14 Best Places to Watch the Sunset in San Diego

From beaches to cliffs & the best spots in between, take a beautiful picture at the top 14 best locations for watching the sunset over the Pacific in San Diego.
14 Best Places to Watch the Sunset
Breathtaking Sunsets
The 14 Best Spots
Save on Tours
Featured Hotel
Tours & Adventures

Watch the Painted Sky At Sunset In San Diego

Beach Boardwalk during Sunset in Front of Hotel del CoronadoSunset from a Trail at Torrey Pines State Reserve

While San Diego is best known for its year-round blue skies and sunny weather, the city is still plenty active as the sun begins to set. In fact, given its close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, San Diego is considered one of the best spots in the world to watch the transition from day to night.

The area's scenic locales like its beaches, piers, boardwalks, cliffs, and even mountain summits provide the perfect setting for watching a sunset that looks like it’s right out of a postcard, a movie or even your favorite calendar!

Pacific Beach Pier from Above
Pacific Beach Pier from Above

There’s nothing quite like watching the sunset over one of San Diego’s piers or at one of the more than 78 incredible San Diego area beaches. The shoreline facing the western sky makes San Diego an ideal location for catching a colorful sunset as the sun disappears over the horizon.

The best part of all may be that this activity is totally free and pairs perfectly with some of our other favorite choices for the best free things to do in San Diego.

After a memorable day exploring San Diego, there truly is no better way to close out a day than with the changing colors on the horizon offered during a San Diego sunset. The experience is truly something you won’t want to miss!

Make Lifelong Memories At the 14 Best Spots for Watching the Sunset

Whether you’re seeking a romantic setting for a couples’ night out, you’re traveling with family and looking to wrap up a fantastic day exploring town, or you’re an amateur photographer looking for a truly special shot, San Diego sunsets can’t be beat!

From the pier, mountaintop, bluff, and beach, here are the most breathtaking locations for sunsets around San Diego.

Nature and Sunsets at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
Nature and Sunsets at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

1) Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

San Diego Parks & Nature: Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is one of the best spots in Point Loma to get a great view of the Pacific Ocean, which of course means you can also catch an amazing view of the sunset over the water!

You can watch the sunset from the beach if you prefer, but for the best view, you’ll want to head up to the area’s namesake sandstone cliffs, where you’ll get a birds’ eye perspective of the waves as they turn golden and red with the setting sun.

You should not scale the cliffs as there can be unsteady ground and it also causes the cliffs to erode faster. Potentially dangerous areas will have caution signs posted nearby, so steer clear of any unsteady spots and stick to sturdier vantage points.

Do know that there are plenty of safe and accessible spots to bring the entire family to enjoy a sunset from the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. The colors atop the cliffs can be so exceptional that watching a sunset from the park is one of our choices for the best things to do in all of San Diego.

PB Pier at Sunset at North Pacific Beach
PB Pier at Sunset at North Pacific Beach

2) All the Piers in San Diego; Oceanside Pier, Crystal Pier, Ocean Beach Pier

Beach: Pacific Beach

Many of San Diego’s best beaches have their own piers that extend out into the ocean. You can walk down the pier and settle at the edge, dangling your feet over the water and doing some fishing during the day, but in the evening these piers become hotspots for locals and tourists alike looking for the perfect backdrop for a sunset photo.

Top spots to watch the sunset include Oceanside Pier, Ocean Beach Pier, and Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach. In addition to providing an amazing view of the setting sun, there are plenty of ways to entertain yourself along the pier and attached beaches during the afternoon, from surfing and sunbathing to kayaking and paddleboarding.

The heavy traffic at these piers from fishermen means there are many local restaurants around as well, so you can enjoy dinner while you take in the scenery.

