11 Places to Photograph the Sunset in SoCal
Cotton candy skies await...
While other regions of the U.S. are showing signs of fall, like changing foliage, the transition into autumn isn't as apparent in Southern California. The lower part of The Golden State holds on to its natural sunny disposition for months to come and the landscape remains more or less the same. Because of this more moderate climate, you can visit and photograph beachside sunsets year-round. Cruise down to Oceanside to see the vast sky illuminated in a pink haze reflected onto the glassy shore or take a ride on the Pacific Park Ferris Wheel to experience the mesmerizing purple hue of Santa Monica's coastline.
To find all of our coveted sunset spots, you'll need to download the Explorest app. Then, use the "Best Times" filter on the homepage and the app will find nearby locations (even if you aren't in SoCal) that are best photographed during sunset. In addition to the "Best Months" filter, "Best Times" is an expert hack on how to optimally utilize the benefits of Explorest.
If you need a little sunset inspo before browsing photo locations on the app, scroll down to see 11 places to photograph the sunset in SoCal. *Cue heart eye emoji*.
Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier is bustling with locals and tourists during any time of the day. From morning until afternoon, you can stroll along the wooden pier and grab a bite to eat, play carnival-style games or listen to local musicians serenade passerbys. It's an effortless way to enjoy the sights of the beach without having to deal with getting too sandy or securing a spot on the shore. Once the sun starts to descend, you'll also be at a prime location to witness the magic of an LA sunset from the west-facing pier. Stand in the parking lot adjacent to the amusement part and capture the neon lights as they flash against the changing colors of dusk.
Further north up the coast from Santa Monica is Malibu. A locals-only surf city back in the day, Malibu is more recently known for its palatial homes and oceanfront eateries, like the celebrity-frequented Nobu restaurant. Travel up the PCH in Malibu and then head inland through the mountains of Calabasas. The twists and turns of the rugged landscape will eventually guide you through the hills and you'll reach one of the most scenic sunset spots in all of SoCal. Just reference the GPS coordinates in the Explorest app and you'll be able to reach the exact of this incredible vista near Stunt Road.
At the appropriately named Sunset Seat vantage point in Del Mar, you can fly a drone high in the sky and photograph an aerial perspective of San Diego that can't be seen from the ground level. Feel your worries vanish away as you look out onto the serene body of blue water and bask in the warm, golden glow of the sun dipping below the horizon. Just make sure to get to this photo spot earlier—it can get quite crowded on a picture-perfect day, like the one @derekrliang was able to capture in the featured photo below.
credit: @derekrliang — discover S Camino Del Mar, N Torrey Pines Rd & Pacific Ocean Coastline on the Explorest app
In between Los Angeles and San Diego, you'll find the seaside town of Laguna Beach. Contrary to its ritzy reputation in the early 2000s (courtesy of MTV's Laguna Beach reality show), the city is a small 8.84 square mile area that offers up a laid-back lifestyle of surf, sand and sun. Spend a day lounging at the beach and then mosey over to Shaw's Cove for sunset. From this enclave, you'll be able to see the tropical silhouette of the cliff and palm trees in the background as you snap a picture right before the sun goes down behind the water.
Another prime sunset spot in Laguna Beach is the Wesley Drive view of Treasure Island Park. The walkway leads the eye directly to the skyline and the smooth curve of the path evokes a softness in the photo. You can still see the ocean in this shot, but the real reason why this location is so special is because of the way the light hits the landscape. The plants are radiant when the sun is hanging slightly lower in the sky and it's an excellent place to capture both land and sea in SoCal.
credit: @derekrliang — discover Wesley Drive view of Treasure Island Park Beach Walk on the Explorest app
Oceanside Pier is one of the longest wooden piers on the West Coast. And if you're a child of the 90s, the pier might look familiar, as it inspired the fictional city of Ocean Shores in Nickelodeon's Rocket Power. Not only is the scene Insta-worthy, there are also plenty of opportunities to venture onto the pier and photograph skaters, surfers and swimmers as the sun sets on the SoCal town of Oceanside. With a sky like the one @erubes1 snapped, it's hard not to get an epic shot of the pier!
Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles is one of the most famous streets in the city. It stretches for five miles and is home to popular attractions, such as The Grove shopping mall, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), CBS and delicious restaurants, like Jon & Vinny's (ordering the spicy fusilli pasta is a must!). The marriage of the cotton-candy sky and the row of individual palm trees makes for a quintessential LA scene that'll have everyone ooing and aahing over the beauty of SoCal.
Deer Creek Road
The shades of the Pacific turn from deep blue to light pink as the ocean kisses the blazing sky next to the Santa Monica Mountains. Unlike the Santa Monica Pier or Malibu Hills, this angle of the west side of LA shows a bird's eye view of the Pacific Coast Highway in between the massive mountains and expansive sea. Make the scenic drive up to Deer Creek Road and then launch your drone northwest for this jaw-dropping panorama of the sunset.
credit: @tommylundberg — discover Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Ocean & Santa Monica Mountains from Deer Creek Rd on the Explorest app
West K Street
Sunsets in any part of SoCal are some of the best in the U.S., but the town of Encinitas might be our favorite place to snap a picture during twilight. The symmetry of West K Street, with palm trees on either side of the road, perfectly frame this photo location. Can you even believe those colors in the sky are real? They're almost too good to be true! If you work up an appetite while taking photos, make sure to grab a bite to eat at one of the many dining options in Encinitas. Swami's Cafe, Broad Street Dough Co and Encinitas Fish Shop are all within walking distance of West K Street.
Monarch Beach Point Overlook
The Monarch Beach Point Overlook is an ideal photo location for capturing an elevated seascape without needing to use a drone. @connorrrmorris shot the featured image below using a Canon camera and a wide-angle lens to fit as much of the beach in the frame as possible. What's an even better aspect of this overlook is the red flowers in the foreground. They add a sense of depth that complements the sunset by bringing out the rosy hues in the sky.
What's more SoCal than watching the sunset behind a row of palm trees and the Hollywood sign? Griffith Park is the place to be if you want to get a classic shot of one of the most photographed landmarks in the world. You'll need to hike a bit to get to this photo spot, but as you can see in @tommylundberg's photo, the trek is well worth it to take a picture of the iconic lettering far off in the hills. Make this most of this location and try to position yourself so the sign is in the middle of the two center palm trees—a great way to call attention to the focal point.
credit: @tommylundberg — discover Griffith Park view of Hollywood Sign, Hills & Palm Trees on the Explorest app
If you're looking to discover new photo spots, download the Explorest app today. We provide insider recommendations to help you capture your travels, near and far.