Looking for the best photo spots in San Diego?! Here’s a collection of iconic San Diego photography spots, colorful murals and street art, instagrammable cafes, restaurants, and bars, and even some secret local spots! My favorite San Diego instagram spots, coming right up!
It’s easy to see why everyone falls in love with San Diego — there’s endless sun, swaying palm trees, 70 miles of pristine beaches (!!!), and the weather’s nearly perfect year round. It’s the perfect laid-back beach city, and we’ve even thought about moving down there. It’s colorful, thriving, artistic, and all around cool. There’s a reason it’s widely known as “America’s Finest City.” And there’s tons of things to do here!
Every time I visit, I find myself scoping out the best photo spots in San Diego County. And there’s really something for everyone — colorful touristy murals, secret swings, mountains of succulents, and bright neon signs. Even a coffee shop that looks like it’s been pulled straight out of a 2D movie. So without further ado, here’s the best places to take pictures in San Diego. Don’t blame me if your San Diego itinerary is full of San Diego instagram spots!
Read Next: The Ultimate 3-Day San Diego Weekend Getaway Guide! Literally all my favorite spots in the city!
Iconic Photo Spots in San Diego
Kissing Sailor Statue
Located right on the waterfront, the “Unconditional Surrender” statue, more commonly known as the Kissing Sailor Statue, stands at a whopping 25 feet tall and 6,000 pounds. It’s so iconic to the city and one of those San Diego photo spots you just can’t miss! Perfect if you’ve got your significant other with you. Just make sure you work your angles right, you don’t want it to look like you’re looking up the nurse’s skirt!
The back story on this famous statue? It depicts a sailor in Times Square on V-J Day (Victory over Japan), and is actually based on a famous photo captured by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt in August 1945. It pays tribute to all the WWII veterans who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.
What most people don’t know is that there’s an identical copy of the statue in Sarasota, Florida!
La Jolla Sea Wall and Children’s Pool
Visiting San Diego for the first time?! You’ve gotta come to La Jolla and see the seals! We watched the seals (and their pups!) for over an hour (we kinda lost track of time) — they’re just so freakin’ cute! You can walk on the sea wall for a better view of them/the beach. If you walk a little further you’ll find the tide pools, another spot the sea lions like to hang out!
Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier
Just look at that pier — such a symmetrical beauty right on the beach! You also get the reflection of the beams in the wet sand, which is so fun for photography. Work those angles!
We parked on the main road (La Jolla Shores Drive), and walked down to the beach. The pier is huge so you can’t miss it. Remember — you (and your clothes) may get wet, so just keep that in mind!
Scripps Pier is especially beautiful during sunrise and sunset… but there’s usually some sort of professional photoshoot going on (weddings, engagements, etc), so don’t be surprised if you have to wait your turn. It’s one of the best San Diego photo spots for a reason! (La Jolla)
Spanish Village Art Center
Balboa Park is full of instagrammable places in San Diego, but I think the colorful tiles of the Artist Village have to be my all-time favorite! Strolling along the historic working studios (featuring over 200 local artists I might add) is one of the best ways to spend an afternoon — and plus, you’re guaranteed to get some great photos for the ‘gram!
Even the Spanish-style buildings and studios are painted in bright colors — so fun! (Balboa Park)
Botanical Building and Lily Pond
The Botanical Garden in Balboa Park is as iconic as it gets in San Diego. Definitely spend a few minutes inside. Not only are there an impressive amount of ferns and orchids and palm trees (more than 2,000!) under the domed ceiling, but it’s completely free to enter (unlike the Botanical Garden here in SF’s Golden Gate Park).
Then take some photos outside near the Lily Pond — it’s absolutely gorgeous on a warm, sunny day. (Balboa Park)
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
Natural cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean have got to be on this list of best photo spots in San Diego! I mean, just look at the photos above! And the best spot for that — Sunset Cliffs Natural Park of course. The orange-reddish of the sand compliments the crashing blue waves down below so beautifully.
Definitely one of the most instagrammable spots in San Diego for sunset photos! Just of course go on a clear day of course. You’ll get great views all along the coast on Sunset Cliffs Blvd (which is great for finding a parking spot). Level up and bring along a blanket and some snacks — such a romantic spot! It’s basically one giant sunset party every night!