Beach Boardwalk during Sunset in Front of Hotel del Coronado
Beach Boardwalk during Sunset in Front of Hotel del Coronado

3) Coronado Beach and Hotel Del Coronado

Hotel: Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton

Even though Coronado Island isn’t technically a totally waterlocked island, it’s still easy to feel like you’re surrounded by the ocean when you visit it, especially once you step out onto Coronado Beach. This laid-back, sandy beach is practically perfect, offering a picturesque swath of shoreline that’s only complimented by the golden hues of the setting sun.

For an even better experience, book a night at the famous Hotel Del Coronado, and make sure to catch the sunset. A stay at the Hotel Del Coronado with a sunset over water is truly one of the best things to do in San Diego!

The Hotel Del Coronado, also known as simply The Del, is an attraction all on its own, and seeing the sunset from the balcony of your own private room is a truly unforgettable experience. Guests of the hotel can enjoy beach bonfires and even sip cocktails from the hotel bar with their toes in the sand, which makes for a completely relaxing and luxurious evening on this beautiful beach.

Sunsetting Just North of the La Jolla Cove
Sunsetting Just North of the La Jolla Cove

4) La Jolla Cove

Beach: La Jolla Cove

The neighborhood of La Jolla is best known for its miles of coastline, many of which offer world-class waves and exciting surfing conditions. However, that’s far from all there is to do in town, especially if you’re planning on staying at La Jolla Cove past sunset.

In addition to being a great spot to swim and watch local wildlife, La Jolla Cove is also one of the best places in town for catching a truly incredible sunset. Cast your eyes out over the Pacific as the sun goes down, or set up for an idyllic commemorative photo in one of San Diego’s most beautiful beaches.

Here, you’ll get a great view of the sunset between either end of the cove, no matter where you settle on the beach. Stretch out and take in the scenery in total comfort with a sunset experience at La Jolla Cove, another one of the best things to do in San Diego during your next visit to the area.

Sunset from Mount Soledad in La Jolla
Sunset from Mount Soledad in La Jolla

5) Mount Soledad

Neighborhood: La Jolla

Not far up the way from La Jolla Cove, you’ll find the La Jolla Natural Park settled on top of Mount Soledad.

Famous in its own right for being the last place Dr. Seuss lived, Mount Soledad is also beloved by locals and tourists alike because it provides an amazing panoramic view of the ocean and beaches below. This view offers an unparalleled way to see the sunset, as everywhere you look, you’ll see miles and miles of ocean waves turned scarlet-hued in the setting sun.

Mount Soledad is considered one of San Diego’s hidden gems, and it more than earns the title! Any sunset viewed from the heights of the mountain is one you won’t forget anytime soon, so this breathtaking experience is well worth the trip if you’re already in or planning to visit the La Jolla neighborhood.

Sunset Harbor Cruise in San Diego Bay
Sunset Harbor Cruise in San Diego Bay

6) Sunset Cruises on San Diego Bay

San Diego Tours: 13 Best San Diego Harbor Cruises & Boat Tours

It’s nice enough to see the sunset over the ocean from the shore, but there are also ways to see it while sailing right in San Diego Bay.

Notably, many harbor cruises operate around sunset for exactly this reason, as passengers climb aboard to check out an unforgettable sight while also enjoying a fun and informative cruise around the bay.

Harbor cruises come in many different forms, from harbor tours narrated by live guides to more relaxing cruises that set the mood with music and wine. Some cruises even provide passengers with dinner, so you can eat on the waves while also enjoying the beautiful sunset.

However you choose to cruise, be sure to check out the deals offered with the Go City San Diego pass for discounts on various popular tours both in the harbor and around the city.

Beautiful Sunset at Iconic Windansea Surf Shack
Beautiful Sunset at Iconic Windansea Surf Shack

7) Windansea Beach

Beach: Windansea Beach

Home to a surf shack that stands as a historical landmark and world-renowned surfing conditions, Windansea Beach attracts attention from all over the world, and has been the location of many professional surfing competitions. However, those that remain on the beach until nightfall have the chance to see another side of this iconic coastline that many of its visitors can easily miss.

