Los Angeles may get most of the attention when people think of escaping to the West Coast, but if you like laid-back vibes, wearing flip-flops all day, fish tacos, and street fairs, you need to head just a bit further south to San Diego.
San Diego is beloved for its beaches, and hotspots like Coronado Beach, La Jolla Cove, and Mission Beach offer everything from surfing to snorkeling to scuba diving and kayaking with sea lions. Cultural institutions like the many museums in Balboa Park can easily fill several days of exploration, and the city’s food and drink scene is world-class, too. Be sure to stop at least a few places to try the city’s well-known specialties like fish tacos, California-style pizza, and all manner of craft brews and IPAS.
Traveling to San Diego? Check out Matador’s lodging guides to the city:
The only downside of San Diego is that it can be very expensive, and hotel rooms can easily be $300 or more midweek. That’s why Airbnbs in downtown San Diego — one of the city’s most convenient and walkable neighborhoods — can be a very attractive option. Downtown San Diego is close to the airport, near most of the city’s most popular restaurants, and close to attractions like the USS Midway Museum and the San Diego Museum of Art. Staying in a downtown neighborhood is also a smart idea if you don’t plan to rent a car, since you’ll be able to walk to public transportation (like the San Diego Trolley) in just a few minutes from wherever you stay.
Matador rounded up eight of the most desirable Airbnbs in downtown San Diego for travelers ready to live like a local — for a few days, at least. Options are listed in order of the lowest to highest starting rate, so scroll to the end if you’re looking for larger or higher-end stays.
We hope you love the spaces and stays we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.
- Bedrooms: 1
- Guests: 4
- Rates from: $138/night
The Cozy Casita is a cute and highly rated rental in Little Italy with a clean color scheme, a small outdoor patio perfect for socializing in the evenings, and a full kitchen with plenty of space to cook. It also has one of the lowest starting prices for any of the Airbnbs in downtown San Diego, especially considering it can sleep up to four guests.
The only potential downside could be sound if you’re an early or light sleeper: Little Italy can get lively, and since this is one of four casitas on a single property, you may hear your neighbors if they come back late. But if you’re already used to city sounds, the combination of the low price and comfortable interior makes it a great find for any trip to San Diego.
Little Italy Loft
- Bedrooms: 1 + loft
- Guest: 5
- Rates from: $153/night
This downtown San Diego loft is colorful and modern with a great starting price, especially if you have five guests splitting the price. It’s in Little Italy, one of downtown San Diego’s trendiest neighborhoods, and has a sunny, bright patio perfect for a happy hour beer after a day spent surfing or snorkeling. There are a few notable downsides — one of the bedrooms is an open loft and you’ll need to walk up three flights of stairs to reach the unit — but if those don’t bother you, it’s an ideal pick for budget-conscious travelers to the city.
Room A at the Dutra
- Bedrooms: 1
- Guests: 2
- Rates from: $159
The Dutra Inn is technically a hotel, but it doesn’t operate like one. All units are separate suites more like apartment buildings, and they’re all bookable via Airbnb. However, they do have hotel-style amenities some travelers may appreciate, like high-end linens, in-room coffee, and spa-quality bath amenities.
Room A has a private bedroom, a full kitchen, and an entire private rooftop looking out on the water and the rest of downtown. It’s one of the best Airbnbs in downtown San Diego if you’re looking for a stylish space in a walkable location.
Room A has a bit of a Western-meets-1970s theme going on, giving it an eclectic feel bound to please travelers who don’t care much for generic chain hotels.
1920s Spanish Bungalow
- Bedrooms: 2
- Guests: 4
- Rates from: $175/night
This hacienda-style charmer may just make you forget which side of the border you’re on, at least while you’re standing in the beautifully tiled kitchen or relaxing on the flower-filled back patio. It’s a small home, but still manages to fit two bedrooms, both with en-suites, so it’s a nice choice for two couples traveling together or a family with kids.
The listing does note several times that the home is in the airport flight path, so it’s safe to assume you can hear planes passing overhead. However, it still has extremely high ratings, so it’s probably fairly manageable, noise-wise.
By the way, if you decide you actually want to go to Mexico for a day or evening, you can take the San Diego Trolley — which stops in Little Italy — to the border crossing. It’s easy to walk across on foot, with a raised bridge above the road and plenty of bars, restaurants, and shops directly on the other side in Tijuana. (You’ll need your passport, of course).
The La Strada Bungalow
- Bedrooms: 2
- Sleeps: 6
- Rates from: $225/night
Travelers who don’t want a modern downtown apartment may prefer one of the bungalow Airbnbs in downtown San Diego, like this cute and well-maintained two-bedroom. It’s in the Little Italy neighborhood in the middle of downtown, so it’s walkable to the main restaurant area in the city. It’s also four blocks from a San Diego Trolley station and less than 10 minutes form the airport, making this a fabulous pick for travelers without a car.
