Complete Guide to SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego Guide

Would you like to get up close with dolphins, whales, sea lions, otters, and other sea animals? Are you interested in learning more about rescue and rehabilitation efforts in our oceans? Would you like to experience thrill rides and kiddie rides with fewer lines than other area amusement parks? Plan a trip to SeaWorld San Diego!

Below we have put together a comprehensive guide that includes everything you need to know about SeaWorld San Diego. Find out about hours, parking, rides, shows, dining, discounts, annual passes, and our top tips to help you have the most enjoyable and relaxing experience at the park.


SeaWorld San Diego is located in San Diego in beautiful Mission Bay. The animal theme park and rescue center is an hour south of Carlsbad, 20 minutes northwest of the Gaslamp Quarter, 20 minutes from San Diego Zoo, and 7 minutes from Belmont Park.

It takes six hours or so to drive from Tucson to SeaWorld San Diego, which makes it an easy road trip destination for Tucson families.


SeaWorld, which is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, is an animal theme park, oceanarium, and outside aquarium all in one. Founded in 1964 by four graduates of UCLA, SeaWorld San Diego was the first location and has since been followed by SeaWorld Ohio (1970; closed in 2000), SeaWorld Orlando (1973), and SeaWorld San Antonio (1988).


SeaWorld's legacy of animal rescue spans nearly 50 years. In that time, the SeaWorld Rescue Team has come to the aid of over 39,000 ill, injured, and orphaned animals in need.


Single-day park tickets tend to range in cost from $60-$100 per person. Rates are typically cheaper if you purchase your tickets in advance as opposed to buying them at the gate. Children ages 2 and under are free and a ticket is not required for admittance.

Other upgraded ticket options include the following:

Alternatively, you can purchase a 2022 Fun Card for $99.99 per person (ages 3+). This card entitles the pass-holder to unlimited visits through 2022 (blockout dates apply). That includes the rest of 2021 FREE and all of 2022.

It's important to note that all shows, exhibits, aquariums, and rides are included with park admission - EXCEPT Skytower and Bayside Skyride. Dining, animal tours and interactions, front-of-the-line passes, in-park food and merchandise, and other upgrades are optional and an additional cost.


There are three different annual passes available.

Silver Annual Pass ($132/year)

Perks of this pass include:

  • No Blockout Dates
  • FREE General Parking
  • 2 FREE Guest Tickets to SeaWorld San Diego
  • Up to 20% Discount on In-Park Offerings

Gold Annual Pass ($162/year)

The Gold Pass includes all of the above PLUS two additional SeaWorld San Diego guest tickets, a higher discount for dining and merchandise, and free up-close parking.

Platinum Annual Pass ($258/year)

The Platinum Annual Pass gets you unlimited visits to 11 parks for 12 months - including SeaWorld & Aquatica San Antonio, Orlando, San Diego, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Tampa, Sesame Place, Water Country and Adventure Island. Plus, all of the above perks + more!


Active duty military personnel and veterans can enjoy complimentary admission through the Waves of Honor program. Valid for visits through December 31, 2021.


Be sure to check the official SeaWorld San Diego website for a complete schedule. SeaWorld San Diego is open every day of the year - including all major holidays.


You can save time by purchasing your parking online before you visit. Parking for a single car or motorcycle is $25 for General Parking, $30 for Up-Close Parking, and $35 for VIP Parking.

General Parking is free for Annual Pass Members, but you may upgrade to Up-Close Parking for a small fee at the park when available. Photo ID and valid Annual Pass will be required at the Parking Lot Booths in order to receive the complimentary parking benefit.


San Diego offers lovely year round weather. Check the forecast ahead of time, but your best bet is probably layers of light, breathable clothing - especially clothes that will dry quickly since there are several water attractions where you may get wet.

An ideal outfit would probably consist of athletic shorts or pants, an athletic short or long sleeve shirt, a hat, sunglasses, and comfortable, close-toed shoes.

