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San Diego Zoo

See nature up-close and personal at one of the country’s largest and most educational zoos.

Prepare to be amazed and enchanted by the diversity of animal life on display at San Diego Zoo, which welcomes 5 million visitors a year. The 100-acre (40-hectare) site is home to around 4,000 animals from more than 650 species and subspecies. Most exhibits are open air, and designed to be as close to the natural habitats of the animals they house as possible. 

Get an up-close view of African native animals such as water buffalos and hogs. Sit among dozens of different species of tropical birds in the two aviaries. There is a real sense of awe watching tigers, elephants and gorillas at such close quarters. 

The San Diego Zoo is also a highly successful breeding facility for a number of endangered species, including their famous giant pandas. Watch these heart-warming gentle giants sleep, eat and play at a special walk-through exhibit, the Panda Trek.

Tour buses run through the grounds throughout the day and offer a 35-minute, narrated journey that covers around 70 percent of the zoo’s area. This is a good way to get a feel for the layout before setting off on foot. A lighthearted 50-minute comedy version of the tour is also available. A great option for seeing the entire zoo in a day is purchasing a day pass on the express bus, which stops at five points around the park. Or, hop on the Skyfari, a breathtaking gondola ride above the zoo grounds. 

Arrive early to beat the crowds and maybe you’ll see some of the animals being fed. Overcast days can be the most rewarding time to visit, as the animals are known to seek the shade of their caves and indoor respites to hide from the sun. 

The zoo has 10 food outlets, including cafés, a full-service restaurant, and stalls that sell take-away sandwiches and hot food. It’s open every day of the year, including public holidays. Closing times differ according to the season, with extended hours during some vacation periods and summer.

Popular Activities at San Diego Zoo

Ensure you have loads of time at San Diego Zoo. Below are some of the most popular activities:

If you're looking for even more options, peruse our San Diego things to do page.


Guide to Exploring around San Diego Zoo


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Lodging Near San Diego Zoo

See all 1,910 Properties near San Diego Zoo
The Sofia Hotel $113
The Sofia Hotel

The Sofia Hotel

150 W Broadway, San Diego
     
    4.3
    of 5, from 8,369 reviews
    3.5 out of 5.0

    In the heart of downtown San Diego, this historic boutique hotel is 2 blocks from Horton Plaza, 4 blocks from the Gaslamp Quarter, and 6 blocks from the San Diego Convention Center and the cruise ship terminal.

    Best Western Seven Seas $65
    Best Western Seven Seas

    Best Western Seven Seas

    411 Hotel Circle South, San Diego
       
      3.7
      of 5, from 9,594 reviews
      3.0 out of 5.0

      Adjacent to I-8, this budget-friendly hotel is within 6 miles of 2 sports stadiums, the Gaslamp Quarter, the convention center, the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, shopping malls, Fashion Valley & Mission Valley.

      Days Inn by Wyndham San Diego Hotel Circle Near SeaWorld $67
      Days Inn by Wyndham San Diego Hotel Circle Near SeaWorld

      Days Inn by Wyndham San Diego Hotel Circle Near SeaWorld

      543 Hotel Circle S, San Diego
         
        3.8
        of 5, from 8,617 reviews
        3.0 out of 5.0

        Located in San Diego's Mission Valley corridor just off I-8, this San Diego hotel is a half-mile from 2 shopping centers, and within 5 miles of SeaWorld, downtown, Balboa Park, and the San Diego Zoo.

        Town and Country San Diego $104
        Town and Country San Diego

        Town and Country San Diego

        500 Hotel Circle North, San Diego
           
          3.5
          of 5, from 2,642 reviews
          3.5 out of 5.0

          Comprising 32 acres, this resort and conference center is next to the 27-hole Riverwalk Golf Club; Old Town, Balboa Park, SeaWorld San Diego, and the world famous San Diego Zoo are just minutes away.

          Hard Rock Hotel San Diego $125
          Hard Rock Hotel San Diego

          Hard Rock Hotel San Diego

          207 5th Ave, San Diego
             
            4.3
            of 5, from 3,509 reviews
            4.0 out of 5.0

            The Hard Rock Hotel is in the center of San Diego's bustling Gaslamp Quarter, with restaurants, bars, and nightlife. The San Diego Convention Center is across the street and PETCO Park is a block away.

            Wyndham San Diego Bayside $134
            Wyndham San Diego Bayside

            Wyndham San Diego Bayside

            1355 N Harbor Drive, San Diego
               
              3.9
              of 5, from 7,567 reviews
              4.0 out of 5.0

              Just west of the downtown core, this San Diego hotel is across the street from the cruise ship terminal, Coronado ferry, and the Maritime Museum. The Gaslamp Quarter and Petco Park are within 1.5 miles.

              The Westin San Diego $116
              The Westin San Diego

              The Westin San Diego

              400 W Broadway, San Diego
                 
                4.3
                of 5, from 3,469 reviews
                4.0 out of 5.0

                The striking, 26-story Westin San Diego is 1 block from the trolley station, 3 blocks from Horton Plaza shopping, and 5 blocks from San Diego's historic Gaslamp Quarter.

                Amazing 2br/1ba Near Balboa Park & SD Zoo by Domio $116
                Amazing 2br/1ba Near Balboa Park & SD Zoo by Domio

                Amazing 2br/1ba Near Balboa Park & SD Zoo by Domio

                3438 Park Boulevard, San Diego
                   
                  0.0 out of 5.0

                  This apartment building is located in San Diego (Hillcrest), close to San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, and San Diego City College. Also nearby are San Diego Natural History Museum and San Diego Museum of Art.