Ultimate Guide to the Best Beaches in La Jolla

The La Jolla coastline is nothing short of wondrous. Its miles of sandy shores along the Pacific Ocean are divided up into several beaches, each with its own personality and benefits.

After countless hours of beach exploration and research, we’ve put together the ultimate list of “The Best of La Jolla Beaches.” No matter what activity you want to conduct on the San Diego shoreline, we want to make sure you get to the right spot.

Best for Surfing:

Windansea Beach & Black’s Beach

Celebrate the Southern Californian passion of surfing at this La Jolla beach!

Windansea Beach is local favorite and isn’t recommended for beginners, but it’s known as one of the best surf spots in San Diego. The secret is not just knowing where to go, but when! The variety of reef formations around the Windansea and Bird Rock areas, just south of downtown La Jolla, create conditions that are difficult to predict. The waves vary with the tides and best left to be surfed by advanced surfers who know them well. Look for the famed Windansea Surf Shackhere; it’s a local staple and gets rebuilt every summer with palm fronds from nearby trees.

Black’s Beach has been a prime surf spot since the ’60s, when it was discovered by four famous pro-surfers. The submarine canyon directly offshore funnels extra-powerful waves onto the beach, making this another spot for more experienced surfers.

beaches in la jolla

Best for Hiking:

Torrey Pines State Beach

In the northernmost part of La Jolla, Torrey Pines State Reserve sits tucked away behind Torrey Pines beach. It is a large reserve, filled with trails, beautiful Torrey Pine trees, plenty of wildlife, and an unparalleled ocean view. The staggering cliffs are home to six trails that vary in difficulty; do just one, or complete them all for a serious workout!

For those who want to truly feel the burn, hit the Guy Fleming Trail for its intense hill climb. If you’re looking for something a little less strenuous, try out the easier Razor Point Trail for a 1.3-mile adventure and the Beach Trail for a path that lands you directly on the sand (one of our favorites and definitely the most popular trail at Torrey Pines). Make a day of it and grab a picnic – check out our complete one-day itinerary for Torrey Pines here.

Directions to Torrey Pines Beach: Located just north of La Jolla along historic Highway 101. Since it’s owned by the state park system, there is a day use fee for using the parking lot. Fees are paid at the South Beach kiosk where there is a small parking lot as well as the parking lots at the top of the mesa in the park. You may also find free parking along Highway 101.

Black’s Beach

If you’re looking for a more difficult, strenuous hike, try Ho Chi Minh Trail down to Black’s Beach. It’s a well known “surfer’s trail,” and has guided San Diego swimmers and surfers alike down to its sandy beach for decades. This is a lovely trail that makes for some epic views of the shoreline on the way down – but it will definitely test your endurance! Always exercise caution here, especially after it rains; the mud and rocks can get quite slippery. This La Jolla Beach trail is recommended for more experienced hikers and isn’t ideal for younger children or those with disabilities.

Best for Families:

Children’s Pool

True to its name, Children’s Pool is a great place for children who are new to swimming. The seawall creates a calm grotto without waves or a big tide. You can even try scuba diving with older kids and teens. Those who prefer to stay dry can explore the ever-popular Sunny Jim Sea Cave. An added bonus is always the adorable seals and sea lions, but please respect their habitat and stay a safe distance away from the sea life. Here are some helpful tips when visiting the La Jolla Cove seals.

Directions to Children’s Pool: 850 Coast Blvd, at the end of Jenner Street. You’ll see a long seawall and steps down to the beach.

Parking at Children’s Pool: Street parking is your best bet; most are timed for two hours, but you might get lucky with an untimed spot in one of the adjacent neighborhoods.

La Jolla Shores

Families with young children want to make sure they’re going to one of the beaches in San Diego with calm surf, lifeguards, room to picnic and, of course, bathroom and shower amenities. These can all be found at La Jolla Shores! As an added bonus, there’s a big playground at the adjacent Kellogg Park, complete with a big grassy area and plenty of activities for the younger ones. Because this is such a wide, open beach, the waves never get very big which makes it an excellent choice for families.

