Exploring The Best La Jolla Attractions
Located just 13 miles north of San Diego is the beach community of La Jolla and the La Jolla Cove referred to as the “Jewel of the Sea”. Keep reading and explore the best La Jolla attractions to make it a memorable trip to the sunshine state!
Many associate it with gorgeous beaches and a resort town that visitors flock to when coming to San Diego. Not hard to see why, as it boasts incredible views of the California coastline.
La Jolla’s weather is pretty great averaging between 60 – 72 F year-round so there really isn’t a bad day to visit this gem of San Diego. That is a huge reason why there are so many fun things to do in La Jolla no matter the month!
Best Hotels In La Jolla
The best locations to stay during your trip to La Jolla are near La Jolla Cove or La Jolla Shores Beach. Staying in these two areas will ensure that you are within walking distance to the beach, restaurants, shopping, and top attractions in La Jolla.
The three hotels that I recommend staying at are:
La Valencia Hotel
Grande Colonial Hotel
La Jolla Shores Hotel
Fun La Jolla Tours
La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaking Tour – Explore the coolest sea caves along La Jolla in a guided kayak tour!
La Jolla Surf Lesson – Always wanted to learn how to surf? San Diego is one of the best places to learn.
Go San Diego Pass – If you plan to see many sights in La Jolla and the rest of San Diego, consider getting this pass to several attractions including the Birch Aquarium near the Scripps Pier, bike and kayak tours.
Things To Do In La Jolla
1. La Jolla Cove
La Jolla Cove is home to the charming cove, beach, sea caves, top restaurants, and upscale shopping. The Cove is a protected marine reserve that is popular with swimmers and the local residents (sea lions) that bask on the bluffs, rocks, and shoreline.
And yes, you might get to see one of these playful animals while in the water! They are harmless but as always don’t touch or get too close to them.
Because the water in and around the cove is calmer, getting in some laps is common among swimmers. There are two buoys to help guide you on your swim that mark the ¼ and ½ mile mark. Keep in mind that most of the year a wetsuit is needed!
The Ellen Browning Scripps Park borders the cove and is a great spot to have a picnic outdoors. Make sure to take notice of the lone Monterey Cypress tree that was the inspiration for Dr. Seuss’s “Lorax” tree. The author wrote “The Lorax” while he lived in La Jolla. It is such an odd yet beautiful tree!
Update: I heard that in a storm the Lorax tree fell down this year (2019). Even with it gone, it is a beautiful park and views to see.
Tip: Parking in and near the La Jolla Cove can be a challenge especially in the summer, so get there early to nab a spot or give yourself time to find a parking spot.
2. Sunny Jim’s Cave
The entrance of Sunny Jim’s Cave is inside of the Cave Store, a touristy souvenir shop right on the cliffs of La Jolla. From La Jolla Cove, walk north along the waterfront up to the Cave Store and pay a $5 entrance fee to walk down the 145 steps of this manmade tunnel to the large sea cave opening up to the Pacific Ocean.
Most likely you will get to see a kayak or two passing by! Visiting Sunny Jim’s sea cave from inside and kayaking on the outer entrance is definitely one of the coolest La Jolla attractions to experience.
I was surprised to learn that the cave has been opened since 1903, that’s over 100 years! The hike back up to the top will get your heart rate going and possibly count as your cardio for the day.
In the early days, people visiting didn’t have the luxury of steps but rather had to use a rope to get in and out. Let’s just say I am grateful for the steps.
Interesting Fact: The Sunny Jim Cave is the only sea cave that can be visited by land in California.
Location: 1325 Coast Blvd, La Jolla (opened daily 10am to 5pm)
3. Kayaking In La Jolla
After exploring La Jolla by land, hop into a kayak and explore the coastline and the 7 sea caves scattered between La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores Beach. You can rent a kayak on your own or sign up for a sea cave kayaking tour to explore this beautiful coast.
Depending on your interests, there are sunset, snorkel, and leopard shark tours offered.
