cityscape with lights at nighttime
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Is San Diego Safe to Visit for Families in 2024?


You’ve come to the right place to get an answer to the Is San Diego safe to visit? question because I have been researching San Diego data for a few years. I’m sharing all my San Diego travel tips with you in this article. 

In addition to my experience, and after reading countless reports from other travelers to San Diego, along with some statistics, I can confidently say that San Diego is a bit safer than similar big cities.

But you don’t have to rely on my opinion alone. Here are some statistics about the safety rates of San Diego from all over the web.

The population of San Diego, CA in 2021 was 1.39 million. It is the eighth-largest city in the United States and the second-largest in California.

As in any big city, the crime rate is higher than in rural areas, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the city is unsafe for tourists.

In 2020, the crime rate in San Diego was similar to New York, higher than in Chicago, and significantly lower than in Los Angeles.

Statistically, the chances of becoming a violent crime victim in San Diego is 1 in 229. The majority of violent crimes in San Diego are classified as an assault. The chances of becoming a victim of property crime are higher – 1 in 53. The most common property crime is theft.

San Diego’s crime rate seems to be decreasing every year. Therefore, the actual crime rate should be even lower than what’s reported here.

As safety is a common question when it comes to San Diego travel, let’s dive deeper into this topic.

By the end of this article, you’ll have general San Diego safety info, know what to pack for San Diego to feel safer, and more — so let’s dive in to discover how safe is San Diego.

aerial photo of beach
Children’s Pool Beach in La Jolla, San Diego, is unique for its seawall, built in the 1930s to create a calm swimming area.

Is San Diego Safe for Tourists?

When you’re planning a trip to San Diego with the fam, one of the big questions that might pop up is, “Is it safe?”

Totally valid concern, especially when you’ve got the little ones in tow.

So, let’s dive into what San Diego has on deck in terms of safety, focusing on the police force, fire department, and the ever-vigilant lifeguards.

San Diego’s Police Department

First up, is the San Diego Police Department (SDPD). These folks are no strangers to keeping the peace in a city that’s buzzing with tourists pretty much year-round.

They’ve got a solid presence in all the hotspots you’re likely to visit, from the sunny stretches of Mission Beach to the bustling Gaslamp Quarter.

What’s cool is that they’re not just about patrolling. The SDPD is big on community policing, which means they’re all about building relationships with locals and visitors alike. It’s not just about responding to incidents; it’s about preventing them from happening in the first place.


Moving on to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. These guys are equipped to handle more than just your average cat-stuck-in-a-tree scenario. We’re talking high-tech gear and training that’s up to date-for any emergency, whether it’s a beach bonfire gone rogue or a more serious urban blaze.

The city’s layout, with its canyons and coastal areas, can be tricky terrain, but the fire department knows its stuff and how to navigate it swiftly and safely. They’re also pretty proactive about educating folks on fire safety, which is a big plus.

Mission Bay, San Diego
Mission Bay in San Diego is a vast waterfront park boasting 27 miles of shoreline, making it the largest man-made aquatic park in the United States.


Last but definitely not least, let’s talk about the lifeguards. If your San Diego plans involve hitting the waves, rest assured, the lifeguard team here is top-notch.

These professionals undergo rigorous training to handle everything from riptides to jellyfish stings. They’re stationed at all the major beaches, keeping an eagle eye on swimmers and surfers.

And it’s not just about rescues; they’re also there to dish out advice on water safety and make sure everyone’s playing it smart in the surf.

So, is San Diego safe for tourists?

Based on what the police, fire department, and lifeguards bring to the table, it’s a resounding yes.

Of course, like any big city, it’s always smart to stay aware of your surroundings and take the usual precautions. But with these teams on your side, you can focus more on enjoying what San Diego has to offer and less on the what-ifs.

Safest Neighborhoods in San Diego

Picking the perfect spot to stay in San Diego can be a bit hard, especially when you’ve got children coming with you. You want somewhere that’s not just a place to sleep, but a spot that adds to your vacay vibes while keeping everyone’s safety in check.

So, let’s break down some of the top picks for family-friendly zones in this sunny city.

1. La Jolla

La Jolla is a bit like the swanky, sophisticated aunt of San Diego’s neighborhoods. It’s all about stunning ocean views, outdoor adventures, and spotting seals and sea lions along the coast.

It’s also statistically one of the Top 10 safest neighborhoods in San Diego.

The area is super walkable, which means less time buckling and unbuckling car seats and more time exploring.

The vibe is upscale but welcoming, with plenty of boutique hotels and vacation rentals that cater to families looking for a mix of adventure and relaxation.