If you do have a car, know that you’ll have to use the paid parking lot across the street. But that’s really the only downside — if you’re looking for an Art Deco-style home with outdoor space at a reasonable price, look no further.
Room D at The Dutra
- Bedrooms: Open loft
- Guests: 2
- Rates from: $231/night
If you’re traveling with more than two people but still want to stay at The Dutra, tell your other friends to book Room D, also available on Airbnb.
Room D has tall ceilings, a private patio, and a lofted sleeping area. It lacks a full kitchen, offering instead just a kitchenette with a sink and a fridge. Fortunately, it’s in Little Italy, so you’ll have no problem finding all types of tasty cuisine, even late at night. Note that parking isn’t included with the stay but is available at a fairly reasonable $15 per day. It’s also an Airbnb Plus property, which makes sense as the owners are the the hospitality business and happy to assist with whatever may make your trip to San Diego extra special.
Little Italy Townhouse
- Bedrooms: 2
- Guests: 6
- Rates from: $423/night
This Airbnb in downtown San Diego describes itself as a “rare designer masterpiece,” and while that may be a little braggadocios, it’s actually not too far off. The private home has 20-foot windows, an outdoor fire pit, and two bedrooms with en-suites spread across three stories. Every room in the home, from the modern living room to the inviting chef’s kitchen, looks like it belongs in a multi-million dollar home (which it probably is).
This townhouse Airbnb is in Little Italy and has dedicated parking and super-fast WiFi. The hosts are also flexible with arrival and departure times and proactively mention that they’re happy to accommodate early check-ins and late departures (as long as no other guests are arriving, of course).
Penthouse with Private Hot Tub
- Bedrooms: 4
- Sleeps: 9
- Rates from: $850/night
If you’re planning to live the high life in San Diego, why not do it literally? This is probably one of the pricier Airbnbs in downtown San Diego, but it’s also one of the swankiest. Guests get exclusive use of a private rooftop with a hot tub overlooking the city and a firepit with tons of seating. The roomy place has views of the Bay and Coronado Bridge, and covers not one but two floors of a modern apartment building.
This Airbnb is in the East Village, downtown San Diego’s largest neighborhood. It’s walkable to Petco Park and everything in the Gaslamp, so you’ll have no shortage of nearby options for dining and nightlife.
Where is downtown San Diego?
Downtown San Diego is centrally located in San Diego and is considered its central business district. It encompasses several neighborhoods, including the Gaslamp Quarter, East Village, Cortez Hill, Marina, and Little Italy. The boundaries of downtown San Diego are generally considered to be the San Diego Bay to the west, Ash Street to the north, 17th Street to the east, and Market Street to the south. It’s only about a 10-minute drive to the airport and is where you’ll find most of the city’s late-night restaurants, bars, and nightlife.
Where else can you stay besides downtown San Diego?
Airbnbs in downtown San Diego are generally some of the most convenient in the city, but it’s not your only spot for rentals. You could stay in beach neighborhoods like Ocean Beach, Mission Beach, or Pacific Beach (the latter of which has more of a “party, beach vibe”) or stay in Hillcrest if you want to stay in an area known for being especially LGBTQ+ friendly — though the city in general is pretty welcoming. If you’re keen on visiting parks, hiking, and seeing sea lions, head just north of the city to La Jolla, famous for its cliffs and easy access to hiking at Torrey Pines.
If you want to stay within walking distance to bars and restaurants but in an area that may be a bit quieter in the evenings, book an Airbnb in North Park. It’s pretty close to the restaurants, museums, and attractions in Balboa Park, but isn’t as lively as the downtown neighborhoods in the evening (though it’s still got plenty to do).
Why is staying in downtown San Diego a good idea?
Downtown San Diego is a popular area to stay in the city mostly for its convenient access. Many of the beach neighborhoods are on inlets or peninsulas, and traffic can get backed up. But if you stay in downtown San Diego, you don’t have to worry about that side of things. Downtown San Diego has easy access to public transportation and is only about 10 minutes to the airport, making it the best area to stay if you’re visiting without a car.
Many of the most popular restaurants, bars, and shops are within easy walking distance of downtown San Diego, making it easy to stay out late without worrying about finding a ride share to get home. And speaking of nightlife: downtown San Diego is an excellent choice if you like to stay up late. It has a vibrant nightlife scene with many bars, clubs, and restaurants to choose from, especially in the Gaslamp Quarter and Little Italy.