This article highlights the gorgeous Sunset Cliffs located in San Diego, California.
Screams, one after another, caught my attention. In a second, I was looking down trying to determine where the cries were originating.
A group of 20-somethings was trying to reach the bottom of the 400-feet tall cliffs. There were no ‘real’ paths to accomplish the task. The only option was to follow the steep route others had sort of flattened on the face of the cliff.
When I looked down, the girls were trapped in one of the crevasses chiseled by nature. Nobody was moving or making obvious progress. I guess somebody was freaking out. Oh, and did I mentioned all this was tackled in flip flops?
I didn’t stay to watch the outcome of this little adventure (I want to think they made it). However, I understood why they were so eager to reach the bottom.
Down there, a beach scene straight out of a glossy magazine was taking place in full glorious force. Happy, off-leash dogs were running around while their owners were lounging on a chair.
Entire families were playing ball, eating and cuddling under blankets. Other brave souls were enjoying the frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean. In the distance, surfers were waiting for the waves in groups.
All this was happening at the time of the day where the sun was giving the sandstone cliffs a fiery red hue.
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
Sunset Cliffs is a neighborhood in the Point Loma community of San Diego. The area is named for the sheer cliffs which border the ocean.
This is a wonderland of carved bluffs, arches, caves and tidepools. The sea, rain and telluric forces have worked their magic in here.
The city of San Diego has protected this shoreline by creating a Natural Park. A 1.5-mile trail allows visitors to take a closer look at the geological highlights, the 80 native plant species and the wildlife (including birds, lizards and even, foxes). But, beware, the area retains a primal and rugged personality.
This is not your typical, cookie-cutter type of beach or coast. Hours can be spent looking at the layers, patterns, and colors on the cliffs. Big boulders, which at one time where an integral part of the cliffs, are now home to hundreds of cormorants and other marine birds.
Flocks of pelicans fly by often. Your neck stretches in unnatural ways trying to decipher the colors in their bellies.
Then, there are caves and arches. What seems like a stable, flat rock has a huge opening underneath. You realize that later when you contemplate the area from another angle and you see the sun rays penetrating thru.
Plus, this place cannot get more local. I actually discovered the spot through local blogs. This is a true neighborhood hang out. Locals come to take in some fresh air, meet friends and watch the sunset. So, this is the place to escape the touristic side of San Diego.
Sunset Cliffs Details
There is not a specific address associated with the park. It is located on the west side of the Point Loma Peninsula, south of Ocean Beach. The term “Sunset Cliffs” refers to the entire neighborhood. If you enter it on a GPS, you may end on a random street in the area.
You need to enter a more specific feature like “Sunset Cliffs Beach” or “Sunset Cliffs Cave” to get to the actual cliffs.
After my visit, I realized I missed some great part of the park (like the main tide pool area and the badlands). The website www.sunsetcliffs.info has good information on the area. At the site, you can download a brochure describing the main paths and points of interest.
I started the post with a story of several girls descending the cliffs through a dangerous part. Of course, I am not recommending this practice. There is stair access and, at least, one designated path to get to the beach or tide pools. Consider your safety and use those.
The area is not highly developed. So, do not expect facilities. During my visit, I didn’t see restrooms or water fountains.
Park along Sunset Cliffs Boulevard or on designated areas.
There is no entrance fee.
Observe extreme caution when walking the Cliffside Trail. The terrain is unstable and undeveloped.
If you get to the rocks close to the ocean, be vigilant. A big wave can sweep you (or scare you causing a fall). Never turn your back to the ocean.
Many come to the area lured by the big sea cave in the coast. Do your research on how to access. To my knowledge, swimming to the inside is not recommended during high tide.
You can combine a visit to the Sunset Cliffs with other wonderful attractions on the Point Loma Peninsula. Here are some ideas:
Cabrillo National Monument – Monument, located at the tip of the Point Loma Peninsula, commemorating the voyage of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. Visit for great views of the San Diego Bay and tide pools.
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery – Impressive cemetery honoring service men and women fallen in battle. You can visit the different memorials and enjoy the monumental views. This is a truly unique place.
Ocean Beach – I describe this place as the alternative beach in San Diego. If you are familiar with Los Angeles, this is the Venice Beach of San Diego. This neighborhood is full of restaurants, breweries, shops, a pier, and tidepools. Super fun area to relax and feel the good vibes.
Liberty Station – At the moment, this is one of my favorite areas of San Diego. I can’t get enough of the Public Market, THE LOT and the Corvette Diner.
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