Are hoping to study abroad in San Diego? With its scenic coastline, beautiful weather and position as the second largest city in California, San Diego is a popular destination for international students. Although California consistently ranks among the most expensive states, there are plenty of free and affordable activities for international students in SD! Check out the ideas below and make the most out of living in San Diego on a student budget.
Free Activities for International Students1. Hangout at the Beach
One of the best free activities to in San Diego is enjoy a beach day—or an evening to catch the sunset! With over 70 miles of coastline to explore, San Diego beaches are known for their great surf, sun tanning and Instagram-friendly views. If you’re looking for a beach with a little bit of everything and delicious food nearby, Carlsbad is a great option.
If you want to visit a local favorite beach with fewer tourists, Moonlight State Beach in Encinitas is a beautiful spot. It's a bit more low-key and has all the classic California vibes.
For animal lovers, San Diego's official dog beach, located on the bike path in Ocean Beach, is a must! You can just on the sand and watch adorable pups run free without leashes and splash in the water (bringing your own dog is not required!)
2. Explore Tide Pools La Jolla Cove
La Jolla Cove is another one of San Diego’s popular coastline locations. With its coves, sea caves and tide pools, La Jolla Cove can host a full day of free of free activities. We suggest exploring the cove and tide pools, and then finding a nice picnic spot to watch the local wildlife, seals and sea lions! If you’re looking to use a little bit of your budget and treat yourself to a adventure, you can book a kayaking or snorkeling tour of the area for a more immersive experience.
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3. Stroll the Embarcadero
Want to be near the water but not deal with the sand or crowds? The Embarcadero is San Diego’s beautiful waterfront area with shopping, dining, art, parks and local events. For free, you can enjoy the free amenities at the Embarcadero like the Marina Parks and view the sculptures and memorials that line the walkways. If you have some money to spend, there are sunset and dinner cruises you can book to get out on the water, as well as excellent shopping in Seaport Village.
4. Visit the Gaslamp Quarter Downtown
The Gaslamp Quarter is San Diego’s historic district and is a great place to visit if you’re looking to be transported back in time. The old buildings and architecture make it an immersive place to stroll around in. Plus, the Gaslamp Quarter is home to many restaurants, stores and nightlife venues, so depending on your budget, you can make a whole day out of this San Diego locale.
5. Take a Walk in Balboa Park
Lastly, Balboa Park is one of the best free activities in San Diego. It's perfect for international students interested in arts and culture—a place where you can spend your time without spending your cash. Balboa Park is home to 1,200 acres of gardens, museums, parks and interactive events. Free, hour-long tours of the expansive gardens are provided by the staff and are a stellar way to start your journey. There are oftentimes free events and showcases! You can find the full schedule available on Balboa Park’s website.
Affordable Activities for International Students in San Diego
1. Spend a Day at Belmont Park
Located on the Mission Beach Boardwalk, Belmont Park is an amusement park that’s right on the water. Admission to the park is free, but you’ll need to pay to ride rides or to play boardwalk games.
There’s also a bunch of fun fair food options and craft cuisines to suit every palate. If you want to plan your budget in advance, you can buy passes online ahead of time for the attractions.
Image from https://www.belmontpark.com/
2. See a Movie at the Drive-In
Want to see the newest blockbuster but don’t want to pay Hollywood prices? Heading to the drive-in is usually cheaper than going to the theater and makes for a uniquely fun American experience for international students. You can bring your own snacks or shop concessions there (you can still get that movie-theater style popcorn), bundle up and enjoy your film outdoors in beautiful California weather. San Diego is home to two drive-in theaters, so you’ll have options for what movie you want to see!
3. Watch a Padres Baseball Game
Enjoy America’s pastime at one of the best stadiums in the league—Petco Park! San Diego’s sunny weather, food and views all come together to make Petco Park a remarkable experience for any baseball fan.
Tickets range in price from $20-$100 from the box office, but themed nights like College Night can have tickets going for as low as $10 for international students!
4. Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art
Want to engage in the San Diego art scene? The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego offers $15 tickets for students over the age of 18 or free admission for students between the ages of 18-25 who sign up to join their Art Pass Membership program (which is also free), making it one of the most affordable activities for international students in San Diego. MCASD has two sites, so make sure to explore them both! You'll see everything from art exhibitions to performances while supporting local artists!
Overall, San Diego is an incredibly beautiful and diverse study abroad destination for international students. Check out StudentRoomStay to learn more about homestay pricing in San Diego! Our team will gladly find a safe and welcoming host family for your experience abroad in California