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San Diego Has All the Snapshot-Ready Locations for Your Instagram

Written By: Sarah Hood
Photographed By: Gabi Nehring Best Instagram Spots San Diego

There’s no excuse for having a boring, basic Instagram label when you live in America’s Finest City. Between the mountains, the magnificent views of the Pacific and the many pieces of urban art nestled in the city center, San Diego has no shortage of visual #goals for the professional photographer and the casual influencer to capture. Take a look at our choices for the top eight most Instagrammable places in San Diego before the fear of missing out strikes.

1 | Starting With a Cliffhanger Best Instagram Spots San Diego

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

The name says it all—Sunset Cliffs Natural Park in Point Loma is possibly the best place in the county to watch the sun sink into the ocean and stain the sky bright orange, yellow and pink. Once you shift your focus from the sky, however, you’ll find that the cliff formations themselves are spectacular, with caves and tidepools strewn throughout the base of this breathtaking stretch of shoreline. Chaparral covered hillsides, which connect to the area to the nearby Point Loma Ecological Reserve, add to Sunset Cliffs’ rugged charm.

Native Knowledge: Did you know that you can spot gray whales migrating down to Baja California from the Cliffs? Watch for them in late winter and early spring!

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
San Diego, CA 92107

2 | Piercing Beauty Best Instagram Spots San Diego

Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier

You can’t take your picture on the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier—it’s used exclusively by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography to collect data regarding ocean temperatures, currents and inhabitants. However, that hasn’t stopped beachgoers at Scripps Beach from capturing the pier’s stately form on film, both from afar as a backdrop for a photoshoot or underneath as a contrast to the pale blue water at its base. Visitors can find a designated surfing area just to the north of the structure, while individuals seeking a break from the athletic bustle of nearby La Jolla Shores may find tranquility in the pier’s shadow and legacy.

Ellen Scripps Browning Memorial Pier
8564 El Paseo Grande
San Diego, CA 92037

3 | Bursting Onto the Scene Best Instagram Spots San Diego

The Flower Fields at Carlsbad

There’s no better way to shake off the winter blues than to drive up to the world-renowned Flower Fields at Carlsbad and bask in its technicolor glory. These dazzling Tecolote®️ Ranunculus blossoms—which come in 15 glorious hues—trace their lineage to a crop developed by Luther Gage, his neighbor Frank Frazee and Frazee’s son Edwin. Decades of diligent breeding have resulted in over 50 acres of vibrant flowers which bloom for eight weeks per year and beckon millions of annual visitors to celebrate the arrival of spring in SoCal. Even if you come during the off-season, you can still take worthy snapshots of romantic gardens set up for the perfect outdoor wedding. 

Native Knowledge: Other fun activities at The Flower Fields include tractor rides, a sweet pea maze and old-fashioned gemstone mining using the sluicing method.

The Flower Fields at Carlsbad
5704 Paseo Del Norte
Carlsbad, CA 92008
760.431.0352

4 | Observing Grey Matter Best Instagram Spots San Diego

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies might seem like an odd addition to a list of picture-perfect places, but founder Jonas Salk (best known for developing the polio vaccine) had a unique vision for an efficient research lab. Under the direction of architect Louis I. Khan, the Institute displayed a cool, minimalist aesthetic, centered around a courtyard built of travertine which is flanked on either side with angular, monochromatic buildings. The effect of the structures is impressive, but not intimidating, as the enormous glass windows welcome floods of light that counteract the cool grey concrete. In other words, it’s the perfect addition to your portfolio of black-and-white pics.

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies
10010 N Torrey Pines Dr
La Jolla, CA  92307
858.453.4100

5 | A Chip off the Old Block

Potato Chip Rock

It’s a sliver of stone that juts out from the peak of Mt. Woodson in Poway—and an aesthetically pleasing prize for hikers and photographers who complete the challenging 7.6-mile trek to find it. Though set at a slight curve, Potato Chip Rock boasts a flat top where people strike poses in standing, sitting and even jumping positions. This perch also offers a sweeping view of the rugged, chaparral-covered landscape below, as well as the blue-tinged mountains in the distance. Just be sure to lather on the sunscreen before you whip out your phone because the rock formation is the literal definition of a hot spot.