It also makes it a fun spot to try surfing or stand-up paddle boarding–unlike more advanced areas like Windansea Beach, the surf is pretty predictable here. There is always a lifeguard on duty (from morning until sundown). If you’re in the mood for roasting some marshmallows, there are several fire pits here; plan a great day out with the family at a beach bonfire with our helpful guide. You can even stay on the shores–the La Jolla Shores Hotel and La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club offer luxurious accommodations and dining with an incredible ocean view. Staying at the Beach and Tennis Club even guarantees access to a private stretch of beach.

Directions to La Jolla Shores: 8200 Camino Del Oro, La Jolla. The easiest way is from Torrey Pines Road and a right onto La Jolla Shores Drive. There is a small parking lot at La Jolla Shores park, but there is also some street parking in nearby neighborhoods.

Best for Tide Pools:

Shell Beach

Exploring the coastal tide pools is one of the most popular activities in La Jolla, for people of all ages. Although there are several spots in San Diego to go tide pooling, Shell Beach boasts a colorful array of sea anemones and sea stars all within an easy-to-access area. It provides the opportunity to experience the beauty of aquatic life, without having to dive underwater or pay an aquarium fee!

How to get to Shell Beach: This beach is located at the intersection of Coast Blvd. and Ocean Lane; at the south end of Ellen Browning Scripps Park at La Jolla Cove. You’ll see a long set of stairs that takes you from the grass park down to the sand at Shell Beach.

Wipeout Beach

From here down to Hospital Point lie some of La Jolla’s best and most active tide pools. They are a bit more off the beaten path and tucked away, which means there are almost always fewer crowds – a bonus if you really want to experience some wildlife. Here, you’ll also spot those round, curved little pools that are so popular to photograph and put on Instagram! Go here for some tips on tide pooling and info about what you might see at this beautiful beach.

Always wear close-toed shoes that you don’t mind getting wet when adventuring to the tide pools. The surf is unpredictable, even at low tides.

How to get to Wipeout Beach: 745 Coast Blvd. It’s a sandy beach south of Children’s Pool, along Coast Boulevard.

Best When in the Mood for Something to Write Home About:

Black’s Beach

Feel like you’re in Europe without leaving the country by coming to Black’s, America’s first legal nude beach. Whether you bare it all or not, it’s a great place to watch some great surfing or just relax. It also has a super interesting history – impress your friends with your San Diego beach knowledge!

There are a few different ways to get to Black’s Beach. While some routes are easier than others, each does involve a steep climb and/or stairs. You can walk along the beach from La Jolla Shores, which is only an option during very low tide; you can hike down from the Torrey Pines Glider Port parking area; or you can walk down Salk Canyon Road, from La Jolla Farms (right across the street from University of California-San Diego). Decide which route is best for you before you go, and make sure you know how to get there.

Once you do make it down to the beach, you won’t be disappointed! A long stretch of sand plus gentle waves that are easy to swim in makes this a truly lovely area to spend the day.

Directions to Black’s Beach: 2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Dr. There are four different hikes down to the beach; for details go here.

 

 

How to Enjoy a Beach Bonfire in La Jolla

There’s nothing quite like a bonfire on the beach; especially a La Jolla bonfire! They are a great way to enjoy the beach any time of year. Unfortunately, they are not legal on all beaches in La Jolla, and the ones that do allow them still have some strict regulations. We’ve picked out which beaches in San Diego allow bonfires and broken down everything you need to know about enjoying a La Jolla bonfire!

Before You Go

Before you head to the beach, it’s a good idea to prepare!

  • Pick up some wood or charcoal to burn in the fire pit (burning anything else is prohibited)
  • Pre-bonfire picnics are popular, as well as (of course) s’mores!
  • Don’t forget gloves – they’ll come in handy when you’re handling wood or hot coals
  • Prepare to arrive very early to secure your fire pit
  • Read up on other safety guidelines outlined by the City of San Diego

Also, plan on how you’re going to dispose of the coals or burned material once you’re done. The remains of clean, untreated wood do not have to be removed from your fire pit, but coals in other containers should be deposited in receptacles specifically marked for hot coal disposal. Dumping coals in a regular trash can could result in a fire.

