What to Expect When Visiting San Diego in May

If you’re thinking about planning a trip to San Diego in May, here’s all you need to know about visiting!

You might have expectations that are different than what you’ll actually find. I, for one, didn’t realize what the weather was going to be like when we planned our trip!

Here I’ll cover some basic information as well as detailed things to know about visiting San Diego in May. Let’s get to it!

Is May a good month for San Diego?

May is a great month to visit San Diego and enjoy its many attractions.

The weather starts heating up and tourists and locals alike start spending more time outdoors. 

It’s also before the school holidays, so it usually isn’t too busy and you can get some cheaper deals on accommodation and tours. 

However, do be mindful of “June gloom” which can turn into “May gray”. This is a phenomenon that causes fog to hang around at the beach and can cause chilly or unpleasant weather. 

Generally, June gloom takes place in, as the name suggests, the month of June, but you might encounter it if you are visiting later on in May.

If you want to avoid June gloom completely and have guaranteed beach weather, consider visiting later, around July or August.

Autumn months are also some of the best times to visit San Diego, so you may want to also consider going in October or November! 

Are San Diego beaches warm in May?

San Diego beaches can be a little temperamental in May, with some cloudy, foggy weather, and some sunny days.

Generally, locals start to head to the beach in the latter half of May, as the weather can be ideal for sunbathing or beach sports. 

However, we recommend not basing your entire trip around the beach; while you may well get some good beach weather and sunshine, it’s equally feasible that you’ll encounter clouds and fog. 

Don’t worry, we’ve included a list of things to do in San Diego in May in this post!

And if you’re looking for some great photo spots in the area, check out this post!

Can you swim in San Diego in May?

While you technically can swim in San Diego in May, you’ll want to consider a wetsuit. The water is still chilly from the winter months and hasn’t had a chance to heat up from the warmer summer weather.

However, if you are used to swimming in May elsewhere in the country, you might find the water warm in comparison. 

For sea swimming, September is usually the warmest month. This is because it’s after the hot summer months and the seawater retains some heat. If you’re looking for peak beach season, September is your best bet, when the weather is sunny and the water is warm.  

What is the weather like in San Diego in May?

Despite its southern location – right across the border from Mexico – it’s actually cooler in San Diego than you may think! This is due to its marine climate. In May, you can expect an average high temperature of 69°F to 77°F in the daytime and 59°F to 62°F in the nighttime. 

It’s well past the rainy season, which usually begins in January and runs until March (although this is the rainy season, it doesn’t rain much at all in Southern California, especially when compared to other destinations across the US!). Expect an average of 0.2 inches of rain in May; although some years, no rainfall happens at all in May. 

If you’re visiting later in May, consider “June gloom”. This is a coastal fog that occurs all over California, from San Francisco all the way down to Los Angeles and San Diego. 

June gloom is usually present on the beaches on June mornings. Often, it lifts by the afternoon, although it can stay there for the whole day. It’s usually not a problem at the beginning of May, but you are increasingly likely to encounter it as the month progresses.

San Diego has about 13 to 14 hours of daylight in May, with sunrise at 6:00 AM at the start of May and 5:41 AM by May’s end. May sunsets start at 7:30 PM but by May’s end sunset is closer to 8 PM, so you’ll have more than enough time to explore the outdoors! Its average wind speed is between 7.1 and 7.7 mph (11.4 and 12.4 kph), which isn’t as bad as December – its windiest month of the year.

What should I wear in San Diego in May?

As the weather can be a little temperamental, it’s a good idea to pack lots of different clothing options (including plenty of layers!) for your May trip to San Diego. 

We’ve put together some ideas for men and women below!

  • Warm weather clothes: including shorts, t-shirts, dresses, and skirts. It probably won’t be roasting hot, but it’ll hopefully be warm and sunny enough that you’ll want to wear some warm-weather items (especially if you’re from colder states and don’t get as much sun!). I found it to be perfect sundress weather but had a sweater on hand for layering when needed.
  • Layers: pack sweaters and long pants in case the weather is foggy or cloudy. 
  • Hiking clothes: there are plenty of great places for hiking, so be sure to pack some comfortable closed-toe shoes and appropriate clothes if you plan to hike.
  • Wetsuit: if you’re planning on doing any swimming, pack a wetsuit! You will probably also want a swimsuit to wear underneath. For warmer beach days, you might want a sarong or other cover-up to wear at the beach. 
  • Evening clothes: San Diego has lots of restaurants with different atmospheres. If you’re heading to the trendy Gaslamp district to dance, listen to live music, or attend a concert, you might want to take some dressier clothes like dresses, skirts, and even heels. Alternatively, other bars and restaurants have a much more casual dress code; you could wear jeans and a nice top, or your day clothes. 

