Insider’s Guide to SeaWorld San Diego

February 11, 2022

Are you craving some vitamin sea? SeaWorld San Diego is one of the best places to experience the wonder of the ocean.

Beluga whales, sea turtles, and sea lions, oh my! These are just a few of the incredible animals visitors have the opportunity to mix and mingle with at SeaWorld. If you're planning a visit, our SeaWorld San Diego tips will help you navigate all the fun this maritime wonder world has to offer.

Located on Mission Bay, this West Coast attraction originally opened in 1964. Today, it's a thrilling aquatic theme park staple in America's Finest City and boasts two other locations in San Antonio and Orlando.

The park offers plenty of thrills and chills, from hair-raising roller coasters to awe-inspiring marine animal shows. Before you jump into planning a visit, follow our SeaWorld San Diego tips to make the most out of every splash-filled second of your time in this beloved theme park.

About SeaWorld San Diego

Dive below the surface of SeaWorld, and you'll discover it's much more than an ocean-inspired theme park. A huge zoological team is behind the scenes of it all, working toward conservation efforts such as animal rescues and research.

As a result, 39,000 animals (and counting) are now safe and healthy. In addition, rescue teams care for orphaned, ill, and injured animals in hopes of releasing them back into the wild.

Not only this, but one of SeaWorld's goals is to get the general public involved in wildlife conservation by creating opportunities to interact with these creatures on a personal level.

Pro Tip: Pick up an animal feeding schedule and show schedule when you arrive at the park. These events occur at specific times, so plan rides and other attractions that aren't on a schedule around them!

View of a family riding Shipwreck Rapids in SeaWorld San Diego in San Diego, California, USA

photo credit: Vlogcaster Armand Dean via Facebook

Why You Should Visit SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego is a magical marine experience like no other. This unique theme park combines thrilling rides with up-close-and-personal animal experiences. Go from heart-racing roller coasters to aquariums teeming with life and back again!

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Rip-Roaring Rides

First of all, SeaWorld San Diego's rides are one of the best ways to catch a seaside thrill. This one's for you, daredevils and adrenaline junkies!

The park's list of exciting roller coasters includes:

  • Electric Eel
  • Manta
  • Tidal Twister
  • Journey to Atlantis (you will get wet on this one!)

And… drumroll, please! There's an all-new electrifying experience joining the park's roller coaster resume in March 2022: the Emperor. This ride is bound to impress as the tallest, fastest, longest, and only floorless dive coaster in the Golden State. Inspired by the beloved Emperor penguin, the ride mimics how these creatures dive gracefully into frigid arctic water.

If coasters aren't really your thing, other rides at SeaWorld San Diego include:

  • Shipwreck Rapids (prepare to get wet!)
  • Tentacle Twirl
  • Riptide Rescue

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

Around 13,000 animals call SeaWorld San Diego home, so this is yet another fantastic reason to visit! Come face-to-face with your favorite saltwater creatures.

Photo Alert: Stay on the lookout for your favorite animal! Once you find it, catch it on camera and post your finned or furry friend on the 'gram.

Swim by these attractions to ooh and ah at the watery wildlife:

  • Orca Encounter
  • Turtle Reef
  • Shark Encounter
  • Sea Lion Point
  • Bat Ray Shallows

Fun Fact: There are a total of nine orcas currently housed at SeaWorld San Diego!

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Close up of three orcas jumping into the air with rocks and screen behind them that says Orca Encounter at SeaWorld in San Diego, California, USA

photo credit: SeaWorld via Facebook

Sesame Street Bay of Play

This one's for the kiddos! The Sesame Street Bay of Play is a wonderland of good times for the little ones. Chances to bump into their favorite characters, like Bert, Ernie, and Grover, are plentiful in this special section of the park.

Take a ride on these attractions that offer kid-friendly thrills:

  • Elmo's Flying Fish
  • Abby's Sea Star Spin
  • Oscar's Rockin' Eel

In addition, Sesame Place San Diego is opening March 2022! Just in time for spring break, this new theme park will offer even more fun around everyone's favorite street. Moreover, it will serve as a Certified Autism Center to cater to individuals with sensory sensitivities. 

