Often overlooked for the glamour of Los Angeles and the sights of San Francisco, the Californian city of San Diego is happy to sit in the sunshine and let LA and San Fran deal with the traffic and the tourists: this laidback surf dude of a city will simply run its finger through its sun-kissed locks, top up its tan, and wait for the visitors to cotton on to its charms.
Located at the very southern tip of California, on the west coast of the United States of America, San Diego implants itself into the hearts of visitors with a cool mix of beaches, sunny weather, great restaurants, groovy bars, green spaces (including a few top golf courses), sailing, whale-watching, fantastic shopping, interesting attractions... the list of things to see and do in San Diego goes on and on.
When you tire of splashing in the Pacific Ocean and flopping on the sands, discover the historic Gaslamp Quarter, jump aboard a harbour cruise, or take the kids to the zoo or SeaWorld.
Hotels in San Diego are no more expensive than they are in other cities in California, though you can really blow the budget in top-notch five-star luxury hotels if you wish. San Diego features a number of excellent hotels, with glorious pools, excellent service, and fine views of the city.
Budget hotels and mid-range accommodation can be found in almost every part of San Diego, so you don't have to compromise on location if you are keeping an eye on the budget.
If you are a fan of the big brand chains you'll find a huge range of choice on offer. Look out for hotels from Hilton, Holiday Inn, La Quinta, Days Inn, Ramada, Residence Inn, Comfort Inn, Wyndham, Super 8, Sheraton, Travelodge, Staybridge, Quality Inn, Howard Johnson, Econolodge, Doubletree and Four Points.
In terms of where to pick San Diego hotels, perhaps the most convenient locations for tourists are Old Town and Downtown. Both are handy for the airport and offer easy access to harbour cruises, fun in Balboa Park and many other attractions.
To the south is Coronado, which is an excellent place to explore San Diego's maritime history (being home to a naval base).
To the north of the centrally-located airport are the water-front districts of Ocean Beach, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, with exclusive La Jolla sitting at the top of the city. Mission Beach and green Mission Bay are great locations for hotels if you plan to spend some time in SeaWorld.
Top five attractions
Get a taste of neighbouring Mexico in this district, which is home to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park and Presidio Park.
Get your party shoes on in this lively and historical area, which is packed with Victorian buildings, bars, restaurants and late-night clubs.
Parkland, theatres, and museums are scattered around this huge city park, with San Diego Zoo attracting most of the attention.
Just minutes from the ocean, see dolphins, whales, turtles and a menagerie of other sea life. The popular family park also features rides and shows.
Cross the nearby border with Mexico and linger for a while in hectic Tijuana. It's a little slice of Mexico just minutes from California. Don't forget to take your passport for the trip back over the border.
Mardi Gras; February: The usual good-time mix of music, dance, parades and parties can be enjoyed in the Gaslamp Quarter.
Cinco de Mayo; May: Head to Mexican-flavoured Old Town to join locals in these wild and colourful celebrations that revolve around the Mexican holiday.
San Diego Blues Festival; August: This cool city sways to the sounds of the blues every year down on the waterfront. Book tickets in advance for the biggest names in this swinging music scene.