SeaWorld or San Diego Zoo: Which is Better?

July 10, 2022

Pack up that SPF and prepare for some saltwater-infused fun when you head to sunny San Diego for an adventure-packed vacation.

Besides bountiful golden sand beaches and a sparkling harbor filled with sea lions, America's Finest City is home to two of our very favorite animal-themed attractions, the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld. Follow along as we lay down all the dirty details on San Diego Zoo vs Sea World.

From soaring rides aboard the multimedia dual launch Manta to getting up close to a real-life Anaconda, these two parks are chock full of exhilarating experiences. 

Both are worthy of a spot on your precious Southern California itinerary if you have the time. However, for those with less wiggle room in their San Diego vacation, we are here to break down the merits of marine animals vs. thrill rides and animal shows vs. amusement park fun with your San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld tickets.

San Diego Packages for SeaWorld and Zoo

Too difficult to make a decision? Looking for San Diego packages for SeaWorld and Zoo? We've got you covered with our San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld packages with Tripster. Experience both incredible theme parks for a bundled low price.
Plan your San Diego vacation and save some serious money with San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld discount tickets today!

San Diego Zoo

Angling for a healthy mix of education and entertainment right in famed Balboa Park? Curious critters and their parents will go wild for the abundance of animal shows, exhibits, and attractions at the San Diego Zoo.

A common question asked, "is the San Diego Zoo worth it?" For over a century, this conservation institution has delighted visitors from around the world with its dynamic diversity and lush 100 plus acre grounds. 

Related Post: Ultimate Guide to the San Diego Zoo: Coupons, Discounts, and Deals

Soak in the park's sights from above when you board the Skyfari Aerial Tram, hightail it to the Africa Rocks Stage to meet real wildlife ambassadors, or watch cuddly otters play grab the tail.

Tiger laying in water at The San Diego Zoo - San Diego, California, USA

photo credit: San Diego Zoo via Facebook

Attractions & Exhibits

Lions, lemurs, and bears, oh my! With so many fascinating animal exhibits, it can be hard to know where to begin. Thankfully, we've rounded up our favorite feature animals for easy viewing:

Polar Bears 

Chill out with these arctic adventurers as you watch them swim, play, and plunge from the interactive underwater viewing room. These carnivorous bears love getting up close and personal to the glass, so keep your eyes peeled.

Related Post: Current Festivals and Events in San Diego


What's a Fossa, you ask? This mysterious creature is one of the Zoo's crown jewels, and while it may look like a half-dog/half-cat, it is more closely related to the mongoose.

A native of the Galapagos island, this agile hunter feeds on lemurs. 

Close up photo of four Fossas laying on a rock at the San Diego Zoo in San Diego, California, USA

photo credit: San Diego Zoo via Facebook


The San Diego Zoo is simply koala crazy, and it's not hard to see why. These darling marsupials steal everyone's hearts with their wide-eyed stares and tree climbing skills.

Fun Fact: Since 1925, the Zoo has homed Koalas and today boasts the largest koala colony outside of Australia.

Special Experiences

Guided Bus Tour

Hit the ground running when you hop on a narrated, 35 minute Guided Bus Tour of the Zoo's densely populated grounds.

Learn all about the endangered and threatened animals who call this paradise home, and find out what you can do to be a wildlife ally. 

Balboa Park Miniature Train

Choo Choo! Full steam ahead when little tykes play conductor for the day on the Balboa Park Miniature Train ride.

This petite San Diego staple is as cute as can be and features a four-minute, half-mile loop through four acres of the park. Please note train tickets are not included in your park ticket and cost $3. 

Related Post: Current Festivals and Events at the San Diego Zoo

Inside Look Tours

Want to take your Zoo experience to the next level? Thrill the budding biologist in your life with an exclusive Inside Look Tour.

This jam-packed informative excursion features 90 minutes of guided views, deluxe cart transportation, and exclusive animal stories. Meet wild canines, learn about baboon survival, or go behind the icy arctic waters of the Polar Bear's frozen tundra. 

Close up of a family looking at a polar bear on a Inside Look Tour at San Diego Zoo in San Diego, California, USA

photo credit: San Diego Zoo

4D Theater

Need a quick break from all of that San Diego Sun? Then, cool off and kick back when you sneak in a special screening at the Zoo's 4D Theater.

Located in the Northern Frontier, this full-bodied cinematic activity includes animal-based 3D movies with the exciting addition of special effects.

Movie screenings are continually updated, so check to see what's playing at the time of your visit and purchase your tickets now.

SeaWorld San Diego

Equal parts aquarium and amusement park, SeaWorld San Diego is the marine mashup kids and parents have waited for. Since 1964, this sprawling oasis of marine animals, water rides, and aquatic exploration have dazzled the San Diego area.

Related Post: A Weekend in San Diego: How to Plan the Perfect Trip

Get your fill of dynamic thrill rides, like Electric Eel, or cool off with a splashtastic spin aboard the Shipwreck Rapids.

Little lovers of sea-worthy fun will find tons of imagination and inspiration at the Sesame Street Bay of Play, while fans of Flipper won't want to miss Dolphin Days. 

View of a family with their hands in the water at the Bat Ray Shallows on a sunny day in SeaWorld in San Diego, California, USA

photo credit: SeaWorld San Diego via Facebook


Impressive Orcas, clapping sea lions, and spellbinding rollercoaster spins. SeaWorld San Diego is truly packed to the gills with world-class watery entertainment. Let us take the guesswork out of your SeaWorld itinerary and point you towards the best attractions:

Dolphin Days

Intelligent, friendly, and fiercely feisty, Bottlenose dolphins' lust for play and discovery knows no bounds. Marvel at the agility and athleticism of these streamlined cetaceans when you attend the ionic live Dolphin Days presentation.