2. Mission Bay

If your idea of a great family holiday involves sandcastles, paddleboarding, and maybe a bit of beach volleyball, Mission Bay is your go-to. This area is like a giant outdoor playground with calm waters, making it a safe bet for the little ones to splash around.

The vibe here is laid-back, and there’s plenty of family-friendly accommodation, from resorts with killer pools to cozy vacation rentals. Plus, you’re a stone’s throw from SeaWorld, which can be a big win for an easy day out with the kids.

3. Coronado

Coronado feels a bit like stepping into a postcard, with its charming streets and stunning beach, famously known for its sparkly sand. Staying here gives you a bit of an island escape vibe while still being connected to the mainland by the iconic Coronado Bridge.

It’s a bit pricier, but the safety and cleanliness of the area are top-notch.

The historic Hotel del Coronado is a gem if you’re up for splurging, offering up some serious luxury and beachfront access.

Each of these spots has its own flavor and perks, making San Diego a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure deal when it comes to finding the perfect family base camp.

Safety-wise, these areas are well-patrolled and generally considered safe for tourists, but the usual travel smarts apply. Keep an eye on your belongings, stick together, and soak up all the good vibes San Diego has to offer.

Where to Stay in San Diego

Here are some of my recommendations for a family vacation hotels in San Diego:

Neighborhoods to Avoid in San Diego

Alright, let’s get real for a second. While San Diego is mostly a sunny paradise, there are a few spots in the city that might not be the ideal playground for your family vacation.

It’s not about painting any area as “bad”; every city has its less touristy, more gritty parts.

So, here’s the lowdown on a few neighborhoods that might not be top of your list when you’re visiting with the family.

East Village

East Village is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, it’s got Petco Park and some cool breweries and art spots.

But once the sun dips, the vibe can shift. It’s more of an urban scene with a bit of a rough edge, especially in certain pockets.

The area is going through a lot of changes, with new spots popping up all the time, but it’s probably not the place you’d want to wander around with kids after dark, mainly due to the higher homeless population and the issues that come with that.


Core-Columbia is the heart of downtown, bustling with business during the day but kind of emptying out once the 9-to-5 crowd heads home. It’s got some high-rise hotels and office buildings, but it lacks that cozy, neighborhood feel you might be craving on a family trip.

While it’s not unsafe, per se, it’s more about it not being the most engaging or warm environment for a family base camp.

Plus, with fewer eyes on the street at night, it can feel a bit desolate.

San Ysidro

Down at the very edge of San Diego, you’ve got San Ysidro, known mainly for the busy border crossing into Tijuana.

It’s a fascinating area with a lot of cultural exchange, but it’s also bustling, busy, and a bit chaotic, especially for families just looking to chill and enjoy some downtime.

The area has its charms, but with the hustle related to border traffic and the occasional tension that can come with any border area, it might not be the relaxing spot you’re looking for on a holiday.

Gaslamp Quarter
The Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego is a bustling historic district, famed for its vibrant nightlife, Victorian architecture, and diverse dining options.

Is San Diego Safe at Night?

Like any big city, San Diego’s got its bustling nightlife and quieter, more chill spots. Most popular areas like Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy, and the waterfront are pretty lively at night, with folks out for dinner or a stroll along the bay. These spots are well-lit and usually packed with both locals and tourists, making them feel safer.

But, just like anywhere else, it pays to keep your wits about you. Stick to well-lit streets, maybe skip the solo late-night adventures, and keep an eye on your belongings. If you’re out with the fam, the vibe is generally family-friendly earlier in the evening, especially in areas like Seaport Village or along the Embarcadero.

So, is San Diego safe at night? Yep, for the most part. Just use those street smarts, and you’re all set for a good time.

person sitting on seashore

Top Petty Crimes and Scams in San Diego Affecting Tourists

Like any tourist hotspot, San Diego has its share of petty crimes and sneaky scams targeting visitors. Let’s shine a light on some so you can stay one step ahead.

1. The Classic Pickpocket: Crowded areas like the Gaslamp Quarter or popular beaches are prime spots for pickpockets. They’re slick, so keep your wallet and phone secure, maybe in a zipped pocket or a crossbody bag.

2. Car Break-Ins: Love a good road trip? San Diego’s no stranger to car break-ins, especially in parking lots near hiking spots or beaches. Don’t leave valuables in plain sight in your car. If you’ve got to leave stuff behind, pop it in the trunk.

3. Rental Rip-Offs: Eyeing a vacation rental? Watch out for too-good-to-be-true deals. Scammers love to post fake listings or hijack real ones. Always book through reputable sites and be wary of hosts demanding payment outside the platform.

