La Jolla‘s direct translation, rightfully so, is The Jewel. This little treasure lends itself to some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving on the entire California coast by virtue of sandstone coves, shallow turquoise waters and coral reefs. The beaches are quaint, and so is the community. La Jolla is the closest version of a Mediterranean seaside village America has to offer. It’s a perfect blend of old-world elegance and modern amenities. Couples love La Jolla for date night and romantic pastel sunsets. Families like the calm ocean water coves, marine life and quiet evenings. La Jolla may turn in early, but a steady flow of tourists and a young 25 to 35-year-old post-college population cultivate a unique bustling surfer sophistication. Even though the jewel is chi-chi and people look like they just stepped out of a magazine, there is an aura of kindness wafting through the salty air. If you can afford La Jolla, it’s a happy place to be. Or pretend, tour all the places listed here, and act like a local.
Beach – ocean only
Sandy beaches and rocky rugged sandstone shores provide a diverse scenic backdrop for surfing, scuba, snorkeling, stand up paddleboarding (SUP), kayaking, swimming and sunbathing. Not only is the marine life substantial off the coast of La Jolla, dolphins and sea lions are always swimming in the surf. Most beaches in La Jolla are patrolled by on-duty lifeguards. Plan your day. The tide is unpredictable and so is the parking. Dogs are allowed on leash between 4 pm and 9 am October through March and 6 pm and 9 am April through September. If it’s listed here, it’s worth a visit.
Windansea is a small unique beach favored by the locals and not frequented much by tourists. What makes this beach so unusual is sometimes the coast is a sandy beach and other days, depending on the season, the coast is exposed as sandstone and rock. Like the tide, the sand here has a tendency to ebb and flow. Sometimes the beach is wide and some days the beach is narrow. If the beach is wide and there’s plenty of sand, you’ll see plenty of sunbathers. The disappearing beach is how it’s kept secret from the tourists. Windansea is better for medium to advanced surfers because there’s a short hike to the surf and with a surfboard, you’ll need to be in shape. Windansea is known for its surf breaks. Ten designated parking spots go fast. This is a fun beach for singles to watch the sunset and mingle with the locals.
Shell Beach is nestled just below iconic sandstone bluffs that make La Jolla beaches so magnificent. A lengthy set of stairs leads to a small beach where tourists and locals collect, you guessed it, seashells. The natural sandstone bluffs act as bookends creating an easy route for shells to wash up along the shore when the tide is low. A magical place for the family to find souvenirs and watch the sunset.
La Jolla Shores is the jewel’s largest beach. What makes this mile-long stretch of coastline a favorite for all who frequent here is the shallow entrance into the ocean created by a natural sandbar. Everyone loves La Jolla Shores not just because it’s a beautiful beach, the sandbar is perfect for beginning and advanced surfers, swimmers, body surfers, kayakers and SUPs. Then of course the sparkle in the gem, La Jolla Cove is nearby. Free parking if you come early or get lucky.
La Jolla Cove is possibly why La Jolla has its beautiful name. Protected by natural sandstone barriers from the Pacific Ocean’s rushing waves, it’s ideal for swimming, snorkeling and scuba. Kayakers get an added bonus if brave enough to paddle into the La Jolla Caves. If you would like to dive into more history click for more.
Kellogg Park has the only beachfront boat launch within La Jolla city limits. Scuba diving, snorkeling and surfing are a regular backdrop to this cozy grassy park. Showers and restrooms are available. Free parking.
La Jolla Shores Park is located north of Kellogg Park on La Jolla Shores beach with a grassy area for lounging in the sun, hanging out with the kids or simply people watching. A local and tourist favorite. Sunsets and parking are always free.
La Jolla Sea Caves Beach is a hidden rocky beach between La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores Beach. Only some of the caves can be accessed on foot with low tide. It’s best to head on this adventure with a kayak or SUP. For those who don’t like using a water vessel, the caves can be viewed from an observation platform at Sunny Jim Sea Cave. Sunny Jim has a bird’s eye view of the sandstone rock arches. The kids love Sunny Jim. This place offers some great photo ops.
Wipeout Beach reflects its name so it’s best to frequent this beach at low tide. It’s rarely crowded probably because it’s not ideal for sunbathing or swimming. It is however great for tide pooling with the kiddos, at low tide of course. Also, the vista at Wipeout Beach is a photographer’s dream with pastel sunset and a Sapphire ocean.
Marine Beach may be a small beach but it does have a wide sandy beach making it great for sunbathing. There is no parking and the surf is rough. It’s not a great swim spot nor suitable for kids.
Children’s Pool Beach is protected from the wind and waves with a manmade seawall making it great for kids. Seals hang out in this area and can get a little stinky depending on the season. Parents can keep the kids busy for hours here.