A testament to their outrageous antics and skill, this outdoor show has a medium splash level rating and promises you will get wet!

Wide shot looking down on the Dolphin Days Presentation at SeaWorld in San Diego, California, USA

photo credit: Kostya Danko via Facebook

Sea Lions Live

Seeing barking Sea Lions is on everyone's San Diego hit list. So catch plenty of these native plucky pinnipeds doing their thing when you attend the Sea Lions Live show.

Native to California, these mischievous mammals are quite entertainers. Prime yourself for family-friendly laughs, educational trivia, and more as you watch Clyde, Seamore, and their pal O.P. Otter do their thing.

Related Post: Insider's Guide to SeaWorld San Diego

Sesame Street Bay of Play

Storytime, traversing the Count's Castle, and meet and greets with Cookie Monster are just a few of our favorites when it comes to soaking in all of the sunshine and smiles at Sesame Street Bay of Play.

Watch little ones' eyes light up with joy as they groove and jive with Elmo at the Furry Friends Dance Party, or go for a rollicking ride on Oscar's Rockin' Eel. 


Calling all adrenaline junkies! Steady your nerves because it's time to feel the rush of the ray on Manta. Stomach heaving drops, twists, and turns await you on this beloved multimedia family launch coaster.

guests on the manta roller coaster at Seaworld in San Diego, California, USAElectric Eel

Feel the sizzle, but try not to get stung as you buckle in for a hair-raising ride aboard the Electric Eel. Thrill-seekers will be in high-speed heaven as they queue up for the tallest and fastest roller coaster in San Diego.

Achieve speeds of 60 mph, drops of 150 feet, and an inverted heartline roll on this death-defying ride.

Related Post: Summer in San Diego: 10 Truly Fun Things to Do

Shipwreck Rapids

Splish, splash, soaked! Prime yourself for shower levels of wetness when you dare to conquer the winding rivers and waterfalls of Shipwreck Rapids. A Southern Californian favorite, this family-friendly water ride is sure to please. 

Special Experiences

View looking up at people twisting on the Electric Eel roller coaster at SeaWorld on a sunny day with a bright blue sky in San Diego, California, USA

photo credit: SeaWorld San Diego via Facebook

Festivals & Events

Whether you're into craft beer, epicurean delights, or full-bodied chills, SeaWorld San Diego serves up a diverse array of special events and festivals.

Indulge in seafood and international flavors at the Seven Seas Food Festival, or immerse yourself in a world of music and lights at Electric Ocean. 

Related Post: Current Festivals and Events at SeaWorld San Diego

Dolphin Encounter Tour

Can't get enough of Dolphin Tales? Amp up your knowledge of these special animals when you reserve a hands-on Dolphin Encounter Tour.

Listen up as your expert animal care specialist walks you through their fascinating aquatic adaptations, as well as a personal 10-minute poolside session.

Pretend you're a professional trainer as you watch and learn the different hand signals used to communicate with these curious and intelligent creatures. 

New and Noteworthy

Emperor Dive Coaster

We hope you packed your swimsuit because you're in for quite a dive! But, hold on tight because on March 12th, 2022, SeaWorld San Diego is being blessed by royalty.

The brand new Emperor Dive Coaster promises insane plunges, a 14 story drop, and speeds of over 60 mph. Riders will scream their heads off as they feel the rush of California's only floorless five-coaster, inspired by the regal Emperor Penguin. 

Close up of a family on the new Emperor rollercoaster at SeaWorld on a sunny day in San Diego, California, USA

Pleasant temperatures, plenty of coastal charm, and a thriving theme park scene make San Diego a desirable destination year-round.

Related Post: San Diego Hidden Gems: The Ultimate Guide to the Best Secret Spots

However, when struck with the dilemma of whether to witness animal exhibits or amusement park thrills, it can be challenging to decide.

The San Diego Zoo's lush botanic gardens and brazen baboons may be more appropriate for animal lovers and those looking for more laidback adventure.

Those seeking blood pumping vertical drops and dynamic twists and turns may be more drawn to the full-bodied excitement and soaking good times at SeaWorld San Diego.

From intimate encounters with Orcas to stunning rides in the Skyfari Aerial Tram, there are countless ways to make unforgettable memories at both the San Diego Zoo and Seaworld.

San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld Hotel Package

Two of San Diego's biggest attractions plus a comfortable place to rest your head all for one low, bundled price? That's right!

Between your two adventure filled days in San Diego, rest your head on a comfortable pillow knowing that you saved the most amount of money by bundling your San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld hotel package with Tripster!

Best Hotels Near San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld

Whether you are seeking adrenaline-pumping roller coasters or some cute and cuddly time with Koalas, you'll need to spend more than just one night in this coastal city.

Embrace the seaside breezes of La Jolla, or explore the charming heritage of the Gaslamp Quarter when you book any of our premier San Diego Hotels and Resorts. As always, make your reservations without hesitation, knowing you are always guaranteed our lowest rates online. 

Have any Points to add to SeaWorld vs. San Diego Zoo?

Leave us a comment below!

isis with mural in background

Written By Isis Maya

A New York native, Isis-Maya spent most of her professional life working in TV production until a vacation whisked her away to Central America and her love o ...

Want to write for Tripster?

Have something to add? Post it here:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>