La Jolla Shores

There are 6 fire pits available at La Jolla Shores, and they are available on a first come, first served basis. They do fill up quickly, especially on holidays like the 4th of July and Memorial Day – some arrive as early as 6am to secure their spot! Weekdays are less crowded, but if you’re planning on a weekend bonfire, we do recommend getting there quite early to secure the pit. The ordinance for officially reserving a fire pit in San Diego requires that at least two adults are in the vicinity at all times, so keep this in mind as well.

Here are a few general guidelines courtesy of SanDiego.gov (these apply to all fire pits in San Diego):

  • Fires are not allowed between midnight and 5am
  • The burning of rubbish is prohibited.
  • Only wood, charcoal or paper products may be used as fuel
  • Fuel for the fire may not exceed a height of more than twelve inches above the upper edge of the fire pit
  • Open beach fires outside of the provided pits are prohibited at all times
  • All fires must be extinguished before leaving the beach. Coals must be removed or deposited in hot coal containers
  • Overnight camping is prohibited here

Once you’ve secured a pit, a great way to kill some time is to go swimming! La Jolla Shores is the perfect beach for swimming and surfing, and there are designated areas for both. The Shores is also a popular place for scuba diving and kayaking. There are always lifeguards present at the Shores between 9am and dusk. Don’t forget to call ahead to check surf conditions!

Tourmaline Beach

Officially known as Tourmaline Surfing Park, this spot is a longtime favorite of local surfers. Swimming is largely prohibited here, as it’s primarily for surfing; but it makes for some great sightseeing! Take a look at the park’s monument up close and you’ll see surfing legends called out by name, a testament to some of the greatest innovators in the sport of surfing.

A few things to know about this location:

  • Parking is free (there’s a big lot available)
  • During April through October, dogs on leashes are allowed on the beach before 9:00am and after 6:00pm.
  • Other amenities include: restrooms, showers, picnic tables, barbecues, and lifeguards for your safety and convenience needs.

As always, the fire pits are first-come, first-served, so arriving early is also advised.

Ocean Beach

This beach is perpetually crowded because of the popular Pier, but fortunately there are numerous fire pits here – your odds of getting one are pretty good provided you arrive early in the day.

  • Other amenities include volleyball courts, picnic tables, a lifeguard, showers and a fishing pier
  • Lifeguards are staffed year-round from 9am til dusk
  • Dogs are not allowed here, but they are allowed at the 24-hour Dog Beach just adjacent to this beach
  • Overnight camping is prohibited

Coronado Beach

If you’re looking for a more luxurious bonfire experience, this beach is for you! The fire pits at Coronado are spread out across the sand and easy to spot, which makes this an extremely popular location for families.

Coronado Beach starts at the Hotel Del Coronado and continues north. Access to the main Coronado Beach is from the area near the “Hotel Del” where there are free parking spaces all along Ocean Blvd. This wide family-friendly beach gets crowded, but it is wide enough that you can find a place to spread out comfortably. Keep an eye out for the elaborate sand castles for which this beach is known!

  • Get here early to park nearby and secure a good spot on the sand
  • Other amenities include picnic tables, BBQs, restrooms and the gorgeous Hotel del Coronado nearby
  • If you head south from the Del, you’ll find a beach below tall condo buildings called Coronado Shores Beach which has a free public parking lot.
  • Fun fact: The Hotel Del can one-up your bonfire experience! Make it gourmet by renting one of their fire pits and roasting s’mores on the beach or other yummy treats (hot dogs and a charcuterie board are on the menu).

Before You Leave

Fire hazards are a big risk in Southern California, especially during the summer months. The best way to reduce hazards from beach fires is proper disposal of the coals, and that begins with putting out the fire.