Watching the sunset at Windansea Beach is truly magical, as the shore is transformed from a bustling surfers’ hangout to a serene locale teeming with natural beauty. The rocky coastline and likely presence of a few surfers still enjoying the waves makes for a unique snapshot to commemorate your time in La Jolla, whether you take a family photo or you simply commit the scene to memory.

Sunset from the Boardwalk in North Pacific Beach
Sunset from the Boardwalk in North Pacific Beach

8) Pacific Beach & Mission Beach Boardwalk

Beach: North Pacific Beach

The boardwalk that connects Pacific Beach and Mission Beach spans 3 miles. Whether you’re at the boardwalk in Belmont Park to play carnival games, buy hot food from vendors, or do some window shopping, you’ll also want to stop and enjoy the scenery, especially as the sun goes down.

During sunset, you can walk right to the western side of the boardwalk to get an uninterrupted view of the sun setting over the beach, and watch as its rays are reflected on the ocean waves, mingling with the lights of the boardwalk’s attractions to create a natural work of art.

Note that the boardwalk has heavy foot traffic at all times of the day in the high season, so it’s not the most peaceful place to take in the view. However, if you can find a more secluded spot, the sunset is truly awe-inspiring here and well worth the trip!

Boardwalk in Front of Seaport Village on the Embarcadero
Boardwalk in Front of Seaport Village on the Embarcadero

9) Embarcadero Boardwalk

Neighborhood: Embarcadero San Diego

Right along the San Diego Bay, you can enjoy incredible views of the water all along the length of the Embarcadero. For the best views, though, you’ll want to visit at sunset so you can see how the sun casts a wide array of beautiful colors that seep right into the bay, making for a truly stunning sight.

This area is teeming with attractions and activities to keep you entertained while waiting for dusk to fall. One option is to do some shopping in Seaport Village, which is filled with eclectic shops and local, handmade goods. Another choice that might appeal to history buffs and naval fanatics is to visit the USS Midway Museum and Maritime Museum of San Diego, both of which are part of the Go City San Diego pass, which provides all San Diego visitors with discounted admission on these attractions.

Use our discount code - GVSD5OFF, for an added savings on top of what the Go City San Diego Pass offers to the general public.

There’s something truly unique and special about watching the sunset at the Embarcadero boardwalk. It’s not only that it’s part of the Downtown San Diego area, which includes nearby bustling neighborhoods like the Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy and Harborview, but also that the harbor is in motion. The glistening of the city lights from behind and the potential for ships and sailboats in view make this San Diego sunset location one you won’t want to miss!

Amazing Sunset at Palisades Park at Law Street in Pacific Beach
Amazing Sunset at Palisades Park at Law Street in Pacific Beach

10) Palisades Park at Law Street Beach in Pacific Beach

Neighborhood: Pacific Beach

Palisades Park is tucked away by North Pacific Beach, right off Law Street. The beach itself is very large with many access points, but if you want the best view of the sunset, head to the ramp connecting Law Street Beach to the grassy stretch of park a few feet inland.

At this special location, you can set up for a picnic or barbecue dinner while you await the evening and the park’s true main attraction in the sky.

Catching a sunset at Palisades Park is truly spectacular, as the scenic surroundings contribute to providing a picture perfect view. Do keep in mind that North Pacific Beach can get very crowded during the high season, especially on the weekends, so you’ll want to arrive early to secure your spot.

Alternatively, you can check out this amazing sunset on a weekday, when there will be fewer interruptions and distractions.

Beautiful Sunset at Bird Rock
Beautiful Sunset at Bird Rock

11) Bird Rock

Beach: Bird Rock Beach

La Jolla’s Bird Rock is a famous point break for surfers in the area, but the neighborhood and beach tend to be less heavily trafficked than others in the area. Less visitors and foot traffic around makes for a more secluded and serene atmosphere, perfect for a quiet close to afternoon of fun in San Diego. The area embodies the typical laid-back surfer vibe of Southern California, making it the perfect place for enjoying the sunset.

