With so many places to catch a picturesque waterfront sunset, almost every palm tree–lined spot could be considered a great location, but there are a few that stand out above the rest. From downtown to North County piers, here are the best sunset spots in San Diego County—listed south to north.
Tips for Watching a San Diego Sunset
To get your best San Diego sunset experience, pick a clear day and give yourself plenty of time to find your spot before the sun goes down (be sure to check the current sunrise and sunset times). Remember: Sunset watching is popular in San Diego, so plan to add a bit of time for parking and scouting out the best spot. If you’re headed to a waterfront or rooftop restaurant, make a reservation to ensure you get a sunset seat—and time it so you sit down 30-45 minutes before the sun goes down. If you’re hiking or picnicking, bring food or drinks, warmer clothing layers and potentially a light if it’s going to get dark before you make it back to your car.
The Best Sunset Spots in San Diego
Hotel del Coronado
Good to know: Hotel del Coronado sits at the southern end of Coronado Beach. Parking is free along Ocean Boulevard, or you can pay $20 to self-park for two hours in the north garage at the hotel.
Coronado is known for its five sparkling white-sand beaches that stretch along the west side of the peninsula jutting into San Diego Bay. Fun fact: The beaches sparkle because of the abundance of the mineral mica in the sand. While Coronado Beach (also called Central Beach) is a wide, popular beach that’s great for watching San Diego sunsets, you can also enjoy the show from this famous red-roofed resort itself. Try the cocktails next to the fire pits on the Hotel del’s Sun Deck or the large outdoor patio at Babcock & Story Bar.
San Diego Embarcadero
Location: Downtown San Diego
Good to know: The Embarcadero stretches along the water in downtown San Diego. Parking can be difficult downtown, though there are several private lots and some street parking available around Waterfront Park.
Whatever kind of sunset experience you’re looking for, you can find it along the San Diego Embarcadero. Let the kids play in the sprinklers at Waterfront Park. Check out the tall ships at the Maritime Museum. You can even take a cruise out to watch the sunset from the water. Or enjoy your San Diego sunset from the restaurants at the Portside Pier: Ketch Grill & Taps serves pub fare inside a striking glass dome; Topsail has a rooftop terrace and offers cocktails and seafood small plates; and Brigantine Seafood & Oyster Bar is known for its award-winning fish tacos.
Sunset Point Park
Location: Mission Bay
Good to know: Sunset Point, located next to The Dana on Mission Bay hotel, has a small park and fire pits, and it tends to be a quieter spot for sunset picnicking. The hotel has a public parking lot for easy access.
As the name suggests, Sunset Point (sometimes called Mission Bay Park) is a great place to watch the San Diego sun go down. Tucked into Mission Bay near SeaWorld San Diego, the park has a small sandy beach with fire pits for an evening bonfire and a grassy park for picnics. If you’re looking for more excitement, head across the bridge to Mission Beach, a busy neighborhood with a long waterfront boardwalk. Or rent a kayakand watch the sunset while paddling on Mission Bay.
Location: Point Loma
Good to know: Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is a narrow 1.5-mile stretch of bluffs along the west coast of Point Loma, with a main park at the southern end, at Ladera Street. You can park there or at the small lot at Osprey Street or at the parking spots at Luscomb Point.
Arrive early to find your perfect San Diego sunset spot at these iconic cliffs. There’s a path along the top of the cliffs, along with stairs in a few spots to walk down to the beach, or just spread out a picnic blanket in the grass. If the tides are negative, then the Sunset Cliffs Caves below Luscomb Point can be quiet and beautiful. To the north of Sunset Cliffs is the Ocean Beach pier, and to the south is the Cabrillo National Monument—both are great sunset alternatives.
Location: La Jolla
Good to know: With an entrance at the end of Nautilus Street in La Jolla, Windansea is a relatively hidden location, but it can get crowded at sunrise and sunset. Park on the neighborhood streets or at the spots on Neptune Place.
A local La Jolla sunset favorite, Windansea Beach is a picturesque area with rocky cliffs, white sand, and tide pools at low tide. Riptides can be very strong, though, so while you may see experienced surfers out on the waves, proceed with caution before getting wet. As the sun sets in San Diego, this little oasis becomes golden-tinged and looks like you stepped into a photograph.
Location: La Jolla
Good to know: The Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial is open daily until 10 p.m. and admission is free.
Standing atop Mount Soledad gives you a 360-degree perspective from the highest coastal point in San Diego, creating a perfect view of the sun setting over both the ocean and the mountains to the east. On top of the hill above La Jolla sits the 29-foot Mt. Soledad cross—a version of which has stood there for over a century.
Location: La Jolla
Good to know: Take Torrey Pines Park Road north of UCSD and park at the visitor’s center. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve does close after sunset, so make your way quickly and safely (with lights!) back to your car once the sun goes down. No dogs or pets are allowed. Whatever trash you bring in, take out with you.
Torrey Pines covers 1,500 acres of land preserved for the original habitats and animals of the area, including the rare Torrey pine. The reserve is made up of a gorgeous state beach and miles of cliffs and trails. One of the best places in San Diego to catch the sunset is at the top of those cliffs, on the Razor Point trail. Starting from the trailhead at the visitor’s center, it’s a little under 1.5 miles out to Razor Point, where you’ll be rewarded with dramatic views of the cliffs over the ocean. (The beach trail heads down to the water for an alternate sunset San Diego spot.)
Good to know: There’s a small parking lot off Highway 101 at the top of the beach. Take the long stairs down to the water. If the lot is full, neighborhood parking is available nearby.
The staircase at Swami’s beach in Encinitas attracts fitness enthusiasts most mornings and surfers whenever there’s a big swell—it’s a world-famous spot. It also makes for a great place to watch the sunset. The combination of cliffside palm trees, sandy beaches, and wave-riders in the foreground makes for a perfect San Diego sunset. You can park at the top of the cliffs and walk down the long steep staircase to the beach or admire the view from your perch up above.
Good to know: Make a reservation at Cordiano Winery before you go; parking is available at the winery. Take in the views on the drive along Highland Valley Road and bring warm clothes for when the sun goes down.
Highland Valley, located in the hills of Escondido in San Diego’s North County, features a handful of wineries that double as great sunset destinations. Cordiano serves a range of red, white, and dessert wines along with a menu of pasta and pizzas. The wine and food are served on an outdoor patio where there are heaters and blankets available if it gets chilly. Time is limited to two hours, but that should be plenty to admire an inland take on a San Diego County sunset.
Built in 1988, Oceanside’s 1,942-foot wooden pier is one of the longest on the West Coast, giving you lots of space to catch a sunset over the Pacific. Located north of San Diego near Camp Pendleton, Oceanside has developed into a lively coastal town, with numerous beaches, boutiques, breweries, and restaurants. After you watch one of the best San Diego sunsets around, get dinner at one of the many restaurants and breweries on Mission Avenue. Hello Betty serves classic pub grub while Craft Coast Beer & Tacos offers Baja-style tacos paired with local beer.
Sunsets in San Diego are popular because there’s something pretty special about watching the colors of the sky change over the Pacific Ocean. If you’re looking for more places to watch the sun drop below the horizon, check out Where to Watch a La Jolla Sunset. And if this inspired you to admire the water and San Diego view at all times of day, head to one of the best rooftop bars or waterfront restaurants in town and relax when the sun is still in the sky.