Sunset Cliffs in San Diego, California is the perfect location for an intimate and romantic wedding. Nestled along the Pacific Ocean, this stunning natural wonder is known for its rugged cliffs, breathtaking sunsets, and secluded coves. If you’re looking for a unique and unforgettable way to tie the knot, consider eloping at Sunset Cliffs.
The first time I visited Sunset Cliffs, I knew then and there that I wanted to live in San Diego one day. A couple of years later we ended up moving to Carlsbad! To this day, Sunset Cliffs is one of my favorite places in the world. I love helping couples get married there and have compiled all my best tips in this guide for planning your Sunset Cliffs wedding.
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You’ll need a Wedding Permit from San Diego Parks. The cost of the permit for a wedding is $196.73 (including the 3% processing fee on $187) the opportunity fund fee is $1.03 per hour for (49 or less people) and $10.30 per hour for (50 or more people). The wedding permit is for a maximum of 4 hours. The permit does not guarantee you a private venue or parking at sunset cliffs. You may bring decor, but this is still a public park (a popular one) so expect to save a spot early.
When you book me as your wedding photographer, I’ll apply for and pay the permit fee so you don’t have to worry about a thing!
If you are just taking engagement photos, proposal photos, or after-wedding photos (as in you’re not legally getting married on the cliffs, but somewhere else) then you don’t need a permit. Always best to check with the parks as these regulations can change.
You’ll need to schedule an appointment with the county clerk where both of you will attend and show your IDs. You can fill out the application online. It will cost $70-$110 to get your marriage license which is valid for 90 days.
Here is the link to schedule your appointment and apply for a San Diego Marriage License
When you book me as your elopement photographer, I’m an officiant if you need one.
If you’re coming from out of town, sometimes it is easier to get married at your local courthouse before traveling. There are also many couples that choose to get married at a local courthouse or city hall. California has some of the most beautiful city halls in the country!
Decide if you want to elope with just the two of you or invite a few guests. The trails are rather narrow and there are only a few spots that can accommodate a few rows of chairs. There are planners and rental companies that can set up a beautiful, small ceremony site for you if desired.
Sunset Cliffs offer the best views in Point Loma! Some of my favorite Sunset Cliffs wedding venues are Luscomb’s Point, the Sunset Cliffs Seacave, and Osprey Point. The natural park is about 68 acres total. There are a few trails, seacaves, and beaches.
Wherever you decide to say your vows, it is important that you have a pin or photo of the exact location for your partner, vendors, and/or guests to all get to the same location. Many locations have different names on different maps and it is a long coastline. Cell phone reception can vary along the cliffs, especially if you go down to the beach.
I created this map of Sunset Cliff Wedding Venues and Parking:
Pretty much anywhere along the top of the cliffs is stunning! Some top of the cliffs options are:
Luscomb’s Point – this is the most open space along the cliffs. The best spot for a wedding with guests!
The Arch/Osprey Point – this is the best spot for elopement or newlywed photos. A little narrow path leads out to a formation in the sea. To the North of Luscomb’s Point.
Southern Parking Lot – This parking lot has porta-potties and lots of parking. Following the trail South, there are some beautiful spots to say your vows that are typically less crowded than the North side.
Sunset Cliffs Beach Wedding Venues
Sunset Cliffs Cave – this spot is only accessible during negative tides. To get down to the beach and travel across slippery rocks can be quite dangerous. Stunning cave with an open celiing and very popular when it is accessible.
Garbage Beach – Where all the surfers go! The South end of Sunset Cliffs. You can take the stairs or there is a natural way down with a climbing rope.
No Surf Beach – This beach is North of Luscomb’s Point and is a very steep climb down.
Nearby in Point Loma – You can drive a bit further South and go to the end of Point Loma Peninsula. The Cabrillo National Monument has beautiful views as well.
I know Sunset Cliffs like the back of my hand! Here is a minute video with some phone views of the cliffs I’ve taken so you can get a feel for what it is like there:
If you’re coming from out of town, fly into San Diego International Airport. It is the closest airport and has artwork on the floor and walls referencing Sunset Cliffs!
If you’re local, most likely you’re going to follow the I-5 to Mission Bay, then Sunset Cliffs Boulevard.
