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San Diego has the most glorious climate. The Southern California sun burns hot and bright all year round, but there’s almost always a cool breeze blowing. Most people will find it comfortable no matter when they visit. Keep reading to find out what to wear in San Diego!
What to Wear in San Diego
Written By: Rebecca Theriot
Table Of Contents
San Diego is an iconic, laid-back Southern California beach city. The beach is easily accessible and enjoyable all year. If you aren’t into hanging out at the beach, there are plenty of other fun activities like museums, galleries, live music, and of course the world-famous San Diego Zoo in beautiful Balboa Park. San Diego is also the craft beer capital of the country!
It’s a casual city of flip-flops, jeans, shorts, and hoodies, so you never have to get super dressed up – unless you really want to.
In San Diego, summer high temperature averages are only about 10 degrees above winter temperatures. The average high in the coldest months of December, January, and February is 65°F. The warmest months are August and September with average highs of 76°F.
So there isn’t really a whole lot of difference between seasonal packing lists.
It’s important to note that San Diego is one of the lowest-humidity cities in the U.S. This means that even if the daytime is very warm, as soon as the sun sets, it gets a bit chilly. Many out-of-towners get caught thinking it’s always hot. Locals can spot tourists who are shivering in their shorts, tanks, and flip-flops on a cool evening!
Your choice of clothing will depend more on the activities you choose while in America’s Finest City. While there are many ways you can spend your time, you can enjoy San Diego with an extremely compact travel capsule wardrobe.
Start by reading these general tips on packing for summer travel:
- Capsule Wardrobe for Summer
- Summer Maxi Dresses for Summer
- Lightweight Jackets for Easy Layers
- The 10 Best Sandals for Travel this Summer
Basically, you can pack the same things year-round with only a few variations. Just be sure to check the forecast ahead of time in case there’s a heat wave or a rare rainy spell. Here’s what to wear in San Diego for various activities:
Bikini | Cover Up | Hat | Flip Flops | Bracelet | Sunglasses | Tote
What to Wear in San Diego: Beach
Sunglasses & Hat
Over 260 days of sunshine a year means you’ll definitely need shades during your visit! A floppy hat protects you even further from the sun.
Find out the benefits of polarized sunglasses!
Sandals or Flip-Flops
Sandals are worn all year in San Diego. You can wear them all day long and into the evening. Flip-flops are extremely common, even off the beach. Rainbow and Reef are two brands locals favor.
Check out our round-up of comfortable walking sandals that don’t sacrifice style!
You might be surprised to learn that the Pacific Ocean near San Diego is almost always quite cold! So, while beaches are often well-populated, a lot of people don’t actually spend much time in the water, even in summer.
However, there are plenty of days throughout the year that are warm enough to lay out by a pool or on the beach, especially in August and September. Always bring a swimsuit, just in case!
Check out the latest swimwear trends!
Coverup or Sarong
A bathing suit coverup that can double as a lightweight dress or romper is ideal to throw on after the beach to grab food or drinks in Ocean Beach or Pacific Beach (known as OB and PB to locals.)
Or opt for a sarong: it doesn’t take up much room in your luggage and can be used a number of ways: as a beach towel, picnic blanket, swimsuit cover-up, skirt, or sundress.
Shop the best swimsuit coverups this season!
Bring some kind of tote bag to carry all your beach-going necessities, like sunscreen and snacks.
Here’s a fun idea: Hit up the fantastic Little Italy farmers market on Saturday or the Hillcrest farmers market on Sunday to pick up tasty provisions for the beach!
Here’s a roundup of the best beach totes and bags for your vacation!
Tank | Shirt | Tee | Jacket | Bag | Jeans | Short | Bracelet | Sandals | Hat | Shoes
What to Wear in San Diego: City Sightseeing
Think in terms of layers. While the sun can be hot during the day, the breeze can turn cool in an instant year-round.
Though it doesn’t happen often or last long, there can sometimes be brutal heat waves from the Santa Ana winds that blow in from the desert. Be sure to check the weather right before you leave, because it could be well into the 80s or higher in November.
Use packing cubes to help you organize and even compress your belongings to maximize your space.
Short Sleeve Tops or Tanks
San Diego is an outdoor city–there’s plenty to see and do outside in the sunshine! Lightweight tops make a great base for any outfit. It’s easy to pop on a sweater or button-up over your tee or tank if you feel chilly.
Find out why linen clothing is perfect for summer and warm weather travel!
Long-sleeve Shirt or Cardigan
As mentioned, it can be quite a bit cooler at night, so you’ll definitely want to pack a button-up, lightweight cardigan, or sweater.
Find out why we love these lightweight jackets for summer travel!
San Diegans love their comfy hoodies! Bring along a medium-weight hoodie or another outer layer. Except for the coldest winter nights, this will suffice over a t-shirt or long-sleeved top.
Read this post to find out the best travel blazer!
Jeans and Shorts
As a casual city, jeans of all types are super common. You can also rock leggings, yoga pants, or simple comfortable trousers. Pack a pair of shorts for hot days.
