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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 2,185 Properties near San Diego Zoo
The Sofia Hotel $131
The Sofia Hotel

The Sofia Hotel

150 W Broadway, San Diego
     
    4.3
    of 5, from 8,596 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.

    Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Downtown $159
    Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Downtown

    Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Downtown

    530 Broadway, San Diego
       
      4.4
      of 5, from 1,818 reviews
      3.5 out of 5.0

      The Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Downtown lies next to the historic Gaslamp Quarter and trolley stop, 2 blocks from Horton Plaza, and 8 blocks from the San Diego Convention Center.

      The Horton Grand Hotel $110
      The Horton Grand Hotel

      The Horton Grand Hotel

      311 Island Ave, San Diego
         
        4.3
        of 5, from 4,262 reviews
        3.5 out of 5.0

        This recently renovated 4-story hotel is within 4 blocks of PETCO Park, the San Diego Convention Center, Horton Plaza shopping, and 100 restaurants and bars; Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo are a 2-minute drive away.

        Porto Vista Hotel $119
        Porto Vista Hotel

        Porto Vista Hotel

        1835 Columbia St, San Diego
           
          3.4
          of 5, from 2,334 reviews
          3.5 out of 5.0

          Located in Little Italy, this hotel is within 6 mi (10 km) of Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Maritime Museum of San Diego, and Port of San Diego. USS Midway Museum and San Diego City College are also within 6 mi (10 km).

          Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego $170
          Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego

          Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego

          1 Market Pl, San Diego
             
            4.5
            of 5, from 8,636 reviews
            4.0 out of 5.0

            This expansive highrise hotel towers over San Diego Bay next to the Seaport Village retail complex, 1 block from the convention center, and 2 blocks from the historic Gaslamp Quarter.

            Four Points by Sheraton San Diego Downtown Little Italy $139
            Four Points by Sheraton San Diego Downtown Little Italy

            Four Points by Sheraton San Diego Downtown Little Italy

            1617 1st Avenue, San Diego
               
              3.8
              of 5, from 1,492 reviews
              3.0 out of 5.0

              This downtown San Diego hotel is near the convention center and minutes from San Diego Bay. Balboa Park, the Gaslamp Quarter, Seaport Village, and San Diego Zoo are just a few minutes away by car.

              Amazing 2br/1ba Near Balboa Park & SD Zoo by Domio $102
              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
                 
                3.5 out of 5.0

                This apartment building is located in San Diego (Hillcrest), close to San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, and San Diego Air and Space Museum. Also nearby are San Diego City College and Desert Garden.

                Amazing 2br/1ba Near Balboa Park & SD Zoo by Domio $99
                Amazing 2br/1ba Near Balboa Park & SD Zoo by Domio

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

                San Diego
                   
                  3.5
                  of 5, from 2 reviews
                  0.0 out of 5.0

                  This property is located in San Diego (Hillcrest), close to San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, and San Diego Air and Space Museum. Also nearby are San Diego City College and Desert Garden.