Best Photo Spots in San Diego: Instagrammable Places
It’s no doubt that California is home to some of the prettiest places in the world. Whether you’re a professional photographer seeking the perfect shot or an amateur looking to capture lasting memories, this coastal paradise offers a plethora of breathtaking photo spots. From golden sandy beaches and iconic landmarks to lush gardens and urban cityscapes, San Diego presents an abundance of opportunities to unleash your creative vision. I’ve personally visited these places multiple times so that’s why I created this guide spilling all the tea on the “Best Photo Spots in San Diego”.
There is truly something for everyone to enjoy in America’s finest city. Get ready to explore the best photo spots that will leave you in awe and provide you with an unforgettable visual experience in this sun-soaked Southern California gem. So grab your camera, pack your curiosity, and let’s embark on a photographic journey through San Diego’s most captivating locations.
The name speaks for itself. The cliffside phenomenon known as Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is home to the most beautiful sunset in the world, according to San Diegans. You can walk along the cliffs, post up and watch the droves of surfers head down the cliffs with so much ease, or venture down to the tide pools at the far end of Sunset Cliffs Blvd.
Golden hour is the best time at Sunset Cliffs for San Diego photography. The staircase above is located on the furthest point of Sunset Cliffs Blvd. If you’re an adventure seeker you can hike through the low tide and find. the hidden open ceiling cave. Finally, Cabrillo National Monument is close by and is worth a visit as well since it’s home to the Old Point Loma lighthouse.
Address: Sunset Cliffs Blvd, San Diego, CA 92107
A small island off the coast of San Diego that is a pure gem with a stunning view of the San Diego skyline. This quaint community is home to the Hotel Del Coronado which is most famous for Marilyn Monroe filming a scene here in her hit movie “Some Like it Hot” in 1958. Not only that but the author, L. Frank Baum, who wrote The Wizard of Oz found inspiration for Emerald City by living on Coronado. It’s easily one of the best parts of San Diego and a must if you’re visiting.
There are a few locations that are great for photography on Coronado. The Hotel Del Coronado has many beautiful spots to capture the iconic red-top hotel. You can walk along Coronado Beach and find beautiful places to snap photos with North Island jutting out into the ocean. If you own a drone you can spot the Coronado sand dunes directly to the right of the hotel del but it’s only visible from a birds-eye view. Lastly, The Ferry Landing has a fabulous view of the San Diego skyline.
Hotel Del Address: 1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118
Ferry Landing Address: 1201 1st St, Coronado, CA 92118
My favorite place in all of San Diego, Balboa Park is a must-see for everyone! It’s a true San Diego icon and there is so much to do in the park. From endless museums (16 to be exact), the San Diego Zoo, and the iconic botanical building (sadly under construction until 2024) you will never run out of places to take photos in Balboa Park. Finally, if you are visiting in March do not miss the Japanese Friendship Garden blooming with Cherry blossoms. It’s one of my favorite things to do in Balboa Park!
Here are some of my favorite local spots in the park:
- Organ Pavillion
- Ines Rose Garden
- Botanical Building
- Japanese Friendship Garden
- Spanish Arts Village
- Cactus Garden (west of the rose garden)
- Plaza de Panama fountain
I’ve written an entire blog post on Balboa Park so make sure to check out the “Insider’s Guide to Balboa Park“.
La Jolla Swings
Over-looking La Jolla this swing has sweeping views of the ocean below. It’s located atop the parking lot at Birch Aquarium. In order to get to the swing, head to the southernmost part of the parking lot and park. You’ll find a very small footpath with a tiny wood board to step across (between two bushes). Head up that path for about 100 ft and you’ll see the swing (it’s sort of steep wear proper shoes). UPDATE: as of January 2023 the swing is not up. However, locals are pretty quick to make a new swing and should be up shortly.
The swing on the right is located off the Coastal Walk Trail. Once you see the white pedestrian bridge. You’ll have to climb over the said bridge on the left-hand side and walk down the cliff. There is a rope to assist you and it isn’t as high up as you might think. You can even follow. thetrail down to the water if you’re feeling adventurous.
Address: 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, CA 92037
Torrey Pines State Park + Gliderport
Torrey Pines is HUGE! There are multiple places to snag the perfect San Diego Instagram shot. You can head to the state park and hike a few trails or visit Torrey Pines Gliderport. It’s my personal favorite place to watch a sunset and has sweeping views of the La Jolla coastline. This is a very famous place for paragliders and you will most likely catch one or two gliding when you’re visiting.
During the spring time, there are yellow flowers surrounding the parking lot and trails down to the beach. It’s a perfect spot for spring photos. Finally, there is a trail down to Black’s Beach located here. You can attempt the ho chi Minh trail but I will say it’s pretty treacherous in some parts.
Address Gliderpoint: 2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Dr, La Jolla, CA 92037
Did you know there are 7 piers in San Diego County? The Scripps Pier is one of the best! It is not accessible to the public however, you can admire its beauty from La Jolla shores beach. It makes for a unique backdrop to your common beach photos. This side of the beach is much quieter making it easy for taking photos. Finally, twice a year the sunset lines up directly in the middle of the pier – google Scripps Pier sunset alignment for more information as to when those dates will be.