The general consensus is that it won’t be too cold in San Diego in May – you certainly won’t need a thick coat or any other winter gear – but you should probably pack some slightly warmer layers with your warm-weather clothes. 

Of course, the weather can change year on year, so we recommend checking the weather forecast before heading out. 

What are the best things to do in San Diego in May?

Here’s a list of the best things to do in San Diego in May!

(The first photo above is from Balboa Park and the second photo is from my favorite view in all of San Diego: Cordiano Winery!)

San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo is ideal for visiting in May, perhaps if you get some “May Gray”! The zoo is an all-weather attraction, and it’s open throughout the year. It’s one of the best zoos in the US, with a range of animals from giant pandas to lions to Komodo dragons.

In fact, it has over 700 species of animals – so you’re guaranteed to find one that you love (or even that you’ve never seen before!). It’s perfect for families, but adults will also enjoy a day at the San Diego Zoo!

Get tickets and see pricing here!

Balboa Park

Exploring Balboa Park is one of the best things to do in San Diego in May. It’s ideal for a stroll without being too hot, and you can even enjoy it if there’s some coastal gloom. 

Balboa Park is a huge area that celebrates different cultures, with 32 international houses each representing a different country and its customs. Also in Balboa Park are a whopping 18 museums – so if you want to head inside, the option is always there! It’s the perfect place to start learning about San Diego and California’s culture and history. 

(The San Diego Zoo is actually located in Balboa Park, so you can easily explore both on the same day!)

SeaWorld San Diego Theme Park

SeaWorld is a great theme park for kids and adults alike!

It combines the thrill and adventure you’ll find in a theme park along with interesting and informative presentations about different animals including beluga whales, walruses, penguins, and the like. You can sign up for animal interactions as well for more in-depth learning opportunities!

Also, try their Seven Seas Food Festival sampler for a delightful taste of the bounties of the seven seas- but only if it’s available at the time of your visit!

Check out their special offers and ticket prices here. You might be able to grab a deal if you’re going there for the Memorial Day Weekend!

Belmont Park

If you like thrilling theme park rides, you’ll love Belmont Park! It’s a fantastic place to visit throughout May, even on overcast days – the clouds won’t stop your enjoyment of the rides after all!

Belmont Park is a vintage amusement park with a Giant Dipper rollercoaster which, believe it or not, dates all the way back to 1925. (Fun fact: that time period is known as the “golden age” of wooden rollercoasters!) 

But unlike most rollercoasters that were built during this era, it has had a $2 million restoration, making it still safe for riding today. 

How many people can say that they’ve ridden a rollercoaster that’s nearly 100 years old?!

You can check admission pricing here!

Cordiano Winery

Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or not, Cordiano Winery should be on your list of things to do in San Diego in May! This place is not only a winery, but a fantastic dinner spot with delicious pasta and a killer view. I’d argue that it’s the dreamiest view in San Diego!

Tip: Make a reservation ahead of time for a time slot that includes a golden hour and sunset – you’ll have the prettiest lighting with your dinner!

La Jolla

Situated just outside of San Diego, La Jolla is an area with a decidedly Mediterranean feel about it – and visiting is a must while you’re in town! It also happens to have one of the best beaches in San Diego. 

Lined with palm trees, La Jolla Cove Beach is a relatively calm swimming beach due to rocky coves stopping large waves from rolling in. Beautiful as it is, it’s quite small, so if you want a less-crowded day at La Jolla Cove Beach, we recommend heading there early. 

As some of the days in May can be quite warm, try to add this beautiful beach to your San Diego itinerary.

And since you’re already in the area, how about registering for the La Jolla Half Marathon or the 5k run? This event starts at Del Mar Fairgrounds and ends with a challenging climb to the Torrey Pines State Park Summit. If you want an organized group run with stunning views, join this marathon!

Enjoy San Diego’s Nature

There are plenty of other beaches in San Diego to enjoy as well.

Coronado Beach is a large sweeping beach that is landmarked by the famous Coronado Hotel. Ocean Beach has a long pier from which you can see the beautiful cityscape. Solana Beach offers family-friendly refuge that’s always perfect for a quick getaway. And for a community and city that’s named after a body of water, you have Mission Beach and Pacific Beach to boot!

If you have a warm day on your May vacation, you’ll definitely find the perfect beach in San Diego to enjoy the best times! 

With Mother’s Day around the corner, scenic nature spots are great areas to visit and relax with Mom. Check out Sunset Cliffs State Park, Torrey Pines, and Carlsbad Flower Fields – with the latter having more than 50 acres of flower fields to admire!

