A Must Do in San Diego, Sunset Cliffs

On a recent vacation to San Diego, I discovered Sunset Cliffs.  A friend of my husband’s had mentioned that it was a good place to watch the sunset but he said it in passing, kind of like he was just throwing out random places to go.   I didn’t think much of it at the time. I also had read that Sunset Cliffs is a nice place for a hike. However neither of these raised my expectations much at all but after the second recommendation I thought maybe we should go and check it out.  I was floored when I actually saw this place.

We drove to Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, parked, and took a few steps from the car.  My daughter and I both stopped dead in our tracks, looked at each other, and exclaimed, “Wow!”  It was one of the most stunning scenes I have ever seen.  You hear the cliche all the time that a place is “breathtaking.”  If ever a place is breathtaking, it’s Sunset Cliffs. This is nature at its most beautiful.  The contrast between the Coastal bluff, rocks, and ocean are something you really have to see in person to fully appreciate.

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Sunset Cliffs by day

Here’s my best description of experiencing Sunset Cliffs:

As you’re looking at the beautiful blue shades of the water crash against the tan to brown bluffs, you can literally feel stress melt away.  You hear the waves crashing and the birds calling to each other and see the birds flying from rock to rock.  There’s a slight breeze that brushes against your face and you see the sun start to drop into the ocean.  The sky changes from blue to pink and yellow to orange.  Finally but quite suddenly, the sun drops into the ocean and disappears.

If I had just one recommendation for anyone going to San Diego it would be that they see Sunset Cliffs.  I can’t emphasize it enough because I wish others would have emphasized it more to me-if you do nothing else, go to Sunset Cliffs.  Get here well before the sun sets so you can find a parking spot and walk around to get multiple viewpoints.  Although some people call Sunset Cliffs a place to hike, it’s really a walk along a two lane road, but don’t let that deter you.

Although there is an area where you can get down to the beach, I didn’t feel comfortable going that route with my middle-school-aged daughter.  We watched locals and their dogs go down the rocks to the beach like it was nothing but we weren’t that brave.

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Sunset Cliffs at sunset

Besides the trail that runs along the road, there is Sunset Cliffs National Park,  68 acre park that borders Point Loma and runs along the Pacific Ocean, of which 50 acres contain conservation areas for multiples species.  If you time it right you may spot a California gray whale as they migrate from the Bering Sea to Baja California and back.

How to get to Sunset Cliffs:

Go down Sunset Cliffs Blvd. until you reach the end, and turn left onto Ladera Drive. Turn right onto a dirt road and you should see a parking lot.  If you get here an hour or more before sunset, you shouldn’t have any problems finding a spot.  If the parking lot is full, there should be plenty of off-street parking, as long as you arrive early.

Viewing Tips:

Don’t crowd around where everyone else is- find your own private space to enjoy the view in peace and quiet.  You’ll see pockets of people scattered along the cliffs but it’s a big enough area that you can still find your own little slice of heaven.  Also, stick around a while for the show.  It’s beautiful how the clouds and light change shapes and colors over time before sunset, during, and post-sunset.

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Author: runningtotravel

I'm a long distance runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the US. I also love to travel so I travel to other places when I'm not running races. Half the fun is planning where I'm going to go next!

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