Gluten free and travelling to San Diego? We’ve got you covered with this travel guide including gluten free restaurants, travel tips, and dining info for some of the top San Diego attractions!
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If you’re gluten free, travelling is always a little more complicated. You have to worry about where you’re going to eat, which tourist locations have safe food available and which allow you to bring food in, etc. Let us take some of that stress out of the equation with this gluten free San Diego travel guide!
What you’ll find in this post:
- The BEST places to eat gluten free in San Diego!
- Packing and travel tips for a safe and fun gluten free San Diego vacation
- Some of the best places to visit in and around San Diego
Have something to add??? Please tell us in the comments below!
This article is not intended to replace medical advice. Always do your own research to determine if it is safe for you to eat at a particular restaurant. Restaurants and venues often change their policies, so call before you go.
Best San Diego Restaurants with Gluten Free Options
UPDATE: unfortunately, we have learned that 2Good2B has closed. 2Good2Bis a dedicated gluten free restaurant and everything they make is also free from corn, oats, and soy. Depending on where you’re staying, it can be a bit of a drive inland as it is located in Rancho Bernardo, but it is well worth the drive!
They have a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu in addition to serving all kinds of pastries (think gluten free croissants!!), breads, desserts, and even custom cakes. One of our favorites there was a chocolate croissant, we got one the first day and then another the last day we were there. As you can see, we found a lot of great food there!
BJ’s is a large restaurant that is not dedicated gluten free, but they have good allergen procedures. They have their entire gluten free menu available online, including the month and year it was last updated.
The menu includes everything you can order, along with an guide at the end that lists all menu items and the allergens they contain. To view the allergen/gluten free menu, visit their website, hover over MENU at the top, then click “Printable Gluten Free Menu”.
The Trails Eatery was recommended by someone in the Gluten Free Utah Facebook group. We did not eat here, but if you have then please let us know how it was! You can access their gluten free menu by clicking HERE and then clicking “Gluten Free Menu”.
Starry Lane Bakery is a dedicated gluten free bakery recommended by Celiac and the Beast. Everything in the bakery is free from the top 10 allergens: gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, shellfish, mustard, and sesame. We didn’t hear about it until after our trip, but everything looks delicious and we will definitely be stopping by next time we head to San Diego!
Nectarine Grove is a 100% gluten free restaurant in Encinitas featuring an in-house bakery and locally sourced ingredients. You can find everything from breakfast tacos and paleo pizzas to smoothies and acai bowls. View their full menu here.
—>>>Do you know of a great gluten free restaurant in San Diego??? Please tell us in the comments below!
Where to stay in San Diego
At the very least, you’ll want to stay somewhere with a fridge and microwave to store and heat your own gluten free food. Staying somewhere with a kitchen can be even better, so you can make your own meals safely and save money at the same time.
This time around, we stayed in a hotel with a fridge and microwave. We did a lot of research to find the best deals on hotels, searching deal sites as well as looking into booking direct. The very best deals we found were through Get Away Today, a travel agency best known for their Disneyland packages. As it turns out, they also have some of the lowest hotel rates!
We booked a 3 night stay at the Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn on Shelter Island (not pictured) and really enjoyed it. Beautiful view of the bay and San Diego sky line, and there is a beautiful walking path that goes around the small island. They have an on-site restaurant that had gluten free options, but we didn’t eat there or ask any questions so you would need to do that to determine if the food is safe for you.
Our first day we stopped by 2Good2B and picked up a gluten free Quiche Lorraine for breakfast the next morning (we split it, it was very filling) a couple of muffins, and a croissant. They all kept well and you could easily stock up more if needed.
One word of advice, no matter what kind of place you stay in: Bring or purchase some paper plates and plastic utensils. We totally spaced this part and ended up heating the quiche Lorraine on a paper sack and eating it with our fingers haha!
Tips for staying in a hotel:
Narrow down the hotels to a few top picks, then call and ask if they offer any gluten free options for breakfast and/or in the restaurant. Ask all the questions you would ask at a restaurant, including procedures to avoid cross contamination, and speak with the manager if needed.
