Every morning before San Diego wakes up, the city looks so divine and untouched! Seeing its beauty I cannot imagine how it turns out during the blue hours – all busy.
As the ambient rays of the sun come out, hitting the rock formations and Pacific, I can only see the unique pattern of swirl that nature has gifted. It feels so rustic!
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Every frame looks picture-perfect! As the sun cleared the horizon, the water looks like a mirror reflecting the orange light toward me. I feel that no explanation can do justice.
I stood with my camera, flabbergasted! Watching San Diego’s sunrise. It is so enthralling that I think you should experience it too!
From parks to the ocean and to the mountains, I’ve compiled a list of the best places to watch the sunrise in San Diego either solo, with family, and friends, or maybe with your dog!
From the beautiful beaches and stunning national parks to the vibrant cities and diverse cultures, California is a gem that welcomes everyone to enjoy.
Did you explore the dog beaches in San Diego yet? You can give it a read!
Table of Contents
When Does the Sun Rise in San Diego?
The sunrise time in San Diego is around 6.30 am – 6.50 am. I’m not mentioning the exact time of sunrise because it varies from month to month.
I’ll advise you to come to the summit by 6.15 am to rest and graze at the sky, photographing the light-dark surrounding, it’s amazing.
Just imagine how beautiful it will be to see the San Diego sunrise’s first light! Every frame becomes picturesque at the junction of day and night.
The Best Place to See Sunrise in San Diego
Without argument, San Diego is the best place to live in California for young adults in terms of education, jobs, and exploring nature.
Watching the sunrise at Balboa Park, reading a storybook by the beach, or going for a walk with your dog – everything can all brighten your mind. That’s the magic the city holds!
So, I want you to head towards inland San Diego to witness the best sunrise of your life. Choose these amazing sunrise-watching locations in San Diego.
1. Mount Soledad National Veterans Memorial
Address: 6905 La Jolla Scenic S Dr, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA
In my childhood days while driving cycle around the streets, I used to see a white tall cross sitting on an 822 ft. hill. From my history books, I learned that it was built in 1913.
We locally call it the Veteran’s Memorial. Later in my life, I got to know it is a famous sunrise spot in San Diego. Also, Mount Soledad is the highest point in La Jolla.
In my college days, Soniya and I decided to hike, which was not at all strenuous. From here you get a 360-degree panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and of the whole area.
If you look very particular you can spot Scripps Pier, the bridge to Coronado Island, and the forested mountains of Mexico. Such spectacular views!
However, the place has some religious controversies, luckily all these ended in 2016. You can come here to relax or enjoy a quaint picnic area over food with your friends.
The hike is pet friendly, so after witnessing the amazing view of the sun rising I would recommend you to visit the Scripps Pier. The entire place is so Instagramable!
Tip: Veteran’s Memorial opens from 7 am – 10 pm daily
2. Balboa Park
Address: 1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101-1660
I went to Balboa Park with my elder sister Runiya, who lives in Dunsmuir, a beautiful mountain town in California. One day early morning, she woke me up for exercise!
I remember I did not want to hike hard so took her to Balboa Park (which I heard a lot), a 1, 200-acre wonderland thriving with botanical beauty, museums, and an exotic garden.
This is an epic green space to start your morning and the ideal place to visit for sunrise in San Diego. The architecture and monuments inside the garden are worth watching.
To see the sun breaking above the horizon, we came to Plaza de Panama. The golden rays are so enriching! The sunrise and the clouds reflected so beautifully!
It seemed I saw fire in the sky! I wanted to experience it daily. After that, I joined the in-person workouts on Wednesday morning with Balboa Park’s November Project.
The project is all about coming at 6:29 am in front of Bea Evenson Fountain for a group workout. This place is very close to my heart. Here, I met my husband, Kelvin.
3. Moonlight State Beach
Address: 400 B St, Encinitas, CA 92024, USA
If you’ve something called “Sunrise Picture Dairy”, I would highly recommend coming to Moonlight State Beach to enjoy the beach sunrise in San Diego and click pictures.
Here you can get the true joy of the North County coastline. Did you know Encinitas beachgoers used to come here every midnight for a picnic, since then it got its name?
From here you get the unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean lighting up in yellow color and a view of the rugged coastline. Such a majestic poise to behold!
The terrain of the Beach is gifted with gorgeous sandy beaches, rocky bluffs, and calmness which make it ideal to come here early morning and spend quality time.
Watching the sunrise in Moonlight State Beach offers the most refreshed and energized feeling you can experience. While returning back, have breakfast at Lofty Coffee.