Leopard Sharks are quite harmless to humans so don’t hesitate to swim with these beautiful animals. The peak season to see Leopard Sharks is from June to September where thousands migrate to give birth in the waters off of La Jolla Shores. As with all sea life, look but don’t bother or touch them…
Kayak tour operators to choose from are La Jolla Kayak, Bike & Kayak Tours of La Jolla and Everyday California.
4. La Jolla Shores Beach
La Jolla Shores Beach is a stunning 1 mile stretch of sandy beach that runs a little north of the Cove to Black’s Beach (Torrey Pines State Park). This is the best beach in La Jolla so get there early to get a parking spot in the lot. Otherwise it can be a challenge to find street parking.
There is a lot of activity in the water ranging from surfers, divers, snorkelers, and swimmers. On land, beach volleyball and lounging in the sun is a favorite. An added bonus is that there is a lifeguard on duty, bathrooms, showers, and fire pits.
If you have a dog, keep in mind dogs are only allowed on the beach if on a leash from 6 pm to 9 am (4 pm in the winter).
Tip: Want to visit additional stunning beaches in San Diego? Find out where the best beaches are in my post 15 Most Popular Beaches In San Diego.
5. Dive (Snorkel) in an Underwater Park
Head out for an adventure by exploring the underwater ecosystem of the marine protected areas in La Jolla. You will have the opportunity to dive through giant kelp forests that is unique to this area. Don’t be surprised if you see a sea lion swimming past, lobsters, sand dollars, and even sharks!
The orange Garibaldi fish (also the California State Fish) is likely the most common fish you will encounter as it stands out with its bright color!
The two most common sharks to be spotted is the Sevengill Shark and the Leopard Shark. The best chance to see a Sevengill Shark is in the spring months and the summer months for the Leopard Sharks.
The female Leopard Sharks migrate to the warm waters of La Jolla ready to give birth and it’s why they are seen in very shallow waters off of La Jolla Shores (in front of the Marine Room Beach). Don’t worry, they are harmless to humans but do respect these beautiful creatures and keep a distance.
La Jolla is a popular diving spot from both La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shore Beach. Both sites are shore dives making it pretty easy to get in and out. The underwater marine park’s terrain consists of giant kelp forests, reefs, sandy bottoms, and a canyon.
Tip: Snorkeling is the best way to see the Leopard Sharks as they are in such shallow waters.
Dive Shop: If you are local looking to rent gear or even buy your own, head over to Ocean Enterprises that is an excellent dive shop. They offer certification classes, trips, and such great and knowledgable staff.
6. Scripps Pier
Scripps Pier is one of the world’s longest research piers and an iconic to La Jolla Shores. The pier is also known as the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier. It was named after Ellen Browning as she was the biggest donor to the Scripps organization.
It is only accessible for researchers associated with Scripps Institution of Oceanography. But if you really want to walk this impressive pier, you can get the chance with Birch Aquarium’s Pier Walk. The Pier Walk takes place on a full moon exploring the pier, learning about its history and collecting plankton.
Any time of the day, the pier is a hot spot for photographers but sunsets here are especially spectacular! If looking for an awesome spot to take in one of Southern California’s prettiest beaches, look no further than Caroline’s Seaside Café which is just south of the pier. Caroline’s has excellent breakfast and lunch selections and is quite yummy!
Pier Location: 8650 Kennel Way, La Jolla
7. Hiking In La Jolla
Best way to get in some exercise while on vacation is to go on a hike to work up a sweat and see the local scenery. If you are looking for the best hike in La Jolla with a view, search no more than Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
There are various smaller trails if you are looking for a quick hike but I enjoy combining a number of the trails for a 5.6 mile hike.
Starting at the parking lot, take the Torrey Pines Park Rd to the Parry Grove Trail. Next take the Razor Point Trail to Beach Trail then Broken Hill Trail, to N Fork Trail until getting back onto Torrey Pines Park Rd.
