San Diego is one of the best destinations to surf on the West Coast and offers some of the warmest waters and top surfing breaks in California.
If you’re considering visiting America’s Finest City, then you’ll be glad to know they have a wide selection of surf camps and schools that you can join for your vacation, whether you’re a newbie or an experienced surfer.
Check out our 10 best surf camps in San Diego and also how to prepare for your surfing trip there.
2. Surf Diva
Meal Price Range
Meal prices in San Diego can vary depending on where you’re eating, what time of day you’re eating and what’s going on in the area at the time.
Like any other city, there are both expensive restaurants and more affordable ones, so it’s up to you to do your research to find ones that suit your budget. However, on average most travelers will spend around $35-$50 per day per person on food when eating out in San Diego.
Breakfast in San Diego at either a Starbucks or a local coffee shop will set you back around $20, but it’s easier to save money for this meal by grabbing a juice and a bar at a grocery store instead and saving yourself until lunchtime.
Some independent diners or restaurants will offer lunchtime deals at a discounted rate, so look out for those when traveling around as you’ll be able to get more food for your money. There should be some independent restaurants that serve 2 courses for 2 people for under $30.
If you’re looking to stay on budget, then we’d recommend grabbing most of your meals from fast-food restaurants or picking up some grab-and-go meals from the grocery store that you eat back at your accommodation.
San Diego is a prime location for popular conventions which can cause prices in the city to rocket due to incoming tourists who need and want to eat in the area.
If you’re staying at a surf camp whilst something big is being held in the convention center, then try to eat as far out of the area as possible to reduce your costs.
However, depending on what surf camp you’re staying at, your meals or some of your meals might be provided for you and included in the price of your package.
This means you’ll only be responsible for any additional snacks or drinks you may want, or if you choose to travel out to experience local cuisine.
Most surf camps or schools in San Diego will offer free equipment rentals inclusive in their prices to make it more convenient for guests and students. However, it’s always best to research your camp of choice before you travel so you can plan.
If your surf camp doesn’t include the cost of equipment rental in a package then you also have the convenience of being able to go to another company to hire your surfboard and wetsuits for your trip.
Most surfboard rental costs are around $35 per day and combo packages of a wetsuit and surfboard are around $45-$55 per day.
Hourly costs will set you back anything upwards of $20 per hour whereas it could cost you anything around $100 for 7 days of renting the equipment, so if you only plan on surfing for an hour or two a day, it’s still best to go for the weekly deal as it’ll work out cheaper for you.
Some surf camps will offer a delivery service to drop off your rental equipment to your accommodation free of charge as long as it’s within the delivery area, others will require you to go pick them up from the store and then return them when you’re done, which can be difficult if you don’t hire a car during your trip.
Booking your equipment in advance is recommended to make sure you get the board you want. Locals who surf year-round will more than likely have their own boards and equipment but tourists traveling across states or even internationally will be the ones to book out all the equipment.
Prepaid SIM Cards
If you’re traveling to San Diego from another state in the US, then you can use your cellphone as you normally would and you won’t be required to buy a prepaid sim card.
If you’re traveling from out of the US, then buying a prepaid SIM once you arrive in San Diego will be the best option to avoid crazy international data-roaming charges.
San Diego International Airport does not currently have any service provider stores in their terminals, so your best option is to head to the nearest cell phone service provider store or a Best Buy to buy one for your trip.
We recommend going for T-Mobile or AT&T as they often have the best network in most places in San Diego and they also offer great deals for tourists.
T-Mobile will charge a $10 activation fee for their prepaid sims with plans starting from $15 for 2GB and up to $50 for unlimited data with free texting and calls included with all prepaid sim card plans.
AT&T will charge a $15 activation fee for their prepaid tourist sim cards and offer free unlimited texting and calling on any of their tourist plans. Their cheapest plan is $35 for 1GB of data and their most expensive is unlimited data costing $65 for one month.
The nearest T-Mobile or AT&T stores are less than a 10-minute drive away from San Diego Airport.
