San Diego’s beauty is awe-inspiring during all hours of the day, but sunsets are another matter altogether. As the sun begins its dramatic descent, vibrant colors bring a new element of natural beauty to the already gorgeous backdrop provided by the rugged coastline and vast expanses of beach.
There’s nothing quite like seeing the waves crash as you watch the sun sink below the horizon especially when it’s the Pacific Ocean.
No sunset should be wasted when visiting San Diego. The setting sun is visible from a variety of locations and perspectives, so each viewing experience can be memorable in its own special way.
Options range from cruises to patio dining and many coastal trails. To help you plan accordingly, we’ve highlighted fifteen of the best sunset spots in San Diego.
1. Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
Location: Ocean Beach
With sunset built right into the name, it should come as no surprise that Sunset Cliffs San Diego is a local favorite. Widely referred to as the best place to watch the sunset in San Diego, this jaw-dropping destination is home to rugged cliffs that are visually astounding at any time of the day.
Given how iconic this view from the top of these cliffs is, you may be surprised to discover that parking can be fairly abundant along the boulevard. Still, you’ll want to build in extra time to park, just in case, and meander along the trail.
If you’re careful during low tide, you can even head down to the beach for a lovely view. The cliffs can be dangerous, however, so use caution when visiting at sunset — and be sure to head back before dark.
2. Mount Soledad
Location: La Jolla
The Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial pays homage to our nation’s brave veterans. In the center of the memorial, you’ll see a giant white cross, which provides an impactful contrast for some to the evening sunset.
Many visitors find this particular sunset experience deeply meaningful, so don’t be surprised if a quick stop gets you feeling emotional.
In front of the memorial is also a small park with a couple of benches. People tend to sit there, on the grass, or on the memorial steps to watch the sun rise and set.
TIPS FOR VISITINGMount Soledad also references a residential neighborhood (that I live in). Most visitors though are headed to the park and memorial. I have written a guide to Mount Soledad La Jolla that you can reference.
3. Crystal Pier
Location: Pacific Beach
Once the home of an amusement park, Crystal Pier is a casual hangout that is privately-owned but open to the public. You can actually stay overnight in one of the pier’s adorable cottages.
IYou’ll enjoy the sunset as you walk, and, of course, when you reach the pier’s end. In addition to viewing the sunset from the pier, you can check out the adjacent beach. Both popular things to do in Pacific Beach are very easily accessed from Ocean Front Walk, otherwise known as the Mission Beach Boardwalk.
4. Windansea Beach
Location: La Jolla
Windansea Beach may have a reputation for being the hangout of choice for skilled surfers, but it can also deliver an excellent sunset viewing experience.
Although it’s small, this La Jolla beach provides expansive scenery and epic photos. It’s a little bit of a hidden gem, thanks to scarce parking but you’ll find a lot of locals congregating on the sandstone bluffs to watch the sunset.
5. La Jolla Cove
Location: La Jolla
Concrete walking paths wind between La Jolla Cove, the Children’s Pool (where the seals hang out) and beyond so you can enjoy golden hour and later on a nice walk. You’ll also see several green belvederes or huts that you can sit in to watch the sunset.
If you’re lucky, you’ll score a spot at a local La Jolla restaurant and watch the sunset as you eat dinner (or sip drinks) on the patio.
6. Ocean Beach Pier
Location: Ocean Beach
An eclectic environment can be found at Ocean Beach, which boasts trendy West Coast vibes at its shopping areas and namesake expanse of sand. You could find enough here to spend an casual half or full day before the sunset even arrives.
At a minimum, you’ll want to navigate the Ocean Beach Pier and visit one of the restaurants within walking distance (we like fish tacos at South Beach or Pizza Port for pizza and beer).
7. Razor Point Trail at Torrey Pines State Reserve
This Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve favorite should deliver a great workout with an even better payoff as you observe the panoramic views. Although the path can be steep at times, most visitors should be able to navigate it without too much trouble.
Breaks are worth taking not so much for catching your breath, but rather because you want to slow down time and take in the surreal beauty of this trail one of several you can take during your visit.
8. Cowles Mountain at Mission Trails Regional Park
As one of the nation’s largest municipally-owned parks, Mission Trails offers more than enough hiking to keep you busy for several days. If you’re feeling ambitious, however, you’ll opt for the hike up Cowles Mountain. The visual payoff will make you glad that you put in the extra effort.
During the hike itself, you’ll gain nearly 1,000 feet in elevation — so high-quality hiking boots and plenty of water are essential.
Be careful, as the trail is often rugged, creating a precarious feel for less experienced hikers. No matter what physical condition you’re in, however, you’ll want to take several stops near the various outcroppings so you can view the setting sun from several perspectives.
