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Things to Do in La Jolla

Just north of downtown San Diego, waterfront La Jolla (pronounced “La-HOY-ah”) is one of Southern California’s most popular beach retreats. Renowned for its cliffs, sandy coves, and wealth of wildlife, the town is also packed with upscale boutiques, destination-worthy museums, and some of the finest restaurants in the area.

The Basics

Many believe “La Jolla” means “The Jewel” in English, and although the translation is a mistake, the nickname fits this beachfront community. Stroll the sand, look out for tide pools, and spy sea lions and migrating whales at La Jolla Cove, or see some of the region’s wildest, most beautiful scenery at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. Hike the La Jolla Coast Walk Trail for sweeping views of the shoreline, or head to La Jolla Shores Park for more beachy splendor. Beyond its natural bounty, La Jolla also boasts top-notch restaurants, cultural stops, and shops; fashion lovers shouldn’t miss La Plaza La Jolla and downtown Girard Avenue and Prospect Street.

From kayak tours and bike trips to surfing and stand-up paddleboarding lessons, you’ll find plenty of ways to enjoy La Jolla’s picturesque coastline. Full-day tours from downtown San Diego also make visiting simple.

Things to Know Before You Go
  • La Jolla’s waters are famed for their leopard sharks, a harmless highlight of local snorkeling trips.
  • The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, one of  La Jolla’s main attractions, is currently closed for long-term renovation work.

How to Get There
To get to La Jolla, take the 30 bus from downtown San Diego—or drive north on I-5. If you’re traveling by train, get off at either the Old Town Transit Center or Sorrento Valley station, then take a taxi to La Jolla.

When to Get There
Summer is La Jolla’s peak season, when temperatures are warm enough for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. Go late in the summer to avoid the crowds.

Top La Jolla Restaurants

After your nature excursions, discover La Jolla’s culinary delights. Must-visit restaurants range from NINE-TEN Restaurant & Bar to the elegant George’s at the Cove. Tip: San Diego Restaurant Week is held every January and September, and some of La Jolla’s best restaurants offer special prix fixe menus.
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Windansea Beach
4 Tours and Activities

With 17 miles of coastline, San Diego is known for its scenic beaches. Everyone has their favorites, making it hard for visitors to choose. But if you’re a surfer, or just like to watch them in action, save time for a trip to Windansea Beach.

It’s one of the more crowded beaches, but for a good reason. Most locals agree it provides the area’s most consistent surfing conditions. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, a guy or girl, surfing is a part of life in San Diego. Underwater reefs help create the surf breaks that surfers enjoy here. Swimming is also allowed at the beach, but swimmers need to be careful. Windansea Beach is also known for its moderate to severe shore break. That means there can be hard breaking surf near the shoreline, so swimmers need to use caution when getting in or out of the water.

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Children's Pool Beach
5 Tours and Activities

You don’t have to be a kid to love Children’s Pool Beach. This small beach is partially protected by a seawall, and in fact, the beach isn’t just popular with people. During much of the year seals and sea lions can be found on or near the beach, as the Seal Rock reserve is just offshore. Take a walk along the seawall and enjoy views of La Jolla and the Pacific Ocean.

Swimming and scuba diving is allowed at Children’s Pool Beach. Divers like the beach because of reefs just offshore, but those same reefs can intensify already strong currents. Swimmers need to be careful. Lifeguards are on duty year-round from 9am to dusk.

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Ellen Browning Scripps Park
5 Tours and Activities

Ellen Browning Scripps Park is often called the most photographed park in San Diego, and once you arrive, you’ll understand why. Blue ocean, green grass and towering palm trees set the scene.

Along with plenty of space to run and play games like Frisbee, there’s also a walkway along the bluff overlooking the ocean. Low tide at Shell Beach, located at the south end of Ellen Browning Scripps Park, is a great tide pooling spot. Keep an eye out for seals and sea lions snoozing on the rocks offshore. The park is a popular wedding site and a number of events take place there including the popular family friendly outdoor Summer Concerts by the Sea, held Sundays throughout summer.

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Birch Aquarium at Scripps
1 Tour and Activity

See what life is like under the ocean without getting wet at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, which contains more than 60 tanks teeming with colorful marine life. Along with coral reefs, sharks and jellyfish exhibits, the two-story, 70,000 gallon kelp forest will capture your attention. Hands-on displays, exhibits and dailyfeeding presentations offer the chance to learn about ocean science while having fun.<//p>

Birch Aquarium at Scripps is home to more than 5,000 specimens that represent more than 380 speciesof fishes and invertebrates. Tide-Pool Plaza has three tide pools where visitors can touch and learn about residents that include starfish, hermit crabs, sea cucumbers, and lobsters. Docents are on hand to answer questions. Tide-Pool Plaza comes with the added perk of a Pacific Ocean view.

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Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
1 Tour and Activity

If you ever wondered what California might have looked like before so many people decided to call it home, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve provides a glimpse back in time.

This wild stretch of 2,000 acres provide a living, growing picture of what San Diego looked like before it was developed. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is home to miles of beaches, chaparral plants, Torrey pine trees and a lagoon used by migrating seabirds. There are eight miles of trails and a Visitor Center. Free, docent led, tours are given on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays at 10am and 2pm. They run an hour to an hour and a half in length. There are some rules you should know before you visit. No food or drink, except water, is allowed in the Reserve above the beach. A "pack it in-pack it out" policy applies in the upper Reserve area. Dogs are not permitted, although service dogs are allowed.

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