A Locals Guide on Exciting Things to Do in La Jolla
Nestled along the picturesque coast of Southern California, La Jolla is a charming seaside village that captivates visitors with its natural beauty, rich cultural scene, and endless recreational opportunities. Often referred to as “The Jewel of the Pacific,” La Jolla offers a perfect blend of relaxation and excitement, making it a dream destination for travelers seeking an unforgettable luxury experience.
From La Jolla Cove to the secret swings to the endless seals and sea lions amongst the shore, there are tons of activities for every traveler. It’s hands down my favorite place in all of San Diego (aside from Balboa Park) since there is so much to explore! In this blog post, we will explore some of the best things to do in La Jolla. From its pristine beaches and outdoor activities to its vibrant art and culinary scene.
Best Things to Do in La Jolla
Revel in the Beauty of La Jolla’s Beaches
La Jolla boasts some of California’s most stunning beaches, each with its unique allure. La Jolla Cove is a must-visit spot and one of the most famous attractions of La Jolla. It’s famous for its crystal-clear waters and vibrant marine life. Snorkelers and scuba divers flock here to witness the colorful array of fish, sea lions, and harmless leopard sharks that inhabit the area.
Windansea Beach, on the other hand, is renowned for its dramatic surf breaks and stunning sunsets. Making it a beloved spot for surfers, photographers, and locals alike. It’s my favorite beach in the entire world and needs to be witnessed by everyone who visits. Whether you prefer sunbathing, swimming, or simply strolling along the shore, La Jolla’s beaches offer an idyllic setting for relaxation and rejuvenation.
Below are the best beaches to visit in La Jolla:
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La Jolla Shores
La Jolla Shores Beach is a wide and sandy beach that stretches along the coastline. It is a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, picnicking, and beach volleyball. The gentle waves and gradual slope into the water make it family-friendly and suitable for water activities. Furthermore, the parking lot is big and it is easy to access the beach from the lot.
We recently embarked on a kayak adventure from the beach exploring the nearby caves. I highly recommend this tour (more on that below). Furthermore, just offshore from La Jolla Shores lies the La Jolla Underwater Park, a marine reserve and ecological reserve. It is an excellent spot for snorkelers and scuba divers to explore marine life and underwater caves. Finally, the Scripps Pier is located on the far end of the beach and is a great place for photography!
La Jolla Cove
La Jolla Cove is one of the most iconic and scenic spots in the area and draws visitors from all over the world. is renowned for its natural beauty, featuring crystal-clear waters, rocky cliffs, and abundant marine life. The cove is surrounded by sandstone cliffs, making it a stunning backdrop for photos and a perfect spot to enjoy a sunset.
The rocky outcroppings around La Jolla Cove are home to a colony of California sea lions and harbor seals. Visitors can often see these playful marine mammals sunbathing on the rocks or swimming in the water. When visiting please be respectful of the marine life and stay at least 10-15 feet back from them.
Finally, adjacent to the cove, you’ll find Ellen Browning Scripps Park, a beautiful grassy area perfect for picnicking, sunbathing, or just relaxing while enjoying the breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.
Located south of La Jolla Cove is a small beach area with a history tied to marine life conservation. Originally, the Children’s Pool was built in 1932 as a protected swimming area for children. Providing a safe space away from the strong ocean currents. The construction of a concrete seawall created a shallow, calm pool where children could play and swim.
This attracted a colony of harbor seals, who found the sheltered cove ideal for giving birth and raising their pups. As a result, the Children’s Pool became a popular viewing spot for locals and visitors to observe these marine mammals.
Windansea Beach is an iconic beach known for its rocky coastline, palapa, and storied surfing history. It gained fame in the 1940s and 1950s when it became a popular gathering spot for a group of local surfers known as “The Windansea Surf Club.” The beach’s reputation as a surf spot has persisted through the years, and it remains a beloved destination for surfers. It’s especially magical at sunset.
Blacks Beach is famous for its stunning cliffs, long stretches of sand, and powerful surf. The beach is situated below tall sandstone cliffs, providing spectacular panoramic views of the coastline and the Pacific Ocean. Visitors can access the beach through steep paths and staircases along the cliffs. The best entrance is located off La Jolla Farms Road. It’s a steep but paved path that takes you directly down to the beach. Be aware that the north side of blacks beach is clothing optional. Because of that, I wouldn’t call this beach family-friendly.