If you want to avoid the discomfort associated with getting wet, purchase a lightweight rain poncho (here is an inexpensive one for kids!) ahead of time or bring a change of clothes.

If it is a warm day, you may actually WANT to get wet. Again, dress appropriately and avoid jeans/denim since it may cause chafing as you walk through the park.

Rides/shows where getting wet is probable or inevitable include: Journey to Atlantis, Shipwreck Rapids, Dolphin Days, Orca Encounter, and Sesame Street Bay of Play.


When it comes to what to bring to amusement parks, less is typically more. A hat, sunglasses, water, and a phone will likely be sufficient.

Outside food is not permitted, but you can bring your own water bottle(s) into the park - which we recommend for cost savings.

If you want to pack your own lunch or snacks, you may exit the park and eat at the picnic area immediately outside the exit/entrance plaza.


Seven restaurants and a number of concession stands are located throughout the park.

The restaurants are as follows:

  • Calypso Bay Smokehouse: smoked chicken, ribs, brisket, mac & cheese
  • Explorer's Cafe: cheeseburgers, chicken tenders, chicken Caesar salad, chicken breast sandwich
  • Fusion Smoothie & Wraps: smoothies, chipotle turkey wrap, chicken caesar wrap, quinoa salad wrap
  • Mama's Stella's Pizza Kitchen: pizza and pasta
  • Seaside Coffee and Bakery: coffee, pastries, cookies, muffins, grab-and-go sandwiches
  • Shipwreck Reef Cafe: burgers, ribs, chicken, pasta, ribs

A few relevant notes:

  • Explorer's cafe is the only dining venue that offers indoor seating.
  • If you have allergies, you will want to know that Calypso Bay Smokehouse is SeaWorld San Diego’s Designated Allergen Friendly Location. Calypso Bay Smokehouse offers a menu with a wide variety of food options to meet any visitors’ dietary caveat.


SeaWorld San Diego offers an All Day Dining Deal. Here's how it works: you can order 1 non-alcoholic beverage, 1 entree, and 1 side OR dessert up to once per hour at any of the five participating restaurants.

The cost is $44.99/adult (ages 10+) or $22.99/child (ages 3-9).

The four participating restaurants for the All-Day Dining Deal are: Explorer’s Café, Shipwreck Reef Café®, Calypso Bay Smokehouse, and Mama Stella’s® Pizza Kitchen.

Essentially, you can order most entrees, sides, desserts, and beverages - with the exception of speciality and snack items (dippin' dots, ice cream, popsicles, popcorn, etc).

You won't be hungry if you purchase the All Day Dining Deal. Once per hour is PLENTY. In fact, our top tip in regards to the dining deal would be to NOT try to stop every hour. If you do, you'll be missing lots of great shows and attractions. Instead, pause to eat as hunger arises during natural stopping points throughout your day. You can easily eat your money's worth even if you just dine at regular meal intervals with a few sides/desserts or beverages in between.


There are 14+ rides at SeaWorld San Diego.

Wondering which rides are currently closed for refurbishment? You can find the most recent list here.

High Thrill Rides

There are currently four high-thrill rides at SeaWorld San Diego - with another one on the way in 2020!

