Aerial view of Downtown Oceanside

Where to Stay in Oceanside, CA (Best Areas & Neighborhoods)

Staying in Oceanside is always a great decision when visiting the greater San Diego. As a local who grew up in the next beach town over, I can tell you that Oceanside is a local’s best-kept secret for whale watching, dolphin spotting, and checking out San Diego’s annual bioluminescent waves.

If you’re wondering where to stay in Oceanside, read on. Because in this guide I’ll spill the beans on everything you need to know about staying in Oceanside, from the best neighborhoods and areas to the best places to stay. You should also bookmark my guides to the best hotels in Oceanside and to the best things to do in Oceanside if you don’t want to miss the best activities and attractions.

Of course, if you are still considering other areas of San Diego, you can always bookmark our guide to where to stay in San Diego. But, as I think you’re about to see, Oceanside is a perfect choice! 

Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. Thank you!

Best Places to Stay in Oceanside

Scenic view of the pier in Oceanside Beach

Just looking for a quick answer on the best places to stay in Oceanside? Here are my top picks: 

Ok, let’s do a deep dive into the best areas and neighborhoods in Oceanside: 

Best Neighborhoods & Areas to Stay in Oceanside

Oceanside is less than 50 square miles and is the closest San Diego city to Orange County. Oceanside is conveniently located but you’ll need a car to get around more inland or to adjacent cities like Carlsbad and Vista. 

Plan to spend an average nightly price of $200/night for accommodations. No matter which neighborhood you choose, there’s plenty of great hotels in Oceanside.

Townsite

View of a seagull flying around the Oceanside Harbor and the clear blue sky on the background
Oceanside’s harbor is a slice of paradise

👉 Best Area For Water Activities & Sports |Best Townsite Hotels: The Seabird ResortMission Pacific HotelSpringHill Suites by MarriottOceanside Marina SuitesSouthern California Beach Club

Oceanside’s Townsite is characterized by the iconic wooden Oceanside Pier, the Strand (a mile-long boardwalk perfect for biking or strolling), the boats docked at the Oceanside marina, and the area of beach where Strand beach meets Oceanside Harbor beach. 

The Townsite area is one of the most desired parts of downtown Oceanside to stay,  live, and vacation. Whether you’re looking to paddleboard, kayak, surf, ride a Surrey cart up and down the Strand, go sportfishing or whale watching, or just relax on the beautiful San Diego area beaches, you have it all right at your feet. 

Note that whale watching activities are a popular thing to do in Oceanside, so they do fill up fast. The best way to guarantee your excursion is by booking on the top-rated whale watching tours in advance.

👉 Local Tip: For hassle-free parking, take the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner for an oceanfront train ride that stops right near the Pier. 

Pros of Staying in the Townsite Neighborhood:

  • Closest to the ocean
  • Easily walkable 
  • Tons of great eateries and bars
  • Lots of craft coffee shops

Cons of Staying in the Townsite Neighborhood:

  • Noisy during peak visiting hours
  • Hotels are going up in price
  • New establishment renovations

📚 Townsite Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Water Activities & Sports
Google Map

South Oceanside

View of cars parked alongside the road of Oceanside in California
Explore the shops and street art of South Oceanside living (photo: DBSOCAL / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area For Art & Culture |Best South Oceanside Hotel: The Green Room Hotel  

South Oceanside, or “South O” as locals call it, is dotted by colorful houses, mural painted shops, and small-batch coffee shops. This area is also home to South O beach and Buccaneer beach, plus some of the top things to do in Oceanside, making this neighborhood a perfect area to stay in Oceanside if you want to be within walking distance to art, culture, food, and entertainment. 

Pros of Staying in the South Oceanside Neighborhood:

  • Walking distance to heaps of dining and entertainment
  • Right on the Pacific Coast Hwy
  • Up and coming
  • Very accessible to other neighborhoods
  • Mural and street art

Cons of Staying in the South Oceanside Neighborhood:

  • Farther away from the Pier and Harbor 
  • Near mobile estates and RV parks

📚 South Oceanside Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Art & Culture
Google Map

San Luis Rey

The Mission San Luis Rey and the clear blue sky in Oceanside
Mission San Luis Rey is an Inland Oceanside gem (photo: Mikhail Pogosov / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area For History and Greenery | Best San Luis Rey Hotels: Best Western Plus OceansideThe Fin HotelResidence Inn

Just 4 miles inland of downtown Oceanside lays San Luis Rey, which is the biggest of California’s Spanish Missions. This area encapsulates many of the residential communities that preserve its history and community feel. 