There’s plenty of fun photo spots in San Diego’s Old Town! From the beautiful tiled steps of Toby’s Candles and the plant-filled Garden Coffee cafe to the old-school Cosmopolitan Hotel and lush cactus garden, it’s easy to head home with a whole bunch of great San Diego instagram photos. And whatever you do, don’t miss all the homemade artisan goods and pottery in the shops! Oh, and the warm, homemade tortillas!
Hotel Del Coronado
With its distinctive Victorian roof, perfect views of the beach and Pacific, and delicious cocktails (who am I kidding, you knew that was coming), Hotel Del easily makes it on this list of instagrammable spots in San Diego. And plus, the pristine beach is PUBLIC (for reals!!!!) with crystal white sand and there’s a beach bar and cabanas to rent! We like to come for drinks overlooking the water and pretend we’re posh for the day.
While the whole waterfront space is pretty cute, I loved taking photos with the colorful boxy houses on stilts on the water. It really felt like I was in Norway for a hot second there! There’s some flags and lots of shopping, too. And if you want some childhood fun, take a photo on the carousel — they’re not just for kids anymore!
Carlsbad Flower Fields
Flower lovers, you’re in for a real treat! Every year in early spring (typically mid-March to mid-May), the flower fields come alive just north of San Diego in nearby Carlsbad. Picture rows and rows of ranunculus. That cool ocean breeze. Sweet smells and that SoCal sun. Paradise does exist — in the form of 70 million pretty blooms! That’s the Carlsbad Flower Fields for ya!
One look at the field and it’s easy to see why it’s on this list of San Diego instagram spots. It’s SoCals annual burst of color (hello spring!), and I’m here for it! Visiting the Flower Fields had been on my California bucket list for ages, so I was thrilled when we finally visited last year!
Potato Chip Rock
I’m almost positive you’ve seen this iconic hike at least a few times on IG or Pinterest. I mean, it’s famous for resembling a potato chip — how bizarre! You’ll need to hike about 7 miles or so (trail rated moderate) to reach the photo spot you came here for, and I’m desperately hoping to do it next time I’m in the area. Definitely one of the most grueling photo spots in San Diego county, that’s for sure! Would you do it for the ‘gram?!
San Diego Instagram Spots: Murals and Art
So whimsical and oh so wild. Those California poppies are so damn gorgeous! While the ‘Hey Wildflower’ mural first attracted me to this neighborhood flower shop, don’t miss a chance to go inside — the stem bar is my favorite! Possibly the cutest flower shop I ever did see! I saw them making the most beautiful floral arrangements — if I lived nearby, I think I’d be ordering a huge bouquet for myself each and every week!
Psst — the flower shop doesn’t open until 10am, but you can always take a quick photo with the outside mural if you get there before opening. EASILY one of my favorite places to take pictures in San Diego, and one of the most popular San Diego instagram spots! (South Park)
A boutique plant shop you never knew you needed in your life. It’s super airy and fresh, full of all the plants and pots a girl could ever want. Along with trendy and chic home interior items — I could honestly spend my whole paycheck here.
But what makes it one of the best photo spots in San Diego? The soft pink ombre wall right outside! Look how perfect it is (great for a Valentine’s day photoshoot). And on the other side of that — the wall of succulents in planter boxes! Pigment’s easily one of my favorite instagram spots in San Diego, with tons of photo opps galore! (North Park)
Greetings from San Diego Mural
Just like we have a Greetings from San Francisco mural here in the Bay Area, San Diego’s got one as well! And it’s got all the iconic gems of San Diego you’d expect it to have — like the distinctive Victorian roof of the Hotel del Coronado, La Jolla cove, Ocean Beach pier, and even the U.S./Mexico border.
