San Diego is a vacation paradise for many reasons. The bustling city boasts nearly perfect weather year-round, miles of sunny beaches, and fascinating historical landmarks. Combine that with hot tourist attractions, ample shopping, and diverse dining options, and you’ve got a city that should definitely be on your bucket list.

The San Diego area is home to one international airport, one domestic airport, and several general aviation airports. Each airport has its own pros and cons, but all are surrounded by plentiful hotel choices, making your vacation planning easy and convenient.

San Diego International Airport

This busy air hub rests three miles from the city’s center. It serves more than 20 million passengers each year despite not being an airline hub or secondary hub for the United States. Flights are mostly domestic with some nonstop flights to the United Kingdom, Mexico, Germany, Canada, Japan, and Switzerland.

The airport’s single runway is described as the “the busiest, most difficult runway in the world,” because of its short length and surroundings. During landing and takeoff, you’ll experience rapid ascent and descent since the airport is close to the skyscrapers in Downtown.

San Diego International boasts two terminals, each with two parts dubbed East and West. A recent expansion brought over six dozen shops and eateries to both terminals. Terminal 1 houses 19 gates and is primarily used by Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines. The 32 gates in Terminal 2 serve the remaining airlines using the airport. You’ll also find airline lounges like the United Club, the Delta Sky Club, and a combined space, Airspace Lounge/American Airlines Admirals Club in Terminal 2.

Over 20 airlines operate departing and arriving flights into San Diego International. Domestic flights are offered by Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, Delta Air Lines and Connection, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and more. Book International flights with Air Canada, British Airways, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa, WestJet, and Edelweiss Air.

The airport’s top domestic destinations are San Francisco, Denver, Phoenix, Seattle, and Las Vegas. The majority of the airport’s international flights connect with Mexico, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Japan.

Maritime museum of san diego
The Maritime Museum of San Diego in San Diego.

Hotels Near San Diego International

Since the airport rests in downtown San Diego, there’s no shortage of hotel choices within a few minutes. At the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, you choose from guest rooms and suites ranging from 305 square feet to 1,426 square feet. All rooms boast whimsical nautical decor that’s appropriate for the hotel’s bayside location. Enjoy free Wi-Fi, flat screen TVs, and a mini bar.

Take advantage of the great weather on the basketball and tennis courts, in the year-round pools, and on the jogging trails. Hotel guests can book spa treatments and rent boats and other watercraft for a day on the bay. Upgrade to a Club Level room for access to a private lounge, free snacks and drinks, a daily breakfast, and evening hors d’oeuvres. Club Members enjoy early check-in, room preferences, local and airport transportation, and preferred reservations for dining and events.

At the Hilton San Diego Airport/Harbor Island, you’ll enjoy seaside luxury. Rooms feature a coffee maker, mini-fridge, and a spacious work desk. Enjoy a movie with cable channels on the 32-inch LCD TV while relaxing atop the Hilton Serenity Bed. You’ll rest easy between high-quality sheets and under the allergen-free down comforter. Many rooms and suites boasts bay views from furnished patios. Family vacations are easier with a children’s menu, cribs, and highchairs. Business travelers enjoy a business center with spacious meeting rooms. Keep your workout regimen intact in the fitness center before a dip in the sparkling, outdoor pool.

Open and airy waterfront rooms with vibrant, modern decor await at Courtyard by Marriott San Diego/Liberty Station. Every rooms features free Wi-Fi, an iHome docking station, a Keurig coffee maker, and a 40-inch HDTV with premium channels. Start your day with a sweat session in the hotel’s fitness center, along the jogging trail, or swim in the outdoor pool. Rent a bike or kayak for a day of sightseeing and sun-soaked fun. Get a cocktail from The Lounge before soaking your sore muscles in the whirlpool. Enjoy a great night’s sleep atop luxurious bedding with superior linens.

Enjoy all the comforts of home at Homewood Suites San Diego Airport/Liberty Station. Perfect for extended stays, 150 rooms have either a single king bed or a king and queen bed. All suites have a pull-out sofa bed. Enjoy separate living and sleeping areas, free internet access, and a 40-inch LCD TV with premium cable channels. Save on meals courtesy of the fully functional kitchen with full-size fridge, dishwasher, microwave, and stove top.