Begin the process 45 minutes to an hour before leaving to make sure you have plenty of time to put the fire out. Cover the fire with sand to douse the fire, then pour water over it to cool the coals. You can leave anything that isn’t burned inside the pit.

It’s Grunion Run Season! 5 Things to Know Before You Go

They flop around, surf the waves, and make sweet love under the moonlight: the season of the grunion run has begun! On beaches all throughout Southern California, you’ll get the chance to experience these strange little creatures up close; and La Jolla has some of the best seats in the house. Just grab your flashlights, a few beach chairs and, if you don’t mind staying up late, get ready to watch them run!

So, What Is a Grunion Run?

Each spring, from April to May or June, thousands of these little silvery fish wash ashore to partake in a strange mating ritual under the moonlight. While on the beach, female grunion bury themselves half-way in the sand to lay eggs, while males wrap themselves around the females to fertilize their eggs. The females will lay anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 eggs. Then, as the next round of waves wash in, the fish simply float back to sea. Some may call them the original bodysurfers!

1. Grunions runs are unique to Southern California.

That’s right – because grunions are only found off the coast of Southern California, from San Diego to San Luis Obispo, and in Northern Baja, Mexico (just north of Punta Abreojos), we Californians are the sole witnesses of this incredible event every year.

2. They usually ‘run’ on wide, sandy beaches.

Ergo, La Jolla is the perfect grunion run destination! La Jolla Shores, to be exact. If you’re a newbie and you want the full experience, we recommend going with the expert naturalists at the Birch Aquarium during, or just after, a full moon. They host guided visits of grunion spawning areas at La Jolla Shores throughout April-June, which includes a full rundown on these mysterious creatures as well as a demonstration of hatchlings emerging from their eggs in a vial of seawater.

Birch Aquarium Grunion Run 2018 schedule:

Wednesday, May 2: 11:00pm – 1:00 am
Thursday, May 31: 10:30pm – 12:30am
Friday, June 1: 11:00pm – 1:00am

3. You can even catch the grunions – but only during specific periods.

If you’re in the market for some fresh seafood, you may want to check out a grunion run this year! While April and May are off-limits to fishing or catching the fish while they’re onshore (this is their prime mating period and are therefore protected), you are allowed to do so in March and June – and only with your hands. No nets, buckets or other gear is allowed, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Additionally, people over 16 need a fishing license to participate, and while there is no official bag limit, it is illegal to waste them. Digging holes in the sand as traps is also forbidden.

4. For the best runs, look for the fish after new or full moons.

These silvery little fish are most likely to surface after the highest tides during a full moon, and the largest numbers of grunions usually wash up about an hour after the ‘run’ begins. Try to avoid using flashlights, as the illumination can scare away the fish, and if you do, limit their use to times after the waves have receded. Do remember to tread carefully; you never know what you may be stepping on, and the vibrations of your feet will often scare the little guys away.

5. Though unlikely, be prepared for a no-show.

As with any creatures, there is an element of luck to our ability to witness them; and while grunion can hit the beach by the thousands, they can also decide not to show up at all. It’s disappointing, but not altogether unusual. And, at the very least, you’ll be enjoying a peaceful moonlit walk along the beach – what could possibly be more Southern Californian than that?

A few grunion run tips and things to remember:

  • Do not touch or or interfere with spawning during closed fishing season (April and May).
  • Walk quietly and don’t shine a flashlight directly on the water
  • Leave your furry friends at home
  • Wear waterproof shoes, or at least shoes you don’t mind getting wet. Same goes for clothing, as well.
  • What to bring: a flashlight, a beach chair, a bucket to put your grunion in, and a fishing license if you are planning to take them.

Above all, have fun – and happy grunion running!

5 Things You Didn’t Know About the La Jolla Children’s Pool

Children’s Pool Beach is one of the most well known (and loved!) beaches in La Jolla, California. Built in 1930, it was one of the many gifts that philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps gave to the community of La Jolla. Originally heralded as a “wonderful improvement” by the press and local residents alike, the concrete seawall and the beach it protects became the setting for controversy and debate just sixty years after it was finished. Here are a few things you may not know about this La Jolla beach!

