6 Best Dog-Friendly San Diego Beaches for Photography Sessions

by | Education

San Diego beaches are by far some of the most photogenic locations on Earth. Add a dog into the mix and you’ve got yourself a picture perfect scenario! I am truly lucky to live in a place where we have our choice of which beach to go to on any given day. However, they are not all the same: some allow dogs on-leash only, some off leash and some have different rules depending on the seasons. Let’s dive in to the 6 best dog-friendly beaches in San Diego!

Del Mar Dog Beach 

Probably one of the most popular and gorgeous dog beaches in San Diego is Del Mar Dog Beach. Located between Torrey Pines and Solana beach, Del Mar is a great place for people in any of the surrounding beach towns to visit. Here are the rules: the day after Labor Day through June 15th dogs are allowed off-leash Between 29th Street and Solana Beach border. June 16th through Labor Day between 29th Street and Solana Beach, off-leash dogs are permitted from dawn to 8 a.m.; dogs must be leashed from 8 a.m. to dawn. Also be prepared to pay for parking if you want to park close to the entrance. 

It gets quite popular during the summertime, so going in the early morning is the best time to beat the crowds. Make sure you check the tide before you go because there is a lot less beach to run around on when it’s high tide. My favorite time to go is about an hour before sunset when the tide is super low because you have plenty of beach to enjoy and can also get some truly amazing reflection shots of dogs running, playing or just sitting and posing. 

tan dog standing on a rock in front of yellow cliffs at the beach

The beautiful part about Del Mar dog beach is the cliffs that are located at the Northern end of the beach. They make for an absolutely stunning backdrop and offer a unique juxtaposition to the blue ocean waves. 

australian shepherd posing on a rock at the beach in front of sunset

Del Mar is perfect for action shots since dogs can be off-leash and run to their heart’s content!

Ocean Beach Dog Beach

Although I rarely go to this particular beach because it’s so far away, I know tons of people who take their dogs there and love it! OB dog beach is the sandy area North of Lifeguard Tower 5. Dogs are allowed off-leash here 24/7, 365. It’s best to go when the tide is low for some epic shots! Ocean Beach is next to a rocky jetty, which can make for a cool background for photos. You might also get the OB pier in the background if you shoot south. 

This beach requires a dog who is dog-friendly and doesn’t mind random dogs running up during his photoshoot since all dogs can be off-leash here. 

Coronado Dog Beach

Coronado Island is one of my favorite photography locations because you can shoot at the dog beach, on the bayside with a view of the San Diego skyline in the back, or even on a secluded beach with a view of Coronado bridge in the background.

Coronado’s Dog Beach offers leash-free romps year-round and is set directly across from Sunset Park on Ocean Boulevard, bordering Coronado’s North Island U.S. Naval Station. Parking is free on surrounding streets.

It’s a bit of a walk from parking to the ocean, but it’s also a nice spot for photos because there are some sand dunes with ice plant and you may even be able to see the Hotel Del in the background. 

This beach tends to be a little more empty than other dog beaches and when I’ve photographed there, we tend to have a spot to ourselves if we want it, which is nice! This beach is unique because you get the ocean views as well as the Hotel Del and Point Loma in the back!

Cardiff State Beach

Cardiff State Beach is my personal favorite for capturing the sheer beauty of the California coastline in a more controlled beach environment. It’s the perfect spot for dogs who can’t be off-leash or don’t like dogs running up to them.

Cardiff gives a Del Mar vibe because it also has stunning cliffs that dogs can pose on. There is a parking lot with a fee for easy access or you can park a little further away and walk. I love photographing dogs at Cardiff because it’s more mellow than actual dog beaches!

Scripps Pier, La Jolla

schnauzer sitting on the beach in front of the pier

Another location that is good for dogs who need to remain on leash or don’t like to be approached by other dogs is Scripps Pier. This location is right next to La Jolla shores and offers a super unique photo experience because of the backdrop the pier provides. There are also grassy spots up above that can make for really nice photos. It can get pretty popular with photographers, so be aware of that. 

dog silhouette on the beach at sunset in front of a pier

The beach is best visited at low tide and you can get some really epic reflection photos when it is! If you walk north, there are rocks and the cliffside to photograph and dogs can easily be posed there. 

Fun fact: Scripps pier has a webcam that is on 24/7, so whenever I want to see how the weather is at the beach, I always check out the live cam to see how conditions are!


Venture to Windansea if you crave a more off-the-beaten-path experience. This is a spot that most people don’t go to, but offers a different look than any other San Diego beach due to the mossy rocks and tide pools. I don’t shoot here too often, but it does make for a gorgeous backdrop!

bulldog standing on a mossy rock at the beach at sunset

Dogs are only allowed here at certain times: April – October: Dogs are allowed before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m. November – March: Dogs allowed before 9 a.m. and after 4 p.m. Dogs are also supposed to remain on leash here, but I often see off-leash dogs running. 

bulldog standing on a mossy rock at the beach

If you want to photograph here, MAKE SURE it’s LOW TIDE. There is very little room on this beach and if the tide is high it an be inaccessible. There are multiple staircases down to the beach or some rocks areas to take, so be careful. 

bulldog running into the sunset at the beach

Well that about sums up the best beaches in San Diego for dog portraits, or even just a fun outing for your pup! If you want to schedule your very own session at one of these beautiful spots, reach out via my contact page. I’d love to hear from you!