California : Safety by City
- Chino Hills
- Chula Vista
- Costa Mesa
- Daly City
- El Cajon
- El Monte
- Garden Grove
- Huntington Beach
- Lake Forest
- Long Beach
- Los Angeles
- Mission Viejo
- Moreno Valley
- Mountain View
- Newport Beach
- Palm Springs
- Rancho Cucamonga
- Redondo Beach
- Redwood City
- San Bernardino
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- San Jose
- San Leandro
- San Luis Obispo
- San Mateo
- Santa Ana
- Santa Barbara
- Santa Clara
- Santa Clarita
- Santa Cruz
- Santa Monica
- Santa Rosa
- Simi Valley
- South Gate
- Thousand Oaks
- Union City
- West Covina
San Diego, California, is known for its beaches, but there’s so much more to this city in the southernmost part of Southern California.
The city is actually quite large and brings a wonderful blend of mountains and canyons with beautiful beaches and cliffside views.
It’s also a major port and military location for the country’s defense and its watery borders.
The largest naval base in the Western U.S. is here, with 26,000 people – military and civilians – supporting the cause.
If you saw the original Top Gun, you got a glimpse of the military presence here, as it was the original Top Gun training location for the best pilots in the world.
Look on the tourism website for the blog “Top Gun Filming Sites” to see what locations you can still visit.
(In 1996, the Top Gun program moved to NAS Fallon just east of Reno, Nevada.)
History lives in many neighborhoods here, from Old Town with its Spanish influence to Coronado on the peninsula and the globally recognized Hotel del Coronado.
You are one of 35 million people who visit San Diego each year, and many major attractions, like SeaWorld and two major zoos, keep people coming back.
The Gaslamp Quarter is another big draw for daytime shoppers and nightlife lovers.
Whether you want to visit an underground speakeasy or dine at a rooftop bar, this city provides many opportunities with pleasant weather throughout the year.
San Diego is one of my favorite cities to visit, and each time it’s a whole new experience with growth happening and numerous things to see and do.
Warnings & Dangers in San Diego
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here, with crime rates bucking the national trend of surging violence. In 2021, all major crime categories were slightly below the national average. That's no small feat in a city of nearly 1.4 million people.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
San Diego has really mastered the art of getting around. There are trolleys in the downtown area to get tourists to the popular districts. Old Town has a trolley too. The "Coaster" train takes people from the busy city areas to the coastal communities, and the sprinter gets you on an east-west route through the nearby cities and back to San Diego. Taxis and rideshares are available and rental cars are plentiful. There is also a ferry that can take tourists to Coronado. You really can't go wrong with any option.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
With nearly 17,000 thefts in San Diego, just 148 of them were pickpockets or purse snatchings in 2021. That's a low risk, but it's still worth the extra attention to limit your risk. Carry small purses and put wallets in front pockets. The bigger risk is your car being "pickpocketed," with 50% of those thefts being related to car break-ins or burglaries.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW
Ready San Diego shows the biggest risks are wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, and flooding. SoCal wildfires have been increasing in intensity over the past decade, so you must take those seriously. Earthquakes can happen anytime, but you won't get advance warning, so you should know basic safety before you go. Tsunami risks will come with alerts, and it's critical to heed those warnings.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
About 1/3 of robberies happen on public streets, but the average robbery rate is at the national average. Use extra caution at night because the popular bar scene might make robbers search for crimes of opportunity.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
It's not just the Navy, Marine, Coast Guard, and Department of Defense located here. Several major defense contractors have their headquarters in San Diego. The deepwater port is used for shipbuilding and submarines. All that makes San Diego a sweet target for a potential terrorist attack. It also means there's a lot of security to prevent any attacks. You'll see that level of security if you accidentally enter a military area while walking the piers. Ready San Diego has a whole section about terrorism preparation and prevention.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
You might feel like you're being scammed when visiting San Diego because of the high prices in some popular areas. That can make actually being scammed a lot harder to spot. Here's the best advice. o Hotels and restaurants near the beach are going to cost more. Period. You are paying for the view and the ambiance. Any deal that seems too good to be true - is. o Don't use third-party websites, like Craigslist, to get discount tickets or rentals. Scammers prey on people who use these sites, and you won't always be able to easily distinguish a scammer until you've lost money. o A day of walking can make a Pedi-Cab seem like a lifesaver, but know the price before you get on board. If you don't agree with the price ahead of time, you could face a steep charge just for going a few blocks.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Women are statistically less likely to be a victim of violent crime, according to 2021 data. The sexual assault rate is also lower than the national average. I would recommend traveling with a group or a friend while walking around, but solo exploring isn't too risky during the day. At night, the environment can be a little rowdier.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2021 Annual Water Quality Report for San Diego shows full compliance and no violations. It's worth reviewing the conservation information so you can help prevent water overuse. You can also email the water quality department if you have additional questions. That email is email@example.com.