Surf Diva Shop & Surf School has a motto, “The best surfer is the one having the most fun.” Started by twins Izzy (the Surf) and Coco (the Diva). Surf Diva Shop & Surf School has been a La Jolla icon and local’s favorite for over 20 years. Rentals, boards to buy and rent. Daily lessons & fun for all (men too) ages 8-80. Surf Diva even offers after school sessions for kids. Now that’s cool! Shaka!
Zach’s Scuba Shack offers PADI certification and is located in between the Children’s Pool and the Cave Store at La Jolla Cove. What makes scuba diving in La Jolla a remarkable attraction for local and tourist alike is the ocean canyon that plunges hundreds of feet further down the ocean floor to a gratuitous amount of marine life.
The Cottage offers breakfast, brunch and lunch. Outdoor dining. Quaint. Classic urban Southern California. A community staple. Weekends are always busy.
Harry’s Coffee Shop is a local institution, and the Oatmeal Pancakes are famous. It’s an old school coffee shop with waitresses who have been serving locals and tourists for eons. Harry’s is still family-run after all these years. The best place to people watch at breakfast.
Richard Walker’s Pancakes apparently Richard gets around because he has a chain of pancakes spread out all over San Diego including one in Illinois. But if you are a pancake fan don’t pass up a chance to drive your taste buds from Texas to Georgia and cruz from Belgium to Denmark without leaving the pancake house.
Beaumonts offers brunch, lunch, happy hour and dinner. There’s nothing fancy about this spot except cinnamon roll pancakes and avocado toast. Yes, please!
Dukes La Jolla has Taco Tuesday with an ocean view at the Barefoot Bar. San Diego is known for its fish tacos. Most restaurants serve some variation of a fish taco whether the restaurant is Mexican Cuisine or not. San Diego is close to Baja. Who doesn’t love a good fish taco?
Trilogy Sanctuary – Vegan cuisine with rooftop dining. Daily yoga offered. Need I say more?
Catania serves Coastal Italian. Outdoor dining. Plaza patio. Some ocean view. Brunch Saturday & Sunday.
The Promiscuous Fork offers an enticing original menu. Outdoor dining. Urban vibe. Classic California open window pass through tables.
La Sala is located in the lobby of the famous La Valencia Hotel. This stunning venue is a fun place to people watch and stay on the lookout for Hollywood stars. The real star however is the detailed mission-style design in the La Valencia lobby.
Beaumonts live music, happy hour, seasonal cocktail menu.
Hiatus Pool Lounge is located in Hotel La Jolla, Curio Collection by Hilton. This little poolside lounge lives up to its name and only offers ‘full service’ July through September from 3 pm to 10 pm. Due to COVID though, guests are welcome to bring a picnic and hang outside by the pool all year.
La Jolla Shores Hotel lives up to its name as a rare beachfront hotel in La Jolla. Its Hacienda-style vibe is all you can ask for with 128 guest rooms, all with direct beach access and ocean views. Some rooms have kitchenettes. Perfect for family getaways. The famous Marine Room (Temporarily closed) is located inside La Jolla Shores Hotel. A little perk is they offer free shuttle service around the local La Jolla area. Live beach cam here.
La Valencia Hotel takes its guests back in time to an era long ago with vintage charm and classic style. Close to one hundred-years-old this dazzling beachfront resort is known to locals as the Pink Lady of La Jolla. Little secret, the Pink Lady has been a Hollywood haven since the 1920s. And if you get a chance to swing by, you’ll see why. The crystal blue ocean gleams with priceless sunset views every night with La Jolla Cove and the caves just steps away. Insider info, the hotel offers a day pool pass for non-guests including wifi and poolside food and drink service. Pets are welcome as guests of the hotel, just not at the pool.
The Shops at La Jolla Village is an enormous shopping venue with a couple of staples like Whole Foods and Nordstrom Rack sprinkled with a few locally-owned shops.
University Town Center, called Westfield UTC by the locals, is a 15-minute drive from the coast. However that may be, UTC is well worth the drive as it’s the outdoor mall that has everything you will ever need and more like a year-round ice skating rink for instance. Westfield UTC is an outdoor luxury shopping experience.
Girard Avenue & Prospect Street offers a plethora of locally-owned specialty boutiques. Click the link for shop details and COVID information.
Take Two Ladies Boutique is a designer consignment shop with many hidden gems. Louis Vuitton, Prada, D&C, Gucci, Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin. A reason to take a road trip to La Jolla all in itself. Word! Perhaps a Take Two Ladies ‘come up’ is a metaphor for La Jolla, the jewel of California. A good designer find is always a good treasure.
Note, all detailed information for reservations, phone numbers, emails addresses, venue, directions and photos are located within the underlined link within each article.
by Courtney Paige