Top 20 San Diego attractions

La Jolla

La Jolla

La Jolla is the jewel of San Diego, with rugged coastline and enchanting, sandy coves.

This coastal area is an easy 20-minute drive north of downtown San Diego.   

La Jolla has magnificent coves and beaches, and a 1-mile clifftop walk with stairs down to each of these beaches.

Snorkel or scuba dive in the crystal clear waters of La Jolla Cove, part of the 6,000 acre San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve.

Discover breathtaking waterview restaurants at La Jolla, and a vibrant village with plenty of cafes, restaurants and upscale shops.

10 best things to do at La Jolla

1. Walk along the stunning 1-mile La Jolla clifftop pathway.

This incredible clifftop path travels 1-mile southwest around the picturesque headland at Jolla. 

It starts at La Jolla Cove, then passes Boomer Beach, Shell Beach, the Children's Pool Beach, South Casa Beach, and Wipeout Beach, ending at the La Jolla Tide Pools.  

Start the 1-mile clifftop pathway at enchanting La Jolla Cove.  This small beach is very popular for snorkeling and scuba diving tours, and there is abundant sea life here.  

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Continue along the western shore of La Jolla Cove to Boomer Beach.
 
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Can you see the seals on Boomer Beach at La Jolla?
 
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Head south on the cliff-top path towards Shell Beach at La Jolla.
 
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Take the long stairway down to Shell Beach.
 
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Shell Beach overlooks Seal Rock, home to a resident colony of California Seals. 
 
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This is a closer look at Seal Rock, just off Shell Beach at La Jolla.
 
 
The Children's Pool Beach is directly south of Shell Beach.  This stretch of water is protected by the breakwater, making it perfect for kids.  However, the beach is off-limits to visitors during the December to May breeding season for seals.
 

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Continue south to South Casa Beach at La Jolla, and take the stairs down to the beach.

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This is lovely South Casa Beach at La Jolla. Such a picture perfect beach!

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Continue to La Jolla Wipeout Beach.  Unfortunately it's not recommended for swimming due to riptides and currents, but it's a beautiful beach to stroll along.

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Here's the long stretch of golden sand at La Jolla's Wipeout Beach.

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There are some beautiful sandstone rock formations along La Jolla's Wipeout Beach, sculpted by the elements.

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La Jolla's Wipeout Beach also has some rocks, making swimming a dangerous proposition. It's best to admire this beach from afar.

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La Jolla's Wipeout Beach has the perfect name for a beach with such rough surf.

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Wipeout Beach is also La Jolla's biggest beach!

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These fisherman have a panoramic view of La Jolla's Wipeout Beach.  Can you see the sea caves?

La Jolla Tidepools

The 1-mile walk ends at the popular La Jolla Tidepools.

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The La Jolla Tidepools have a variety of sea life, like sea anemones, hermit crabs, barnacles and more.

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Make sure you check out the tide chart before visiting the La Jolla Tidepools.

2. Savor the relaxed atmosphere at Ellen Browning Scripps Park.

This grassy park is on a clifftop overlooking three beaches at La Jolla.  The wide open space is perfect for kite flying or picnics.  Enjoy a book while relaxing on a bench.  Peer down at the snorkelers at La Jolla Cove, or observe sea lions at Seal Rock just off Shell Beach at the park's southwestern end.  

Ellen Browning Scripps Park

3. Visit La Jolla Cove for some of the BEST snorkeling in San Diego.

La Jolla Cove is popular for snorkeling and diving, and is part of the protected 6,000 acre San Diego/La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve.  It has two artificial reefs to keep the water calm, and a 600-foot underwater canyon.  La Jolla Cove is usually manned by San Diego lifeguards. 

La Jolla Cove snorkeling

4. Take your kids to pretty Children's Pool Beach.

The enchanting Children's Pool Beach is protected by a breakwater and is perfect for kids.  It has a lifeguard station overlooking the beach. However, this pretty beach at La Jolla is closed from mid-December to mid-May for harbor seal pup season.

There are incredible views up the coast from the end of the breakwater.

5. Explore the La Jolla Tide Pools.

Explore abundant sealife at low tide at the La Jolla Tide Pools, but exercise caution for sneaker waves.

Discover some fascinating sea life at the tidepools at La Jolla.