It’s literally a postcard painted on the wall, and easily one of the most iconic San Diego instagram spots! The mural’s easy to find in North Park (one of my favorite neighborhoods of San Diego), at the intersection of 30th and El Cajon Blvd. (North Park)
Smile You’re in San Diego
Doesn’t this mural just make you smile?! Such a staple of all the photo spots in San Diego — just look how colorful and fun it is! This one can be kinda difficult to photograph as it’s right in the middle of a busy parking lot, so there’ll most likely be cars blocking at least some of it. There was a HUGE truck parked there last time I visited, so we had to do the best we could! (Gaslamp)
East Village Murals
The East Village recently got a makeover — with tons and tons of paint. We especially loved this WOW mural (near Hotel Indigo Gaslamp), and I absolutely loved the colors and wild design of a different piece by EttaVee (but it’s unfortunately recently been vandalized and partially painted over).
All of these murals were painted by female muralists as part of the Ladies Who Paint initiative, hoping to bring more visibility to these talented female artists. Check out the East Village mural map, with locations of all 12 large-scale murals for even more instagram spots in San Diego. (East Village)
Out of all the instagram spots in San Diego, this one’s my new favorite. How can you not take a photo with the mural “You Are Radiant” showcased on the side of the shop?!
Be sure to pop into this Mexican gift/craft store after you’re done taking pics outside — it’s absolutely gorgeous inside and I promise you’ll find a few souvenirs to take home with you (especially if you can’t make it over to Mexico anytime soon). Don’t miss the ‘Love Yourself’ mural featuring Frida Khalo in the corner of the shop too! (North Park)
Favorite Color Mural
Walking around La Jolla Shores you can’t miss this mural by Roy McMakin. It’s playful, pretty simple, and was actually painted by asking random people their favorite color! Such a fun concept! Easily one of the most colorful photo spots in San Diego! Psst — there’s a whole slew of other murals in La Jolla perfect for your IG feed; check out this map for the others. I loved the piano fingers and abstract art but both were hard to photograph considering they’re pretty high up. (La Jolla)
What used to be occupied by the Navy and defense (during World War II), is now a special place for the residents (after some pretty complex history). There’s over 80 paintings on seven acres over here; such an unexpected explosion of color! I especially loved the paintings of Frida and the ‘All The Way to The Bay’ piece.
The park is home to the largest concentration of Chicano murals in the world — definitely one of the most surprising San Diego instagram spots on this list! And while you’re here, stand on line for a few authentic tacos and tamales from Las Cuatro Milpas — some of the best tacos we had while in San Diego! (Logan Heights)
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
I love visiting modern and contemporary art museums when traveling. And San Diego is no exception. There’s always something super out of the ordinary there! While the exhibits change all the time, you can be sure there’ll always be something instagram worthy!
Don’t miss the permanent boat sculpture that you can see on the back of the Museum at the La Jolla location — easily one of the best places to take pictures in San Diego. It looks wild and I definitely wanna check it out on my next visit.
Neighborhood Love SD Mural
You’ll find this fun and bright mural outside Matteo, a restaurant right on Juniper and 30th. It’s fun and punchy, reminding you to not take life too seriously. I love all the elements — look closely and you’ll find lots paying homage to the South Park neighborhood. Definitely worthy of a quick stop if you’re looking for the best photo spots in San Diego. (South Park)
I randomly stumbled upon this gem while on the hunt for other photo spots in San Diego, and just look at it! All those colors! It’s located on the wall of The Studio Door gallery alongside a few other murals — so take your pick and get on snapping! (North Park)
Quarantine Dreams Mural
A true homage to the crazy mess of 2020, we found this newly popped up mural when we were waiting in line at The Taco Stand in La Jolla! The piece shows a surfboard, a baseball, a suitcase, and other currently off-limit activities. Definitely makes you appreciate the times when we could just enjoy life without thinking twice. You’ll find artist Hanna Daly’s new mural, “Quarantine Dreams” at 627 Pearl Street.
Secret Instagram Spots in San Diego
La Jolla Hidden Swings #1
Swings with ocean views?! Please and thank you! There’s actually a few hidden swings in San Diego (3 to be exact!), but these ones are in La Jolla Village near the Birch Aquarium. MUCH easier to access than the other ones (see below).
Park in the back of the parking lot of the aquarium and you’ll find the secret swings just a short hike up from Expedition Way — it’s well worth it for the ocean views!