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1. It was briefly transformed into a movie set in 1977.

A World War I battlefield set, to be exact! Not many people know that the Children’s Pool Beach was the location for a 15-minute beach battle scene in the movie The Stunt Man, starring Peter O’Toole, in November of 1977. The movie also filmed scenes in Coronado (at the Hotel del Coronado) and in East County near Flinn Springs. A large crane was brought in for the scene, as well as several other wartime props and even airplanes. Fun fact: In that scene, O’Toole is transported by a crane from the Children’s Pool to the veranda of the Del; only locals know how geographically impossible that scenario is!

2. The entire project took a total of ten years.

From the initial survey and design to the final changes completed by the contractor, the breakwater was truly no small feat. Years of extensive planning, a tedious permit and approval process, and construction filled with numerous delays and obstacles were the project’s biggest enemies. On May 31, 1931 a dedication ceremony occurred at the breakwater to celebrate what was then (and still is, by most standards) a massive accomplishment.

3. At its highest point, the seawall stands at a whopping sixteen feet.

As it extends towards the open ocean, the wall gets gradually higher; going from ten feet to sixteen. This gradual incline was very much intentional, and was constructed in order to preserve its aesthetic look and not detract from the natural scenery surrounding the pool.

4. The breakwater required a total of almost 3,200 barrels of concrete.

The 3,125.5 barrels of Riverside Concrete arrived by railroad cars, along with 31 tons of rail from Los Angeles by the Shannahan Brothers Company.

5. Efforts have begun to get the Children’s Pool placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The a potentially historic place’s connection to important persons; in this case, Ellen Browning Scripps, who was the benefactress for the project, and Engineer Hiram Newton Savage, because he really was never fully recognized for accomplishing one of La Jolla’s biggest architectural marvels. Savage, who died three years after the Pool was opened, is credited with planning what would be San Diego’s water development and supervised the construction or expansion of some of San Diego’s dams.

Interestingly, the seawall’s architect, William Templeton Johnson’s contribution and involvement will also be highlighted. Johnson designed the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park, La Valencia Hotel, San Diego National History Museum, and several other buildings throughout the area. He had a fascination with Mission Revival and Spanish Eclectic architecture; not surprising, given that his proposed design for the Children’s Pool was utilitarian, unobtrusive, and consistent with the organic principals found in the breakwater’s design.

The Children’s Pool is still very much loved by locals and tourists alike today; in fact, it’s probably one of the busiest beaches in all of San Diego! Though the local seals and sea lions have taken over in recent years, it’s still a beautiful place to watch the wildlife or go scuba diving. How many of these fun facts did you know about the Children’s Pool?

Kayaking in La Jolla: Everything You Need to Know

La Jolla Kayaking

If you love the ocean and revel in exploring it, kayaking in La Jolla will be a magical experience for you. This activity is incredibly popular and renowned in these parts, which means the businesses know their equipment, teachers are very experienced and tour guides are knowledgeable.

This is all very valuable, especially if you’re a novice kayaker! Now, where is it that you should be looking to kayak?

La Jolla’s Underwater Park

This vast area of sea goes all along the La Jolla Coast and includes the ocean bottom and canyons that extend from it. In total, its perimeters encompass 6,000 acres. It’s particularly interesting because of its wide variety of landscapes. It hosts kelp forests, deep water canyons, rocky shallows, beaches and sky-high cliffs.

Learn more about which areas you want to explore by kayak below:

The Seven Caves

The timeworn cliffs of this coast have, over their 75 million years, had caves carved into the sandstone. Weather permitting, coast into these caves for a breathtaking experience. These north-facing caves are, from east to west:

White Lady
Little Sister
Shopping Cart
Sea Surprize
Arch Cave
Clam Cave
Sunny Jim Cave

All of the caves can only be explored by kayak, except for Sunny Jim. This cave happens to have a small tunnel leading down from The Cave Store that you can go through by foot. During the 1920s Prohibition, it is said that illegal smugglings happened through here!

