Because it's surrounded by mountains, El Cajon has earned the nickname “The Big Box,” which also references the Spanish phrase “el cajón,” meaning “the drawer.” Its name was originally chosen as a way to describe the boxed in feeling of the valley. For a brief period during the 1870s, the town was known solely as “Cajon,” but when the community gained a post office, it was dubbed “Elcajon.” The name finally evolved to El Cajon in 1905.
Today, El Cajon is a vibrant city offering a picturesque setting and convenient locale that make it a desirable place to visit. While many travelers flock to the area to see San Diego's popular attractions, El Cajon boasts its own points of interest that make this community a true East San Diego County gem.
Whatever your reason for visiting El Cajon, it's important to do your research so you can find the best hotel that allows you to enjoy everything the city has to offer.
Best Time to Visit El Cajon, CA
The best time to visit any community in San Diego County is in the spring or fall. From March through May, you're more likely to avoid crowds of local families on vacations as they rush to San Diego's attractions. The weather is also quite nice, with highs hovering in the 60s. You'll even enjoy some great hotel rates during the spring, which is ideal for travelers on a budget.
Fall is a little warmer but still offers the same benefits of spring. School is back in session so you won't be competing with locals at the San Diego Zoo or other site, plus you'll enjoy high temps in the 70s, which is ideal for hiking.
Winter brings the best hotel rates, but keep in mind that while San Diego County doesn't experience snow or blustery weather, it is the region's rainy season. When visiting El Cajon from late November through February, be sure to pack some rain gear.
Summer is unsurprisingly El Cajon's peak tourist season. Travelers from all over the world come to San Diego for the surfing, swimming, attractions, and culinary delights, and you can expect hotel rates even in El Cajon to spike. To save a few bucks off your hotel rate during the summer, be sure to book as early as late winter or early spring to take advantage of seasonal discounts.
Below is a chart of the current pricing seasonality of hotels and motels in El Cajon, CA:
El Cajon by Star Rating
Below we've posted 3 graphs demonstrating mean price patterns by star rating class in El Cajon, CA. You can use these illustrations to determine the cheapest time period to book in El Cajon throughout the year.
Luxury Hotel Options in El Cajon, CA
4 Star Average Prices: $173.88
While El Cajon doesn't have what most would consider a luxury accommodation, there are some higher end options that provide guests with plenty of amenities.
Days Inn San Diego – East/El Cajon is a modern three-story hotel located just 20 miles from the San Diego Zoo. Guest rooms and suites boast free Wi-Fi, mini-fridges, microwaves, and coffee makers, while suites add sitting areas. Enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast buffet, an on-site pool, laundry facilities, a business center, free parking for cars and large vehicles, and a restaurant.
Best Western Continental Inn is a laid back accommodation about 9 miles from both Sycuan Casino and the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge. Guest rooms are functional with cable television, microwaves, mini-fridges, coffee makers, and free Wi-Fi. Some even add pull-out sofas, kitchenettes, balconies, and whirlpool tubs. Enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast in the dining room, a pool with hot tub and lounge chairs, free parking, and meeting rooms.
If you have your heart set on more luxurious digs, San Diego Marriott Mission Valley is the closest luxury hotel to El Cajon. This four-star property is located off I-805 within walking distance of the Rio Vista Trolley Station. It boasts contemporary guest rooms with 42-inch flat-screen TVs, premium cable channels, coffee makers, available Wi-Fi access, and balconies with either pool or city views. Upgrading to a club-level room will also give you access to the lofted lounge and its free continental breakfast and evening appetizers.
San Diego Marriott Mission Valley also features a stylish restaurant and bar on site that serves up cocktails and American cuisine. Free Wi-Fi is available in the lobby, and there's an on-site whirlpool, outdoor pool with cabana seating, a business center, event space, and a fitness room.
Affordable Hotel Options in El Cajon, CA
3 Star Average Prices: $117.51
Finding an affordable hotel in El Cajon is easier than you might think. Motel 6 is an unpretentious two-star budget lodging off Interstate 8. It's also less than 16 miles from the San Diego Zoo, making it a perfect option for families. Rooms are modern with flat-screen TVs, expanded cable channels, granite countertops, wood floors, and available Wi-Fi. Guests can also enjoy free parking, free morning coffee, an on-site coin laundry facility, and a year-round outdoor pool.
Located less than 10 miles from San Diego State University, Americas Best Value Inn – El Cajon – San Diego is a casual option off I-8 that offers truck and bus parking, a free continental breakfast, and an outdoor pool. Guest rooms are basic but feature free Wi-Fi internet access, TVs with premium cable, and optional mini-fridges.
Rodeway Inn is a little further out in suburban Santee, but it's within walking distance of the Santee Town Center San Diego Trolley station, making it a great choice for anyone looking to use public transportation. Guest rooms are nicely decorated and feature flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi access, mini-fridges, work desks, and microwaves. There's also a sundeck and outdoor pool on-site, and both parking and continental breakfast are free.