Close up of children and their parents riding Elmo's Flying Fish at SeaWorld in San Diego, California, USATickets

Book tickets in advance with Tripster to save a hassle and go straight to the turnstiles once you get to the park! When you arrive at the park, don't forget to get your hand stamped. This will allow you to come and go from the park as you please.

Pro Tip: One full day is enough to get a pretty thorough taste of the park. However, if you're a sea life fanatic looking to do everything from rides to shows to animal encounters, consider adding an additional day or two to make sure you don't miss anything!

To take your theme park experience to the next level, consider adding the Dolphin Encounter to your SeaWorld itinerary! This ticket add-on costs about $170 but is worth every penny. So splash around with these slippery ocean inhabitants to your heart's content. 

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If you're looking to up your dose of aquatic fun all year long, purchase an annual pass! Annual passes give you unlimited access to the park for the whole year.

As a bonus, Tripster's discounts and special package options allow you to save big. Combine your SeaWorld San Diego tickets with these attractions for a steal:

When to Go

Most days, SeaWorld San Diego opens at 9 a.m. or 10 a.m., then closes anywhere from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Arrive early to make the most of your day! Check the park schedule to find the exact opening and closing times for the day(s) you plan to visit.

Pro Tip: When planning your trip to SeaWorld San Diego, keep in mind that weekdays tend to have thinner crowds than weekends.

The park is open year-round, so the only thing left to consider is San Diego's weather. The summers are hot and dry, while the winters are cooler and wetter.

Related Post: Current Festivals and Events at SeaWorld San Diego

Close up of three sea turtle with lots of yellow fish around them in blue water at Turtle Reef in SeaWorld in San Diego, California, USa

photo credit: SeaWorld San Diego via Facebook

Tips and Tricks

Stay Cool

Summers in San Diego tend to get toasty. Beat the heat by dressing in light, layered clothing. The park offers little shade and will leave you exposed to the sun, so wear a hat and sunglasses to ward off the hot rays. Above all, don't forget to slather on some sunscreen.

Pro Tip: Comfortable sandals or tennis shoes are a must for roaming around the theme park. Sandals are ideal in case you get wet!

In addition, take advantage of indoor attractions, such as the Penguin Encounter, Shark Encounter, Turtle Reef, and various aquariums, to cool off. 

Stay Dry

Unless you're a fish, on a water ride, or in the splash zone at a show, you're probably not planning on getting wet during your time at SeaWorld.

But what do you do when San Diego's forecast goes awry? If rain ruins the day, don't cry an ocean. Instead, simply pick up a Sunny Day ticket at Guest Services to return when skies are clearer! Or, if you don't have the option of coming back anytime soon, the park typically keeps stores and restaurants open so you can take cover until the rides open up again.

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Rain or shine, you're going to get splashed on Shipwreck Rapids and Journey to Atlantis. Pack your poncho before you go, as park ponchos could be a little pricey. 

Moreover, packing a waterproof camera will save you some worry! Capture all the memories without the risk of damaging your expensive camera.

Get Around Easily

A nearly 200-acre park to walk means strollers, wagons, and wheelchairs are a must. Bring your own, or spare yourself the hassle of loading and unloading it in your car by renting one!

Reserve your preferred mode of transportation online or when you arrive at the park. Then, simply pick it up at the rental shop near Guest Services, and you'll be ready to roll!

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

Get Through Lines Quickly

Are you dying to skip to the wet 'n wild fun the whole time you're waiting in line? Us too. This is why SeaWorld San Diego has several Quick Queue options! So skip to the front of the line at some of the most popular rides when you purchase this ticket add-on.

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

Meet and Greet Your Favorite Characters

Rumor has it you can meet the Shamu and Crew characters between 9 a.m. and noon near the park's front entrance. Pick up a park map when you're there for a full list of that day's character interaction opportunities.

In addition, mingle among your favorite Sesame Street characters, such as Elmo and the Cookie Monster, in the Sesame Street Bay of Play!

