Known as “America’s Finest City,” San Diego offers an enchanting mix of idyllic weather, laidback locals, an abundance of museums, and a tapestry of so many outdoor activities it can make your head spin. It’s no wonder why many people flock to this fine destination to ask that oh-so-important question. Whether you and your loved one are passionate about American history, animals, wine, geology, fine dining, or Mother Nature, San Diego serves up a plethora of proposal settings that’ll make that milestone moment all the more meaningful. To help you choose the optimal backdrop, and get your engagement and wedding planning off on the right foot, we’ve compiled 10 of the best places to propose in San Diego.
One of the most romantic hiking trails in San Diego weaves through Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, a stunning 68-acre park that spans 1.5 miles of Point Loma. For your proposal, hike to one of the dramatic cliff formations that feature some of the best ocean views of the Pacific. If you’re proposing between December and April, keep an eye out for gray whales when you reach the cliffs. When accessing the park from the corner of Ladera Street and Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, in the Hillside part of town, you’ll quickly find stairs leading to a wonderland of tide pools and the path that winds along the coast. As this is such an expansive area, do a reconnaissance mission before the proposal to scout out the perfect San Diego proposal spot. And be sure to have a photographer on hand for your epic moment.
2. Balboa Park
This spectacular 1,200-acre park is by far one of the best places to propose in all of Southern California. With 16 museums, multiple performing arts venues, lush gardens, and numerous trails, Balboa Park is the ideal proposal location for couples with a passion for culture, science, or nature. While almost every corner of the park is overflowing with beauty and intrigue, the areas with the most romantic ambiance include the rambling Japanese Friendship Garden, the Zoro Garden, which was crafted to support the lifecycles of butterflies, and the Botanical Building and Lily Pond, which features more than 2,100 plants such as cycads, ferns, orchids, tropical plants, and palms.
Another gem within Balboa Park, this world-famous, hundred-acre zoo is the place to propose if your soon-to-be-fiancé is an animal lover. San Diego Zoo is home to 3,500 rare and endangered animals that represent more than 650 species and subspecies, so you’re almost sure to find your significant other’s favorite mammal, bird, fish, reptile, or amphibian lingering about. While a perfect spot to pop the question is near the habitat of an animal loved by your other half (looking at you, adorable red panda), you can also propose while aboard the Skyfari aerial tram or Balboa Park Railroad.
Combine the old world romance of Italy with the sparkle of a California sunset by proposing aboard a gondola in San Diego’s Coronado Cays. A go-to choice is the Gondola Company, which offers a 50-minute sunset cruise through picturesque canals and waterways and includes blankets, an ice bucket, and wine glasses, so be sure to BYOC (champagne!). If you really want to up your proposal game, select the “Musica Upgrade” to have a professional mandolin or violin player serenading you during the aquatic journey.
One of the best places to propose in San Diego, Torrey Pines State Park makes you feel like you’ve stumbled upon a wild, alien planet composed of plunging cliffs, fossils, marine terraces, faults, and an impressive assortment of flora and fauna. One of the easiest hikes in this 1,500-acre coastal state park is Guy Fleming Trail, a 2/3-mile loop that’ll take you past 2 scenic outlooks and a variety of wildflowers, ferns, and cacti. Another easy proposal spot is the Razor Point Trail that winds through coastal sage scrub until the trail ends at an outlook featuring views of a sculptured sandstone gorge and gnarled trees. If you’re set on a beach proposal, take the rustic Beach Trail that descends 300 feet to the beach which is spotted with boulders and backed by dramatic cliffs.
Few settings are as romantic as a sailboat floating upon the sunset-kissed waters of the Pacific Ocean. Sail San Diego provides 3-hour cruises during this golden span of the day and serves complimentary wine, beer, non-alcoholic drinks, and snacks. Group sailing is capped at 6 guests, but those hoping for a private proposal can book one of the 3-hour cruises that can set sail any time of day. If you select a private sail, amp up the romance by arriving before your partner to sprinkle rose petals, set up an area with champagne and a charcuterie platter, or add any other special touches that will make your special person swoon as they take in that ocean breeze—and you.
Yet another stellar proposal site within Balboa Park, this charming restaurant is an ideal choice if you want to utilize the classic proposal technique of dropping to one knee during an amazing meal. Located in a charming hacienda, filled with rich colors and eclectic décor, and surrounded by manicured gardens, El Prado offers an elegant setting and the historic vibes San Diego is known and loved for. If you want to set up something special, like a surprise bottle of champagne or the ring arriving on your dessert, call the restaurant ahead of time to make a game plan.
Supremely romantic vibes and French-inspired American cuisine make this award-winning fine dining eatery a must for those proposing to a foodie. With bouquets of flowers arranged in dark blue glass vases and Provençal-style printed china, the amorous flairs of the French are woven into Bertrand at Mister A’s sophisticated ambiance. In addition, the restaurant sits atop a 12-story building in Banker’s Hill, so marriage proposals at this chic location are set to the backdrop of one of the most exquisite views of downtown San Diego and the Gaslamp Quarter. This is the place to show off your finest duds, so make sure to tell your date to dress up, especially if this setting will be a surprise. But for a slightly more casual experience, you can also ask for a table on the patio.
If your almost-fiancé is a Disney fan, hightail it to Temecula wine country where you’ll find the angelic Briar Rose Winery, which also goes by “The Land of Enchantment.” This location is wholly unique as the buildings are replicas of Snow White’s cottages, making you feel like you’ve stumbled into a real-life fairytale you’re about to make all the more magical with those 4 iconic words. This small winery (that calls itself a “micro-winery”) produces an assortment of wines, including its one-of-a-kind Talking Frog bubbly which is a blend of Viognier and lager beer. After quieting your nerves with this eccentric beverage, head to the rose garden and ask The Question as you savor the natural beauty of your partner and the idyllic surroundings.
Note: Reservations are required.
One of San Diegans’ favorite places for a staycation, this seaside hotel opens to a sprawling golden beach that gently disappears into the cool waters of the Pacific. A famed location constructed in 1888, Hotel del Coronado is a fusion of Victorian architecture, coastal California amenities, and contemporary luxuries like plush furniture, finely appointed accommodations, and ocean-inspired treatments at a wellness spa. Additionally, guests of this 757-room hotel enjoy a dazzling pool, 7 gourmet restaurants and cutting-edge fitness classes like Beach Spin, Sunrise Yoga, or Mermaid Fitness. Because this place is too good to just enjoy for a few hours, why not surprise your honey with a weekend getaway that’s topped off with a marriage proposal?
While the hotel offers numerous settings for dreamy proposals, a few of our favorites include on a stand-up board at sunset (Just don’t bring the engagement ring in the water!), in the Babcock and Story Bar lounge to the tune of live music, or at the end of a Sunrise Yoga session on the beach in front of a stunning view.
Bailey Gaddis is a travel writer and author of Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood. In addition, she works as a childbirth preparation educator and birth doula who supports mothers-to-be and new mothers. She is also a regular contributor to media outlets including Disney’s Babble, Working Mother, Pregnancy & Newborn, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, and Woman’s Day. In addition to her childbirth-prep work, she volunteers for families in need of postpartum support. She lives in Ojai, California.