make it perfect for beginners and experienced kayakers alike. Plus, sharing a kayak means you’ll need to synchronize your movements, fostering teamwork and communication with your partner.

Remember to check rental times and weather conditions before you go.

10. Walk along the waterfront at the Seaport Village

silhouette of city buildings during night time
Seaport Village at sunset

Walking along the waterfront at Seaport Village is a delightful and low-cost way to spend time with your loved one. This charming area is lined with quaint shops, eateries, and sweeping views of San Diego Bay.

A leisurely stroll here means you can enjoy the bustling atmosphere without spending a penny unless you opt for a treat from one of the local vendors. The path is dotted with benches perfect for sitting and watching the boats glide by or catching a street performance.

Seaport Village is also known for its historic carousel and large, uniquely designed public spaces that offer plenty of photo opportunities. The Embarcadero boardwalk extends from Seaport Village, allowing you and your partner to extend your walk towards other notable waterfront attractions.

Whether you’re holding hands and listening to the waves or simply enjoying the San Diego skyline, a walk at Seaport Village is a simple, yet romantic way to enjoy each other’s company.

11. Explore the tide pools at Point Loma

a scenic view of the ocean from a hill
Point Loma

Exploring the tide pools at Point Loma is a fascinating and cost-effective date idea for nature-loving couples. Located at the Cabrillo National Monument, these natural pools are revealed at low tide, offering a glimpse into the marine life of the Pacific.

As you navigate the rocky landscape, you can spot a variety of sea creatures like starfish, anemones, and crabs. It’s a hands-on experience that encourages curiosity and conversation. The tide pools at Point Loma are among the most accessible in San Diego, making them a perfect spontaneous adventure.

Be sure to check the tide schedule before you go to ensure the pools are visible. Wear sturdy shoes for the slippery rocks and bring a camera to capture the vibrant sea life.

12. Tandem bike along the Silver Strand

woman on bike reaching for man's hand behind her also on bike

The Silver Strand is a narrow isthmus with the Pacific Ocean on one side and San Diego Bay on the other, offering stunning water views on both sides as you pedal.

Renting a tandem bike is an affordable option and adds a fun twist to traditional cycling. It requires you and your partner to coordinate and communicate, turning a simple bike ride into an exercise in partnership and trust.

The bike path is relatively flat and extends for about 10 miles, making it suitable for couples of all fitness levels. Along the way, you can stop at one of the many beaches or picnic spots.

Remember to bring sunscreen and water, as the ride can be breezy but sunny.

13. Enjoy the interactive fountains and gardens at the Waterfront Park

Waterfront Park, San Diego
Waterfront Park

Waterfront Park, located along the North Harbor Drive, is a vibrant space that combines art, nature, and play.

The park’s interactive fountains are a highlight, inviting visitors to cool off and splash around, which can be a playful escape on a warm day. Surrounding the fountains, the lush gardens offer a serene backdrop, perfect for a leisurely walk or simply sitting and enjoying the greenery.

Waterfront Park is also known for its excellent views of the San Diego Bay and the city skyline, making it a picturesque spot for couples. It’s a great place to unwind, share a picnic, or just people-watch.

Pack a lunch, bring a towel, and don’t forget your sunscreen.

14. Go roller skating at Skateworld San Diego

a pair of white boots with red flowers on them

Skateworld is an iconic roller rink known for its classic feel and friendly atmosphere, making it a perfect spot for couples looking for an active outing.

Lace up your skates and glide around the rink to the sound of music ranging from classic hits to modern tunes. Roller skating is not only a blast from the past but also a great way to get your heart rate up and share some laughs, especially if one of you is less experienced on wheels.

The cost of admission and skate rental won’t break the bank, and there are often special deals on their website. Whether you’re holding hands around the rink or racing each other to the next song, roller skating at Skateworld offers a unique blend of nostalgia and romance.

Remember to check the public skating session times and to wear comfortable clothes.

15. Watch a rooftop movie at Cinema Under the Stars

white and red plastic packs

Nestled in the heart of Mission Hills, Cinema Under the Stars outdoor theater offers a cozy setting perfect for a romantic night out.

With a selection of classic films and recent hits, the experience combines the charm of a bygone era with the luxury of modern comforts, such as zero gravity recliners and infrared heating. It’s a unique way to enjoy a movie away from the crowded multiplexes.

Tickets are reasonably priced, but it’s wise to book in advance as the venue is quite popular and seating is limited. They also offer concessions with snacks and drinks to complete your movie experience.

Bring a blanket to snuggle under the stars and enjoy a film with the backdrop of the San Diego skyline. Cinema Under the Stars is a magical and affordable way to step out of the ordinary movie date night.

16. Walk at the Mission Beach Boardwalk

The Mission Beach boardwalk
Mission Beach Boardwalk is an iconic place in San Diego.

Walk at the Mission Beach Boardwalk for a laid-back and cost-effective date. This bustling boardwalk offers a lively atmosphere with picturesque ocean views on one side and an array of beach houses on the other.

Stretching nearly two miles along the coast, it’s a great place for couples to take a leisurely stroll, people-watch, or simply enjoy the fresh sea breeze. The boardwalk is lined with shops and eateries, but you can have a wonderful time just soaking in the sights and sounds.

Mission Beach Boardwalk is also famous for its adjacent amusement park, Belmont Park, which you can visit for a dose of fun if you choose. However, the simple pleasure of walking by the water, especially during sunset, is a romantic experience in itself.