There are several free parking lots on the cliffs as well as a lot of free street parking. The closer to sunset it gets, the less parking that is available. It is the #1 place in San Diego to watch the sunset, thus fittingly called Sunset Cliffs.
Sunset Cliffs Inn – quaint little motel on the North end of the cliffs.
How amazing is this Historic Building, it is the closest to the center of Sunset Cliffs. Perfect for a deluxe honeymoon sweet or hosting your wedding guests.
There are endless options of beautiful home rentals and hotels around San Diego!
The best time to get married at Sunset Cliffs in my opinion would be February – April or September-October. The cliffs should be less busy and the weather should be great – not too hot and not too cold.
Tourist season is typically June-August if you want to avoid the crowds. The summer can be really hot, high 80s. I’d recommend having your Sunset Cliffs Wedding on a weekday to avoid the crowds if you can swing it!
“June Gloom” is typically May-June when San Diego is very overcast and gets a lot of rain
December-January tends to be the coldest month of the year, averaging 50-60 degrees.
Keep in mind that the coast is colder and has more wind than inland. There’s always an ocean breeze!
Grey Whales migrate South off the coast of San Diego from December to April.
Seals and Sea Lions typically have their pups in May-June, thought I’ve never seen them at the cliffs. I always see them in La Jolla.
Bioluminescence – glowing waves, usually happen in the late Fall August/September. They are typically preceded by a brown or red tide in the summer. This phenomenon has become more frequent in the past few years. The best time to capture the glowing waves and stars in your photos will be on a new moon at least 2 hours after sunset.
You can check out a live view camera of Point Loma here.
If you would like to get photos with the stars at Sunset Cliffs, you will want to go around the New Moon and hopefully a cloud-free night.
If you are wanting to access the beaches you’ll have to go when there is a low or negative tide (ideally close to sunrise or sunset for lighting). Check out the tide chart here.
Sunrise is best to avoid crowds, but it tends to be overcast at sunrise. San Diego has a “marine layer” that usually lifts by the afternoon.
Sunset is absolutely beautiful, especially since it is called “Sunset Cliffs” so you can watch the sunset over the ocean horizon.
1:00PM Photography starts with detail photos of bouquet, attire, jewelry, etc
2:00PM Getting Ready Photos
2:30PM Getting Dressed Photos
3:00PM First look at the Inn
3:30PM Head to Sunset Cliffs
4:30PM Family Photos
5:00PM Newlywed Photos
6:00PM Dinner off-site
7:00PM Sunset and Blue Hour Photos
8:30PM Photos with Stars
9:00PM Photo Coverage Ends
You can have a picnic on the cliffs! There are lots of amazing vendors that can create a luxurious setting for you.
You can kayak or sail around the coast.
You could surf at Garbage Beach.
You can bring your dog!
On average, 5 people die every year at sunset cliffs and quadruple that are seriously injured. The cliffs are eroding and unstable. The fences and signs are there for a reason! Your safety and comfort are my top priority on your wedding day so here are some tips to stay safe there:
No cliff jumping – as fun as it looks, it is illegal because the bottom is filled with rocks and reef.
Stay 6 feet from the edge – so many people accidentally fall off or the cliff literally crumbles beneath them.
Stay alert – your life is worth more than an instagram photo.
Know your limits – there is a staircase down to the bottom, trying to access the beach any other way can be steep and treacherous.
Be aware of the tides – don’t get stuck on the beach or in a sea cave with the tide coming in.
Photos of all the signs and rules around the park:
I love our Earth and take great pride in protecting it so we can enjoy it for years to come. My photos not only capture the love of my couples, but the beautiful landscapes that are everchanging. I’m a Leave No Trace Photographer – which means I’m certified in the Leave No Trace Principles as it applies to adventure elopements. We will stay off any flora restoration sites at Sunset Cliffs. Pack out whatever we’ve taken in. No fires or digging holes or taking rocks. Simple things that will preserve the natural beauty of the area.
Thank you for checking out my blog, I hope it helps you have an amazing wedding at Sunset Cliffs! If you still need a wedding photographer please contact me to see if I have your date available https://kacilou.com/contact
I’ll help you plan the best day ever, give you vendor recommendations, timeline planning, and I’m even officiant if you need one. Then I’ll capture beautiful photos to remember it all!
I would love to what you think about getting married at the Sunset Cliffs in San Diego and any tips you have to add in the comments below!
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