Visit Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave
One of La Jolla’s hidden gems is The Cave Store. Located just north of La Jolla Cove this shop is built into a sea cave. Legend has it once belonged to a millionaire and he would smuggle alcohol through the cave during prohibition. The store offers access to the Sunny Jim Sea Cave.
Finally, It’s the only one of La Jolla’s seven sea caves accessible by land. Visitors can pay a small fee to descend a long and narrow stairway through the cave to view the ocean from inside the cave.
Visit the Geisel Library
The Geisel Library is a famous library located on the campus of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). It serves as the main library for the university and is an iconic architectural landmark in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, California. Named after Theodor Seuss Geisel, the beloved children’s author also known as Dr. Seuss, the Geisel Library was renamed in his honor in 1995.
The library’s striking design was created by architect William L. Pereira. It opened in 1970 and is characterized by its modernist style, geometric shapes, and unique appearance. The building’s design has often been compared to a spaceship or a pair of binoculars. Finally, it’s free to visit but there is paid parking nearby.
Embrace La Jolla’s Art and Culture
La Jolla’s vibrant art scene is evident throughout the village, with numerous galleries, boutiques, and cultural centers celebrating local and international artists. The Museum of Contemporary Art just underwent a huge renovation and is now open. While the La Jolla Playhouse is renowned for its innovative theater productions, often serving as a launching pad for Broadway shows. Finally, art lovers can also explore the Murals of La Jolla, a public art project featuring several eye-catching murals by world-renowned artists adorning buildings around town.
Indulge in Gourmet Delights
Food enthusiasts will find themselves in culinary heaven in La Jolla, as the village offers a diverse selection of restaurants and cafes. From upscale dining establishments serving fresh seafood and farm-to-table delights to quaint bistros and cozy eateries, there’s something to satisfy every palate. The lively La Jolla Farmer’s Market, held every Sunday, is the perfect place to sample locally sourced produce, artisanal goods, and delectable treats from around the region. Here are some of my favorite spots to eat in La Jolla:
- The Marine Room for fine dining
- Paradisaea for a new and noteworthy restaurant
- Puesto for great Mexican food
- The Taco Stand for the best tacos
- Catania or Marisi for great Italian
- El Pescador Fish Market
- Cody’s for brunch
- Caroline’s Seaside Cafe for casual brunch overlooking the water
- Pinpoint Cafe for hidden coffee shop vibes
- Encanto Cafe for great coffee and breakfast
Outdoor Activities in La Jolla
For adventure seekers, La Jolla has a wide array of outdoor activities to enjoy. Kayaking through the sea caves is an unforgettable experience that allows you to explore the hidden wonders of the coastline. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve offers hiking trails with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, as well as the opportunity to witness the rare Torrey Pine trees. Visitors can also try their hand at stand-up paddleboarding, snorkeling, or even paragliding for a unique perspective of this coastal paradise.
Hiking at Torrey Pines
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is located along the coastline. It offers stunning ocean views, unique plant life, and various hiking trails for all skill levels. Here’s some useful information for your hiking adventure:
- Trails: There are several trails within the Torrey Pines, ranging from easy walks to more challenging hikes. Some popular trails include:
- Guy Fleming Trail: This is an easy, 0.7-mile loop trail that offers beautiful ocean vistas and close-up views of the unique Torrey Pine trees.
- Razor Point Trail: A moderate, 1.3-mile loop trail that leads to a stunning overlook of the ocean and the Torrey Pines beach below.
- Beach Trail: A moderate to strenuous, 3/4-mile hike that takes you down to Torrey Pines State Beach. Keep in mind that the return hike is uphill, so it can be more challenging.
- Broken Hill Trail: A moderate to strenuous, 2.5-mile loop trail that takes you to the top of Broken Hill for panoramic views of the reserve and the ocean.
The reserve has a large parking lot that costs $15. It can fill up quickly, especially on weekends and holidays. However, you may be able to snag street parking along the coast if you arrive early enough.
Catch a Sunset at Torrey Pines Gliderport
One of my favorite places to catch a sunset is Torrey Pines Gliderport. The glider port is a popular destination for paragliding and hang-gliding enthusiasts. It offers excellent conditions for both activities, with steady coastal winds and cliffs that allow for safe and exhilarating launches. I love posting up and watching the paragliders soar over the coast. Along with that, there is ample parking here and there is a trail that gets you down to Black’s Beach.