It is worth noting here that not all things that appear gluten free actually are. For instance, many hotels use pancake batter to make scrambled eggs, and also place bread under bacon and other meats to soak up grease. Bottom line? Always ask or bring your own.
Tips for staying in an Airbnb or hotel with kitchen:
Staying in an Airbnb can be less expensive, especially if you’re renting a larger place and splitting the cost with others. Be sure your Airbnb includes a kitchen and bring your own kitchen supplies such as a colander, small pot, utensils, and cutting board. These are items that an Airbnb or kitchenette will likely have stocked, but they are also likely to be hiding gluten in holes and cracks.
If you don’t want to pack the extra supplies, stop by a local store like Walmart or Target and pick up a few inexpensive pieces. That might be the best $10 you spend!
While your space was likely thoroughly cleaned before your arrival, you might want to wipe down any surfaces your food will come into contact with. In addition to that, do NOT use the toaster!
If you want to check out some Airbnb’s, click here to go to their website. (If you use my referral link, you’ll get $40 off and I’ll get a small credit too!)
There are a growing number of dedicated gluten free Airbnb’s, which is something worth looking into. Spaces like this provide separate cooking utensils/dishes for those who request them. This isn’t a sure-fire way to avoid cross contamination, but it sure helps!
Gluten Free Dining at Sea World
According to all the information I read online, Calypso Bay Smokehouse is the most allergy-friendly restaurant on site. They offer a variety of smoked meats and sides, all served cafeteria-style. Honestly, we were underwhelmed. The meat was not great, and they didn’t have a dedicated fryer. They told us we could have an extra side instead of the fries, and allowed us to grab a bag of gluten free chips for that option (we had to ask).
If you eat at Calypso Bay (or anywhere else in the park), do not go through the regular line. Let someone know that you are gluten free and ask for the chef. They will get your food, including your sides, from a separate area in the kitchen to be sure it isn’t cross-contaminated.
Sea World’s policy is no food or drink allowed in the park. However, they state that guests with medical diets should speak with a park representative when entering, so you might be able to pack in food. You also have the option of leaving food in your car, and asking for your hand to be stamped before going out to your car for lunch so you can re-enter.
For Sea World’s Allergen Information, click HERE
About the All Day Dining Pass at Sea World:
We bundled our Sea World tickets through Get Away Today for a discounted rate, which included an all day dining pass.
If you get a Sea World ticket that includes the all day dining pass, be aware that it doesn’t include ALL food in the park, and not all options are gluten free. There is a sign in each restaurant stating the items you can get, which normally includes 1 entree, 1 side or dessert, and 1 non-alcoholic beverage. You can also redeem for snacks and drinks throughout the park, and most of the gluten free options were a bag of safe chips.
Gluten free options generally included:
- Drinks (usually a fountain drink or bottled water)
Once you get in the park, go to any participating restaurant and show them your ticket. They’ll give you a wristband that you’ll show to use your dining pass the remainder of the day.
General Sea World Tips:
Get there right when Sea World opens to avoid long lines going into the parking lot and the venue. There is a parking fee of $22 per car for general parking.
Be sure to carve out time for the shows, the dolphin and orca shows were definitely the highlight of our trip to Sea World! If you want to get wet, sit in the bottom rows marked with a “splash zone” sign. Sit in the first 5 rows if you really want to get wet, we were about 7 rows up and barely got sprinkled on.
Be aware that some of the rides have different hours than the park itself, so check the times to be sure you get a chance to hit your favorites.
Consider grabbing a locker near the entrance. This was especially useful to stow everything while we went on the rides together.
Gluten Free San Diego Zoo Dining Options
San Diego Zoo is a full day’s experience, you’ll want to get there right when it opens and stay until it closes because there is so much to see! The zoo’s policy allows for you to bring your own food into the park (providing you don’t bring a cooler larger than a 6-pack). Bringing your own food can save money and time, in addition to ensuring you have access to safe food.