While the swings are taken down quite frequently, they’re continuously being rebuilt by locals. That’s why they always look different, with different paint jobs and sayings. One of the most hidden instagram spots in San Diego for sure. (La Jolla)
Spruce Street Suspension Bridge
A hidden historical footbridge on this list of instagrammable places in San Diego? Yup, there’s scenic views of the canyon below and the symmetry is just too good to pass up. You can even feel the bridge move when there’s multiple people on it. The bridge is pretty short so taking photos at this San Diego photo spot shouldn’t take too long.
Just remember to come early in the day as it gets busier later on. Although it’s hidden in a residential neighborhood (on the edge of Hillcrest), it’s easy to find on Google Maps. Shoot early or later in the day to avoid the harsh sunlight.
Casa del Prado
One look at this ornate building and you just know you gotta photograph it! What a beautiful combination of Spanish Baroque and Colonial architecture. The elaborate building is simply stunning and oh so glamorous, making it one of the best photo spots in San Diego, not just Balboa Park!
Try to frame your subject underneath the arches for a symmetrical look and to have them really stand out. This part of the park is usually pretty busy, but if you visit on a weekday, it’s not terribly hard to find a few moments to get your perfect shot!
Even if you’ve only got one day in San Diego, this is an absolute must! (Balboa Park)
North Park Plant Nursery
Easily one of the prettiest photo spots in San Diego if you’re obsessed with plants and flowers like me. The whole nursery is pretty instagrammable, but I loved the ‘Never Stop Growing’ sign and the cascading bougainvillea on the lime green door the most! It’s located directly to the left of Communal Coffee in North Park (see below), so if you’re going to one, definitely check out the other. (North Park)
La Jolla Coastal Walk/Hidden Swing #2
While the coastal walk is the star of the show, the hidden swing over here is (in my opinion), one of the most instagrammable places in San Diego. It literally hides in a palm tree grove, meaning you can’t see it right from the coastal walk.
Because of that, if you don’t know where you’re looking, you’ll 100% miss the short trail down! You’ll need to be wearing the right shoes and be able to use a rope to propel yourself down, but the short trek down to the secret swing is perfect if you want some new photos for your IG. Just know it’s STEEP and SLIPPERY!
I was too chicken to walk down, but I was wearing flimsy sandals so that’s my excuse. Next time! The photos do look epic though! One of the best places to take pictures in San Diego if you’re looking for something a bit different than everyone else! (La Jolla)
Spreckels Organ Pavilion
Tucked away in Balboa Park you’ll find the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, one of the most instagrammable places in San Diego. The building and its ornate architecture is oh so elegant and luxurious — you’ll feel like you stepped right into a fairytale in Seville, Spain!
While the organ itself is super impressive and worthy of a photograph, I especially loved the arches and beams towards the sides. No wonder tons of engagement and even wedding photoshoots happen here! (Balboa Park)
UCSD Geisel Library
Two words. Architectural masterpiece. A few more words: Brutalist-style inverted pyramid (yeah, whatever that means, haha). Thankfully the library buildings are open for everyone to enjoy! While you may be coming for the photos, just remember it’s 8 floors and houses over 7 million books, whoa!
Torrey Pines Gliderport and Mini Hike
Have you ever been paragliding before?! It’s so much fun! The gliderport is perched on a bluff above Black’s Beach in the nearby La Jolla neighborhood. I love watching those brave souls paraglide over the bluffs! Kinda like birds flying overhead!
If you take a left from the Gliderport, you’ll find a semi-hidden trail over there, with the most incredible landscapes (and even Alicia Keys’ house off in the distance). Just make sure you wear the right shoes — It’s a pretty steep hike down the sandstone cliffs. Let’s just say I needed some assistance in my sandals. (La Jolla)
Hidden Sunset Cliffs Sea Cave
An open ceiling sea cave right here in San Diego?! Yup! I read the cave could be pretty dangerous to visit, so definitely do your research ahead of time if this is on your San Diego bucket list. Psst — the caves are only accessible at negative tide, so be sure to look at the tide timetables.
My friend went on our girl’s trip to San Diego, and after looking at her photos, I really wish I had joined her on the adventure! One day! Definitely one of the more difficult photo spots in San Diego to reach, but don’t let that stop you.