- Lifeguard at Moonlight State Beach
- Free Parking
4. Cowles Mountains
Address: San Diego, CA 92119, USA
Hiking to Cowles Mountain takes you to a height of 1,592 feet from where everything below looks small except the sun which rises against a gorgeous skyline with glory!
If you ask me which is the best place to watch the sunrise in San Diego, my answer will only be Cowles Mountain! My father brought me here when I was 17.
One early morning he woke me up, and asked me to join– it was a hike. We were walking for 3 miles at 900 feet elevation, it was hard. I was furious.
Hiking the trails of Mission Trails Regional Park is not easy. It took me 1 hour to reach the summit. Oh my god! What I saw after reaching is spellbound!
Luckily, we all made it on time and I experienced divinity at that moment. The sky was lighting up slowly in pretty pink, peaches, yellow, light shade of red.
Watching the sunrise with my father was a lifetime experience! I saw three dogs and one cat at the summit too.
- Start the hike around 4 am to reach the summit on time. To click a lot of pictures at the summit, remember to start as early as possible
- The hiking trail does not have many shades and the sun can be very harsh. So, please try to avoid hours of 11 am to 3 pm
- Parking is free
- Use the restroom before starting the hike
5. Torrey Pines States Reserve
Address: 12600 n Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA
Let me tell you that Torrey Pine is one of the rarest pine trees. It can be seen growing in La Jolla, San Diego. It grows around sandstone canyons.
Torrey Pine State Reserve dedicates 1,750 acres of land to preserve this rare creature from Peñasquitos River Valley.
Above Torrey Pines State beach sits Torrey Pine State Reserve, and you’ve to hike to witness the amazing San Diego sunrise.
The view of the sun striking its first yellow rays on the Torrey Pines, sandy cliffs, dense forest, and the Pacific Ocean is some unforgettable moments you can think of.
Hiking all the trails of Torrey Pines State Reserve needs wings! There are 6 trails –
- Guy Fleming trail (2/3 miles),
- Parry Grove trail (1/2 miles),
- High Point trails (shortest),
- Razor Point trail (2/3 miles),
- Beach trail (3/4 miles), and
- Broken Hill trail (longest)
I took the Razor Point trail. Hiking is worthwhile when you witness the sun lighting up in colors and the amazing view of San Diego’s coast.
Here I saw the best sunrise in San Diego. Moreover, it is advisable to take a guided tour that starts from Visitor Center at 10 am and 2 pm on weekends and holidays.
- Reserves are very strike with rules, therefore, if you violate them, fines are very high
- You can park your car at North Beach, South Beach, or at the top of Mesa near the Lodge. It is paid parking lot ($15- $25). For free parking, just park on the side of the road
- Wheelchair accessible trails
- If you can then go for the Daughter of American Revolution trail to witness the beautiful view of marshes and ocean
6. Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
Address: Ladera St, San Diego, CA 92107, USA
I feel the view of sunrise at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is truly awe-inspiring, the time holds still for a few minutes, maintaining the perfect balance between dark and light.
Slowly as the sun peeks her head out above the horizon, the forest world around you lights up into gold. A visit to the Point Loma peninsula is a must in your lifetime!
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park tops the list of spots to see the sunrise in San Diego, you get an expansive view of the ocean, and witness the cliffs, caves, and captivating shrub habitat.
The park is 300 feet above sea level. Couples often come here for a scenic drive, walking, hiking, and jogging – Sunset Cliff is also ideal for spotting California gray whales.
When we were dating Kelvin and I used to come here during the evening to spot colorful birds, and crashing waves, and capture golden scenarios with my lenses.
- Near the cliffs the rocks are very crumby, so be careful
- Park along Sunset Cliffs Boulevard
7. Sunrise Highway
Address: From I-8 at Laguna Summit to State 79
Have you ever wondered that near Cleveland National Forest sits a long windy road that can take you on a heavenly ride through the Laguna Mountains? Well, I did not know.
It was a casual midnight ride with my friends before leaving for college when we found this spot called Sunrise Highway. You’ve to take I-8 east from the city to reach here.
The mountain sits at an elevation of 400 ft. – 600 ft. We spot a few deer, and cows on the farm, and pine trees, and watched the sun touching the horizon in pin-drop silence.
This is the best place to watch the sunrise in San Diego because you can enjoy the view of Mt. Laguna without the crowd around you.
I did not get a chance to camp here, but you can surely try it. Also, you can bring your pet too. You can have your dinner at Pine Ouse Café and enjoy the night grazing stars.
