San Diego is one of the best cities to visit in all of California. Los Angeles and San Francisco might see higher numbers of tourists, but San Diego has a lot of advantages, including its beautiful ocean views, amazing museums, and key landmarks like Balboa Park, the USS Midway, the San Diego Zoo, and SeaWorld.
Another major advantage of visiting San Diego is its proximity to the Mexican border. You can drive out of Downtown San Diego and be at the border in less than half an hour, and this opens up a lot of different possibilities in terms of day trips. Day trips into Mexico from San Diego are very popular, and here are some of the best options available to you.
Day Trip to Tijuana from San Diego
Tijuana, the ultimate border city, is one of the most popular destinations for a day trip out of San Diego. Very popular with students and young people in general, Tijuana also has a lot of appeal for families and groups of friends, home to some fascinating cultural and historical sites like the Jai Alai Fronton palace and the Tijuana Cultural Center. Tijuana is also famed for its beaches and bars, and it’s a very lively location at any time of day or night.
If driving, you can be in Tijuana in about half an hour, but will need to take into account the possibility of lines and waiting times at the border. You can also rely on public transport, taking the San Diego trolley via the Imperial Way blue line south to San Ysidro. From there, you can simply walk over the border, get through the passport check, and then take a cab or walk for around half an hour into the center of Tijuana.
Day Trip to Rosarito from San Diego
A little further south than Tijuana sits Rosarito, home to some of the best beaches on Mexico's Pacific Coast. A popular nightlife destination with plenty of great bars and clubs, Rosarito is also popular with surfers, sunbathers, families, and more. The exciting annual Baja Sand sand sculpture festival is held here each year and there are some great snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities nearby as well.
If you're planning out a day trip to Rosarito, you'll need to drive over the border and through Tijuana, following the México 1 south to Rosarito. It's quite a simple drive and can be completed in less than an hour, but it all depends on the waiting times at the border and the traffic along the way.
Day Trip to Ensenada from San Diego
One of the most popular coastal cities in Baja California, Ensenada is about 80 miles away from San Diego, so it's a longer excursion than some of the other entries on this list, but it's still perfectly reachable for a day trip. Ensenada is a popular port of call on cruises from California to Mexico, and it's a great place for families with a lot of lovely beaches and some interesting cultural locations like the Museum of History and the Riviera de Ensenada.
You can do whale watching at Ensenada, as well as sunbathing, snorkeling, and other common beach activities. It's even possible to visit local wineries, so there are a lot of different options in terms of things to do in Ensenada. For your day trip to Ensenada from San Diego, you'll follow the same basic route through Tijuana and then through Rosarito via the México 1 and México 1D all along the coast.
Day Trip to Puerto Nuevo from San Diego
If you're heading down to Mexico for a day trip from San Diego as an outdoor enthusiast, a beach lover, a foodie, or simply someone looking for a lot of different relaxation and recreation opportunities, Puerto Nuevo is a great place to be. It's not far from Rosarito, so the journey time is quite similar, and its known for its amazing beaches like Los Arenales, as well as the El Coronel mountain and surrounding natural spaces, perfect for hikes and exploration.
Puerto Nuevo is also nicknamed 'Lobster Village' and offers some of the very best seafood in Mexico. If you're heading here on a day trip, you can follow the same route as you would for Rosarito, but carry on along the coast a little further. It takes about an hour to get to Puerto Nuevo in total, and many travelers spend a little time here and then head over to Rosarito to enjoy two great locations in just one day.