San Diego has everything: the beach, amazing food, hiking, shopping, stunning views, and so much more. And it’s the perfect weekend getaway. Whether you’re going for some R&R, or planning to take some photos, here is an epic three-day San Diego itinerary that will have you visiting the best San Diego photo spots!
San Diego Itinerary, Day 1
San Diego Photo Spots in the Gaslamp Quarter
1. Holy Matcha Cafe
Start your day at Holy Matcha in East Village. This adorable pink cafe features instagrammable decor, as well as delicious drinks. I recommend the golden matcha. Add oat milk, and it is the best matcha I’ve tried! This location is smaller than their Northpark cafe, so I’d suggest going early to avoid the crowds.
You, me, matcha. How adorable is this vibe?
2. Balboa Park
If you want to see picturesque buildings, trails, and gardens, this instagrammable place is one of the best San Diego photo spots! While not in the Gaslamp Quarter, Balboa Park is a quick drive from the neighborhood. The Park features several different areas, including museums, gardens, and performing arts spaces. It’s best to plan for several hours here, or even the entire day, depending on where you want to go. And bring comfortable shoes! You’ll be doing lots of walking.
Spreckles Organ Pavilion
Start at the Spreckles Organ Pavilion for romantic shots by the archways and pillars. Early morning is best to avoid the crowds. However, if you are there on the weekend and want to catch a concert, there are free organ performances each Sunday at 2:00 pm. Plus, if you’re taking Instagram photos here—or any photos, really—hearing pieces from West Side Story played live really makes it feel like you’re in a movie!
Museum of Us
Next, walk over to the Alcazar Garden and the Museum of Us to see some amazing architecture. This next photo was taken to the left of the entrance to the Museum of Us.
Head through the center of Balboa Park to see the famous lily pond and koi fish near the Botanical Building, and then walk over to the Spanish Village. This area features splashes of color at every turn. Plus, you can visit all the shops to see work from over 200 local artisans.
There are so many other spots to see, so if you’ve devoted most of the day to Balboa Park, I’d suggest also checking out the Japanese Friendship Garden, the Casa del Rey Moro Garden, and Palm Canyon. There are also several restaurants in the park for easy dining!
3. Gaslamp Quarter Murals
Art is everywhere in San Diego. And if you’re looking for places to take pictures in San Diego, do a mural walk! There are tons of colorful murals in the Gaslamp Quarter. My favorite one is this pink and yellow flower wall. There are several others close to this location, so get your camera out and start shooting!
Location: 770 12th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Ladies Who Paint Floral Mural by Niki Zarrabi
End your day with a stop at Little Italy for dinner. There are so many places to choose from, but if you like Italian food, try Davanti Enoteca. There is a cute mural on the back patio, and my husband says the Davanti Burger is one of the best he’s had recently!
San Diego Itinerary, Day 2
San Diego Photo Spots on the Way to La Jolla
4. Greetings from San Diego Mural
First, grab some breakfast over at Copa Vida in East Village (I love their orchid oolong tea), and then head over to North Park to find more murals.
For an iconic San Diego photo spot, check out the Greetings from San Diego mural. This one is so striking! It is right next to a parking lot, but there is a sign saying that the lot is for customers only. It’s a quick shot to get, but if you want to check out the rest of the area, I’d suggest finding street parking and walking.
Location: 4225 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104
There are a ton of other colorful murals near here. Plus, if you want an instagrammable pink wall, be sure to stop at Pigment (3801 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104).
5. S3 Coffee Bar
If you like coffee art, cute decor, and instagrammable backdrops, this is an awesome place to take pictures in San Diego! For a colorful and delicious drink, I suggest getting the rainbow latte at the S3 Coffee Bar. Then, sit over in the black and white area for some adorable photos. There’s also a neon pink sign on the opposite wall from this space that says “Smell, Sip, and Savor,” plus a pink cactus mural wall on the outside of the shop. Super cute! I’d suggest going in the early afternoon to get these photos, as it tends to be pretty busy in the mornings.
6. La Jolla Cove
Spend the rest of the day in La Jolla. If you are looking for famous San Diego photo spots, La Jolla Cove is a great place to check out. Then, walk along the shore to Children’s Pool to check out the seals. We were there on a cloudy day, but I’m sure this looks amazing on a sunny day! If the weather isn’t cooperating on your trip, check out the video below for some quick tips on how to take photos on cloudy days.
End the evening at one of the many restaurants in La Jolla. If you are looking for amazing fish tacos, head to the Cove House for drinks and dinner.
San Diego Itinerary, Day 3
San Diego Photo Spots near La Jolla
7. Secret Swing
If you love coffee (clearly, I do!), grab a drink at Better Buzz Coffee, and then head up to the Secret Swings early to avoid the crowds. There is an unmarked trailhead at the end of the Birch Aquarium parking lot. It’s a very quick walk to the top. The message on the swing changes throughout the year as different artists add their work. As of June 2021, this swing was still there. (Sometimes, the swings are removed.)
8. Coastal Meander Trailhead
Next, drive two minutes to Coastal Meander Trailhead for a peaceful walk with sweeping views of the ocean. There are benches along the trail where you can stop and take in the scenery. The trailhead is on La Jolla Shores Drive just north of Biological Grade. I’d suggest parking on one of the side streets and walking to the trailhead, as there is no parking on La Jolla Shores Drive.
9. Geisel Library
If you like architecture, make a stop at the instagrammable Geisel Library on the UC San Diego campus. Be prepared to pay for parking here, but the uniqueness of the building is absolutely worth seeing! Plus, there are walking trails and benches scattered on the walk to the building, making it a lovely San Diego photo spot.
10. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Finally, end your time in San Diego at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. See the rare Torrey pine tree, which can only be found in here, and pick from several hiking trails with breathtaking views of the coast. These photos were taken at Black’s Beach lookout. There is a parking lot off Torrey Pines Scenic Drive, close to the Torrey Pines Gliderport, that gives you quick access to the lookout.
Thanks for reading this guide. I hope this San Diego itinerary is helpful and gets you to the best San Diego photo spots!
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