Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Beaches

With gorgeous views and plenty of towering waves, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is the perfect spot to showcase your surfing prowess or take memorable photos.
Todd Sarouhan
Sunset Cliffs Beaches
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Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is a Surfer’s Paradise

If you’re a skilled surfer in search of some of the largest waves San Diego has to offer, stop by the beaches at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. Rent a surfboard and head to the beach for an unforgettable experience. There’s even a beach named after a local surfing legend, further cementing Sunset Cliffs’ deep roots in San Diego’s surfing culture.

As the name implies, the geography here is very cliffy, with many bluffs, sea caves, and rock formations both along the shoreline and in the ocean. You might not have much luck trying to sunbathe here, but the conditions are perfect for more experienced surfers looking for an exciting test of their skills.

If you’re interested in watching expert surfers but you’re not ready for the Sunset Cliffs waves just yet, you can take lessons at a nearby surf school to get the hang of surfing in a more controlled environment.

While surfing is the primary draw of the beaches, low tide often brings a lull in surfing. It’s the perfect time to walk the beach and look for tide pools, where you can see the different aquatic creatures normally hiding under the waves.

You can also walk the park’s hiking trails, or grab a pair of binoculars and try to catch a glimpse of the California grey whales that migrate through the area.

The best time of year to see the whales in December to April but it is possible to see them any time of the year. It’s truly a sight to behold and something not to miss on your visit to San Diego. Grab a spot on the cliffs and look out to sea or join a whale watching tour for your best shot at catching this once in a lifetime event!

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The Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Area

Sunset Cliffs is about 20 minutes away from Downtown San Diego, and just 10 minutes from the San Diego International Airport. It lies along the peninsula just a few miles to the west. Surfing is a huge draw, but many visitors also come to explore the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park itself, which is full of scenic views and amazing photo shoot opportunities.

If you’re interested in hiking, the park offers a three-mile trail that spans the length of the shoreline. Despite having to walk along the cliffside, it’s relatively family-friendly without many difficult slopes or rugged paths. The area is full of great trails for day trips and views if you’re looking for some of the best hikes in San Diego.

The neighborhood’s close proximity to Downtown San Diego and the surrounding area means there’s lots to do, especially if you decide to save money by purchasing a Go San Diego Pass. Use our link and get an additional discount off of great gear rentals and your admission to nearby San Diego attractions such as the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Museum of Art, and many other popular venues.

The Kona Kai Resort & Spa is an excellent family-friendly hotel that keeps you close to the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park beaches. It features a pool, spa, direct beach access with lounge chairs and towels, a fitness center with classes, and free WiFi in both the lobby and rooms.

Surfing at Sunset Cliffs


The breaks and reefs off the coast of the Sunset Cliffs beaches make the waves especially good and sometimes big, so they might not be the best choice for beginner surfers. However, surfers with more experience under their belts will find a lot to enjoy here.

Wipeouts can be dangerous in some areas with rocky reefs on the ocean floors, but the feeling of conquering an intimidating wave is enough to get many surfers to take the risk.


Sunset Surf at Garbage Beach
Despite its unappealing name, Garbage Beach is an amazing spot for surfers. The waves here are very large with fast breaks, so the beach is best suited to experienced surfers. The reef break at AB’s is even trickier. You can also check out the tide pools in the rocky shoreline.
Five Surfers Going to Catch Some Waves at Nubes
New Break, often shortened to Nubes, features plenty of fast and long right-hand waves. The swells here can be as large as 10 or 12 feet in the right conditions. If you’re not surfing, you can watch experienced surfers, look for tide pools, or enjoy the gorgeous cliffside scenery.


The Arch at Osprey Point, Sunset Cliffs
Luscomb’s Point, named after the surfer Happy Luscomb, is an excellent place to experience San Diego surfing culture, as is Osprey Point. Both beaches offer fairly challenging waves as well as scenic backdrops often used for small weddings. At No Surf Beach, you can see some amazing tide pools instead.

Featured Activity

Gray Whale Statues outside Birch Aquarium
Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Birch Aquarium at Scripps features over 60 exhibits of the fish and creatures of the Pacific Northwest, as well as the tropical waters of Mexico. Enjoy interactive exhibits that focus on the ocean, climate and the Earth.
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Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Beaches
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The Inn at Sunset Cliffs
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The Inn at Sunset Cliffs
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