10 Best San Diego Summer Camps For Children 2023

San Diego is known both for its sunny beaches and gorgeous outdoor landscape, as well as a very dynamic arts and culture scene. With summer camps in San Diego, CA, you’ll find a similar vibe. Kids can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities that encourage them to use their creativity and imagination.

We created this summer camp guide to help you choose the right one for your child. There are many camp types in the city, offering unique themes or special programs to cater to specific interests. Whether you're looking for weeklong sessions or one that last the entire summer season, you can find one for any particular interest.

This list includes options for campers interested in sports, theater, music, outdoor adventure, coding, and much more. 

san diego summer camps

Top 10 San Diego Summer Camps

1. Catalina Sea Camp

Catalina Sea Camp is an overnight camp that offers both education and exciting activities for campers ages 8-17. There is a weeklong program for those 8-13 and a three-week session for older campers ages 12-17. It's located on Catalina Island, so at the start of camp, a boat picks up the kids in Long Beach, around an hour and a half from San Diego, before transporting them to their destination.

Kids can expect fun camp activities like kayaking, underwater videography and photography, scuba diving, arts and crafts, paddle boarding, wall climbing, and more. They can also enjoy fun socials and events like talent shows, beach and theme parties, and campfires. Children will learn about marine biology through hands on-activities while making new friends and having memorable adventures.

During camp, kids will develop independence, build social skills as they interact with their peers, learn the value of teamwork, and get away from technology. The camp staff and counselors are trained to create a welcoming and safe camp environment for all attendees. 

2. Northcoast Rep Theater Camps

The Theatre School offers memorable summer fun at their theater camp for kids. They have San Diego camps for different age groups, including 4 to 8, 9 to 12, and 13 to 18. Each session culminates with a production that parents can watch.

The camps for the youngest children take half a day to a whole week. They teach rhythm, basic music skills, and sound. Through creative play, they are introduced to theater techniques like improvisation and storytelling. Counselors work with them on a one-on-one basis, making it one of the best theatre summer camps in San Diego.

For 8 to 12 year olds, the theater camps are full-day and run for two weeks. Kids are taught acting skills, and prepare for their role in the culminating production at the end of the camp. The theater camp for teens is more immersive, and the plays are more challenging too. 

3. La Jolla Summer Surf Camp

The La Jolla Summer Surf Camp is a fantastic option for young surfers to learn new skills and life lessons while cooling off at beautiful San Diego beaches. Not only will your little surfer learn swimming and surfing safety, technique, and soft skills, but they also have a chance to advance to higher skill levels. 

The SEA Instructors for this specialty camp are trained and certified in water safety, CPR, and advanced first aid. The camp maintains a reasonable ratio of 1 to 5 between instructors and campers for safety reasons and to ensure the success of its participants. Games, challenges, arts & crafts, and cool videos documenting the week are highlights of the program. 

It’s held every weekday at the beautiful La Jolla Shores and is available to children ages 5-14. However, you can reach out to them if you have someone younger or older than that. You can also book individual surf lessons for children from expert coaches throughout the year.

4. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The perfect summer day camp at the San Diego Zoo is for kids of all ages that like nature, animals, and art. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park Camp provides youth with a plethora of activities during summer weekdays, and parents can choose from half-day or full-day options.

Campers enjoy activities such as drawing, camp games, learning all about wildlife and ecosystems, and arts & crafts. Crafts include small projects like watercolor painting as well as bigger projects like carving and sculpting 3D images. They even get up close and personal with the animals and learn about their natural habitat and behaviors.

They offer age-appropriate, week long summer camps led by skilled staff, with safety as the utmost importance. You can sign kids up for camps based on their current grade level, with options for elementary, middle school, and high school students. 

5. Camp Jaycee

Camp Jaycee is one of the most established camps in the San Diego area. The program has been running for over 70 years and is accredited by the American Camp Association. It also works with the American Academy of Pediatrics to ensure its programs are child-centered, age-appropriate, and safe.

