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How Long Does It Take To See The San Diego Zoo? | Travel Tips & Plan

Most zoos you've visited probably haven't been full day experiences, so it's common to wonder just how long it takes to experience the San Diego Zoo - which is one of the most popular zoos in the world!

Our San Diego Zoo Planning Guide will cover just how long you should plan to visit the San Diego Zoo for!

Questions We'll Answer About The San Diego Zoo:

  • How Long Does It Take To See The San Diego Zoo?
    • Full Day vs Half-Day Experience

 Lion statue at San Diego Zoo's entrance

How Long Does It Take To See The San Diego Zoo?

Deciding just how long you should spend at the San Diego Zoo depends on what kind of experience you're hoping to have at the attraction.

We find that most people fall into either two categories when visiting the San Diego Zoo: Full Day or Half-Day

Below we've detailed if you should plan for either a full day or a half-day at the San Diego Zoo based on what types of experiences and activities you might be interested in!

"San Diego Zoo" Sign

Full Day at the San Diego Zoo (8+ hours)

Spending a full day (8+ hours) at the San Diego Zoo is easy to do especially if you want to experience nearly everything the Zoo has to offer. 

With over 12,000 animals at the San Diego Zoo across 650 species there's no shortage of animals and animal enclosures to visit and see.  

You can easily spend hours at the San Diego Zoo simply spending time at each of the animal enclosures watching and observing all of the animals that call the San Diego Zoo their home. 

Two hippos in the water

This doesn't even include the other attractions and presentations the San Diego Zoo has to offer.

The 35 minute guided bus tour is a can't miss experience at the zoo as well as the Aerial Skyfari.

Between waiting for and experiencing these two attractions you'll need to plan for another 70 - 80 minutes in your day. 

San Diego Zoo Double Decker Tour Bus

With other experiences such as the 4D theater, Balboa train and animal presentations (shows and opportunities to get up close with animals) you'll find yourself needing to plan about 20-30 minutes for each of these experiences.

These experiences are what separates the full day experience from the half day experience, which we've detailed in the next section of the guide.

Depending on just how much time you'll spend observing all of the animals, as well as experiencing all of the other attractions the San Diego Zoo has to offer, you can easily find yourself approaching that 8+ hour mark of time spent at the zoo. 

Two people on the Skyfari over the San Diego Zoo

What we've already outlined doesn't even include time spent parking your car, walking, bathroom breaks and of course eating which will all take up some of your day.

If spending an entire day at the San Diego Zoo sounds like too much, then in the next section you'll see what we recommend for about a half-day at the San Diego Zoo.

Half-Day at the San Diego Zoo (5-8 hours)

While we recommend planning for an entire day at the San Diego Zoo, there's still a lot you can accomplish with only a half day available (5-8 hours).

First we would recommend making time for the 35 minute guided bus tour and the Skyfari

Two koalas in the trees

These two great attractions shouldn't be missed, please you'll get to see a lot of the zoo in a short time with both the bus tour and Skyfari.

After you've made time for both the bus tour and the Skyfari, we'd recommend spending the rest of your time leisurely enjoying the dozens of animal enclosures across the zoo.

While the Skyfari and bus tour are two great ways to cover a lot of ground, you'll get to see the animals more closely and at your own pace while walking the zoo property.

Red double decker tour bus at San Diego Zoo

Once you've enjoyed these three major activities, everything else the San Diego Zoo has to offer can be considered a bonus depending on how much time you have left.

We'd recommend watching a few animal presentations if time allows, while the 4D Theater and Balboa Train are two experiences you can skip if you're on a time crunch!



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