Nearby towns and residential living communities include North Valley, Ivey Ranch, Camp Pendleton, Guajome, and Tri-City. Discover all the micro areas while you’re in San Luis Rey and inland Oceanside or hop on the freeway to check out surrounding activities.  

Pros of Staying in the San Luis Rey Neighborhood:

  • Ample parking
  • Cheaper amenities
  • Close to hiking and golfing 

Cons of Staying in the San Luis Rey Neighborhood:

  • Farther away from the marina and downtown Oceanside
  • Heavily military with closeby Oceanside Camp Pendleton Area

📚 San Luis Rey Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for History and Greenery
Google Map

Tips for Staying in Oceanside

Scenic view of the sunset in Oceanside Pier

Consider When To Visit Oceanside

The best time to travel to San Diego is generally in June to early October, when you’ll be able to Oceanside’s pleasant and warm beach months. But you’ll also want to come back for the holiday season of lights and the harbor parade during early December. 

Check Out the Craft Coffee Shops

When I was in high school, Oceanside was quite a different place. But these days, it has turned into a mecca for artisanal coffee, pour overs, specialty lattes, and more. Some of my unique favorites include Camp Coffee, Communal, Seaborne, Vigilante, Coddiwomple, Captain’s Grounds, and Banana Dang.

Oceanside is a Haven for Vegans

You won’t have to look far and wide to find healthy plant-based meals during your stay in Oceanside. Many restaurants are extending their menus to better accommodate while others are completely Vegan. My Vegan sister’s favorite plant-based restaurants in Oceanside include The Plot, Eris Food Co, Rim Talay Thai Cuisine, and The Whet Noodle.

Explore the Rest of North County

Staying in Oceanside puts you so close to the rest of North County, which includes some of the best San Diego area attractions. You’ll find Legoland theme park, fitness centers, local spots, the marina, and other popular attractions.

Oceanside is Perfect for Day Trips

One of my favorite things about living in Oceanside, CA is that some of the best San Diego area day trips are easily accessible if you’re staying in Oceanside. Check out our full list of San Diego area day trips to get inspired to get outside Oceanside (just be sure to get back in time for sunset!).

FAQs About Where to Stay in Oceanside

Is Oceanside California worth visiting?

Oceanside California is worth visiting on your trip to San Diego for its lively boardwalk, popular beaches, and trendy restaurants. Oceanside has gone through a transformative time where restoration and new establishments are putting it on the map as a true destination spot. 

Is Oceanside CA a safe place to visit?

Overall, Oceanside is a safe place to visit, and staying near the hotel resorts by the water is the safest. Like many parts of the greater San Diego area, Oceanside has both safe and less safe areas to explore. Read our guide to safety in San Diego if it’s you’re first time visiting.

Is Oceanside cheaper than San Diego?

Oceanside is a suburb of San Diego which is slightly cheaper than San Diego proper. 

What is Oceanside known for?

Oceanside is known for the Pier as its quintessential landmark, as well as the Camp Pendleton military base. Oceanside is also known for spacious and white sandy beaches, a charming harbor, and it is a trending destination for foodies, vegan specialty spots, craft coffee, and street art. 

Does Oceanside have a boardwalk?

Oceanside has a boardwalk that sits adjacent to the iconic Oceanside Pier. It is commonly referred to as “the strand” which is a walkway strand paved between the ocean, a row of grass parklets, houses, and oceanfront condos. 

👉 Read Next: Best Things to Do in Oceanside

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I hope you enjoyed this guide to where to stay in Oceanside. Remember to also check out my guide to the best hotels in Oceanside.

If you can’t find the accommodation you’re looking for in Oceanside, you should check out our guide to the best areas to stay in San Diego

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