San Diego Zoo
Funnily enough, the San Diego Zoo has amazing spots for photography. There are tons of plants from almost every country in the world and it’s home to the cutest animals on earth. It’s a win-win for me! If you’re visiting San Diego for the first time you must check out the San Diego Zoo.
Address: 2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
Old Town, San Diego
Old Town, San Diego is known as the birthplace of California and is the oldest neighborhood in San Diego. There are multiple historic buildings located here. Along with that, it’s a very popular tourist spot but it definitely doesn’t take away from the charm of this place. There are so many corners that are super photogenic for photos. You can check out my Locals Guide to Old Town for more things to do in the area. Finally, make sure to check out Heritage Park for beautiful victorian Historic Homes.
Carlsbad Flower Fields
The best way to kick off the spring season is with a trip to the colorful flower fields. This field is world-renowned and is only open two months out of the year (March-May) but is such a legend in San Diego and has so many activities for everyone to enjoy (even the littles). Please be respectful of the plants when you visit and stay on the designated paths. I’ve written an entire guide on visiting the Carlsbad Flower Fields – make sure to check it out!
Address: 5704 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Scripps Coastal Meander
This trail is a short one but the views are quite breathtaking. The wildflowers and sweeping views of the coast are worth the visit even on a cloudy day. If you walk the entirety of the trail you will come across a student building that has the most epic sunsets (pictured in the middle). On a clear day, you can catch paragliders cruising. It’s the perfect spot to post up for a coffee and take in the beautiful La Jolla views.
Address: Scripps Institution of Oceanography 9234-9218, La Jolla Shores Dr, La Jolla, CA 92037
La Jolla Tide Pools
The La Jolla tide pools at sunset are pure magic. Especially if it’s low tide and then you can witness all the sea life chilling in the tide pools. It’s such a unique activity! Furthermore, there is a green lookout bench located right on the road with the most beautiful palm trees adjacent to it. Offering two different perspectives to take photos. It’s easily become my favorite photo spot in San Diego and you need to witness it for yourself!
Address: 303 Coast Blvd, La Jolla, California
Belvedere Street in La Jolla
If you’re looking for the quintessential San Diego palm tree-lined street then this is the one for you! Belvedere Street is located adjacent to Windandsea Beach (my favorite one in all of San Diego). The ultimate photogenic street is not to be missed! Finally, it’s typically busy during peak sunset hours so be careful when snapping those photos.
The Salk Institute
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies seems odd for a photo shoot but the architecture is so unique and interesting. This spot is perfect for a minimal aesthetic and it’s right down the road from the Torrey Pines Gliderpoint. However, you need to be stealthy with your photos as there is a security guard that is walking the premises at all times. They are very strict with professional cameras so be aware of that. Finally, you need to make a reservation in order to enter but it’s free!
Address: 10010 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037
Bankers Hill in San Diego is located directly north of Downtown and has multiple historic homes, bridges, and views that are unique San Diego photo spots. Whether you’re visiting the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge or the historic Long-Waterman House you’ll find the prettiest places with old-school charm.
One of the most historic “mansions” in San Diego, the Long-Waterman house has remained in the same family since 1889 and it shows! The preservation of this 1880 is unparalleled and it makes this a great spot to take photos.
Address: 2408 First Ave
Spruce Street Suspension Bridge
Built in 1912, this hidden suspension footbridge provides views of the serene valley below. It’s most definitely a local’s only spot and sort of hidden so you’ll most likely have the place to yourselves! Finally, the bridge tends to move a lot when lots of people are walking on it so be careful my friends.
Address: W Spruce St, San Diego, CA 92103
Bankers Hill Mini Mansions
I love coming to this area and marveling at all the gorgeous homes or “mini-mansions” as San Diego likes to call them. They make for some incredible backdrops and my favorite photo spot is located at 435 W Thorn Ave. It’s the most perfect Italian-style villa of my dreams!
Verbatim Books in North Park
This used bookstore has a stunning facade in the back of the store. It features a huge wall of vintage books with their name adorned in books as well. It’s such a unique spot in North Park and is usually empty. Finally, I found lots of great books for a fraction of the price here. So if you’re planning on visiting don’t forget to support and take a little something home with you.
my two-piece set is from Cocopina check out their beautiful handmade dresses.
Encinitas Boat Homes
The Encinitas Boat Homes are a historical landmark in Encinitas. These kitschy apartment homes are located on H Street. Finally, they are within walking distance from the main Encinitas thoroughfare. And are such a cute spot to visit, especially if you have kids!
This park is located in the Mission Hills neighborhood and truly is a hidden gem. There are plenty of large grassy fields that are perfect for picnics. Also, the park offers panoramic views of San Diego. Lastly, the Junipero Serra Museum (pictured above) makes for an amazing photo opportunity. Not to mention, it’s usually empty!
La Jolla Murals
The “Favorite Color” wall in La Jolla has become so well-known in the past few years. This technicolor wall is great for pictures and is located in a small parking lot on Eads Avenue. Along with that, La Jolla is home to 15 other murals and I’ve included the site with the list of them.
Address: 7596 Eads Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037
Thanks for reading my “Best Photo Spots in San Diego: Instagrammable Places in San Diego” guide! Are there any places that you love that I need to add to this list? Comment them below and make sure to check out my most viewed post “The Ultimate Travel Guide to San Diego“. If you’re more into hidden spots then check out my 20 Hidden Gems in San Diego. Enjoy America’s Finest City friends!
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