The San Diego Zoo is a big place - 100 acres in size and caring for 4,000 animals. It consistently ranks among the world's best, visited by more than 5 million people per year. If you like animals and zoos, you'll love this one.
Scenes from the San Diego Zoo
Enjoy some of our best shots in this San Diego Zoo Photo Tour
San Diego Zoo Exhibits
The San Diego Zoo continues to transform itself, creating state-of-the art animal areas, including Polar Rim, Panda Canyon and Elephant Odyssey. Connecting these centerpieces are "trails," each with a theme. Some are wheelchair accessible and all are marked with their distance, time and level of difficulty.
The pandas are perennially popular at the San Diego Zoo. However, their exhibit is sometimes closed for the good of these shy animals. When they are on display, lines can get quite long to see them.
The observant visitor may notice that the zoo is also a botanical garden with more than 6,500 plant species. In fact, some of its plants are more exotic than the animals. Plant-lovers can pick up special garden guides near the entrance.
The zoo sponsors some interesting special programs, which change seasonally. Their sleepovers are especially fun and include a tent to sleep in, dinner, evening snack, and hot breakfast. Check their website to see what's happening when you will be visiting.
San Diego Zoo Review
The San Diego Zoo continues to improve their facilities and visitors who went there as little as 5 years ago will find significant changes, all of them made in ways we think are better. We rate it 4 stars out of 5 because we always have a good time, even if we get worn out doing it.
POLL: What do you think of the San Diego Zoo?
Hints for a Good San Diego Zoo Visit
- Write down the location where you parked or take a picture of the nearest sign with your camera phone. After a long day, it's easy to forget whether you parked near the ostrich or the elephant.
- The entrance closes two hours before the day's stated closing time. Don't dash up at the last minute, hoping to get in.
- ATMs inside the zoo charge fees no matter where you bank. Get cash somewhere else before you go.
- It's hot and sunny at the zoo much of the year, but shady paths help. Nevertheless, bring hats and sunscreen. The aviaries and indoor exhibits are good spots to cool off.
- Many of the animals also go inside during the hottest parts of the day. Your best strategy is to go early or late, taking advantage of their late closing time in summer.
- Save your feet; sit down with a zoo map and plan your route in advance.
- The best way to see the animals is by foot, but you'll walk about 3 to 4 miles if you see everything, and some of the paths are steep. Avoid the steepest climbs by using the moving sidewalks or Skyfari sky ride to get up to Polar Rim and then walk downhill. The express bus runs all day with on/off privileges. It's a good way to get around with less walking and guided bus tours are an excellent option for those with limited mobility.
- Refreshments are plentiful but expensive. You can find a reasonable number of healthy choices if you look around. You can also bring your own food, but you can't carry it inside. A picnic area is just outside the Zoo's main entrance.
- For the safety of the animals, pets are not allowed and the zoo doesn't have kennels.
- It is not feasible to visit the Safari Park in the same day as the zoo. It's too far away, and each park offers too much to do.
If You're in a Hurry
We don't recommend doing the zoo in a hurry because you'll pay too much money for not enough enjoyment. But we know you may try it with or without our help, so these tips might help.
If you're in a hurry, take the skyride directly from the entrance area to Polar Rim, walk downhill through Panda Canyon, then take the moving sidewalk up to Elephant Odyssey.
From there, continue downhill and loop through the Urban Jungle on the way toward the entrance. If you have time left, go back up on the skyride and make another trip downhill, using the map to find what interests you most.
- Hours: Open daily, later in summer
- Reservations: Not required
- Cost: Admission charge, free parking. Find out how to get tickets
- Location: Balboa Park, near downtown
- How Long: Allow at least half a day
- Best Time to Visit: Animals are active in the early morning and late afternoon, less crowded fall through spring
Where Is the San Diego Zoo Located?
2920 Zoo Drive
San Diego, CA
San Diego Zoo Website
The San Diego Zoo is located in Balboa Park. Follow signs from I-5.
If you are coming from downtown, take 5th Ave away from the water. Turn right on Laurel and follow it straight into Balboa Park. After crossing a bridge and passing through an archway, turn right in the plaza and follow the road around past the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, then follow the signs.
Avoid local tour companies who offer ticket/transportation packages. They can cost significantly more than the full ticket price with no chance for discounts, and your time is limited. In fact, you may find a car rental less expensivel.
If you can't drive or don't want to, you can use public transport. The #7 bus stops at the Zoo or try the Old Town Trolley Tours bus service. The San Diego Trolley runs through downtown and Old Town, but doesn't go to the zoo.