4. The Distraction Game: This one’s a team effort. One person distracts you with a question or a map, while their buddy makes off with your stuff. Stay alert in busy areas, and if someone’s getting a bit too close for comfort, keep a firm grip on your belongings.

5. Beach Bag Swipes: Sun, surf, and… theft? Leaving your bag unattended while you take a dip can be tempting for thieves. Take turns swimming with your group, or invest in a waterproof pouch for your essentials.

San Diego’s a gem, but staying sharp means you can focus on the fun stuff, like sunset tacos and seal spotting, without the drama. Keep these tips in mind, and you’re all set for a smooth SoCal adventure.

cars parked on the side of the road during daytime
Known for its authentic Italian restaurants, bustling farmers’ market, and quaint cafes, Little Italy combines old-world charm with modern urban living, making it a favorite for both locals and visitors.

Top 10 Quick San Diego Safety Tips

Here are 10 quick safety tips to keep your trip as chill as the Pacific breeze.

1. Sunscreen is Your BFF: Slather on that SPF 30+ regularly. The San Diego sun is no joke, especially for the little ones.

2. Stay Hydrated: Keep water bottles handy. With all the outdoor fun, you’ll need to keep the crew hydrated.

3. Keep an Eye on the Tide: Beach day? Check the local tide and rip current forecasts to pick the safest spots for a splash.

4. Buddy System: Whether it’s a bathroom break at Balboa Park or a stroll down the boardwalk, stick together.

5. Valuables on Lock: Use hotel safes for important stuff. If you’re out and about, keep valuables tucked away and not in back pockets or easy-to-snip bags.

6. Nighttime Know-How: Stick to well-lit, busier streets if you’re out after dark. The vibrant areas like Little Italy are great for evening family strolls.

7. Emergency Digits: Have local emergency numbers saved in your phone, just in case.

8. Beach Gear Smarts: A waterproof pouch for your phone and cash is a beach day game-changer. Also, a portable beach safe can keep your valuables secure while you swim.

9. Footwear Matters: Comfy shoes are a must. You’ll be clocking in some steps exploring the city’s sights.

10. Local Insight: Don’t hesitate to ask hotel staff or local shop owners for safety tips or directions. They know the area best.

Packing these safety pointers along with your gear means you’re all set for a fab San Diego adventure. Here’s to making memories with peace of mind!

a building with a pool in front of it at night
Experience Balboa Park’s enchanting transformation at night when architectural lighting illuminates its historic buildings. A must-see is the light display on the California Tower.

Packing for San Diego

Packing for San Diego is all about hitting that sweet spot between beach casual and city smart. But beyond the usual suspects in your suitcase, let’s talk about tucking in a few safety items to keep your trip as smooth as a SoCal surf.

1. Sun Defense Squad: The San Diego sun doesn’t play around. Stock up on broad-spectrum sunscreen, SPF lip balm, and a stylish yet functional hat. Throw in some UV-protective sunglasses to shield those peepers.

2. Stay Hydrated Gear: With all the exploring, staying hydrated is key. A reusable water bottle is your best friend, especially one that keeps your drink cool in the heat. Bonus points for reducing plastic waste!

3. First-Aid Kit: A compact first-aid kit can be a lifesaver for those unexpected scrapes or blisters from walking. Include basics like band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and some pain relievers.

4. Beach Safety Kit: If beach days are on the agenda, pack a waterproof pouch for your phone and cash. Also, consider a portable safe for your valuables when you’re taking a dip or playing in the sand.

5. Power Up: A portable charger ensures your phone’s always ready for a photo op or to pull up a map. Keeping your phone charged is crucial, especially if you’re relying on it for navigation or emergency calls.

6. Light Layers: Evenings can get cool, so pack a light jacket or sweater. It’s perfect for those sunset beach walks or evening strolls through the Gaslamp Quarter.

7. Copy That: Keep digital and physical copies of important documents like IDs and travel insurance. Store one set separately from the originals, just in case.

Packing these safety essentials means you’re all set to enjoy San Diego’s laid-back vibe, stunning beaches, and family-friendly attractions without a hitch.

Moonlight State Beach
Moonlight State Beach is known for its excellent amenities, including volleyball courts, restrooms, and fire pits, making it an ideal spot for a full day of beach fun with kids.

Frequently Asked Questions: Is San Diego Safe to Visit?

Is it Safe to Drink the Water in San Diego?

San Diego’s tap water meets all the strict standards set by the EPA, so it’s safe to drink.

Some folks might notice it tastes a bit different from what they’re used to back home, thanks to the minerals in it. But if you’re not loving the taste, snagging a filter or going for bottled water are easy fixes.