The Ecological Reserve

Tours, from companies like La Jolla Kayak, often leave from this area. This area is differentiated due to its legal limits. Certain activities here, such as fishing and scavenging are banned. This is part of their mission to protect the local, aquatic wildlife.

You can see buoys near the shoreside of Scripps Park, at the northeast point of La Jolla Shores and more again out into the canyons. Highlight the invisible path betewen buoys, and you have the perimeter of the reserve.

What plants and creatures can you look forward to seeing? There are often leopard sharks, dolphins, whales and, of course, sea lions hanging out here. Spot them swimming amongst the kelp and the reefs of the ocean arena.

The Marine Life Refuge

Head north of the reserve, and you’ll find yourself in the Marine Life Refuge. This space was set up in 1929 by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography for research purposes. Though academic work is conducted here, you are also allowed to fish and play in its perimeters.

As in the ecological reserve, get ready to coast on the water and look down to sites of leopard sharks, garibaldi, sea lions and, depending on the day, dolphins!

Tours & Rentals

To learn the area and valuable kayaking techniques, there are certified guides ready to take you on your La Jolla kayaking adventure. We recommend booking as far in advance as possible, especially during the summer months. Kayaking companies include La Jolla Kayak, Bike & Kayak Tours of La Jolla, and Everyday California. 

Brunch & Kayak Tour with La Jolla Kayak

Enjoy a morning kayaking through the La Jolla sea caves and end your adventure with a delicious brunch at Piatti Restaurant! Begin your day with a guided kayak tour along the magnificent sea cliffs and through the La Jolla sea caves. Soak in views of sea lions gliding alongside your kayak, harmless leopard sharks swimming beneath your kayak and lush kelp beds floating by you.

Brunch Kayak Tour includes:

  • Transportation of your kayak to and from the beach
  • Guided kayak tour of the 7 Caves and La Jolla Cove with a certified instructor
  • Mandatory Safety Training Session (five minutes in duration)
  • Life Vest, Backrest, Paddle
  • Brunch

Book your tour here! 

If you’ve already kayaked before, you may not need a tour…simply the equipment. These companies, and local shops, rent kayaks. Please check out these companies for rates and other details at our directory.

5 Epic La Jolla Activities for the Outdoor Adventurer

La Jolla Activities for the Outdoor Adventurer

La Jolla, San Diego is a pretty great place to explore – especially for outdoor enthusiasts! There are plenty of La Jolla activities for the outdoor adventurer, from scuba diving to hang gliding and even snorkeling through the many sea caves along the coast. If adventure is your thing (or adrenaline!), these are five things to do in La Jolla that you won’t want to miss!

Paraglide or Hang Glide

Nestled above Blacks Beach, this cliff-high spot is the go-to-place for those craving a flying adventure! This 300 foot-high spot has been launching fliers for over 100 years, making it the most historic aviation site for non-powered flight on Earth. It’s been deemed a historic place by the state of California because of the many famous flyers and records that have been set here. The Gliderport offers an array of tandem flights and lessons, including:

  • Tandem Paragliding & Hang Gliding with a certified instructor
  • Paragliding lessons
  • Advanced clinics
  • Powered Paraglider lessons

Be sure to give the Gliderport a call before you head over there. Wind and weather conditions vary greatly, and on certain days they don’t allow people to fly. Visit their website for more information. Tip: Afterwards, visit the Cliffhanger Café for an epic cliffside dining experience! The full-service deli-cafe is open daily, offering lunch and snacks from 9am-4pm.

Snorkel & Swim

La Jolla Cove is an incredible place to snorkel, because the beach is sheltered from the waves due to its north facing location (this is one of the most popular things to do in La Jolla). Once you get your snorkel gear on, you don’t have to swim far to see a multitude of aquatic life. While the most plentiful are Garibaldi and sea lions, people have been known to see leopard sharks, octopus, stingrays, sea stars, urchins and many other fish species. You can also choose to swim at La Jolla Shores Beach or Windansea Beach. Several tour companies offer snorkel rentals and guided snorkeling tours, including Everyday California, La Jolla Kayak, and Bike & Kayak Tours La Jolla.