Are there any events or festivals in San Diego in May?

Yes, there are a few festivals and events in San Diego in May.

As the weather gets warmer, it’s the perfect time of year to enjoy an al fresco celebration! Here are some of the best festivals and events throughout the month: 

Gator by the Bay Zydeco, Blues, and Crawfish Festival 

Located in a Spanish landing park, Gator by the Bay Zydeco, Blues, and Crawfish Festival usually takes place at the beginning of May each year. It’s essentially San Diego’s Mardi Gras festival around the shores of San Diego Bay – just a couple of months later than the main celebrations! 

It’s a family-friendly festival with live blues music performances, Mardi Gras parades, and delicious cajun food. There are tons of seafood delights available, including gumbo, jambalaya, and of course, crawfish straight from Louisiana!

There’s always something going on during its four days (Thursday to Sunday) and it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in San Diego when it’s on!

Cinco de Mayo

As Cinco de Mayo falls in May (naturally), you bet that there are celebrations for it in San Diego (especially due to its proximity to Mexico!).

Expect sunset sailing trips, themed restaurant and club nights, and more. The actual events can vary year by year, but there will definitely be something fun if you’re in town for the 5th of May!

Check out more about Old Town’s Cinco de Mayo festival here.

Wing Fest

It’s precisely what the name suggests – a festival dedicated to all things wings. 

Enjoy hundreds of different types of wings, plus music, games, and drinks. There’s even a wing-eating competition for those who feel like they can out-eat everybody! Learn more here.

Over the Line Craft Beerfest and OTL Tournament

For San Diego beer enthusiasts (and guests!), this annual event is a fun way to enjoy their favorite local beer. Over the Line tournament hosts some of the city’s finest craft beer as well as various food trucks right at Mariner’s Point. This is usually held around the second or third week of May. Check this page for more info if you’re interested!

Fiesta Del Sol in Solana Beach

Happening around the third weekend of May, Fiesta Del Sol in Solana Beach is a great family bonding activity to attend! They feature fun and lively music, an arts and crafts fair, a beer and wine garden, and an international food court which any foodie will love. More info on this page!

Where should you stay in San Diego?

Here are three places that we absolutely loved when visiting San Diego. They’re in a variety of locations and range from medium/low to high-budget options.


If you’re looking for a luxurious resort stay, look no further than the Fairmont Grand del Mar. Located within Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, the grounds are gorgeous and the food is delicious! With four outdoor pools, an epic golf course, tennis courts, a spa, tasty restaurants, and even an ice cream shop, you might never want to leave! We spent a full day just lounging by the pool, playing corn hole, reading in our room, and enjoying the restaurant.


The Rancho Bernardo Inn is a gorgeous property right by San Diego’s wine country! It’s also a bit of a drive from downtown San Diego – about 23 miles away – but it makes up for the distance with its golf resort vibes. The Inn features a golf course, spa, outdoor pool, and on-site restaurant. When walking around the property, you’ll even see the chef’s garden, where fresh ingredients are incorporated into meals. When we stayed here we made sure to make the drive over to Cordiano Winery, which I mentioned before. It’s a must if you’re in the area!


Looking to stay within more of a budget in the heart of San Diego? We chose Hotel Republic San Diego, Autograph Collection for our stay. It offers a blend of contemporary decor, aesthetically pleasing interiors, on-site restaurants, and close proximity to everything in downtown San Diego. You can even walk to Little Italy and the Gaslamp District.

In conclusion…

May is a great month to visit San Diego. You’ll most likely have pleasant California weather with plenty of activities to do.

We absolutely loved our time exploring San Diego in May. Though we didn’t get into the water at any beaches, we spent plenty of time in the pool when the temperatures got high enough. To me, May is a perfect month to explore so much of what this city has to offer!

You can also check out charming nearby towns like Balboa Island or Laguna Beach.

If you have any questions about visiting San Diego in May, drop them in the comments!

And here are some more articles you might enjoy:

Happy exploring,


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About the author
Picture of Jasmine Alley

Jasmine Alley

I'm a Dallas-based, full-time travel blogger with a serious case of wanderlust! Through my website and Instagram, I hope to help others plan picture-perfect trips to the most beautiful places in the world! When I travel, I like to emphasize nature, hidden gems, and unique places.
Picture of Jasmine Alley

Jasmine Alley

I'm a Dallas-based, full-time travel blogger with a serious case of wanderlust! Through my website and Instagram, I hope to help others plan picture-perfect trips to the most beautiful places in the world! When I travel, I like to emphasize nature, hidden gems, and unique places.
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