La Valencia Hotel
Hollywood elite stay here, so what better place to take photos in San Diego than at a Mediterranean-inspired old-world luxury hotel?! And plus, the whole space is pink! Don’t miss the picturesque 11-story Spanish-tiled tower and the pool courtyard filled with flowers. (La Jolla)
Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Why am I sending you over to a functioning research facility? I promise you, it’s got some of the best architecture in all of the city for those epic San Diego instagram photos. It looks kinda futuristic, with clean lines, perfect symmetry, and neutral colors. Wear something bold to really pop in the picture!
I tend to gravitate towards the more colorful photo spots in San Diego, but I’m sure someone will love this spot.
Insta-Worthy Cafes and Bars
Communal Coffee (North Park)
Coffee and flowers? Yes, please! People claim the South Park location is way cuter, but I can’t get enough of the ‘Coffee + Flowers’ text in super bold font right outside. As well as the fact that it’s literally half floral shop, half coffee shop. Wear something colorful to stand out!
And plus, the coffee’s pretty damn great! The indoor space is divine (with lots of cute gifts), while the outdoor patio tables are against a soft colorful mural perfect for photo opps as well. (North Park)
Communal Coffee Airstream (South Park)
Yup, another Communal Coffee on this list, this one in South Park! But just look at it — the coffee bar is literally in a retro trailer. How could I not include both locations on this list of instagrammable places in San Diego?! One of my favorite places we visited during our 3 days in San Diego.
Don’t miss the letterboard in the back — the staff is always coming up with fun sayings and crazy puns! And like the location in North Park, make sure to take a look inside; there’s so much cute stuff I had a hard time putting my wallet down. Such a super bohemian neighborhood gem. (South Park)
Posh and perfect and pink! Literally everything pink and everything matcha in here, with a similar chic vibe to Cha Cha Matcha on Broadway in NYC! And quite honestly, it’s super hard to take a bad photo here! The leafy green wallpaper is such a vibe (I low-key want it for my bathroom).
Look out for the neon ‘You, Me, Matcha’ sign in the back. Psst — wear green or pink to really compliment the colors of the space. Go right when they open to get the place all to yourself! There’s actually two locations, one downtown (with a super fun floral wall) and one in North Park (where we went). ✔️
Better Buzz Coffee
This trendy coffee shop is a San Diego staple with lots of locations scattered throughout the city. I visited the La Jolla location, and boy was it instagrammable. From the massive neon BUZZ sign and the cheery pink tables (with marble counters) to the blue starburst tiles and cute pendant lights, I can’t think of a better place for coffee and photo spots in San Diego.
And thankfully, the drinks are pretty great too — my friend ordered the Mint Infused Iced Coffee and OMG was it good; tasted kinda similar to a Mint Mojito here in SF, iykyk. (La Jolla, Point Loma, Pacific Beach, Hillcrest)
Modern Times Coffee/The Invigatorium
Half coffee shop, half bar — what could be better?! I don’t think I’ve seen a coffee shop more eclectic than Invigatorium! There’s even a fire-breathing dragon and a life-size Ronald McDonald, as well as a flying pterodactyl hanging overhead and a golden palm tree and disco ball. Even the cups are super fun! (Gaslamp)
Wolfie’s Carousel Bar
This new bar in Little Italy is easily one of the most whimsical and instagrammable spots in San Diego. I mean, the platform of the bar rotates (at a super slow speed, don’tchu worry). And the design of the custom-built carousel is so unique! Such a fun vibe, and the drinks are super yummy!
I recommend making a reservation in advance to bypass the potentially long line out front.
Raised by Wolves
An upscale bar hidden in a liquor shop — yes please! There’s old-world decor and oak-clad walls giving this cocktail bar a sense of mystery and pure opulence. You won’t even realize you’re in the middle of a mall (psst — free 2 hour mall parking, score!). Another spot you’ll wanna make an advance reservation for.
We LOVED this spot and our bartender was so much fun, just make sure to bring along a camera that’s decent for low-light settings because it’s pretty dark in there, no matter the time of day. I honestly wasn’t sure if I should even include this speakeasy on the list of the best photo spots in San Diego because of the difficulty to take photos, but just look at it! Def worthy!