Tip: Bicyclists be very careful, the roads are curvy
8. Julian – Cuyumaca State Park – Stonewall Peak
Address: California 92036
Julian is San Diego’s rural treasure which is an hour from downtown San Diego. Oh, I forgot to say, Julian is also called an “American apple pie”. You should come here!
The Victorian-style architecture and local orchids make this place different. Autumn is the best season to explore Julian. Also, it is one of the safest cities in California.
Soniya and I decided to camp in Cuyumaca State Park – the midst of the oak trees, woodland forest, and lovely meadows. We were camping at Green Valley which sits at 4,000 feet.
From there we hiked to witness the magical sunrise of San Diego. Did you know we were camping at the second-highest point in San Diego?
On our second visit to Julian, we went hiking Stonewall Peak. The expansive views and craved rock steps made the hike the most memorable. I came here in winter.
The trailhead was covered with snow, unique plant life, some off-fallen trees, and an amazing landscape. I came here early morning around 9 am.
Tip: Dogs are allowed at Green Valley
9. Mount Helix
Address: 4901 Mt Helix Dr, La Mesa, CA 91941, USA
Tell me honestly don’t you want the best early morning twilight hours shot? And, that also, on the Crown Jewel of San Diego called Casa de Oro-Mount Helix.
Mount Helix Park is a beautiful place to watch the sunrise in San Diego enjoying the magnificent view from the top. You can see El Cajon and La Mesa too!
The land was owned by Cyrus and Mary Yawkey, now it is a 40-acre citrus grove. It is home to a wide variety of plants, and wildlife.
You should click a photo against the scenic backdrop and 35’ tall white spiraling cross pointing towards the sky making it the most memorable shot of your life!
There is a huge outdoor amphitheater, you can sit there and enjoy the panoramic views. I would definitely say worth a visit!
- In the picking season, there will be musical events and other performances
- Parking is available only for 8- 10 vehicles
10. Crown Point Park
Address: Crown Point Dr, San Diego, CA 92109, USA
Watching a sunrise in San Diego with families is a beautiful feeling you can ever experience. Watching the sun rays falling on Mission Bay beach is breathtaking.
Sitting on the soft sand of Crown Point Beach and enjoying the open grass space is also beautiful. I recommend going to the “U” part which is at the top for a majestic view.
The park has a small beach, which is perfect for watching the sunrise, and several picnic tables where you can sit and take in the beautiful scenery. There’s also a small playground, restrooms, and a walkway that circles around the park and provides views in all directions.
One of the best ways to enjoy the sunrise at Crown Point Park is by taking a walk along the beach or around the park’s perimeter. As you walk, the sounds of the ocean and seagulls create a peaceful ambiance, and the salty air invigorates your senses.
The park has other amenities too – there is a volleyball court, basketball courts, a children’s playground, a biking path, and more. A few of my friends go here for a walk!
Tip: Parking opens from 4 am – 2 am
Where to Watch Sunrise in San Diego?
I’ve already given you the locations, but before planning, you’ve to know that all these spots can be accessed only via walk or drive.
Wear comfortable hiking clothes, pants, and breathable shirts to make your hiking story remarkable. Some trails lead through the forest so there can be snakes. So, be very careful! Do not forget to use sunscreen and sunglasses.
I went to witness the sunset in Key West with Kelvin on our fourth date. Sunset or sunrise – God has made both equally mesmerizing. You should come here too!
Also, I recommend checking the timing of sunrise, weather condition, and trail opening rules beforehand. Till then all the best for your sunrise diaries!
Irrespective of where you want to go, these are prime locations for watching the sunrise in San Diego. You’ll never get disappointed.
Torrey Pines State Reserve and Balboa Park are my personal favorite places to watch the sunrise in San Diego. You should check these places out!
Read more about California:
- 10 Best Romantic getaways in California for couples
- 14 Stunning Yosemite Sunset Spots – Secret Trails & Meadows
- 10 Amazing Spots To Watch Sunrise in Yosemite National Park
- 15 Best Beaches in Southern California
- 14 Things to Know Before Moving to The Golden State
- 10 Best Campsites in Southern California
FAQ: Places to Watch the Sunrise in San Diego
1. What time does the sunrise in San Diego?
A. Sunrise in San Diego varies from month to month. Normally, you can accept sunrise between 6.30 am – 6.50 am.
2. How many hours of daylight does San Diego have?
A. On average San Diego gets 10 hours and 46 minutes of sunshine. However, it might vary from time to time depending on the weather.
3. Is it expensive to live in San Diego?
A. Yes, San Diego can be expensive if you do not earn a minimum of $61,000. The cost of living index is 160.4 (based on the USA average of 100). On average, a family of four-month expenses is $4,201.2 exempting the rent.