Safest Places to Visit in San Diego
SanDiego.org is run by the San Diego Tourism Authority and should be your starting point for research.
This site provides a secured platform, verified attractions, and links to purchase tickets.
If you’re traveling internationally, there’s a section where you can choose your home country and get a website catered to tourists from that area.
Since San Diego is so large, let’s go through the different places you might want to visit.
San Diego has an extensive array of beachfront regions.
Some are more crowded, while others are remote.
Some bring history and entertainment districts, while others are more wilderness based.
Coronado, La Jolla, Mission Bay, and Point Loma Peninsula are some of the most popular for tourists.
The districts downtown are a lot of fun (I’ve been there and can vouch for this).
- Downtown is home to the popular Gaslamp Quarter, with charming streets bustling with live music and open-air bars.
- Little Italy is a food lover’s dream, with traditional Italian offerings mixed with high-end cuisine.
- North Park is the neighborhood for beer drinkers, and South Park is a hipster and indie neighborhood with locally owned and farm-to-table offerings.
- This is the most inclusive community in San Diego and is popular with the LGTBQ+ crowd. This is also near the expansive Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo.
INLAND: Off the shore, you’ll find Mission Valley and Old Town, where the city’s center was originally located. East County and North County Inland offer mountain and desert adventures with hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and star gazing as main attractions.
With so many major attractions in San Diego, we aren’t going to be able to cover them all.
I would recommend every traveler take the time to visit the USS Midway Museum to step aboard a navy carrier that has been serving the country for more than 60 years.
From climbing into a cockpit to doing a flight simulator, you can truly channel your inner “Maverick.”
Audio tours are available for kids and adults for a more customized experience.
It’s worth noting that the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park are two different places and are 30 minutes apart.
San Diego Zoo is in the popular Balboa Park.
Other attractions in Balboa Park include:
- San Diego Natural History Museum
- San Diego Air & Space Museum
- Comic-Con Museum
- The Haunted Trail at Balboa Park
Packages are available through the tourism website to get discounts on the Balboa Park attractions or a price break for those who want to see the zoo and safari park.
If you want to visit Old Town, grab an “Old Town San Diego” guide at the tourism center or download it online.
This area is big enough to have its own strategy session to make the most of your visit.
You can also explore Shelter Island if you want the trip to feel more like a beach getaway while still having the city close by.
It’s touted as a “Polynesian Getaway.”
Places to Avoid in San Diego
The city’s southeast section has higher crime rates, but there’s a very little risk you’ll end up in a part of town that is too dangerous.
The real risk here is based on your own behavior.
It’s easy in a beach city that’s so beautiful and laid back to relax your personal safety behaviors.
Especially when you’re walking around at night, try to stick with friends or take a rideshare instead of walking back to the hotel.
As a young female, I was there with a group of friends, and two of us wanted to go home.
The third wanted to stay and said she’d walk back by herself.
We didn’t let that happen, but it was more because we are ultra-protective and less because of the risks we saw.
Just because the city is safer than many American cities doesn’t mean there’s no crime.
At night, avoid the marina and pier areas as they are darker, with fewer people around if someone needs help.
Tijuana is just 20 miles from San Diego.
There’s an outlet mall on the American side of the border.
If you want to go to Mexico, you should read the travel warnings from the U.S. State Department, as some parts of Mexico are way too dangerous for tourists.
As of late 2022, the State Department recommends you “Reconsider Travel” to Baja, Mexico, where Tijuana is located.
This is the verbatim reason:
“Transnational criminal organizations compete in the border area to establish narco-trafficking and human smuggling routes.
Violent crime and gang activity are common.
Travelers should remain on main highways and avoid remote locations.
Of particular concern is the high number of homicides in the non-tourist areas of Tijuana.
Most homicides appeared to be targeted; however, criminal organization assassinations and territorial disputes can result in bystanders being injured or killed. U.S. citizens and LPRs have been victims of kidnapping.”
Safety Tips for Traveling to San Diego
- San Diego Police offer crime statistics for the whole city and break down the data by neighborhood. This gives you a much better idea of which sections of town have higher crime rates. You can also use the Crime Mapping function to search certain neighborhoods for types of crime. For example, if you want to know how many assaults have happened within 2 miles of your preferred hotel, you can do that. Plus, you can set up crime alerts to be notified if a certain type of crime happens.