Start each day right with a complimentary full, hot breakfast, and wind down on weeknights at the evening social with drinks and appetizers. Recreational opportunities include basketball, bocce ball, a pool, and a whirlpool. You can rent bicycles, paddle boards, and kayaks, at the hotel.

At Holiday Inn Express San Diego Airport – Old Town, you’ll be just minutes from the airport and close to nearby attractions. Recently renovated rooms with fresh furnishings and bedding make your stay more comfortable. All rooms boast a fridge, microwave, a flat screen TV with premium channels, and a desk with ergonomic chair. Get your fill each morning with a complimentary breakfast including signature cinnamon rolls. Kids eat free and the hotel offers cribs, rollaway beds, and adjoining rooms. Soak up some sun while the kids play in the outdoor pool or stay on track in the fitness center.

Museum of art
The Museum of Art in San Diego.

McClellan-Palomar Airport

This airport rests three miles from Carlsbad, California, in San Diego County. While it doesn’t handle the volume of San Diego International, it’s still one of the busiest single-runway airports in the country. The flights coming into and leaving this hub are general aviation and commercial, with nearly 90 percent of flights being general aviation.

Three airlines offer domestic flights from McClellan-Palomar including Cal Jet, Surf Air, and JetsuiteX. Cal Jet offers daily flights to Vegas and plans to expand to other cities in the future. Surf Air is a privately owned and operated airline that offers unlimited flights at a fixed rate to various cities in California and to Las Vegas. JetsuiteX flies to Burbank, Vegas, Concord, Oakland, and San Jose, with seasonal flights to Mammoth Mountain.

Hotels Near McClellan-Palomar Airport

For lodging away from downtown San Diego’s hustle and bustle, check out the Hampton Inn Carlsbad-North San Diego County. Refreshing, modern decor greets you in rooms at this newer hotel. Every room includes a microwave, a mini-fridge, and separate bathroom with a Waterpik shower head. Stay entertained with on-demand movies and video games on the LCD TV. Begin your days with a free breakfast and enjoy free beverages throughout the day.

At Courtyard by Marriott Carlsbad/McClellan Palomar Airport, you’ll find brightly-decorated, spacious rooms that include high-speed internet, LCD TVs with cable channels, and mini-fridges. Rest easy courtesy of soundproof walls and windows, a pillow-top mattress, and darkening drapes. Make some vitamin D alongside the secluded outdoor pool or whirlpool tub. The fitness center includes weights, treadmills, and ellipticals. Indulge in a tasty American dish from The Bistro, the hotel’s restaurant that features seasonal fare and an extensive wine and cocktail menu.

The spacious suites at Homewood Suites by Hilton Carlsbad-North San Diego County are like a home-away-from-home. Suites boast a single king or two queen beds; all suites have a pull-out sofa. Enjoy separate living, sleeping, and eating areas in the one or two bedroom suites. Make mealtime easy in the fully functional kitchen with fridge, dishwasher, stove top, and microwave. Family trips are easy with cribs, highchairs, and kid’s movie rentals. Let the kids burn off some energy in the pool or with a game of table tennis. You’ll save with free breakfast and evening socials with drinks and snacks.

La jolla cove
The La Jolla Cove in San Diego.

Other Small Airports in San Diego

The San Diego area is home to many small municipal and private airports. There are four towered airports: Brown Field Municipal Airport, Gillespie Field, Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport, and Ramona Airport. Brown Field is 13 miles from downtown San Diego and primarily serves as a civilian relief airport and port of entry from Mexico.

Gillespie Field handles almost 600 flights per day and houses almost 700 aircrafts, mostly single-engine planes. Gillespie is home to a field annex for the San Diego Air and Space Museum where you can view several vintage and modern aircraft including a replica of the Spirit of St. Louis and a restored F-102A Delta Dagger.

Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport is just six miles from the city’s center and boasts three runways, one of which is public, and two helipads. Ramona Airport lies two miles west of downtown San Diego and is mostly used for general aviation and serves as a fire attack base for the California Department of Forestry and the United States Forest Service. It’s also home to a large airshow every year in June.