Trailhead Location: 12600 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037
8. Torrey Pines Gliderport
Sitting high above the cliffs of Torrey Pines is the Gliderport where you can soar out over the Pacific Ocean via paragliding and hang gliding. For almost 100 years, the Torrey Pines Gliderport has been the go-to spot for flight lessons and a bird’s eye view of San Diego’s gorgeous coastline.
What better way to see La Jolla than from the air? Of all the things to do in La Jolla, this might be the most adrenaline-packed activity!
If you aren’t feeling adventurous enough to take to the sky, the views from the cliffs are absolutely worth visiting and picture perfect. To get a glimpse of Black’s Beach, walk down the path south of the gliderport and make it a full day!
Beware, Black’s Beach is a nude beach so don’t be surprised to see men doing naked yoga! All joking aside, it is a stunning beach to wander.
After working up an appetite, grab a bite at the Cliffhanger Café. Its open daily from 9am to 4pm and the best seat to watch paragliders and hang gliders flying by.
If you are lucky to be visiting on a Saturday, live music is played 1pm to 4pm from April to October. Parking is free but it can get quite busy during peak summer times so go early if possible.
Location: 2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Dr, La Jolla
9. Windansea Beach
South of La Jolla Cove is Windansea Beach that is popular with swimmers, surfers or those just wanting to enjoy the view.
At low tides, tide pools are accessible and a hit with kids. Windansea Beach may be recognizable for its “Surf Shack” which has been designated as a historical landmark.
10. Mount Soledad
Up on the hillside sits Mount Soledad and has become a landmark in La Jolla. It can be seen from far off in the distance in all areas surrounding La Jolla.
The cross was erected in 1954 and has since become a war memorial. For several years there was a lot of heated debate over having a cross or religious symbol on government land. This was resolved in 2016 after a private group purchased the land from the government and made it private property.
The 360-degree panoramic views of the Pacific Coast and surrounding areas of San Diego are breathtaking on a clear day! Even on a sunny and hot day, it can get very windy and cold so bring a jacket.
Location: 6905 La Jolla Scenic Dr South, La Jolla
San Diego Airport Info
The nearest major airport to La Jolla, is in San Diego, California. The airport is the San Diego International Airport (SAN) that is in downtown San Diego. To book your airfare to San Diego, go to Skyscanner and find the best flight deals available!
From the airport, it is approximately a 25 – 30 minute drive. Find the best rates on a car rental here and get ready for your trip today!
Enjoy exploring the best attractions in La Jolla!
Got Travel Insurance?
Don’t leave home without travel insurance as you never know what might happen on a trip! It is always when you least expect it that something can go wrong like getting sick, in an accident or cancellation of some sort. Get a no-obligation quote from two trusted travel insurance companies for peace of mind on your next trip!
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This looks like such a fab town to spend a weekend in! So many gorgeous beaches. Thanks for all the suggestions for things to do!
Thank you! Yes, La Jolla has some of the best beaches and luckily has great weather almost year round. I hope you get the chance to visit soon! 🙂
I visited La Jolla on my very first trip to California when I was in highschool. I fell in love with the area and now I’m happy to call So. Cal. my home. I haven’t been back to La Jolla in a few years, but after reading this I def want to go check out the hiking, scuba and kayaking. Thank you!
Oh I am so happy that it has inspired you to go back and visit! Yes, La Jolla is such a special place with all its beauty. We are definitely lucky to call CA home. 🙂
Naked yoga on the Black Beach. 🙂 🙂 On my last trip to California I haven’t managed to visit San Diego. And I was so sad because of it. And now after reading your post, I know I need to visit San Diego and La Jolla ASAP! The Jewel of the Sea looks too good to be missed on any trip to California. In my case, it means I need to go back.