Go Kayaking through the La Jolla Caves
One of the highlights of a La Jolla kayak tour is the chance to explore the sea caves along the coast. The Seven Sea Caves are particularly famous and provide a unique and exciting kayaking experience. The coastline of La Jolla is incredibly scenic, with rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, and crystal-clear waters. Kayaking allows you to enjoy these breathtaking views from a unique perspective. Some tours even let you have the opportunity to kayak through one of the caves to a hidden beach. Book your tour!
Finally, La Jolla is teeming with marine life, including sea lions, harbor seals, dolphins, and a variety of seabirds. During your kayak tour, you may have the opportunity to see these creatures up close in their natural habitat.
Explore La Jolla Tide Pools
La Jolla’s tide pools are located along the rocky coastline and provide a unique opportunity to observe a diverse array of marine plants and animals during low tide. The best time to explore the tide pools is during low tide. Low tide exposes the rocks and pools, giving you a chance to see various marine organisms up close. Tide times change daily, so it’s essential to check the tide schedule for La Jolla before planning your visit.
The tide pools are home to a variety of marine creatures, including sea anemones, crabs, sea stars, urchins, small fish, and various algae species. Keep a safe distance and avoid disturbing the animals. Finally, it’s located off coast blvd and you can spot it by the green lookout bench that is the perfect spot to post up for sunset!
Discover the Rich Underwater World at Birch Aquarium
Situated on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography is a fascinating destination for both adults and children. The aquarium showcases diverse marine life from the Pacific Northwest and the tropical waters of Mexico, providing educational and interactive exhibits that highlight the importance of ocean conservation. With stunning views of the coastline and captivating sea creatures, Birch Aquarium is an enriching and enjoyable experience for all ages.
Find the Secret Swings
If you’re looking for an adventure then consider finding the hidden swings in La Jolla. There are multiple around the coast however, they are notorious for being cut down. When visiting do realize that the swing may not be up at that point in time. However, the community always rallies and creates new ones often.
First, to find the one near the birch aquarium you need to park at the south end of the birch aquarium lot and walk up the hill. It’s easy to spot. The second one is a bit more treacherous to get to. You’ll walk along the Coast Trail (past the cave store) and once you see a white pedestrian bridge you need to climb over the left side and walk down the path. There are ropes to help assist you reach the swing. Finally, remember to be stealthy when finding these.
Golfing at Torrey Pines
Golfing at Torrey Pines is a dream come true for many golf enthusiasts. Torrey Pines Golf Course is a world-renowned public golf facility located in La Jolla. It’s perched atop the coastal cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. So it’s one of the prettiest courses in the country.
Torrey Pines Golf Course consists of two 18-hole championship courses: the North Course and the South Course. The South Course is the more famous and challenging of the two, known for hosting major golf events like the U.S. Open. Both courses offer stunning views of the ocean and the surrounding landscape.\
Finally, the green fees at Torrey Pines can be higher than at most public golf courses. Especially for non-residents. However, the experience of playing on such a prestigious course with breathtaking views makes it worth the cost for many golfers.
Walk the Scripps Coastal Meander
The Scripps Coastal Meander is my favorite viewpoint in all of La Jolla. Situated on top of the Scripps Pier and surrounded by marine biological campuses, is this short trail that wraps along the coast. It’s best recognized. by the wooden staircase and on a good day you can catch paragliders gliding past. When walking down the wooden staircase continue on there are tons of flowers and beautiful views to take in.
Explore the Historic Coast Walk Trail
For history enthusiasts and nature lovers alike, the Coast Walk Trail offers a unique experience. This scenic path, located atop sandstone cliffs, takes you on a journey through La Jolla’s past and presents breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, you’ll encounter the iconic Children’s Pool, once envisioned as a safe swimming area for families, but now home to a colony of adorable harbor seals.
Best Hotels in La Jolla
There are a few noteworthy hotels to stay in when visiting La Jolla. Sharing my top picks below:
- The Lodge at Torrey Pines: A luxury hotel situated on Torrey Pines Golf Course with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Torrey Pines State Reserve. It offers upscale amenities and a renowned spa.
- La Valencia Hotel: Known as “The Pink Lady,” La Valencia is an iconic luxury hotel located in the heart of La Jolla Village. It has a Mediterranean-inspired design and offers beautiful ocean views. Major Italy vibes!
- Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa: This upscale resort-style hotel features lush gardens, Spanish-style architecture, and a top-notch spa. It’s located near Torrey Pines State Reserve and is known for its relaxing ambiance.
Thank you for reading my guide! Don’t forget to check out my Ultimate San Diego Travel Guide. Enjoy La Jolla fam!