Culture

Top Tri Towns of 2020: San Diego, California

We asked for your recommendations, had a panel of expert judges pore over the nominations, and came up with the best triathlon towns in the U.S.

What makes a good triathlon town? It’s a little bit the training, a little bit the community, and a whole lot of je ne sais quoi.

We started our search for the best tri towns by asking you—and you delivered. We received nearly 200 nominations, with a couple of tri clubs running coordinated campaigns. And then we narrowed it down based on a few criteria: the local triathlon community, training and facilities, climate, events and access to races, and the other fun things—bike shops, coffee, good restaurants.

Then we had our panel of expert judges (meet them below) make their picks. The battle was fierce and worthy towns were eliminated, until we finalized our list here of the top five tri towns and five honorable mentions. Over the next few days we’ll be revealing the winners. We’ve already announced Madison, Wisconsin and Clermont, Florida. Today we’re highlighting the birthplace of triathlon: San Diego, California.

Related: The Complete List of Tri Town Winners

Triathlon Town: San Diego, California

Though it may seem like an obvious choice, there’s a reason San Diego is the birthplace of modern triathlon. The midsized, sunny Southern California city has endless open-water swimming options that range from gorgeous cliffside swimming in swanky La Jolla to the flat and accessible Mission Bay.

While the water may never get super warm in the Pacific (rarely will ocean temps climb above 75 degrees F), it also never gets prohibitively cold if you invest in a wetsuit. The outskirts of San Diego are full of famous climbs like Mt. Palomar to the northeast and open rolling roads to the south near Chula Vista (where there’s an Olympic training center). Better yet, San Diego’s mayor is an avid cyclist who has been working to make city streets safer for two wheels. For a cool and rolling run, triathletes can head to any number of oceanfront bike paths that extend from Oceanside down to the city or head about 15 miles to the east and hit up 7,000-acre Mission Trails Regional Park.

Of course, San Diego has no shortage of racing options from March to October, and the gigantic 2,000-member Triathlon Club of San Diego props up a very tri-focused outdoor community centered around two great local shops: Moment Bicycles (Point Loma and Carmel Valley) and the classic Nytro Multisports in Encinitas. And since tri isn’t all about swim, bike, and run, after your workout hit San Diego’s teeming food scene with dozens of unique microbreweries and a thriving Little Italy neighborhood where carb-splosion dishes abound.

San Diego Triathlon
Triathletes train along the San Diego coast. Photo: John David Becker

Why San Diego Is One Of The Top Triathlon Towns

The mild Pacific Ocean, hills galore, moderate year-round temperatures, and, oh yes, it’s the birthplace of modern triathlon.

Population

1.4M

Median Household Income

$75,456

Average Temperature

67 degrees F from December to May; 74 degrees F from June to November

Local Tri Clubs

Triathlon Club of San Diego, U.C. San Diego Tri Team, San Diego State University Triathlon Club, San Diego Youth Triathlon Team

Notable Local Races

70.3 Oceanside (April), San Diego International Triathlon (June), Carlsbad Triathlon (July), 70.3 Superfrog (September), San Diego Triathlon Challenge (October)