On the zoo’s FAQ page, you can find the following allergen statement:
“We recognize the seriousness of food allergies and although we would like to accommodate all guest requirements, as a not-for-profit organization we are unable to do so. Our kitchens are not equipped to prepare food separately for guests who are sensitive to certain ingredients. Each restaurant can provide an ingredient list for the items available for purchase; however, we cannot assure that other ingredients may not be in the preparation environment. Guests are welcome to bring personal food items into our parks. Large food storage containers such as coolers are not permitted on grounds and no facilities are available for food storage.”
San Diego Zoo has a list of on-site restaurants labelled with vegetarian, kid’s meals, and/or gluten free . Of course you’ll want to call ahead to be sure they meet your dietary needs, or bring in your own food.
- Hau Mei Cafe (located in Panda Canyon)
- Lagoon Terrace (located on Front Street)
It is also worth mentioning here that parking is FREE at the San Diego Zoo (yay!)
Download the Find Me Gluten Free app
Find Me Gluten Free is a great tool for finding safe places to eat when you’re travelling. You can search by location to find gluten free restaurant recommendations and read reviews. Keep in mind that ratings and reviews are from individual user experiences, so ALWAYS do your own research to be sure a restaurant is a safe place for you to eat.
Best Place to Watch the Sun Set in San Diego
If you’re going to be in San Diego, plan an evening to watch the sun set over the ocean! While there are many places you can watch the sun set, Sunset Cliffs is undoubtedly one of the most popular; and for good reason – the views are nothing short of spectacular.
Set your GPS to Sunset Cliffs, and find a spot on the road to park. Sunset Cliffs is a residential area so there is only parking along the street. The earlier you arrive the closer you’ll be to the cliffs.
The cliffs are beautiful and there are many great spots, so walk along the road and find a place that’s right for you. You can bring a picnic dinner or just come for the view. Pack sunglasses and you might want to bring a blanket or beach towel to sit on so you’re more comfortable.
Best Beach Stroll in San Diego
If you love to walk the beach, put La Jolla Cove on your itinerary. La Jolla Beach is a beautiful stretch with stunning waterfront views, walking paths, and park benches along the way. There are plenty of spots to stop and have a gluten free picnic lunch! Check out our post on the Best Gluten Free Breads for recommendations on which hold up best for sandwiches.
Parking fills up fast so the earlier in the day you arrive, the less time you’ll spend looking for a spot.
La Jolla is well-known for its seals and sea lions who frequent the beach. The sea lions are loud and fairly active, making them fun to watch. During Pupping season in the spring, small sections of the beach will be blocked off to give the seals and their pups some space. There is still plenty of open space for wading, surfing, and swimming.
Walking along the walkway provides a breathtaking view. If you go in the spring, there will be plenty of wildflowers, too!
San Diego Temple
The San Diego Temple is a beautiful place to stop or at least drive by! It is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and located near the La Jolla community of San Diego.
While only card-carrying members can go inside, anyone can enjoy the grounds and they are so pretty! The building itself is very unique, and is worth a visit in the day time and also at night when the entire building is lit up. You can see the temple from the highway if you don’t want to stop.
Gluten Free San Diego Travel Tips
If you’re travelling via airplane, Gluten Free Palate has a helpful article filled with tips and which airlines offer gluten free options.
BYOF. If you’re gluten free, you know to Bring Your Own Food right?? Especially if you’re flying, you’ll want to make sure you have safe options at hand. Nothing ruins a trip like a gluten reaction or hunger pains, am I right?
Pack a few healthy and filling snacks for the airplane, and keep a few safe options in your bag as you go to different destinations. We get the Love with Food gluten free subscription box every month (have you tried it yet??) and always pack a few snacks from that.
Stop by a gluten free bakery or restaurant and get a few to-go items for your hotel room, too! Things like muffins, croissants, and breads are great.