Haha, yes naked yoga was a sight to see! lol. San Diego and La Jolla are such great places to visit and offer so many activities. I hope you get to go back soon to visit and let me know if you have any questions when you do! 🙂
It looks like such a beautiful coastline!! I wish I could go to the beach there except maybe I’m not brave enough for the gliding…haha
Haha yes, I am scared of heights too but La Jolla’s coast is definitely worth seeing. The views are spectacular! 🙂
This looks like such a lovely area to explore (and go hiking!!) Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve looks especially beautiful!!
I wonder why there is only one cave in this area? Is it due to the geology?
Thank you, it is a great place to hike and explore for sure! There are more caves, but it is the only one you can reach by land. All the others can only be reached by kayak or boat due to the land formations in this area. Hope you get the chance to visit and see for yourself! 🙂
Recently did a California Road Trip and I am so sad I didn’t stop here! It looks beautiful! 😀
Oh that is too bad! That just means you will have to come back for another visit! California really is such a large state and hard to tackle it all in one visit. 🙂
I remember going to La Jolla when I was young and I absolutely loved it! I would love to return now as an adult! Great list of tips here!
I hope you get the chance to visit again soon! Very happy to hear that you found the post so helpful. I’m a San Diegan local so don’t hesitate to ask me questions in the future, I’d be glad to help! 🙂
So many memories from La Jolla trickled back after reading this post. I’ve been there multiple times but checked usually just checked off one thing at a time. The last time I was there I went down the cave and kayaked in the ocean (not a good idea right after having a sumptuous lunch, lol)
There is definitely so many activities to keep you coming back multiple times. I’m so glad this post brought back wonderful memories for you. That would be tough to kayak after a full meal. Lol. I would want to take a nap on the beach likely. 🙂 Now you need to plan another trip back!
La Jolla’s been on my list for a long time! I’ve visited California a few times but never made it here, but I’m saving this for future reference! Cheers!
The Longest Weekend
Thanks Meredith! There is so much to see in California that it is hard to see it all in one visit. I’m so glad that it has inspired you to visit! La Jolla really is a special place to experience. 🙂
I´ve never heard of La Jolla – there are so many cool things to do! kayaking to explore the coastline and the sea caves would be such an amazing adventure!
There are so many fun things to do in La Jolla and I hope you get the chance to visit one day. Plus you could see the rest of San Diego too! 🙂
I love La Jolla! Great post – I loved your photos. 🙂
Thank you! Yes, La Jolla is such a gorgeous town to see and photograph! 🙂
This brings back memories from when I did my summer internship in San Diego! I went snorkeling and it was the first time I was in close proximity to sharks. It freaked me out at first, but then it was so awesome! I tried stating longer in the water but it was freezing!
Oh that is an awesome memory! Swimming with leopard sharks (they are harmless) is so fun in the summer there. Yes, sadly the water doesn’t get super warm in San Diego. lol 🙂
This looks like a fun place to explore, especially the cave.
Thanks! Yes, there are so many fun things to do in La Jolla and the cave is definitely one of them! 🙂
I have been to La Jolla many, many times and always loved it! Love the views and the food (hello George’s) and the general feel of this beach town!
Thanks Andi! La Jolla really is such a great place to hang out in and yes, George’s is so good! 🙂
Wow, beautiful pictures! I love kayaking, and La Jolla cave looks incredible. The hiking trails also look super fun. Thanks for all the info, I’ve been meaning to check out La Jolla eventually!
Thank you! La Jolla has so many awesome outdoor activities and usually with a view. I hope you get there soon! 🙂
Those palm trees!!! We’re sold on anywhere with palm trees! La Jolla looks like a lovely place. The view from Mount Soledad is breath-taking! Thanks for the fabulous guide!
Yes, palm trees have that peaceful and relaxing appeal! I’m the same way and probably why I love the San Diego area so much. The views from Mount Soledad are pretty awesome! 🙂
Wow, so many awesome things to do there. I need to organise a trip there now!
Yes, a trip to La Jolla won’t disappoint! For best weather, I would avoid the late spring/early summer as it tends to be pretty overcast a lot. Enjoy! 🙂