Nearly everyone who comes to San Diego will make time to visit the La Jolla sea lions and the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. But there’s so much more to the city than its most well-known tourist attractions. Leave your friends and family asking, “Where are they now?” when you post photos from these hidden gems in San Diego on social media. From beautiful photo ops in the great outdoors, to one-of-a-kind venues you can rent for a private party or event, we’ve found these 10 memorable locations to show you a different side of this incredible city.
San Diego’s canyons help make this city the perfect destination for urban adventurers. One of its most impressive — although not for those with a fear of heights — is the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge, which crosses Kate Sessions Canyon just two miles from downtown. Built in 1912, this pedestrian-only bridge hangs 70 feet in the air and is a great location for photos. It’s also close enough to several other historic bridges that you can make a day-hike out of it.
2. An A-frame home and garden in Clairemont Mesa West
If you’re looking for a San Diego-style home to host a small gathering, a photo shoot, or a video production, this A-frame house overlooking a canyon is a beautiful option. Available for daily or hourly rentals, you’ll have access to a 2,000 sq.ft. backyard with a large deck and a garden full of native plants and succulents. Inside, the house is filled with antique furniture and decor from all over the world. There’s also a separate art studio for a true Southern California vibe.
3. A historic home and farm in National City
This spacious property offers a unique urban farm setting close to downtown San Diego. With a 3-story home that includes 4,700 sq.ft. of space, as well as a ½-acre yard and ¼-acre farm, you can rent this space for a video production or event for up to 30 people. It’s the perfect venue for an outdoor dinner, with tables and benches available to rent directly from the host. You can also arrange for a private tour of the farm, or shop at the on-site mercantile, which sells dried goods, homemade jams and jellies, fresh produce, and more.
4. The Dive-In Theater at the Pearl Hotel
San Diego may be known for its scuba diving, but it’s also home to the “Dive-In Theater,” where you can watch a range of classic and contemporary cinema in a vintage swimming pool. Free to guests at the Pearl Hotel, visitors can access the pool and bar with a drink purchase. Check out the Pearl’s website to find out what’s playing. Screenings start every Wednesday at 8 pm.
5. An outdoor lounge in Chula Vista
This hidden gem is a great option for showers, birthday parties, and even small weddings. It has the feel of a luxury hotel hidden in a suburban backyard. With an outdoor bar and kitchen, a large TV and sound system, and multiple fireplaces, it has all of the amenities you need for a party or dinner for up to 75 people. The stone terraces, waterfalls, and koi pond add to the atmosphere, while the host can help you arrange for catering, DJ, and bartending services.
6. A “country casa” near La Jolla
This sprawling property is the ideal spot for a San Diego photo shoot. A 6-bedroom house on a one-acre lot, you’ll have beautiful views of the ocean from inside and out. The yard includes a brick courtyard, a grassy lawn, a wooden deck, a sandy patch, and more. There’s also a garden area with raised beds and large trees and succulents planted throughout. The sheer variety of rooms and outdoor spaces makes this perfect for a photo or video shoot, since you can stage multiple scenes at a single venue, all with an authentic Southern California backdrop.
7. The La Jolla Secret Swings
The La Jolla Secret Swings are truly a hidden gem in San Diego. Visitors report that the swings are changing often, so the exact colors and location may vary. You’ll want to look up directions and the latest updates before you go. If you’re lucky enough to find them, then you’ll be treated to beautiful views of the ocean just a short walk from the UCSD Coastal Apartments.
8. A sprawling villa in Ramona, CA
This hilltop villa is available for rent by the hour at one of the most affordable rates you’ll find for a venue of this size. With wraparound balconies, landscaped gardens, and an outdoor pool, this is a stunning piece of European elegance set amid the San Diego hills. There are multiple spaces to rent, making this venue suitable for photo or video shoots, small parties, and weddings. You can coordinate directly with your host to confirm with spaces you’ll have access to.
9. An infinity pool and labyrinth in Valley Center
For some of the best hidden gems in San Diego, head out of the city and into the surrounding hill country. Just a short drive from downtown is this beautiful outdoor venue in Valley Center, which features an infinity pool surrounded by palm trees. In addition to a patio with views of the valley, there’s also a stone labyrinth that’s the perfect setting for a spiritual, meditative photo shoot.
10. A tropical oasis in Black Mountain Ranch
This ¾-acre yard features a tropical-themed event space with a resort-style pool. The terraced pool includes a hot tub, waterfall, and fountains, while the adjacent bar and lounge area can be used to serve food and drinks. This space is suitable for a variety of events, including parties and weddings with up to 50 guests, as well as photo and video shoots. While the house isn’t included in your rental, it provides a stunning backdrop to complete the scene.
Our list of hidden gems in San Diego may be a little heavy on swimming pools, but it is Southern California, after all — and this a city that’s best experienced outdoors. We think you’ll find plenty of great photo ops and event spaces on this list, but if you want more to choose from, browse the venues on Peerspace for even more ideas. Many of them include the option to book local caterers, equipment rentals, and event staff through the Concierge service, making it easy to plan your event with one simple booking!