Potato Chip Rock
Ramona, CA 92065

6 | Gills and Greenery

The Botanical Building and Lily Pond at Balboa Park

Out of all the iconic places in Balboa Park that grace people’s Instagram feeds, a top favorite is the Spanish-style Botanical Building, which was built in 1915 prior to the park’s Panama-California exhibition. In addition to housing over 2,100 species of flowers, ferns and palm trees, this cylindrical structure resides next to a tranquil reflecting pool displaying varieties of lilies and lotus blossoms. On any given day, you can find couples posing for romantic photos by the peaceful pond or children crouching by the water’s edge, hoping to catch a glimpse of the giant koi fish lurking in the water. It’s the true gem within the Crown Jewel of San Diego.

Native Knowledge: In 2012, the lily pond was vandalized during a late-night water gun fight, during which the pool was partially emptied of water and numerous plants were damaged.

The Botanical Building and Lily Pond at Balboa Park
1549 El Prado
San Diego, CA 92101
619.239.0512

7 | Quirky, Cool and Classic

Museum of Contemporary Art Downtown

Merging rich history with contemporary creations is what the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown San Diego does best. Located at the old Santa Fe train depot, this collection of eclectic pieces ranges from minimalistic statues and abstract paintings to neon signs, videos and photographic murals. In addition to its endeavor to preserve and trace the evolution of art from the 1950s onward, the museum has also sought to showcase local creators and promote diversity by incorporating pieces from the Tijuana area in unity with their San Diegan counterparts.

Native Knowledge: The next big exhibition on display at the Museum is called “To Do: A Mending Project,” and it will feature mending, sewing and weaving workshops that teach visitors how the reparation of a piece of clothing can connect to restoring relationships in a divided nation. The exhibit runs from June 20 to September 22.

Museum of Contemporary Art Downtown
1100 and 1001 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101
858.454.3541

8 | Picture-Postcard-Perfect

Greetings from San Diego Mural

On the sidewall of the Belching Beaver Brewery lies the perfect backdrop for your next group picture. North Park’s “Greetings from San Diego” mural was designed by Victor Ving and Lisa Beggs, two artists who have been traveling throughout the country and creating similar paintings in the style of vintage postcards. Each of the mural’s enormous letters is an ode to beloved San Diego landmarks, including Belmont Park, the Hotel Del and the Coronado Bridge. It’s not only a great photo opportunity, but also a mini guide for tourists who can’t decide what they want to see next!

Greetings from San Diego Mural
4225 30th St
San Diego, CA 92104

9 | Pick a Shade, Any Shade

Favorite Color Mural

If you thought the vibrancy of The Flower Fields was enough to make your eyes water, then check out the most beloved installation of the Murals of La Jolla project, appropriately titled “Favorite Color.” Roy McMakin’s contribution to the enterprise was born out of the artist’s fascination with the significance of color, as well as his own personal endeavor to ask random individuals about their favorite colors. Each shade selected by the participants is featured in the mural, which boasts several hundred tiles painted in a variety of shades and tones across the color spectrum. It’s a creation that evokes wonder and joy in passersby, especially if they happen to glimpse their favorite tone within the piece.

Favorite Color Mural
7596 Eads Ave
La Jolla, CA 92307

10 | Hispanic Heritage

Chicano Park

Nestled under the interchange between Interstate 805 and the Coronado Bridge is a tribute to San Diego’s Mexican-American heritage and the triumph of neighborhood unity over industrialization. After the Barrio Logan community rallied to save the area from being turned into an outpost for the highway patrol, Chicano Park was founded in 1971 and almost immediately turned into a canvas for prominent Hispanic artists, led by Salvador Torres. Today, 80 colorful murals grace the pillars under the bridge, a vibrant backdrop depicting prominent Latinx historical figures, Aztec and Mayan designs and mythology, a depiction of the founding of Mexico City and more. Don’t just come for the aesthetic; take the time to learn about the rich heritage behind those Insta-worthy paintings.

Chicano Park
Between Logan and National Ave
San Diego, CA 92113