  • Electric Eel is the tallest, fastest roller coaster in San Diego. Riders of Electric Eel drop from heights of 150 feet while getting boosted 60 mph forwards and backwards through looping twists and an inverted heartline roll. Height requirement: 54".
  • Journey to Atlantis invites you to "explore a lost civilization, and experience an action adventure with splashing thrills!" It's part roller coaster, part log ride - and is longer than you might expect from looking at it. The "fall" is actually at the beginning of the ride, not the end. Plan to get wet! Height requirement: 42".
  • Manta is described as a "family launch coaster." Two thrilling launches send riders soaring and diving in the spirit of the world’s largest ray. Height requirement: 48".
  • Tidal Twister is a new-for-2019 dueling roller coaster, which is the first of its kind in the world. Accelerating to 30 mph, riders twist and bank as if they are riding the tide along a tight figure-8 track that includes dynamic Zero-G roll at the center section. Two trains, holding 16 passengers each, load at opposite ends of the figure-8 and cross in the center with guests facing both forward and backward on the trains. Height requirement: 48". ***Not currently operating! Coming back soon!***
  • Coming in 2022! Slated to open March 2022, Emperor will be the tallest, fastest, and longest dive coaster in California, as well as the only floorless dive coaster in the state. Named after the world’s largest penguin, the new coaster will mimic this species’ amazing underwater diving ability. Climbing to 153 feet with feet dangling in the air, riders will be suspended on a 45-degree angle at the crown of the ride before plunging down a 143-foot facedown vertical drop, accelerating to more than 60 miles per hour. Riders will also experience inversions, barrel roll, Immelmann loop, hammerhead turn, and flat spin as they race along the nearly 2,500 feet of track. Each of the floorless ride cars will hold 18 riders in three, six-person rows. This is the first seating configuration of its kind in North America.

Medium Thrill Rides

There are two rides designated as "Medium Thrill" at SeaWorld San Diego.

  • Riptide Rescue is a classic spinner ride, where you can "set out on your own sea turtle rescue mission." Height requirement: 45".
  • Shipwreck Rapids is a water ride that takes you down a winding river and through rolling whitewater rapids before plunging to a waterfall finale. Prepare to get wet! Height requirement: 42".

Low Thrill/Kiddie Rides

There are seven kiddie/children's rides at SeaWorld San Diego, most of which are located in or near the Sesame Street Bay of Play.

  • Abby's Sea Star Spin is like Disney's tea cups with a Sesame Street spin. You control the speed of the spin with the wheel at the center of your starfish-inspired riding cup. If you tend to get motion sickness, you may want to sit this one out. Height requirement: 42".
  • Aqua Scout is a set of six mini submarines that spin, bump, and bounce you around. Height requirement: Guests must be at least 36” or accompanied by a supervising companion (14 years of age or older). Small children must demonstrate the ability to walk unassisted.
  • Elmo's Flying Fish is like the Dumbo ride at Disneyland. Board a colorful flying fish and glide in a circle, bobbing up and down through the air. Height requirement: 48". Adults may ride alongside their children.
  • Octarock is a big swing that seats six. Both adults and children may ride. Height requirement: Guests must be at least 31” tall to ride. Guests between 31” and 36” must be accompanied by a supervising companion. Guests over 6’1” may not ride.
  • Oscar's Rockin' Eel is a spinning "side to side slide adventure." Height requirement: 42".
  • Sea Dragon Drop is a six-seater shot-n-drop tower ride. Height requirement: Guests must be at least 36” or accompanied by a supervising companion (14 years or older). Small children must demonstrate the ability to walk unassisted.
  • Tentacle Twirl is a classic swing ride, but with a jellyfish theme. Height requirement: Guests must be at least 48” to ride alone. Guests between 40” and 48” must be accompanied by a supervising companion 14 years of age or older and ride in a double swing.

Rides Available for An Additional Fee

All rides are included in your general admission ticket with the exception of the following two low-thrill, family-style rides.

  • Bayside Skyride is a gently gliding gondola ride with views above the park and of Mission Bay. $6 for riders ages 3+. Height requirement: Guests under 56” must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion.
  • Skytower is a revolving attraction where guests sit or stand as a tower slowly rises with views up to one hundred miles in every direction. $6 for riders ages 3+. Height requirement: Guests under 48” must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion.


Shows change seasonally throughout the year so be sure to check the show schedule before your visit to see which ones will be offered. During the off-season, shows may run only once during any particular day. Our recommendation would be to plan your day around the shows since they are truly what make SeaWorld unique from other theme parks. Go on some rides also, but don't miss the shows in the process!