- You can store these numbers in your contact list now, as they are the non-emergency numbers for the police department – (619)531 2000 or (858)484-3154. In an emergency, you can always call 911.
- An average of 18 cars are stolen daily, and half of all thefts are related to car burglaries. Lock your car when you park and roll up the windows. Leave nothing in plain sight. Car thefts are one crime category that shot up during 2021, following a nationwide trend. Being this close to Mexico, there’s a chance your car will cross the border and never be seen again.
- The best thing a tourist can do in the name of safety is report suspicious activity or crimes in progress. If you have information about a crime or suspected drug activity, you can call Crime Stoppers at (888)580-8477 and report information anonymously. Never think you’re being “too cautious” regarding safety concerns.
- There are two great safety apps you might want to download. First, there’s AlertSanDiego, which will send weather, wildfire, or other critical information to your email or mobile device. The other is SD Emergency, which is a planning tool to prepare for the worst and know what to do in case of a disaster or attack.
- 211 San Diego is a tool for residents and tourists to ask about city services. Maybe you want to know about COVID numbers closer to your visit, or you have questions about visiting military locations – this is a great tool. You can call 211 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- When you’re looking for hotels, you can add the “My Hazards” website to your safety checklist. This website from the California governor’s office allows you to put in your address and then a list of the most likely disaster or risks will show up. You’ll be able to see if you’re in a flood or tsunami zone or where you are located on an evacuation route.
- The Park Smarter app will be your best friend for paying for parking without having to pull out cash in a public place. You’ll also be able to find available parking through the interactive map feature. You’ll even be able to get a notification if you get a ticket.
- San Diego’s Get it Done city app is great for reporting issues like flooding or broken streetlights. This is also a tool for contacting different city departments, like the water quality office.
- You can use the official city website at SanDiego.gov for information about beach safety, but you’ll search for the Lifeguard section. Skip past the actual lifeguard information and go to the different beaches or the downloadable safety guides to learn about rip currents, beach flags, water safety, and scuba guidance.
So... How Safe Is San Diego Really?
While San Diego leaders and law enforcement are doing a good job keeping crime at lower-than-average levels, the drug problem here is growing.
About half of the violent crime that happens here is against strangers, which is a little higher than in other major cities in America.
30% of violent crimes happen in public streets, sidewalks, and parking areas.
Being so close to the border, San Diego is considered “Ground Zero” for the drug trade.
While record seizures and arrests are happening in 2022, the overdose numbers eclipsed 2021 in the first six months of 2022.
While illegal drugs are a problem in any capacity, the growing problem in America is that drugs are being cut with cheap Fentanyl – an opioid exponentially more dangerous than heroin.
Fentanyl can’t be seen, tasted, or smelled when cut into other opioids, marijuana, or meth – and a lethal dose is just a few grains of salt-sized material.
I saw all of that for a reason.
Some of these drugs are made to look like candy and seem harmless at first glance.
Some people want to go on vacation and “let loose, ” which might mean experimenting with drugs.
This isn’t a warning about illegal drug use – you know that’s wrong – this is a warning that you might be taking a lethal dose of a drug without even knowing it.
You could think someone is selling you a Xanax, which, in turn, could kill you.
You should also use all that caution we talked about with your vehicle.
Even if you go to the beach, don’t leave a bunch of stuff in the car.
If you are going to store things in the trunk, load it up before you get to the beach so a thief can’t see you stashing the goods.
As far as big cities in America, San Diego is among the safest while still having an insane number of things to do.
How Does San Diego Compare?
|New York City
|Buenos Aires (Argentina)
Whether you're crossing the border or flying into San Diego, you'll need a U.S. Visa and Passport. The State Department handles the Visa process but offers a simple Visa Wizard module so you can get the right Visa for your trip. Start planning this process months ahead of time because it can be arduous.
Even though it's close to Mexico, you can still only use the U.S. Dollar here. Don't use public ATMs, and try to keep all purchases on a credit card. Even the pedicabs and vendors have mobile card payment options.
San Diego will have the same temperatures throughout the year, and it doesn't get overly hot or chillingly cold. Bring a mix of clothing, as the evening breeze can be cool. You'll want comfortable walking shoes and plenty of sunscreen.
San Diego International Airport is right on the water near the heart of downtown. You might see this referred to as Lindberg Field, but that's an old name. This airport is large and has enough direct flights that you won't need to consider any other options.
You should seriously consider travel insurance for your flights and also make sure you have health coverage. Whether a hiking accident or jellyfish sting happens, you'll pay a lot out of pocket at a local urgent care center if you don't have insurance.
San Diego Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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