There are day camps and longer programs for children as young as two years old to teenagers. Since they have indoor and outdoor facilities, you can sign up your child for sports camps, theater camps, dance, scouting, coding, cooking, chemistry, and more!

They offer unique themes each camp like Funster Detectives where kids learn problem-solving, a Jedi camp for Star Wars fans, Lego and Minecraft camp, and a magic camp inspired by Harry Potter. You can check Camp Jaycee's website for their calendar and find programs suitable for your child’s age and interest.

6. YMCA San Diego (YMCASD)

YMCA summer camps have 13 camp locations all across California and several programs throughout the year. YMCA offers week-long local summer camps that follow a unique theme. Their Discovery camp has entertaining activities that build curiosity such as storytelling, crafts and wildlife shows.

YMCA San Diego also has specialized day camps and overnight camps on sports or subjects like robotics or art, as well as teen camps and leadership camps.

Campers are supervised by trained camp counselors, and there is a small counselor-to-child ratio. Each summer program is designed to support kids and help them get to enjoy a fun summer experience.

You can search the camp schedules according to your child’s age, gender, and area of interest on their website. As a side note, they also tend to host spring break events and virtual classes.

7. Encore Creative Arts Camp

If you have a creative child and looking to enroll them in a creative arts camp, then Encore Creative Arts Camp is a great place to send them to for the summer. They offer full-day summer camps that last one week, two-week, and the entire season.

Various themes and focuses include filmmaking, musical theatre, culinary arts, science, art, and athletics sports camps.  In their programs, they can learn things like playing the guitar, the foundations of science, how to dance on stage, the basics of architecture, making music videos, and much more. Campers routinely take breaks throughout the day to play outdoor games like soccer, yoga, field hockey, and much more.  

The camps tend to run between 9 am to 3 pm, with aftercare options available for busy parents. Kids are separated by age and watched over by experienced camp counselors. It's a great way for children to express their creativity and pick up on new skills or try new and thrilling activities. 

8. San Diego Model Railroad Museum

The San Diego Model Railroad Museum offers one of the more unique summer camp programs in the area. At camp, younger kids will create a mock model railroad together with the other campers. Older students can build an actual running model railroad and use their creative skills to design the layout.

Programs are offered to students from kindergarten all the way to high school students in 9th grade. There are camp sessions that start in June and end in July. These are half-day programs that run from 9 am to 12 pm.  

They offer in-person summer camps for kids in the area and virtual camps for those far out or even out of state so that parents can choose the one most suitable for their kids. With hands-on activities and the ability to carefully design and construct this project, kids can be proud of their end product. 

9. Keystone South Summer Camp

Keystone South Summer Camp is a holistic summer camp in San Diego county, which has a good mix of activities. Keystone’s programs include sports, crafts, games, and other traditional camp activities. Children ages 7+ can enjoy a full, action-packed day of adventure with occasional field trips.

The day camp programs change often, so there’s always something new. Some days campers can enjoy fun activities like soccer, frisbee, disc golf, and other days they can take art classes from local artists. Younger kids can join the Junior Camp program. At junior camp, they learn songs and skits, make art crafts, engage in creative play, and get active through fun sports and games.

With just five kids per counselor, you can be sure that your child will get close supervision and individual instruction. This is all done in a safe and fun environment.

10. Outposts Summer Camp

This popular San Diego summer camp is located near the Los Penasquitos Preserve. It has programs for different age groups, with Junior Outpost for kids ages 5 to 7 and Senior Outpost for ages 7 to 9. They have two sessions every year, each lasting about two weeks.

Outposts keeps the groups small, so each child gets close supervision and has time to bond with the other campers. If your child gets shy or overwhelmed in large groups, it’s an excellent choice for a first summer camp experience.

The fun activities are tailored to different needs and personalities. Some days kids can play games or sports, or they might have a free day of swimming and make-believe play. All activities help the kids unplug from technology and enjoy nature in every sense. You can choose between whole-day or half-day summer camp.