While there are many different shows and parades available over the holidays and in the summer, the three shows that tend to be offered year round are: Dolphin Days, Orca Encounter, and Sea Lions Live.


SeaWorld San Diego offers an Unlimited Digital Photos package, which gives you unlimited access to your digital photos in the park. The cost is $59/day or $99/year.

The photo spots/opportunities are as follows: Sea Pixels (including front of park photo opportunities), SkyRide Photo, Manta Photo, Journey to Atlantis Photo, Sky Tower Photo, Sesame's Furry Photo, SeaWorld Rescue Photo, Mermaid Grotto Photo, and Dine with Orcas.

Of course, you are also welcome to take your own photos at these and other instagram-worthy spots throughout the park.


SeaWorld San Diego's version of Disney's Fast Pass is called Quick Queue. This is an add-on purchase of $15-$20, which gives you front-of-the-line access to the most popular rides. See each add-on for details.


Want to get up close with the animals? SeaWorld San Diego offers a number of private, VIP, and special experiences for purchase. These include: Dine with Orcas, Dolphin Encounter, and Seal and Sea Lion Encounter.


If you are visiting SeaWorld San Diego with a baby, toddler, or preschooler, consider our top tips below.

  1. Bring your own umbrella stroller for cost-savings and convenience. If you prefer to rent one on the premises, note that strollers are located inside the park at the rental shop near Guest Services. You can reserve a stroller online ahead of time for $30/day.
  2. Speaking of strollers, it's important to note that you have to leave them outside of most rides and shows. As such, it may be easier to carry your little one in a sling or carrier - or to stow one in your stroller.
  3. Parents visiting with infants and toddlers are permitted to bring in breastmilk, formula, baby food jars, and other baby-specific snacks.
  4. There are several nursing stations and changing tables throughout the park.
  5. If you are visiting with a toddler or preschooler, you will probably find yourself at the Sesame Street Bay of Play. Consider having your little one wear a swimsuit underneath his/her clothes if the day is warm and you plan to play in the splash pad. It might also be wise to have your child wear a pair of water shoes.


Since SeaWorld San Diego offers four high thrill rides, three medium thrill rides, and a variety of interesting animals shows, it is a fun destination for teens as well as adults.


Paradise Point Resort & Spa is less than ten minutes from SeaWorld San Diego. This lush and gorgeous 44-acre property has a truly tropical feel - with five swimming pools, a full marina, recreational sports, an award-winning spa, and multiple waterfront properties.

See more about Paradise Point Resort in our San Diego Guide.


  1. Visit on a weekday for fewer crowds. This is true for all amusement parks. Weekends tend to be the busiest because of work and school breaks. If your schedule allows you to visit on Mon-Thurs, DO.
  2. Arrive on-time. Early, if possible. Again, crowds tend to be slimmest in the morning and build toward the afternoon.
  3. Bring your own water. The cost for water bottles can add up so bring a water bottle for everyone in your party OR purchase the All Day Dining Deal to ensure that you stay hydrated throughout the day.
  4. Consider All Day Dining if you plan to be at the park all day and you are visiting on a day with extended hours (9:00am-9:00pm, etc). This can equal cost savings and save you the headache of having to decide about meals throughout the day.
  5. Buy your tickets, parking, and upgrades in advance for bigger savings. Prices are typically cheaper if you buy online directly from SeaWorld. Waiting to buy at the gate will cost you time - and money.
  6. Don't worry about upgrading to Up-Close or VIP Parking - except in the very busiest seasons. General parking is pretty close to the entrance and you should be able to access your vehicle without too much trouble.


We do our best to keep this page as up-to-date and current as possible. Our current editorial schedule ensures that we edit this page at least once per year or as needed throughout the year. As always, be sure to confirm details with SeaWorld San Diego before you plan your trip. Please also let us know if any updates are needed.

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