These are the best leggings for women who travel, as voted by our readers!
Lipstick | Bracelet | Dress | Clutch | Sandals | Earrings
What to Wear in San Diego: Partying in the Gaslamp
Visitors looking for a fun night out often visit the downtown Gaslamp district, where there are lots of bars and some clubs. This is one of the few places where ladies get really dressed up: on weekend nights, you’ll see sexy little dresses and stilettos.
For a more casual (yet fun) night out, we recommend checking out North Park, Hillcrest, Pacific Beach, and Ocean Beach.
Hat and Scarf Set | Field Jacket
What to Pack for San Diego: Winter or Cooler Days
There are just a few more items you’ll want to add to your bag if you’re visiting during a time where cooler weather is expected.
Here are a few layering tips on how to stay warm in cold weather!
Hat and scarf
If you get cold easily, a lightweight beanie and scarf can be a helpful accessory on chilly nights and even cooler days in the winter.
Take a look at these stylish winter accessories for women!
You’ll only need it for the coldest nights, so choose a packable coat that won’t take up much room in your bag.
These are the most popular packable jackets according to our readers
What are your tips on what to wear in San Diego? Share in the comments!
For more USA packing lists, please read:
- What to Wear in California: Outfits for SoCal Style
- What to Pack for California: Cities, Mountains, Beaches, Deserts
- What to Pack for USA in Summer: California, Oregon, Nevada
- What to Pack for a Road Trip: British Columbia to Baja California
Suggested travel resources:
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Author Bio: Rebecca is a digital nomad, making her way as a freelance writer. She sometimes blogs about her travels as MsNomadica.
Working on some packing. Do folks wear sandals in December? ?
Hi Janna, the best advice we can offer you is to check the weather forecast at weather.com nearer to your departure dates to ensure that you have the most appropriate clothing and footwear packed for the temperature.
I would also highly recommend that you join our TFG facebook group and post any questions you have there: https://www.facebook.com/groups/travelfashiongirls/ Its a fabulous community of helpful female travelers that love to share their advice and experiences.
Have an amazing time! ?
I know this is a late response, but in general people who live here in SD do not wear sandals in December unless it’s really sunny or you’re dressed up for an event. We usually wear sneakers or boots/booties in the winter
Great advice! I wouldn’t have considered packing a jacket for our trip on Labor Day but considering one now for the evenings.
Hi. I’m from Hawaii and will be visiting San Diego on 11/5-11/7. I’ll be with my 3 year old daughter. I enjoy your post and would like to find out if I should pack for colder weather or will it be okay to pack layered clothes?
Hi Amy, I am afraid that the best advice we can offer you is to check the weather forecast at weather.com nearer to your departure dates to ensure that you have the most appropriate clothing packed for the temperature. But packing clothes that you can easily layer as needed is always a good idea.
I would also highly recommend that you join our TFG facebook group and post any questions you have there about the weather in Greece: https://www.facebook.com/groups/travelfashiongirls/ Its a fabulous community of helpful female travelers that love to share their advice and experiences.
Have an amazing time! ?
We are going to your city in March what do I bring, I live in NZ
Hi Christina, thank you for your reaching out! The weather in spring greatly varies in temperature, as well as in rainfall. The best tip is to monitor the forecast at weather.com for your specific trip dates to ensure that you have the most appropriate clothing. For more tips to help you with your packing, check out this post: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/what-to-pack-for-california/ I would also highly recommend that you join TFG’s free facebook community and post your question about packing for San Diego there: https://www.facebook.com/groups/travelfashiongirls/ It is a fabulous group of helpful female travelers that have the best advice and suggestions to share. Have an amazing time! ?
Hi, my husband made achievers club at his company and the trip is in San Diego at the Coronado in August. There is two events one says resort wear cocktail party and the other says resort wear formal dinner. Do you have suggestions on what i could wear? I am not sure what “resort wear” actually is. Florals?
Also, what to pack for nice dinners. Do people tend to dress up for dinner?
We will be in your city in October for a community college seminar. What is appropriate to wear?
Thanks for this post you are saving me from shivering on my vacation! I’m used to living in my area on the east coast, were it is always humid and very rarely need a sweater in the summer even at night. I’m so happy I read this before I left!
Hi Kelsy, thank you so much for your comment, so glad you found the article helpful!! Have a fantastic trip! 🙂
We have a condo on the beach reserved for Christmas. Can’t wait! I really appreciated your simple ideas for what to bring!
Thanks Jennifer, have fun!
We just got back from San Diego and this blog post was so helpful! I always check TFG before I go anywhere for tips on what to ear and you never let me down!
Yay!!! Thanks Debby ?
I travel to San Diego often for my work, so great to have the packing tips for this area — helping me slim down my own packing list, even though my style is pretty different from what’s suggested here. The suggestions about fabric types are especially helpful!
Thanks for the tips
Glad you like them 🙂