S3 Coffee Bar
Skip the Starbucks and head to S3, right outside town in Mission Gorge! It’s continuously crowded (even on a random Monday late-morning when we visited), so be patient to get your perfect shot! But don’t worry — there’s plenty of instagrammable spots in San Diego right here in the coffee shop.
From the 2D walls, pink velvet chairs, rainbow colorburst vanilla lattes, and even a cacti mural outside, there’s no shortage of photo ops here! We shared the avocado prosciutto toast and the peanut butter almond toast, and everything was delicious!
Gimme all the Paris vibes! Wear your beret for the ultimate French photo op in San Diego, as well as some neutral colors so you fit the aesthetic of the picture well (no crazy neon colors here). I can almost see myself donning a beret and holding a baguette! I’ll be stopping here next time for a famous crepe and pain au chocolat. (South Park)
I’m a sucker for pretty interiors and neon signs, can you tell?! The wallpaper is some of my favorite I’ve ever seen (c’mon, just look at it), and the food is presented so beautifully. Easily one of the most instagrammable places in San Diego. (Little Italy, La Jolla, Coronado)
Foodie Photo Spots in San Diego
Looking for trendy places to take pictures in San Diego? Morning Glory’s it! It’s one of those trendy brunch spots you need to indulge in at least once, I mean just look at that Great Gatsby reminiscent decor! But expect a (long, long) line — the deco brunch vibes and pink interior are popular for a reason!
And yes, those souffle pancakes are worth the early morning wake up call! I wanna go for afternoon tea next time — it looks absolutely stellar! (Little Italy)
Upscale and hip with a fun, retro 1950’s vibe. This place is poppin you guys! Not only is the food absolute perfection (try one of their hot scrambles with petite potatoes and of course the maple bacon donuts), but the mimosas are HUGE and the decor is cute.
Some even claim it’s the best brunch in all of San Diego! I really wanna try the French toast logs on my next visit. (Hillcrest and La Jolla)
Lucha Libre Tacos
Kinda a mix between a street-style taco shop and a lucha libre match like we saw down in Mexico City! The interiors are plastered in bubblegum pink walls, with gold touches and a completely gold Champions Booth couch — an instagrammable spot in San Diego for sure! You can typically sit there, but due to health restrictions when we visited, we couldn’t take that photo.
The old-school wrestling memorabilia on the walls were super interesting to see, and the Cali burrito was delicious. (Mission Hills and North Park)
Puesto La Jolla
Hungry between photoshoots? Head on over to Puesto! This eclectic spot has a unique take on artisanal tacos in a bright and breezy brick space. I just love how it’s owned and operated by a Mexican American family. Don’t miss the mango shrimp ceviche and a mango margarita!
The interior of the restaurant is so colorful and fun (there’s even a mural on the ceiling above the bar), and the plating of the food is just impeccable. Definitely one of the best photo spots in San Diego if you’re a foodie like me! (La Jolla)
Mmm, did someone say donuts?! Besides the colorful line of donuts inside, there’s a giant donut mural to take a fun photo with! We tried the blueberry pop tart donut, and surprise, surprise, there’s an actual poptart inside oozing with jelly! (Pacific Beach and Gaslamp)
I NEED to come here at least once every time I visit San Diego. While the desserts are especially scrumptious, they’re just as pretty! I always have a hard time taking the first bite!
We recently tried some of their fall favorites, including the apple crostini, and OMG. Always opt for a chocolate chip cookie as well (they’re the perfect after dinner treat). (Little Italy and Hillcrest)
Hammonds Ice Cream
I have a thing for pretty desserts, so what’s better than a mini ice cream flight?! Spoiler alert — not much! After my husband ran the San Diego half marathon, I knew I needed to take him to Hammonds.
While there’s lots of instagrammable walls, people come here for the ice cream flights — you can choose between 2 and THIRTY TWO mini cones and scoops (literally all the flavors they’ve got)! Perfect for gals like me who can never choose just one (or two) flavors!
We ended up with a flight of 6 sugar cones, and good thing, because yet again, I couldn’t make up my mind! Absolutely insane and such a unique concept.
Have you been to San Diego? What are some of your favorite San Diego photo spots?
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