One especially ideal spot in Bird Rock is the La Jolla Hermosa Park, which has plenty of benches facing the ocean out to the west, as well as bbq grills perfect for a dinner picnic in the grass. The park can get a little more crowded on the weekends, but these crowds typically thin by the evening, so you should be able to enjoy the sunset undisturbed.

Another great option is to head over to Bird Rock Beach and snap some unique pictures of Bird Rock silhouetted against the warm colors of the sky as the sun sets over the horizon.

Deep Red and Orange Sunset at Torrey Pines State Reserve
Deep Red and Orange Sunset at Torrey Pines State Reserve

12) Torrey Pines State Reserve

San Diego Parks & Nature: Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Visiting Torrey Pines State Reserve is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in nature and see local wildlife in the northern reaches of La Jolla and just south of the beachside city of Del Mar. There are plenty of incredible hiking trails so you can spend your day staying active and traversing through miles of beautiful natural scenery untouched by development, and then top off your day with a stop to watch the sunset.

One of the best spots in the reserve for enjoying the sunset is from the Torrey Pines Gliderport, which is high up on the cliffs and offers a stunning view of the trails and ocean below. From this high vantage point, you can look down on the world as it’s bathed in warm hues and take a few selfies with an incredible backdrop during golden hour.

There are benches set up when you want to rest your legs after a long day of hiking, but you can also spread a blanket out on the grass and recline.

Sunrise from Cowles Mountain at Mission Trails Regional Park
Sunrise from Cowles Mountain at Mission Trails Regional Park

13) Cowles Mountain at Mission Trails Regional Park

San Diego Parks & Nature: Mission Trails Regional Park

Cowles Mountain is the highest spot in San Diego at a towering 1,590 feet, so it’s a no-brainer that seeing the sunset from such a high location would be an incredible memory. Sunrises are a thing here as well, as you can see from this beautiful photo.

To reach Cowles Mountain’s summit, you’ll need to commit to a 3-mile uphill hike through Mission Trails Regional Park, which takes about 1-1.5 hours depending on your walking speed. It’s fairly short and not especially difficult compared to some other hikes in the area, but even if you’re not a well-seasoned hiker, it’s a challenge that’s well worth meeting head on, if only to enjoy the spectacular view from atop the mountain.

Be sure to bring snacks or even a picnic dinner with you while you hike, so you can rest at the summit and refuel while you look out at the sunset. On a clear day, you can see miles out into the city and beyond.

If you want to experience the sunset from the summit, remember to bring a headlamp or a flashlight so you can make your way down after dark without any issues.

Sunset over Boats in the Harbor on Shelter Island
Sunset over Boats in the Harbor on Shelter Island

14) Shelter Island & Harbor Island Boardwalk

Neighborhood: Point Loma

Situated in San Diego Bay in the Point Loma neighborhood, Shelter Island and Harbor Island feel like tropical paradises tucked away in a bustling town. The boardwalk is an especially popular attraction here, as it has plenty of places to set up a picnic as well as a few restaurants and hotels. If you really want to see something special, though, stick around until nightfall and catch the sunset off the side of the boardwalk!

Sit back and relax as you take in the gorgeous view, complete with a backdrop of boats sailing around the bay. The area is especially beautiful as it becomes bathed in warm orange and red light.

If you’re looking for a unique way to enjoy the sunset from the area, make a reservation at an outdoor seating restaurant - you can enjoy a delicious meal and watch dusk settle with a cocktail in hand.

Go Hiking with Go Pass!
San Diego Hiking Tour
San Diego Hiking Tour
San Diego is not just sunny beaches, but home to some of the best hiking in the country. With Go Pass, choose from two trails for your hike. Mission Trails Regional Park and Tecolote Canyon Trails offer trails for beginners and experts!
Buy Now
Local Tips
What activities does the Go City San Diego pass include?

