Anyone who’s spent time in Southern California has no doubt why people decide to call it home. In and around San Diego, cool breezes and picture-perfect scenic views are commonplace. For those who are willing to do a little digging, there are more dazzling treasures to discover.
All We Do Is Beach, Beach Beach!
There are more than 30 beaches in San Diego County. Each one has a unique charm. But not all beaches have what it takes to produce the perfect picture. If you’re looking for a next-level beach backdrop, here are a few spots that are guaranteed to fit the bill.
1. LOS PENASQUITOS CANYON PRESERVE
Located just about 20 minutes north of the city’s center, Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve is a perfect place to get your ‘gram on! The grounds offer visitors a waterfall, a stand of enormous California live oaks, and plenty of plant and animal life. The canyon is the perfect spot for photos, as the landscape includes a super diverse selection of terrains.
2. PACIFIC BEACH
If you ask your average person to close their eyes and imagine a California beach, Pacific Beach is what they’ll picture. With surfers, sunbathers, and sand for days, this is the quintessential spot for beach lifestyle photos.
3. OCEAN BEACH
There’s always been a hippie/bohemian crowd who flock to beaches. Bonfires, drum circles, and bare feet abound at this counter-culture hot spot.
4. BLACK’S BEACH/TORREY PINES
Along with the coast and waves, this secluded clothing optional beach just north of La Jolla also features hiking trails. For Surfers, Black’s Beach has the best and most consistent waves in San Diego.
5. MISSION BEACH
Not everyone is into long stretches of secluded coastline. If boardwalks and nightlife with sun and surf in the background is your kind of photo, Mission Beach is the spot for you. You’ll also find several AirBnBs here with stunning beach views.
6. SUNSET CLIFFS
As the name suggests, this place is perfect for those with a love of stunning cliffs and expansive ocean views. It’s an excellent spot for a sunset selfie.
Insider Tip: If you’re not careful, staying the night right next to a beautiful Southern California beach is a treat that boasts a hefty price tag. The San Diego hostel scene offers a great way to stay in prime locations without breaking the bank. Any hostel in San Diego will offer savings compared to a traditional hotel. But when you’re talking about a Pacific beach hostel or a downtown San Diego hostel, the money you’ll save is seriously significant.
7. ANZA-BORREGO DESERT STATE PARK
Not for the faint of heart. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park isn’t in the city, proper. It’ll take you nearly two hours to drive there from downtown, and the most Instagrammable spots will require you to do some hiking. But if gorgeous scenery and breathtaking native flowers are your thing, the extra effort is a small price to pay.
8. CABRILLO NATIONAL MONUMENT
If a drive to the desert is too much, here’s a closer spot that offers excellent photo ops. The Cabrillo National Monument sits at the southernmost place on the Point Loma peninsula and is easily one of the best Instagram spots in San Diego. Its beautiful lighthouse, low-tide pools, and picture-perfect views are just minutes away from San Diego’s center. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars; this is an excellent spot for whale watching.
9. SAN DIEGO ZOO
When it comes to social media — and Instagram in particular — you can’t go wrong with cute animal photos. Penguins, tigers, lions, sloths, hippos, reptiles — the San Diego Zoo animals have been delighting visitors of all ages for more than 100 years. And while the zoo isn’t free, it’s nice to know that the money you spend there goes toward research and scientific efforts to ensure the species you see have a safe habitat for years to come.
10. SAN DIEGO SAFARI PARK
The San Diego Safari Park is a part of the San Diego Zoo system. But since it’s located 35 miles away and offers an entirely different environment, it’s a notable Instagram location all on its own. The Safari Park offers a different kind of animal experience. You can even take behind-the-scenes tours where you’ll get close to some of the park’s most interesting residents.
11. UC SAN DIEGO’S STUART COLLECTION
The University of California’s San Diego location offers a pic-taking powerhouse in installation art known as the Stuart Collection. You’ll find giant sculptures nestled throughout the 1,200-acre campus. A self-guided tour of the Stuart Collection is a great way to spend an afternoon. And a perfect place to take pics your friends are going to love.