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The 5 Best Photography Spots in San Diego

Discover the best places in San Diego to set up your camera.

By: Dustin Kahia + Save to a List

It's no accident that San Diego is the eighth largest city in the U.S. and second largest in California. The weather is great. The scenery is beautiful. You've got the city and Pacific Ocean to your west, but you've also got mountains to the east. No wonder San Diego is known as "America's Finest City." There's so much to see and experience in San Diego, which is why it's one of the world's top tourist destinations. San Diego offers a wide array of beautiful locations, locations that look great in photos. Use this guide to find the best locations in San Diego to set up your camera. 

All photos seen below were taken by me (@dustinkahia). 

1. Scripps Pier 

Also known as the "Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier," the Scripps Pier is a no brainer — it's one of the world's largest research piers. It's great for sunsets, easy access, but also attracts a ton of people, making it difficult, at times, to get a shot without any intruders. When I took this photo, there was a ton of people walking around. However, I found that if you set up your tripod and "pretended to take pictures," most people were respectful of that fact. Others, not so much — some people just didn't care. Either way, it is possible to capture great sunset shots without any intruders in the frame. In case you were wondering, yes, at a certain time of the year, the sun passes directly through the pier.

2. Coronado Bridge

Built in 1967, this historic San Diego bridge offers a great perspective for sunrise shots. It's no Golden Gate Bridge, but in the early morning hours, this bridge really stands out as something unique. The perspective of this shot was taken on the Coronado-side of the bridge near the Coronado Tidelands Park. To arrive at this precise location, you'll have to climb over a few obstacles (mostly rocks) near the shoreline. Be sure to where a good pair of boots that are waterproof — there's a slight chance your shoes could get wet.

3. Salk Institute for Biological Sciences

Founded in 1960 by Jonas Salk (the developer of the polio vaccine), the Salk Institute is an independent, non-profit, scientific research institute located in La Jolla. I think this image speaks for itself — it's all about the symmetry and unique architecture. Easy access. Closed on weekends and holidays. 

4. Cabrillo Bridge 

The Cabrillo Bridge is a historic pedestrian and automobile bridge providing access between Balboa Park and Uptown San Diego. It's a great place to capture moody images at dawn. In general, Balboa Park is a great place to capture cool images. Another great spot, within this park, is the Botanical Building — it's a short 10-minute (0.4 miles) walk from the Cabrillo Bridge. 

5. Sunrise Highway and Mount Laguna.

Just to prove that San Diego is not all city life and beaches, I've included one of my favorite wilderness destinations located within the Cleveland National Forest (about 55 miles due east of Downtown San Diego). Driving through this area makes you forget that you're still in San Diego. It's very different. Complete with various campgrounds, pine trees, cabins, hiking trails, and significant snowfall during the winter months, Mount Laguna is a place worth visiting. Now mind you, it's no Rocky Mountains National Park, but it does offer a different perspective of San Diego, one that most people (even locals) fail to ever see. The shot above was taken along Sunrise Highway, a scenic route (located just off Highway 79 about 3-miles from Lake Cuyamaca). 

Closing Note:

By now, I'm sure you've realized that San Diego has a lot to offer. It's not just "one note." There are many amazing places to see and visit — by no means have I listed everything that San Diego has to offer. As a San Diego native, these are just some of my personal favorites, but be sure to explore around and do your own research — see what works for you. There's a lot to see. 

To see more of my images, please check out my Instagram (@dustinkahia) or visit my website (www.dustinkahia.com).

Adventure on!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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