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The surrounding beach area near the tidepools is also lovely for hanging out.

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Make sure you only visit the tidepools when the tide is way out.

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6. Enjoy a spectacular oceanview restaurant at La Jolla.

La Jolla restaurants have jaw-droppingly beautiful, ocean views.  Visit Duke's La JollaGeorges at the Cove, and The Marine Room.  During high tide at The Marine Room, waves are known to crash against the windows, creating an exciting dining experience.  

7. Eat and shop at charming La Jolla Village.

Stop for lunch at trendy mexican restaurant Puesto La Jolla, or brunch at Cove House or Herringbone La Jolla.  The main retail/restaurant area is along Prospect Street, Girard Avenue and Wall Street. 

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8. Experience glamorous Old Hollywood at the Valencia Hotel​.

La Jolla has a vintage feel and was once a favorite with Hollywood celebrities.  The mediterranean style Valencia Hotel graces it's hillside, radiating Old Hollywood glamour, and is fondly referred to as the "Pink Lady".  Stay overnight in the opulent Pink Lady with incredible Mediterranean decor with a vintage flair, and book a reservation on the magnificent ocean view terrace at The Med restaurant.

The Grande Colonial Hotel is also on Prospect Street, and is La Jolla's first hotel.  The drugstore inside the hotel was once owned by Gregory Peck's father.  After finding success in Hollywood, Peck returned to La Jolla to found the La Jolla Playhouse.

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9. Explore the fascinating Sunny Jim Sea Cave.

La Jolla has seven seacaves, but only one of the caves can be reached by foot.  Access to the remaining six caves requires a kayaking tour. 

The Cave Store is just east of La Jolla Cove and provides access to the Sunny Jim Sea Cave.  For a small fee you can take 145 steps down into the cave, once used for smuggling illegal immigrants, alcohol and opium.  In the early 1900's it took workers two years with handpicks to carve a tunnel from the sea cave up to the Cave Store.

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10. Swim at La Jolla Shores Beach.

Drive north to the popular 1-mile long La Jolla Shores Beach, with a lifeguard station and a playground at La Jolla Shores Park. This is La Jolla's most popular beach and can get very busy.

11. See breathtaking views at Torrey Pines State Reserve.

Breathtaking Torrey Pines State Reserve is further north of La Jolla Shores Beach, and has stunning coastal vistas along clifftop walking trails.

12. Visit La Jollas most Hawaiian beach at Windansea Beach.

Drive south to gorgeous Windansea Beach, popular with surfers.  It has a severe shore break, so not great for swimming.

13. Enjoy soaring coastal views from Birch Aquarium. 

The excellent Birch Aquarium is 3-miles north-east of La Jolla village, and has incredible coastal views.

14. Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art at La Jolla.

The Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla is currently closed for a major renovation and expansion.

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15. Visit the La Jolla Playhouse founded by Gregory Peck.

See live theater and music at the La Jolla Playhouse.  Hollywood actor Gregory Peck was one of the original founders.

Here's a detailed description of the 1-mile clifftop walk.

START at Ellen Browning Scripps Park overlooking 3 beaches.  La Jolla Cove is at the north end of Ellen Browning Scripps Park.

Continue along the western shore of La Jolla Cove to see Boomer Beach and Shell Beach.  Take the stairway down to lovely Shell Beach at the southwestern corner of the park.  Shell Beach overlooks Seal Rock, home to a resident colony of California Sea Lions.  Continue south to the Children's Pool Beach with a breakwater.

Continue past the breakwater to tiny Casa Beach. This triangular cove has a small strip of sand with stairs down to it. 

Walk further south past another rocky outcrop to reach the larger yet more exposed Wipeout Beach.  The beaches along the western shore of La Jolla have rip tides and strong currents.  Exercise caution.  Wipeout Beach then leads to the rocky, sandstone coastline at the La Jolla Tide Pools.  The walk ends here.

Know before you go

  • La Jolla Village shops/restaurants:  Prospect Street, Girard Avenue, Wall Street.
  • Historic hotels:  Valencia Hotel, Grande Colonial Hotel.
  • Best beaches:  La Jolla Cove, La Jolla Shores Beach.
  • Best beach for kids:  Children's Pool Beach.
  • Coastal pathway:  1-mile walk.

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