Tip: We recommend swimming at La Jolla Shores Beach for children and amateur swimmers due to its sandy bottom and smaller waves. Windansea Beach has a big shore break and a rocky bottom and is probably best-suited for adults and more advanced swimmers. Afterwards, visit the tide pools for further adventures!

Kayak the Seven La Jolla Caves

If you love the ocean and revel in exploring it, kayaking in La Jolla will be a magical experience for you. The reason? The La Jolla Underwater Park, which is a vast area of sea that goes all along the La Jolla Coast and includes the ocean bottom and canyons that extend from it. Not to mention the incredible sea caves, a few of which you can actually kayak into! In total, the park’s perimeters encompass nearly 6,000 acres! It’s particularly interesting because of its wide variety of landscapes – kelp forests, deep water canyons, rocky shallows, beaches, and sky-high cliffs.

There are several tour companies down at La Jolla Shores that will take you on a guided kayak tour, or a combo kayak and snorkel tour; including La Jolla KayakEveryday California, and more.

 

Scuba Dive

If you have your scuba certification, there is truly no more beautiful place in San Diego to scuba dive than La Jolla. From kelp forests at La Jolla Cove to the canyon wall at La Jolla Shores, the La Jolla Ecological Reserve has it all – beautiful, diverse marine life and the chance of seeing something amazing. There’s even an underwater graveyard to explore!

During the summer, you can swim with the leopard sharks, and throughout the year marine life such as sea lions, seals, green turtles, sevengill sharks, giant black sea bass, toupe sharks and even dolphin have been seen by divers. There are a few different companies that offer guided tours, such as La Jolla Dive and San Diego Expeditions. Most tours meet at Kellogg Park or on the beach at the Shore

Rent a Bike and Explore on Wheels

There are several different options for bike rentals and bike tours in La Jolla, and for good reason! Beautiful, clear weather year-round and terrific views make for some great biking excursions. Bike & Kayak Tours offers bike rentals starting at $8 an hour, and La Jolla Kayak offers two pretty awesome combo bike tours: the Soledad Slide Bike Tour and the half-day Bike & Kayak Tour (which essentially combines the original Kayak Tour with the Soledad Slide Tour). Head to our Tours on Wheels page for more info!

Tip: Nearby, the Birch Aquarium at Scripps and the Salk Institute provide for some great informational activities after you finish with the outdoors. Call ahead for information, tickets, and tour dates. Both the Birch Aquarium and Salk are easily accessible from La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores.

La Jolla is a great place for families to spend the day outdoors; at just a 30-minute drive from downtown San Diego and other nearby attractions such as Balboa Park, northern areas like Del Mar (and the Del Mar Fairgrounds) and Solana Beach, and with so many attractions of its own (the sea lions, sea caves, beautiful beaches, and incredible restaurants), it’s definitely a must-do when in the City of San Diego.

 

 

Wildlife You Might See on Your Torrey Pines Hike

Torrey Pines State Reserve, nestled in between Del Mar and La Jolla, is well known for its beachside network of trails and walking paths. There are six different trailsto explore throughout the Reserve, and one (the aptly named Beach Trail) takes hikers directly down to the beach, where they finish off the hike with a nice stroll.

There is plenty to see within the Reserve itself, however; in the spring, colorful wildflowers dot the hills, and you’re likely to see at least one or two creatures during your hike as well as the rare Torrey Pine tree itself. Here is some of the most interesting wildlife you might spot on your next Torrey Pines hike!

