San Diego Zoo - Rex's Roar - Wikipedia - by Jim1138Visiting the zoo is always a delightful adventure for the entire family, and the San Diego Zoo offers an unparalleled open-air animal exhibit and interaction experience.

Located in the expansive Balboa Park, this world-renowned zoo spans about 100 acres and features 18 unique zones with a vast array of habitats. You'll find yourself returning multiple times to fully experience everything on offer.

Prepare for plenty of walking across various hills and valleys within the park.

Balboa Park itself is a massive complex comprising parks, museums, and sports venues. Learn more about Balboa Park here.

Tip: To navigate the zoo's numerous attractions, planning your visit using the official park website is advisable. Decide which areas you wish to explore in advance to optimize your visit.

Although you might encounter many intriguing distractions, maintaining a clear objective will enhance your experience.

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Here are some highlights and recommended activities at the Zoo:

Guided Bus Tour

Guided Bus Tour - Wikipedia - by ray_exploresThe guided bus tour covers 75% of the park and includes informative commentary from your guide. It's included with your admission ticket and is a perfect introduction for first-time visitors.

For a more tailored experience, consider the Discovery Cart Tour. This private cart accommodates up to six people for a detailed exploration with an expert guide.

Skyfari Aerial Tram

San Diego Zoo Skyfari Gondolas - Wikipedia - by CburnettThe Skyfari cable car offers a scenic ride from one end of the park to the other, saving you a long walk. It begins at Oasis Outpost near the entrance and concludes near the Polar Bear exhibit.

Discovery Outpost

Starting your walk at the park's left entrance and moving clockwise, you'll first encounter the Discovery Outpost. This area showcases various reptile species ranging from green iguanas to large Chinese alligators and Galápagos tortoises.

Lost Forest

Okapi - Flickr - by - Don DeBoldThe Lost Forest is a highlight featuring tigers, monkeys, and pygmy hippos. Follow the Tiger Trail for an up-close look at tigers, tapirs, fishing cats, and milky storks.

On the Hippo Trail, encounter both hippos and pygmy hippos, as well as the unique okapi, which resembles a cross between a zebra and a giraffe.

The Cripss Aviary, situated between the Hippo and Monkey Trails, is a lush rainforest setting with ponds, a waterfall, and an array of African birds.

The Monkey Trail offers ground-level views of gorillas and bonobos in their rocky habitats, while a canopy-level trail allows for observing various monkey species in the trees.

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Kangaroo Bus

The Kangaroo Bus provides convenient transportation around the park with four stops, allowing you to hop on and off as needed. Note that it does not service the Discovery Outpost or the Lost Forest.

Panda Trek

Red Panda - Flickr - by ray_exploresWhile the Giant Pandas have been repatriated to China, the adorable Red Pandas have replaced them. Though not related to Giant Pandas, these creatures share a similar bamboo diet and are equally charming.

Northern Frontier

San Diego Zoo - Polar BearThe Northern Frontier is home to creatures like the Polar Bear and Arctic Fox. The polar bear habitat offers a view of these majestic animals enjoying their summer-like Arctic environment.

Dining Options

Albert's Cafe from Skyfari - Flickr - by Tim EvansonWhile numerous snack options are available throughout the park, Albert's in the Lost Forest offers a full-service dining experience with an open-air deck overlooking a private waterfall or indoor seating with views of the Treehouse gardens.

Food quality and pricing are typical for an amusement park, with standout dishes like Tandoori Grilled Chicken and Seared Ahi, alongside more average offerings such as Fish Tacos.

For dining outside the park, Balboa Park is just an 8-minute walk away and features several excellent options, including Prado next to the Railroad Museum, which boasts a beautiful garden terrace and stunning views. Discover more dining options here.


If you reside nearby or simply wish to support the zoo, consider becoming a member. Membership options range from annual passes starting at over $100 to exclusive donor club memberships costing thousands of dollars. Explore all membership options here.

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