Please note that you’ll need to bring your passport to buy a tourist prepaid sim card from a cell phone network store or kiosk.
The major airport in San Diego is San Diego International airport that has both international and domestic flights and is less than a 20-minute drive from the main surfing beaches in the city.
The next nearest airport is Tijuana in Mexico, only 22 miles away and sometimes it is cheaper to fly into Tijuana and then cross the bridge (Cross Border Xpress) into the US terminal and hire a car to drive to your location in San Diego.
There are currently more than 10 car rental companies located at San Diego Airport, so you can easily rent a car, pick it up after you’ve landed, and drive to your surf camp.
Prices start from around $200 per week depending on what time of year you’re traveling. If you’re going to hire a rental car then you’ll need to be 25 years of age or older.
Gas prices can fluctuate but are normally based around the $3.50 per gallon mark, however, if you’re only using the car to travel to and from your surf camp you won’t have to fill up on gas much throughout your trip.
San Diego also has a light rail system called the trolleys, which you can catch from the inner city and travel out to the beach fronts. You can purchase a day pass for only $6 or buy a one-way ticket for $2.50.
There is also a bus system that offers 89 different routes, many of which cover the areas of San Diego that the trolley services do not go to.
Amtrak California travels into San Diego, so if you’re traveling from another part of the state you’ll be able to get there quite easily.
Taxis can be quite expensive in San Diego and most people prefer to go with ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft as they’re slightly more affordable and more convenient for tourists as well.
San Diego is also a very bike friendly-city and offers many bike rental companies. So if you’re traveling light and can cycle with your luggage, then we’d recommend hiring a bike for a week to travel around San Diego as a budget-friendly and more eco-friendly option.
Types of Risks
The crime rate in San Diego is 15% lower than the national average, but you should always remain vigilant against thieves or criminals throughout your stay.
Never leave anything in your trunk or on the seats of your rental vehicle when you’re not driving, make sure to lock your valuables in a safe in your accommodation, and don’t leave any wallets or cellphones under towels on the beach.
San Diego has a medium risk of natural disasters like wildfires, earthquakes, and landslides. However, the chances of an earthquake in San Diego are much lower than the Californian average.
If you’re traveling through Tijuana to get to San Diego then be aware as the crime levels are very high and there are high cases of theft recorded daily so do not leave baggage unattended or in overhead departments on public transport. Make sure your wallets are kept safely in your pockets.
How to Prepare
Any non-US residents will need to obtain a tourist visa such as the B-2 visitor visa as well as having a valid passport to enter San Diego. However, if you are eligible for applying for ESTA then you’ll be able to travel visa-free to the US as long as you’re staying less than 90 days.
The DPT vaccine is necessary for being able to enter the US with the Hepatitis B and Rabies vaccinations being recommended depending on your itinerary for the trip.
Language and Currency
English is the most widely spoken language in San Diego and with only being 15 miles from the Mexican border, over 25% of the population also speak fluent Spanish. The US Dollar is currently the only currency that is accepted as payment in San Diego.
There is currently no currency exchange at San Diego Airport but there are multiple ATMs across the city as well as currency exchange stores that tourists can go to.
Checking Surf Forecast
San Diego’s best surf season is August through to November, with the summer months not being as reliable for big swells as other parts of California. Although even during the less impressive summer months, you’ll still find some waves to ride.
If you want to check the surf forecast to plan your trip then check out www.magicseaweed.com as they’ll post daily updates for surf height, swell period, winds, and tide charts. San Diego has over 70 miles of coastline so make sure to check out all the prime surfing locations as some areas may differ in surf forecast.
Travel insurance that also covers activities like surfing and other water sports is essential if you’re coming to San Diego for a surf trip. Anything can happen on your surf vacation and you’ll want to make sure you’re kept healthy and safe on your trip.
The US healthcare system is notoriously expensive, so if you fall sick or happen to get into an accident when you’re in San Diego you’ll want to make sure your travel medical insurance can cover it so you can get treatment. Without insurance, you probably won’t be able to get treatment unless you’re willing to fork out thousands of dollars.