For the cheapest accommodations near the beach, book a bed or a family room in the HI-San Diego, Point Loma Hostel (3790 Udall St., 800/909-4776, www.sandiegohostels.org, $18–22). A short drive or a longish walk from famous Ocean Beach, this charming bright-red hostel sits in the midst of a residential area of Point Loma.
The proprietors encourage bicycling exploration of San Diego by providing ample bike racks for secure storage. Or if you prefer, the bus stop is only a block away from the hostel, making it easy to get to the zoo, Old Town, the beaches, or wherever else you want to go.
Inside, you’ll find four- to eight-bed dorms and private or family rooms include linens, Internet access, and storage lockers. Cook in the common kitchen and eat in the living room or out in the cute courtyard. The owners love to see families, as well as budget-minded singles here at the hostel, and this is a great place to stay for a truly inexpensive family beach vacation.
For folks who want a budget bed with more privacy than a hostel can afford, the Dolphin Motel (2912 Garrison St., 619/758-1404, www.dolphin-motel.com, $66–100) offers comfortable rooms at reasonable rates. The white walls match the pristine white bedspreads, daring you to find fault with the cleanliness at this budget motel. Pick a queen-bed room or a slightly larger room that has a twin bed as well. While the rooms aren’t huge, you’ll get a comfortable bed for the duration of your stay. One building has smoking rooms.
Best of all, you’re only a short walk from the sea, and the fishing, kayaking, and other water sports of San Diego are easily accessible (some only across the street). Enjoy a pastry and a morning cup of coffee on the house out in the attractive little courtyard. Or get your own and sit out on the balcony, enjoying the calm air of Point Loma.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition