Rain or shine, there’s a coastal town near our lovely San Diego that will always be rife with activity, La Jolla, California. Whether you are into Fine Art, world-class golf courses, and luxury boutiques or want to kayak around the caves and hike along the stunning coastline, La Jolla has it all.
La Jolla is much smaller than the city of San Diego, but it can still be fairly difficult to pick what to see and do in town. Amazingly, La Jolla has managed to have mostly small businesses whether it be restaurants, coffee shops, clothing stores, or grocery stores, most are incredibly unique and lovely.
Whether you are visiting La Jolla as a day trip from San Diego or plan to stay here the whole time, this La Jolla Guide will give you all the info you need, from the best things to do and where to eat and stay in La Jolla.
Things To Do in La Jolla
La Jolla Cove
This small picturesque beach has a lot more than first meets the eye. La Jolla Cove is under the protection of the marine reserve because the life under the surface of the water is so plentiful and diverse.
It is a popular spot, however, for scuba divers, snorkelers, and swimmers. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see some gorgeous marine life? If you aren’t one for water play, I suggest having a picnic nearby or going fishing.
La Jolla Cove is a lovely spot for families, individuals, and couples alike because when you spend the day somewhere so beautiful, nice things are bound to happen.
La Jolla Village
In this area, you can find really spectacular-looking houses as well as a plethora of small businesses ready for you to explore. La Jolla is a fairly expensive area so the buildings can get really elaborate and interesting to look at in general.
I enjoy taking a walk around La Jolla Village with a few snacks from the local shops and browse the windows of the boutiques. From time to time, if you’re in town during some common holidays, you’ll see the festivals that take place in the village. Those are really special to see and be a part of and not to mention those ocean views!
If you want to dive a little deeper, I recommend this La Jolla Walking Tour with a local that will show you the most picturesque spots and teach you a little about the history of La Jolla. Book your tour here>>
Don’t let the name of this place fool you, this isn’t actually a pool and it’s definitely not for human children. It’s a small sandy area that was originally supposed to really be a children’s pool but the seals of the harbor quickly took a liking and took over. It is one of the best spots to spot the La Jolla seals and sea lions.
Because of this, the community created an observation area where you can sit and watch the seals come and go as they please. I recommend taking a meal with you so you can peacefully observe. I also suggest you go early or later to miss the bigger crowds and enjoy the sound of the ocean and seals.
Kayaking in La Jolla, California
If you look over the beach from one of the cliff sides, you might see quite a few little kayaks moseying about. Kayaking is a popular activity and one that is highly recommended amongst travelers and locals. Read our full review of the best kayak tours in La Jolla here>>
There are a few locally owned kayaking companies that will happily help you learn and explore. The most suggested place to explore are the caves checkered around La Jolla’s section of the Pacific Ocean. You can go on your own, on a tour, or in a group. But no matter how you choose to do it, it’s always so much fun!
Here are some of the top La Jolla Kayaking Tours:
- La Jolla Sea Caves Kayak Tour
- La Jolla Whale Watching Kayak Adventure
- Kayak Rental for Two People in La Jolla
Scripps Institution of Oceanography/ Birch Aquarium
Location: 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, CA, 92037
Phone: (858) 534. 3474
Tickets: $12 – $16.50
Hours: 9 am to 5 pm
There is one thing I will always remember from my field trips to the Birch Aquarium is how beautiful it is. It’s bright inside no matter how gloomy it is outside. You can always see the ocean from the Smargon Courtyard.
In the courtyard, you can also visit the nursery animals like swells of shark eggs, sand crabs, clumps of mussels, and so much more. If you’re into stranger things, they have an oddities exhibit that could really blow your mind, it is my favorite area to explore every time I visit.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography is an ideal spot for family trips, solo adventures, and couples getaways and definitely worth staying a full day.
La Jolla Playhouse
Location: 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla, CA, 92037 (Inside University of California San Diego)
Phone: (858) 550.1010
The sun and ocean are all well and good but there is something about going to see a play. However, seeing a show at the La Jolla Playhouse is more than just for entertainment. They use whatever power they have to project the voices of artists that should be heard. The playhouse stands firm as allies of BIPOC and makes an effort to start hard conversations, educate, and attempt to make a difference through art and performance.
They are a non-profit theatre, actively supporting new local artists to develop their voices. Their transparency is extremely admirable. I most definitely recommend catching a show or two. Be sure to check out this site for tickets to upcoming shows and performances.
Museum of Contemporary Art
Hours: Thu-Tue 11 am to 5 pm
Location: 700 Prospect Street, La Jolla, CA, 92037
Phone: (858) 454.3541
I absolutely adore museums and art galleries. La Jolla happens to have some really nice options for both, one of which is the Museum of Contemporary Art.
They are focusing now on women artists, featuring women-taught workshops and beautifully done art pieces. For those who can’t physically make it to the museum, they offer online exhibits as well.
Like with any museum or gallery, you cannot see it in its full glory in a short visit. I suggest taking your time and really educating yourself on the beautiful pieces and lovely artists featured.
A little bit to the north of La Jolla is a 2,500-acre community filled with playable golf courses, residential space inhabiting dozens of suburban homes, and some really interesting restaurants! Not to mention the miles of Torrey Pines hiking trails that lead to peaks with ocean views and down narrow canyons to the beach. This guided hiking tour takes you to some of the hidden nature spots and down stunning slot canyons to the beach.
If you’re looking for inns to stay in a slightly less city setting, I suggest finding a spot here where you may find a quieter room. I recommend this area for older people and golf lovers; for you it is a dream.
Now now, I did not write this article with the intention of leaving out our surfing lovers or those simply interested in the sport. I did not forget about you! If you already know how to surf, feel free to vibe in the waves since there are plenty of waves to catch at the La Jolla Shores.
If you’re a beginner though, Learn To Surf surf school is a really great way for kids and families to start their surfing adventures. Also, check out these top San Diego surf lessons and camps. Though, if surfing is a little scary or even boring to you, you can learn to paddleboard safely in a really fun way right on the beach. No matter what funky fun ocean activity you want to do, you can rent equipment from almost any shop along the shorelines.
Best La Jolla Beaches
La Jolla has some of the best beaches in San Diego. From surfer’s paradise to family-friendly sandy beaches. Here are some of my favorite ones.
La Jolla Shores
If you ask any of the locals where you should go beach-wise, they will probably say La Jolla Shores. It is a very popular beach, the odd one out of the other more hidden beaches in the area. The Shore is a long and wide stretch of beach great for families, kayakers, surfers, or leisurely sun tanning.
Tucked below Neptune Place, Windandsea provides a lovely spot for sunbathing. However, more interestingly, it is a spot where expert surfers test their skills against the waves. It’s a humble little beach not meant for big crowds but definitely worth checking out.
Torrey Pines State Beach
This rocky beach is lovely for observations but can get a little dangerous around the cliffs. There’s a little entrance channel with a beach similar to South Beach in La Jolla. Torrey Pines State Beach is great for hiking, birdwatching, fishing, and sunbathing but keep in mind that animals are not permitted on the beach.
La Jolla Cove Beach
Because this particular beach is protected by a rocky point, it is a safe swimming beach northeast of Ellen Browning Scripps Park. You can lay in the grass in the park above or swim, go snorkeling, scuba diving, and birdwatching. It’s the perfect place for a beach picnic. Dogs are allowed on the beach provided they stay on a leash.
This is quite a famous La Jolla beach for its optional clothing policy. It is a combination of the Torrey Pines City Beach and its also a State beach. Much like La Jolla Shores, it is a long stretch of beach suitable for countless activities like swimming, hang gliding, fishing, whale watching, and just general beach exploration. Dogs are welcome if they remain on a leash at all times.
If you like to collect shells then I suggest going to their nifty little beach. You can go on a stroll on the Coast Walk Trail that goes above La Jolla Bay. From this tiny beach, you can walk to Seal Rock and the Children’s Pool. Shell Beach is perfect for tide pooling, scuba diving, and snorkeling. Be sure to keep your furry friends on a leash if you want to bring them.
La Jolla Tours
Sea Caves Kayak Tour
If you enjoy the gorgeous coastal scenery, marine life, and kayaking then this might just be the tour for you. This trip takes you around the La Jolla Sea Caves with an expert naturalist as your guide.
During this tour, you will be able to observe birds, dolphins, sea lions, orcas, and so much more sea life that you won’t even believe your eyes. I highly recommend this tour for nature lovers, it provides an interesting adventure and perhaps a newfound appreciation for the ocean. Book your kayaking tour here>>
Whale Watching Kayak Adventure
From December to around March, the gray whales migrate between Alaska and Mexico so they happen to make their way past San Diego. During this time, a neat little kayaking adventure takes place. This whale-watching trip is to bring you into the natural habitat of the whales and thus immerse yourself in their world.
You are guided by an expert who will keep you safe and educated throughout the entire experience. It is a great tour for couples, and individuals excited about adventure and education. Book your whale-watching kayaking tour here>>
La Jolla Segway Tour
While you most certainly can explore La Jolla on foot and walk around, it can get quite exhausting. You can still see the wonder that is La Jolla in about 2 hours with this convenient private La Jolla Segway tour offered by locals. It’s always nice to have a local show you around La Jolla and its many neighborhoods. Book your private Segway tour here>>
Private La Jolla Tour by Sidecar
If you’re someone who likes to do things in style, this tour might just be for you. They pick you up on a motorcycle sidecar, taking you around the town sights to humbly brag about each. You will learn about the past, present, and the hopeful future of La Jolla.
This is a completely private tour for up to two people in the sidecar. Pets are welcome and will count as your plus one. Pegasus Sidecar Tours remains prepared for rain or shine and is determined to show you a good time. Book your Sidecar Tour here>>
La Jolla: Explore California’s Riviera on a Self-Guided Audio Tour
Group tours are all well and good but sometimes, you just want to take a walk and listen to a Podcast while taking in the local sights. I totally understand. How about walking around town and learning about their history?
With this tour, you can calmly listen to the backstory of La Jolla’s fantastic monuments and historic establishments, remaining unbothered to freely go at your own pace. It makes for a lovely afternoon, don’t you think? Book your self-guided walking tour here>>
Best La Jollla Restaurants
La Jolla has some of the best restaurants in the city, as well as some of the top Brunch spots. Here are some of our recommendations for restaurants in La Jolla.
Settled in the Lodge Torrey Pines and among their other luxurious dining options, the best would have to be A.R Valentien. They highlight the beautiful fresh flavors of California.
Tables overlook the hotel golf course greens but the real sight to see is the whole reason for the restaurant’s name. Works by A.R Valentien, a 20th-century Californian artist, are displayed on the walls. It gives the restaurant the same air of elegance and freshness as the food they serve.
El Pescador Fish Market
Hours: 11 am to 9 pm
Location: 634 Pearl Street, La Jolla, CA, 92037
Phone: (858) 456.2526
For over 40 years, El Pescador has been providing the public with fresh fish daily that’s been sourced from the local fishermen and purveyors. Each dish is designed around the seafood highlight to bring it to its full potential.
This spot is wonderful for solo travelers, couples, and families alike as long as everyone enjoys seafood. The atmosphere is casual with a refreshing elegance that is definitely hard to beat.
Hours: 4 pm to 8 pm
Location: 2171 Avenida De La Playa, La Jolla, CA, 92037
Phone: (858) 454.7373
You may be asking yourself, “Why are they open for only 4 hours a day?” I have the answer for you! This restaurant handmakes everything that they serve. It is a housemade Italian restaurant aimed to provide a cozy dining atmosphere. They spend all day preparing their ingredients carefully for service. It’s quite amazing.
The Marine Room
2000 Spindrift Dr, La Jolla, CA 92037
Start Planning Your Perfect Dining Experience Here
$$$$ | Seafood
It is a well-known fact that the Marine Room is one of the best restaurants in San Diego. For over seven decades, they have welcomed everyone to enjoy their elegantly and carefully made seafood.
Eating here is a dream for many and a renaissance of flavor for those who have. If you’re looking for a primo spot to have an anniversary or date, go here.
George’s at the Cove
I really love the practices of George’s. They approach every day as if it were a special occasion. With their locally sourced and harvested products, they make some really special dishes.
The contemporary dining room overlooks the beautiful ocean and the employees are so helpful and knowledgeable that it’s hard to not enjoy yourself. They embrace the flavors of San Diego, like fish tacos, and treat their ingredients with so much respect that their dishes turn out amazing.
Nine-Ten Restaurant & Bar
In the Grande Colonial Hotel, there is a Michelin-reviewed restaurant named Nine-Ten. They interestingly don’t have a set style of cuisine. They rely on what the season offers in an effort to keep up with the evolving San Diego.
The decor is a casual take on an elegant contemporary style. Everyone who works there is well-trained and enthusiastic to help with anything you need. And the ocean views is the cherry on top of this Michelin-praised sundae. Make Your reservation right now so you don’t miss out.
La Jolla Hotels & Vacation Rentals
There are so many stunning hotels and vacation rentals in La Jolla, so many actually that they deserve their own posts. Please take a look here:
Best Ocean-front Vacation Rentals (many in La Jolla)
Events in La Jolla
La Jolla Farmer’s Market
Hours: Sunday 9 am to 1 pm
Location: 7335 Girard Ave, La Jolla, CA, 92037
On a lazy Sunday, you should mosey on down to the farmers market to check out the handmade art and artisan pieces and the countless amounts of ethically grown produce. Ugh, there are also delicious deli items that are simply to die for.
La Jolla Village Art Walk
Every second Saturday of the month, there is a lovely art walk set up all over La Jolla Village along with various enjoyable activities. Through the art walk, visitors can awe at beautiful pieces and perhaps learn a few things about the art world in general while having a blast.
La Jolla Half Marathon
Every year, La Jolla hosts one of America’s most beautiful and picturesque point-to-point races that starts in Del Mar and finishes in Torrey Pines State Park. This race takes place to challenge people to become healthier people. But really; it’s just for fun!
La Jolla 4th Of July Extravaganza
Each year on, you guessed it, the 4th of July, there is a huge celebration that takes place in La Jolla. The festivities include parades, food, and business deals. However, at the very end of the day, when the sun sets, fireworks go off near the beach. They sound off and then burst into beautiful colors to represent the country’s holiday.
Pillage the Village
Trust me, when I first heard about this, I thought it was odd too but hear me out. It is a safe trick-or-treating event that happens every year on Halloween afternoon. The businesses that are involved have signs out indicating their abundance of candy. Pillage the Village happens from 3 pm to 6 pm that night and there is much more than just trick or treating like costume contests and a pet-friendly Halloween party!
Farmers Insurance Open
If you’re a golf fan then you’re in luck! The Farmers Insurance Open occurs in the Torrey Pines Golf Course. I suggest getting your spots soon or even volunteering to be a caddy to really get in on the action! There is food, drinks, and lots of golf fun to be had!
La Jolla Concourse D’élégance Car Show
For those who are particularly fond of old luxury cars or just luxury cars in general, this car show is quite spectacular. For a few days every year, dozens of luxury cars gather together in Torrey Pines to show off cars or simply find out which car is the best of the best for the year.
This is a funky yearly event that is surely to catch your interest. Every spring, thousands of silvery fish wash up on shore to do their strange ritual mating. You can watch them burying themselves, run on and offshore, and even mate! Grunions can only be found in Southern California so it really is quite a unique event.
Art & Wine Festival
October of every year, La Jolla dedicates a few days to the spectacular industry of art and wine. There are silent auctions, pet adoptions, live entertainment, food, and of course wine and art! It is days of fun and ways for local artists to showcase their work. Definitely check it out if you’re in town!
This article was written by a Hedge Metreyeon.
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Last Updated on June 9, 2023 by Anastasia Rybina