So, go ahead and fill up your water bottle without worry and stay hydrated while you explore all the cool spots San Diego has to offer.

assorted colored plastic bags on street during daytime
Tijuana is a major economic hub in the region, known for its manufacturing and industrial sectors, particularly in electronics and automobile manufacturing.

Is it Safe to Visit Tijuana from San Diego?

Popping over to Tijuana from San Diego is doable, but it’s a bit like flipping to a whole new chapter. Tijuana’s got its own vibe, with some cool cultural spots and tasty eats.

That said, it’s got a rep for being a bit rough around the edges, especially after dark or in less touristy areas.

If you’re thinking of making the trip, doing it during daylight hours and sticking to well-known spots can keep things on the smoother side. Also, keeping up with travel advisories and having your paperwork in order is key.

It’s a different scene from San Diego, so a bit of extra prep can go a long way.

Is San Diego public transportation safe?

San Diego’s public transportation, including trolleys and buses, is generally considered safe for both locals and visitors.

The city has invested in security measures like surveillance cameras and increased presence of security personnel, especially in stations and on major routes.

Like any public transit system, it’s wise to stay aware of your surroundings, especially during off-peak hours. Keeping valuables secure and not displaying them openly can also add an extra layer of safety.

Overall, families and solo travelers alike use San Diego’s public transportation daily without issue, making it a reliable option for getting around the city.

a San Diego street filled with lots of traffic under a blue sky

Is it Safe to Drive in San Diego County and City?

Hitting the road in San Diego? You’re in for a pretty smooth ride. Both the city and the wider county are known for their well-maintained roads and clear signage.

Sure, like any bustling area, traffic can get a bit hectic during rush hours, and finding parking in popular spots might test your patience. But overall, driving here is pretty straightforward. Just keep an eye out for the occasional speedy driver or unexpected traffic jam, especially around major attractions or during events.

With a good map or GPS at your side, you’ll be zipping around San Diego like a local in no time.

Is it safe to walk in downtown San Diego?

Downtown San Diego is generally a safe and vibrant area, especially during the day. With bustling cafes, cool shops, and waterfront parks, there’s plenty to see on foot.

The Gaslamp Quarter, in particular, is a lively spot with a friendly vibe.

Just like any downtown area, it’s smart to stay aware of your surroundings, especially at night. Stick to well-lit, busy streets, and maybe buddy up after dark.

But don’t let that put a damper on your plans—downtown San Diego’s got a lot of charm waiting to be explored on foot.

an aerial view of a large white building
The bright red-roofed Hotel Del Coronado is an iconic part of Coronado Island.

Is San Diego safer than Los Angeles?

When it comes to the safety showdown between San Diego and Los Angeles, San Diego often gets the nod for feeling a bit more laid-back and manageable.

It’s not just about the vibes; crime rates in San Diego tend to be lower compared to the sprawling metropolis of LA.

That said, both cities have their safe spots and their areas that might require a bit more caution. San Diego’s smaller size and relaxed pace can make it feel more welcoming for families.

Is San Diego safer than San Francisco?

Comparing San Diego to San Francisco in terms of safety, San Diego often comes out ahead. It’s not just about numbers; the overall atmosphere in San Diego tends to feel more laid-back and family-friendly.

San Francisco, with its dense urban environment and bustling tourist areas, can sometimes feel a bit more intense.

Both cities have their charm and their safer neighborhoods, but San Diego’s relaxed vibe and lower crime rates give it a slight edge for families looking for a worry-free visit.

green plant near white and brown house
Old Town San Diego is known as the “Birthplace of California”.

Is San Diego Safe to Visit: Final Thoughts

Wrapping up our deep dive into San Diego’s safety, here’s the lowdown: San Diego is a solid pick for a family getaway. With its laid-back beach vibes, kid-friendly attractions, and sunny weather, it’s got all the ingredients for a memorable trip.

Sure, like any city, it’s got areas that are a bit rough around the edges and moments when you need to keep your street smarts dialed in. But the big picture? It’s a place where families can explore, relax, and make those vacation memories without too much stress on the safety front.

The local police, fire department, and lifeguards are on their game, keeping an eye out and making sure both locals and visitors can enjoy what the city has to offer. And with a bit of planning—like knowing which neighborhoods to chill in and which to skip, and keeping an eye on your belongings—you’re set up for a smooth ride.

So, pack those bags, grab the sunscreen, and get ready for some quality family time in San Diego!

Additional San Diego Travel Blogs

8 Best Day Tours from San Diego, California

48 Hours In San Diego: Ultimate 2 Day Itinerary

11 Best Beaches in San Diego for Families With Small Kids