There’s a variety of activities included with the Go City San Diego pass such as: The San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, LEGOLAND, SeaWorld, Hiking Tours, Whale Watching, Museum Tours, Speed Boat Adventures & more!

For the most popular attractions and water-sport rentals as well as the biggest discounts, consider the All-Inclusive Pass.

Use our exclusive discount code GVSD5OFF to save an extra 5%!

Important Tips for Making Your Sunset Viewing Experience Memorable

While you can technically watch the sunset from anywhere, sunsets in San Diego often feel like an especially magical experience. These tips will help you maintain the magic and get lost in the breathtaking view.

Loving Hiking at Mission Trails Regional Park
Loving Hiking at Mission Trails Regional Park

Don’t Forget a Camera

The sunsets in San Diego are truly spectacular, and simply committing the image to memory may not do it justice. In the days of smartphones, it seems like everyone has a camera in their pocket and we highly recommend bringing yours when you plan to catch the sunset in San Diego.

Smartphone cameras will work and DSLR cameras can also be an incredible choice for capturing some new pictures for your social media feeds, as you won’t find many better backdrops.

The Boardwalk at the Embarcadero, a Great Place to Walk or Run
The Boardwalk at the Embarcadero, a Great Place to Walk or Run

Ways to Save During your Vacation

Additional ways to save during your vacation include staying at the city’s best budget-friendly hotels and picking up a Go City San Diego Pass in advance, so you get discounted admission to many of the most popular attractions around town and can try the many fun activities available with discounted gear rentals as well.

As you wait for the sun to go down on one of the area beaches or in one of the picturesque seaside towns, rent a surfboard, kayak, or stand up paddleboard, or check out popular seaside attractions like the San Diego Harbor Cruise and surf lessons. All these activities and more are part of the All-inclusive version of the Go City San Diego pass and great ways to spend an afternoon before the sunset.

Aerial Shot of Sunset in Mission Beach
Aerial Shot of Sunset in Mission Beach

Watch the Weather

If you’re making a special trip to a great sunset viewing location, such as hiking up Cowles Mountain, make sure you do so on a clear day for the best views.

You’ll also want to avoid hiking in the mid-afternoon during the summer as temperatures can reach well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit on the hottest days, so it’s best to let things cool down before you start walking.

Nature and Sunsets at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
Nature and Sunsets at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

Arrive Early

The best sunset spots in San Diego, such as Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, La Jolla Cove and the many piers are popular and the best spots to watch at those locations can disappear well before the official sunset time. Plan to arrive an hour before sunset to claim the best spots and consider bringing a picnic or at least water and snacks so you can fully enjoy the experience.

The festival of colors offered over the Pacific Ocean and setting sun begins earlier than some think. By arriving with plenty of time to spare, you’ll be able to have the full experience!

Featured Hotel
Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton
Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton
Beachfront
Beachfront
Families
Families
Historic
Historic
4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars
It doesn’t get any more iconic in San Diego than the Hotel Del Coronado. This luxury hotel is what other hotels strive to be. Treat yourself to this experience.
Prices Starting at $325
Check Availability
Looking to Save on Tickets?
Save on Tickets
Explore all that San Diego has to offer & save up to 55% on attractions
This Month's Forecast
66°F / 82°F
Sunny in September
Oct
61°F / 81°F
Sunny in October
Nov
53°F / 75°F
Sunny in November
Dec
48°F / 69°F
Sunny in December
Tours & Adventures
San Diego Harbor Cruise
San Diego Harbor Cruise
$36 per person
Buy Now
Coronado Bay & Beach Walking Tour
Coronado Bay & Beach Walking Tour
$55 per person
Buy Now
Looking for Something Different?
More Best of Things to Do