Although not located in North County San Diego, the coastal town of La Jolla is worth the drive from any of our vacation rental properties. La Jolla is a unique coastal town offering visitors a broad range of activities, sights, and delights. From tastebuds to earplugs, this is one town where you can see and do it all. Here’s a list of 10 noteworthy things to do and see. Please note, this isn’t a comprehensive list of everything you can do in La Jolla, but rather a friendly locals guide to make great memories. Enjoy!
1. Explore Nature At Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Start the day by heading to Torrey Pines. There are pay-to-park lots or you can find parking along the beach and begin your walk into the reserve. While it’s not a strenuous walk/hike, the entrance is steep and depending on your burrito consumption, can give you a good leg burn and some shortness of breath. Once you arrive at the top, soak it in. You’re going to see California in a way that isn’t common anymore, which makes it truly special. There are a multitude of trails and things to see, but I prefer to make it a loop and spend some time in the trees and the sand. Be mindful if you plan on making your return walk on the beach, low tide will give you plenty of walking space on the sand, whereas high tide can make it near impossible and very dangerous as you’ll be close the cliffs. CLICK HERE for open trails, conditions, and more information.
2. Hit The Links At Torrey Pines Golf Course
If you’re a golfer, you know about Torrey Pines Golf Course. Located just south of the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, this PGA tour golf course boasts incredible views and offers two 18-hole Championship courses, aptly named the North and South courses. We wrote an article on the Top 5 Public Golf Courses To Play in North County San Diego in case you want to explore some other golf courses as well. If you would like to book Torrey Pines Golf Course, CLICK HERE for more information and to book your tee time.
3. Meet Marine Life AT The Birch Aquarium
The Birch Aquarium at Scripps is a must-do for those traveling with little ones or ocean lovers. As the public outreach center for the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UC San Diego, your experience at the aquarium will cover everything from sharks, seahorses, and coral reefs, to a rescued loggerhead sea turtle, a giant pacific octopus, seadragons and moon jellies. The newest exhibit at the aquarium features the world’s smallest penguins. The Beyster Family Little Blue Penguins are pintsized and give visitors the opportunity to follow along on their journey from hatchlings to adults. My personal favorite sight to see is the Tide Pool Plaza. Here you can take in the spectacular ocean views while getting hands-on with tide pool animals, one of the few places where you won’t see the dreaded “Please Don’t Touch” signs. Go hands in and feel life under the sea. CLICK HERE to purchase tickets in advance, which is required at the moment.
4. Take A Stroll On La Jolla Shores Beach
If you follow the road from the Birch Aquarium down to the beach, you’ll drop right into La Jolla Shores Beach. This stretch of sand is the best place to get in the water, enjoy a beach stroll, swim, or surf. As a gentler wave, if you’re looking to get a surf lesson, this is the place to do it. There are plenty of great surfing schools to choose from and you’ll be riding waves and throwing shakas in no time. A bonus, if you find yourself in the water and see a leopard shark, don’t panic. These little creatures migrate here from mid-June through December, with peak numbers during July and August when they congregate by the thousands. They are skittish so enjoy the show and don’t worry about your toes.
5. La Jolla Underwater Park
From La Jolla shores beach, you can access the La Jolla Underwater Park. The park is a protected ocean area full of marine life, including the orange garibaldi (California’s state fish), leopard sharks (see them again), rays, and more. For those strong swimmers, you can swim out, but the best way is to go with the pros and either book a tour or rent equipment to snorkel, scuba dive, stand-up paddle, or kayak around the park. In this area you’ll also be able to explore the famous seven sea caves, where you’ll need to reserve a tour guide because of the possible danger from changing tides.
The La Jolla Underwater Park is also popular in the scuba community. You can kick out from the shore to designated buoys and then drop down for your dive. Once down approximately 60 feet you will find a kelp forest with large sea life, lobsters, and more. A pretty easy dive, just make sure to bring a dive knife in case you get tangled in any kelp.