Photo Alert: Strike a pose and snap a selfie with your favorite characters! How often do you get a chance to meet these beloved animated characters in real life?

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What to Eat at SeaWorld San Diego

We have good news and bad news. We'll start with the bad news: you're going to have to leave any outside food or beverages behind once you enter the park (except for water, of course. Stay hydrated!).

However, the good news makes up for it: a deliciously flavorful spread of SeaWorld's very own cuisine can be found at various restaurants throughout the park. So feast your eyes on the abundant options!

Calypso Bay Smokehouse

Go to Calypso Bay Smokehouse for the best saucy and smoky BBQ. Then, round it out with a mouthwatering side of classic potato salad or BBQ baked beans.

Close up of a plate of barbecue with Mac and cheese, potato salad , and grape from Calypso Bay Smokehouse at SeaWorld in San Diego, California, USA

photo credit: Wilson Chuck via Facebook

Mama Stella's Pizza Kitchen

Fill up on Italian favorites like pizza and pasta at Mama Stella's Pizza Kitchen. Lighter options include salads and vegetable wraps.

Shipwreck Reef Cafe

Surround yourself with fascinating shipwreck artifacts as you dine on burgers, chicken sandwiches, salmon, and wraps at the Shipwreck Reef Cafe. With so many choices, this is a great stop for families of picky eaters.

Explorer's Cafe

Chow down on fish tacos at Explorer's Cafe. Grilled bratwurst and smoked turkey legs are also on the menu.

Pineapple Pete's Island Eats

Grab dessert from Big Bird's Bistro, like funnel cake or pineapple soft serve. Soon, this sweet tooth-satisfying spot will also offer specialty smoothies!

The Waterfront

Get refreshed at The Waterfront. This spot serves up live music on select dates, along with Coca-Cola beverages and craft beer for guests 21 and older.

Dine with Orcas

SeaWorld offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dine with orcas! This experience pairs delicious food with an immersive orca presentation. It's the best of both landlubber dining and underwater enchantment!

Pro Tip: It's no secret that theme park food, while absolutely tasty, is often a little pricey. Visit Tripster, San Diego, to get your hands on a ticket option that includes the All-Day Dining Deal at no extra cost!

Where Else to Go in San Diego

Even if SeaWorld were the only attraction on your itinerary, you'd have a full trip brimming with excitement. The other nearby attractions are like the icing on the cake! Add even more memory-making fun to your trip with these ticket packages:

Pro Tip: Did we mention these bundles are offered at a discount? That means doing more activities saves you more dough!

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Where to Stay Near SeaWorld San Diego

Warning: SeaWorld may leave you completely waterlogged, so you're going to need plenty of shuteye to rest up! Take a break from the water and dive into a smooth sea of white pillows and comforters at a nearby hotel.

Did you know? When you book your SeaWorld tickets with Tripster, you can bundle them with your hotel stay for an even better deal! Choose one of these havens from the hot California sun:

Transportation and Parking at SeaWorld San Diego

We may have you feeling like you're already at the park surrounded by sea life wonder, but hold on. Before diving in, you're going to have to get there and park your car!

SeaWorld San Diego offers three parking options:

  • General Parking: Baseline parking costs $30. Once you purchase this option, the reservation is valid on any day you visit.
  • Up-Close Parking: To park on the exclusive first six rows near the park entrance, you'll have to drop $35. Make sure you know which day(s) you're going ahead of time, as the reservation will only be valid on the day you select.
  • VIP Parking: For $45, you can snag a spot in the closest parking section at the park. Make your reservation with care, as it will only be valid on the day you choose at the time of purchase.

Want to skip the parking lot altogether? San Diego's Metropolitan Transit System runs trolleys and buses that take you straight to SeaWorld. Simply download the PRONTO app on your phone, purchase a one-day pass for $6, and hop on! 

Pro Tip: Your hotel may offer a free shuttle to SeaWorld! Find out about this service before booking your room.

Have Any Tips to Add to Our SeaWorld San Diego Guide? 

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