Shhh...Secret Zoos in San Diego (some are FREE!)
Public Disclosure: An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. Changes and Closures happen frequently so check directly with each site before you head out to know if it's open or not and what their policies are.
Lots of hotels, nurseries, farms & other places have animals that you can just walk around to see. No admission required! See them all here.
Do you guys know about the SECRET ZOOS in San Diego?!?! A lot of resort hotels have animals on their grounds that you can sometimes just walk around to see...for FREE!! 🤯
Hotels aren't the only place to see animals outside of the zoo...nurseries, farms and animal rehab retreats keep wild and exotic animals on their grounds too. Some are free and others have a paid entry (check Groupon or their socials and websites for discounts throughout the year and at holidays). Most of these are at family-owned or small businesses so consider making a purchase to treat yourself or as a gift to a neighbor, friend or family member and you'll be helping to support our local economy and keep businesses open.
FREE SECRET ZOOS
These are FREE to just walk around and see on your own.
🏤 FLAMINGOS at Coronado Island Resort & Spa (pictured above) - Coronado
This one is at the CORONADO ISLAND RESORT & SPA that faces the big bay. We discovered their secret zoo while riding a surrey bike along the bay. These flamingos are found between the hotel and the tennis courts.
TIP: Walk across the bridge for a better view of the flamingos and ducks. BYO picnic lunch and walk along the bay to find the perfect picnic spot with views of the Coronado bridge and the San Diego skyline. 🤩
Coronado Island Resort & Spa
2000 2nd St., Coronado
🏤 HARBOR SEALS at Bahia Resort Hotel - Mission Bay
Billy and Gracie are the resident harbor seals at the Bahia Hotel. They were rescued and now live the high life at the resort. Their swimming pool is right next to the cute Airstream trailer that offers grab n go drinks and snacks.
Bahia Resort Hotel
998 W Mission Bay Dr., Mission Bay
PEACOCKS at Leo Carrillo Ranch House - Carlsbad
Peacocks roam freely around this historic homestead where actor Leo Carrillo used to live. If you find a peacock feather on the ground you can take one home for free, but if you find more they ask you to give them to the visitors center so they can sell them in their gift shop to help fund ranch restorations.
Leo Carrillo Ranch House
6200 Flying Leo Carrillo Ln, Carlsbad
858-638-0672 OR 760-476-1042
🏤 BLUE HERONS & BIRDS at PARADISE POINT RESORT & SPA
Drive over to this island oasis and look for the pink flamingos at the Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa. You’ll find them between the hotel and tennis courts with views looking out towards the Coronado Bridge. Plan for extra time to walk along beautiful the bay for a scenic walk and views of the San Diego skyline.
Paradise Point Resort & Spa
1404 Vacation Rd., Mission Bay
🏤 MACAWS, COCKATOOS & AMAZON BIRDS at Catamaran Resort Hotel - Mission Bay
Has macaws, beautiful cockatoos, and a lilac-crowned amazon. They’re only outside daily between 10am-3:30pm but you can also watch them from their live bird cam 🎥 🕊. 🕊
3999 Mission Blvd., Pacific Beach
🏤 MACAW BIRD at Coronado Beach Resort - Coronado
Has a macaw in the lobby - more details coming soon...
Coronado Beach Resort
1415 Orange Ave., Coronado
🏤 TURTLES, DUCKS & KOI FISH at Webb Park near Rancho Bernardo Courtyard Marriott - Rancho Bernardo
The hotel is right next to Webb Park where you'll find turtles, koi fish and ducks. 🐢 🐠. 🦆 There's a nice flat paved pathway that loops around this small lake and you can walk around it in a quick 10 minutes. Bring a picnic to stay a while and enjoy this peaceful park.
TIP: If you grab some take out from Pearl Chinese Restaurant, just walk behind the restaurant to find this park!
PARKING: Where to park is somewhat tricky...there's a business office park with plenty of parking just in front of this hotel. Drive past Pearl Chinese Restaurant and turn left into the next office park and drive all the way to the back towards the hotel.
Rancho Bernardo Courtyard Marriott
11611 Bernardo Plaza Ct., Rancho Bernardo
🌿 MINI HORSE, GOATS, PIGS, CHICKENS, BIRDS & KOI FISH at Sunshine Gardens Nursery - Encinitas
Giddy-up to Sunshine Gardens where you’ll find this adorable miniature horse sharing paddocks with his goat friends. Time your visit right and you’ll even get to feed them! They’re located across the parking lot away from the rest of the grounds, but you must wander over to the gardens and you’ll find plenty more. In the back are pigs, more goats and chickens; in the succulent garden is a bird aviary enclosure; and to the left you can’t miss the hydroponics with tanks full of koi fish big and small.
155 Quail Gardens Dr., Encinitas
🌿 GOATS, BUNNIES, DONKEYS, COW & MORE at City Farmers Nursery - City Heights
Discover this farm in the middle of the city at City Farmers Nursery. You’ll find all kinds of animals like goats, bunnies, donkeys and even a cow! Next door is Nate’s Garden Grill where you can grab a bite to eat after exploring the farm.
City Farmers Nursery
3110 Euclid Ave., City Heights
🌿 CHICKENS & CATS at Mission Hills Nursery - Mission Hills
Walk into the past where Kate Sessions used to sell plants out of her house, now turned into Mission Hills Nursery. In the back is where you’ll find the chickens in the coop, unless they’re clucking around the nursery. A couple of friendly cats can found lazing around in the sunny spots too.
Mission Hills Nursery
1525 Fort Stockton Dr., Mission Hills
🌿 GOATS & CHICKENS at Penasquitos Adobe Ranch House - Rancho Penasquitos
Bring your own carrots to feed Holly and Base, Nubian goats who live at this historic ranch house. Take in some history from 1823 at this second oldest residence in San Diego County. Miles of trails start here to explore the Los Penasquitos Canyon by bike, hike or even horseback. You’ll see a playground as you enter the long driveway, but it’s quite a distance from there to the goats at the ranch house so plan to drive between them for little legs.
Parking: Even though park entry gates are locked at 5pm, there are plenty of other lower parking lots that you can walk up from.
Rancho Penasquitos Adobe Ranch House
12122 Canyonside Park Drive, San Diego, CA 92129
OTHER SECRET ZOOS (entry fees required)
These have an entry fee and some require reservations so be sure to plan ahead.
(more info will be updated soon...)
CHILDREN'S NATURE RETREAT - Alpine
details coming soon...
Children's Nature Retreat
5178 Japatul Spur, Alpine, CA 91901
LIONS, TIGERS & BEARS - Alpine
details coming soon...