6. Sunny Jim’s Cave
The Sunny Jim Cave is a unique feature in that it is the only sea cave in California accessible by land. You can find the entrance to the cave located inside “The Cave Store.” The dark tunnel will take its visitors to a viewing platform at the bottom where you can watch the water flow in and out of the cave and hear the ocean echoing around you. The cave has an interesting origin story that began in 1902, taking two laborers two years chipping away at the earth with a shovel and pic. Many improvements have been made since then, including the addition of the 145 stairs it takes to reach the bottom from the top, and the top from the bottom. Roundtrip, you’ll be logging 290 steps (bonus points for those looking to get some fitness in). When dealing with water, always abide by the age-old adage, slippery when wet, and be mindful of your footing when ascending and descending.
7. La Jolla Cove
Ah the La Jolla Cove. If you luck into a parking spot along this stretch of coastline, take it. There may be a closer spot, but it could be a gamble. This area can be crowded and for good reason because it’s one of the more scenic and iconic areas along the San Diego coastline which offers a little something for everyone. The Cove itself is small, but mighty. There’s a little beach at the bottom for sunbathing and swimming where you can also take in the feeling of being surrounded on both sides by rocky points where sea lions and birds hang out is a one-of-a-kind experience. Beachgoers can swim out and enjoy the easy snorkeling and sights from the water. For those who didn’t bring swim trunks or don’t want to get sandy, there’s a coastal sidewalk that meanders along the cove and past some of our more salt crusted locals in the area, that’s right, the sea lions. You’ll see them sunbathing and sleeping along the rocky edges and outcroppings along the cove. Always remember to keep your distance but enjoy the show as you can watch them all fight for the best sleeping positions or dive off the cliffs into the water. From the Cove you can enjoy Ellen Browning Scripps Park, which offers a wide expanse of grass and is a great place for kids to run freely, have a picnic, go for a dog walk, yoga, and more. At the end of the coastal sidewalk, you’ll find the Children’s Pool.
8. Children’s Pool
The Children’s Pool was originally built in the 1930’s to create a safe place for children to swim. The seawall offers a short walking area but can be slippery so use caution. Although named the Children’s Pool, this sandy area is now home to the sea lions and offers viewers a great chance to enjoy seeing the seals sleep and hobble around in the sand. There is a rope barrier on the beach to prevent humans from getting too close, but you’ll still be able to get some great photos and enjoy the scene as it is a beautiful area to sit and relax.
9. Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial
If you think the views so far have been amazing, wait until you see the views from the top of Mount Soledad. Most visitors are greeted with stunning views of San Diego. From the beaches looking south into Mexico, the mountains in the east, and the beautiful areas of Del Mar and La Jolla to the north, there’s plenty to take in. If you’re lucky enough to catch it on a day when the fog is below the peak, you’ll be given a beautiful view of the fog sitting in the valleys below and truly feel on top of the world. There is a grassy area to sit and enjoy a picnic or let the children run around. The other great view from the top is the namesake of the destination, the Veteran’s Memorial. The Veterans Memorial is unique as it adorns the names of Veterans both living and deceased. The reason for this is the belief that service members should know how grateful their nation is of their service and honors them with black granite plaques featuring the stories, pictures, and accomplishments of the men and women who have served our country.
10. Torrey Pines Gliderport
If you thought the views couldn’t get any better, this last one will take you to new heights. The Torrey Pines Gliderport is the most historic aviation site in North America with nearly 100 years of flying history. Known as Southern California’s premier location for paragliding, hang-gliding, launching remote-control models and sailplanes, the gliderport is a world class flying site. Visitors can take flight lessons, get certifications, or meet their paragliding needs at the store.
Not looking to fly but want to take in the scene? The Cliff Hanger Café is the perfect spot to eat and be treated to breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, and a great place to watch the paragliders, hang gliders, and RC gliders launch into the sky. CLICK HERE for more information.
However you decide to explore La Jolla, it’ll always rise to meet your expectations. La Jolla, also known as “the jewel” of San Diego, is mesmerizing and sparkles in the light with the memories you will create there.