9. Palisades Park
Location: Pacific Beach
Overlooking Crystal Pier (to the left or south), this lovely destination is a go-to for yoga enthusiasts, who can often be seen performing sun salutations as the sun disappears below the horizon. Local dog walkers also frequent this spot, so stop by if you want to see four-legged friends on the go.
If you’re determined to see the entire sunset, be sure to arrive early. You’ll need to leave extra time to navigate the area by car, as there is never any guarantee that street parking will be readily available.
Once you arrive, you’re free to relax or picnic in the well-maintained grassy areas, but remember that fantastic Law Street Beach is right below Palisades Park.
10. Mission Beach Boardwalk
Location: Mission Beach and Pacific Beach
If you’re not content to observe sunsets while sitting still, you might prefer a more active experience on this popular boardwalk. It consistently delivers a vibrant West Coast atmosphere throughout the day but really starts to pick up in the early evening.
Arrive a few hours before the sunset so you can stroll leisurely as you check out eclectic shops or maybe sip a beer at a beach bar along the way.
Afterward, you can explore the best of Belmont Park or stop by one of several local restaurants with patios.
Another option? Renting a bike or scooter, so you can witness Mission Beach’s sunset on wheels. It is 3 miles from end-to-end.
IT’S REALLY CALLED OCEAN FRONT WALKBut locals call it the Mission Beach Boardwalk or Pacific Beach Board walk or just The Boardwalk.
11. Coronado Island
Location: Coronado Island
If you love city scenery, you’ll appreciate the unique vantage points that Coronado provides. This is one of the best spots for seeing the downtown San Diego skyline any time of day and particularly when the swirling colors of the sunset take over.
The fun begins at the ferry landing, where you’ll arrive after heading over by boat. The Coronado Bridge also provides great sights if you arrive at the island by car.
Getting there might be half the fun, but the real excitement starts once you’ve made it to the island. Be sure to stop by Orange Avenue, where flower-lined medians make for a picturesque location.
On the other side of the island, the beach in front of Hotel del Coronado is another very popular sunset spot. And don’t forget that anyone can take advantage of their evening roasts if you have a hankering for s’mores (reservations are required).
12. Sunset Cruises on San Diego Bay
As pristine as the views can be from the coast, there’s an even better option: local cruises. When you want stunning vistas of the best sunsets San Diego delivers a variety of tours that promise education, entertainment, and, of course, relaxation. Some cruises even boast bars and dining experiences onboard, so you can kick back with a delicious cocktail as you take in the view.
Sunset sailing can also be a compelling option when you’re feeling adventurous. With a little guidance, you’ll feel confident taking the helm — but if you don’t, you can count on the captain to take over.
No matter how you intend to hit the water, you’ll want to book your trip or rental at least a week in advance, as sunset tours are incredibly popular among locals and visitors alike.
Sunset tours are available in multiple locations. San Diego Bay is a convenient option, but several water-based choices around Mission Bay also prove spectacular views. You can read my list of San Diego Bay cruise recommendations but for a sunset I’d recommend a dinner criuse with Flagship.
13. Petco Park
Combine your sunset viewing experience with the pleasant atmosphere of a baseball game. Petco Park makes it all possible. Often praised as one of MLB’s most beautiful facilities, the home of the Padres offers an expansive view of the Pacific Ocean.
While evening games can provide optimal sunset viewing throughout the entire season, August and September are prime months, as you won’t need to wait until the end of the game to see the beginning stages of the sunset.
14. Gaslamp Quarter
Location: Downtown San Diego
Conclude the perfect day in the trendy Gaslamp Quarter where some buildings are a bit taller than they are in the rest of San Diego. Plus, they may overlook the bay.
This could definitely include a visit to the sophisticated Altitude Sky Lounge. Perched above the Marriott, this swanky location offers panoramic views (and you can see into PETCO Park). Meanwhile, DJs and cocktails will ensure that all your senses are satisfied as you watch the sun disappear below the horizon.
The Gaslamp Quarter also offers several other patio and rooftop spots worth checking out at this stunning time of day. For example, the Float Rooftop Lounge above the Hard Rock is a top destination for trendy visitors.
15. Harbor Island Park
This tranquil location provides a nice glimpse at the San Diego skyline. The seagulls and sailboats that gather here are just as fun to observe. It’s nice to watch the sun rise or set over the bay.
Depending on when you arrive, you might even get to be a spectator for an exciting sailboat race. Otherwise, you’re free to grab a bike or scooter and explore, away from the crowds that typically gather on the city’s most popular boardwalks.
Few California experiences are as relaxing or as inspiring as San Diego sunsets. Whether you hike to a mountaintop or try a sunset cruise San Diego is sure to satisfy your urge to witness spectacular vistas. Any effort you make to see these majestic displays will be well rewarded with priceless memories and impressive photos.