Remember to wear comfortable shoes, and don’t forget your sunglasses.

17. Sample local foods at the Little Italy Mercato Farmers’ Market

cars parked on the side of the road during daytime
Little Italy in San Diego

Every Saturday, Little Italy transforms into a bustling market filled with fresh produce, gourmet treats, and artisanal goods.

Strolling through the market, you can taste a variety of samples from local vendors. It’s a feast for the senses with vibrant colors, enticing aromas, and the opportunity to try before you buy. From fresh fruits and vegetables to homemade bread and specialty cheeses, the market is a showcase of San Diego’s rich culinary scene.

The Mercato is not just about food; it’s a place where you can enjoy live music and connect with the community. It’s free to enter, and you can make it as budget-friendly as you like depending on your purchases.

Bring a reusable bag to carry any goodies you pick up.

a hallway with many games on the shelves
Postcards, keychains, and magnets are classic souvenirs that you can easily find in must-see places in San Diego.

Cheap Romantic Things to Do in San Diego: FAQs

Is San Diego good for couples?

San Diego is an excellent destination for couples, offering a diverse array of activities that cater to different interests and preferences.

With its stunning coastline, beautiful beaches, and picturesque parks, San Diego provides a romantic backdrop for couples to enjoy. Whether it’s a sunset walk on the beach or a hike with breathtaking views, the natural beauty is perfect for romantic moments.

San Diego’s year-round mild weather allows for a variety of outdoor activities. Couples can plan outings without the worry of extreme weather conditions, making it a reliable destination for a romantic getaway.

From outdoor adventures like kayaking and hiking to cultural experiences such as visiting museums and theaters, there’s something for every couple. The city’s vibrant food scene, including farmers’ markets and fine dining, also offers couples a chance to explore and enjoy together.

What are the best places to stay in San Diego for couples?

San Diego offers a range of accommodations that cater to the romantic atmosphere couples might be seeking. Here are some of the best places to stay, considering different preferences and budgets:

Beachfront Resorts:

  • Hotel del Coronado: Located on Coronado Island, this iconic hotel offers luxury accommodations with a private beach and views of the Pacific Ocean.
  • Pacific Terrace Hotel: Perched atop the cliffs of Pacific Beach, this hotel provides a more intimate setting with stunning ocean views.

Boutique Hotels:

  • Pendry San Diego: Situated in the Gaslamp Quarter, this modern hotel is close to nightlife and fine dining, perfect for couples looking to explore the city.
  • La Valencia Hotel: In La Jolla, this pink-hued hotel is known as “The Pink Lady,” offering ocean views and a romantic, old-world charm.

Budget-Friendly Options:

  • Ocean Beach Hotel: A simple and affordable option right on the beach, perfect for couples who want the ocean at their doorstep without a hefty price tag.
  • Old Town Inn: Located in Historic Old Town, this family-owned hotel offers a central location and homey comfort at a reasonable rate.

When choosing a place to stay, consider what type of trip you’re looking for: relaxation, adventure, luxury, or exploration. Each area of San Diego offers a different vibe, so select a location that aligns with the experiences you and your partner are seeking. Always check recent reviews and consider booking in advance, especially during peak seasons.

palm trees near white concrete building under blue sky during daytime
In January, you can enjoy the various activities at Balboa Park without the crowds.

Is San Diego worth going to?

San Diego is widely considered a worthwhile destination for many travelers due to its diverse attractions, beautiful weather, and variety of activities that cater to different interests.

With over 70 miles of coastline, the city boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in California, perfect for surfing, sunbathing, or just enjoying a sunset.

The city is rich in cultural offerings, including the San Diego Museum of Art, the USS Midway Museum, and the historic Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

San Diego’s culinary scene is a blend of diverse cultures, with a particular emphasis on Mexican cuisine and seafood. The city also has a thriving craft beer scene.

It’s a great destination for families, with attractions like SeaWorld San Diego, Legoland California, and Balboa Park.

How much time should I spend in San Diego?

The ideal length of a visit to San Diego largely depends on what you want to see and do. Here’s a general guideline to help you plan:

Short Stay (2-3 days): If you’re just passing through or want a quick getaway, a 2-3 day trip can cover the highlights. You could spend one day exploring Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo, another day at one of the beaches (like La Jolla or Coronado), and an evening in the Gaslamp Quarter.

Medium Stay (4-5 days): With a few extra days, you can delve deeper into San Diego’s offerings. Add a day to visit museums or take a harbor cruise, another to explore the USS Midway Museum and Seaport Village, and perhaps a day trip to nearby areas like the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Long Stay (6+ days): A week or more allows you to experience San Diego at a relaxed pace. You can visit multiple beaches, take day trips to places like Julian for apple pie, go hiking in the surrounding nature reserves, and even take a short trip across the border to Tijuana, Mexico.

whale jumping over the sea during daytime
In San Diego, you can witness the majestic Blue, Grey, Fin, and Humpback whales in action as they devour krill and small marine creatures.

Final Thoughts: Cheap Romantic Things to Do in San Diego

How did you like this list of the most romantic things to do in San Diego? Along with suggestions, there are many other romantic things to do in San Diego for couples. You just need to do a quick search with your favorite activities.

Explore the San Diego parks, build sandcastles, kayak, or swim in San Diego beaches, sample local foods or go on a scenic drive along the coastline — you can have romance in San Diego without breaking the bank!