Coyotes, Mule Deer, & Other Mammals

California Ground Squirrel and Cottontail Rabbits are the most common mammals that visitors see at the Reserve — both are relatively tolerant of humans and relatively active during the day. The larger black-tail jackrabbit can be seen in the more open areas near the lagoon and in the flatlands. Most of the other animals are nocturnal and will be seen in the early morning or late afternoon as they begin or end their nocturnal movements. Skunks, raccoons, opossums, weasels, pocket gophers, gray fox, and coyotes have also been spotted; so it’s always good to keep an eye out!

The mule deer is more secretive and is rarely seen by visitors. Do keep an eye out for gray fox and raccoon tracks, as these are the most common in the Reserve.

Plants & Blooming Cactus

If you’re a plant lover, Torrey Pines has you covered! The wide variety of native plants are some of the most unique and interesting things to observe at the Reserve. Because it’s such a protected area, the plant life has had the opportunity to grow wild; springtime makes for a beautiful landscape, especially with the abundant wildflowers and colorful cacti. Here are the types of plant communities you’ll see:

  • Torrey Pine Woodland: the Torrey Pine is the most restricted and rarest pine in North America and is probably the remnant of an ancient coastal forest.
  • Chaparral: California’s most extensive and characteristic plant community thrives here.
  • Coastal Sage Scrub: plants like  California Sagebrush, California Buckwheat, Black Sage, Deerweed Bush, Lemonadeberry,  Coastal Prickly Pear, and Bladderpod.
  • Coastal Strand: a different plant community, with plants like Sand Verbena, Beach Primrose, and Sea Rocket.
  • Salt Marsh: think low-lying grasses! This type of plant community is a great natural wildlife habitat.

Most notable as you walk through the Reserve are the different cacti (prickly pear is the most common), which occasionally sport beautiful blooms. Keep an eye out for these on your hike!

Birds

Of all the wildlife you might see on your Torrey Pines hike, you’re most likely to see a bird; fluttering in and out of the scrub brush and landing on tree branches overhead. Here are some of the more common species that people report seeing:

Red-tailed Hawk: Wingspread is about four feet, and it soars in a circular pattern; round white tail with a reddish tinge; light-colored breast, broadband of streaking across belly; nest is a platform of sticks in trees.

California Quail: Small, plump, grayish birds with short black plume growing forward from the crown.

Anna’s Hummingbird: Red crown, red throat; only hummingbird found in California in mid-winter.

Scrub Jay: No crest on the head; head, wings, and tail are blue; back is pale brownish; often flies down slopes in long shallow curves.

Wrentit: Long rounded, slightly cocked tail and streaked brownish breast, with a white eye; nest is a compact cup in a low bush.

 

Mourning Dove: Pointed tail bordered with large white spots; brown, slim-shaped body; nest is a flimsy twig platform in a tree, shrub, or on the ground.

Common Raven: Larger than a crow, the raven has a wedge-shaped tail and is not inclined to fly in flocks like crows. These birds are commonly seen soaring on the updrafts along the beach cliffs and in the canyons of Torrey Pines. They are acrobats and sometimes perform barrel rolls!

Osprey: The Osprey measures about two feet in length and has a wingspan of nearly six feet. It may log more than 160,000 migration miles during its 15-to-20-year lifetime. The name osprey may derive from the Latin for “bone-breaker”— ossifragus.

Red-Shouldered Hawk: This hawk has strong black and white bands on its tail, and rusty undersides. In flight, a translucent “window” can be seen at the base of the primary feathers on the wing.

Peregrine Falcon

This year, the Reserve has four fledgling peregrines on site! They are the result of a successful mating between two peregrine falcons that have been nesting in the cliffs for years.

Fun facts: the peregrine falcon is the fastest animal in the world – when in a dive, it can reach over 200 mph! Slow and clumsy birds in flight, namely ducks or pigeons, are their favorite prey. When hunting, the peregrine dives, creating a fist with its talon.

 

 

Blacks Beach: A Photographer’s Wonderland

Blacks Beach is one of the most picturesque (if not most difficult to get to) beach in La Jolla; with jagged cliffs, a long stretch of white sand, and colorful paragliders dotting the sky, there really isn’t any other place like it. Long known for its impressive surf break and most famous for allowing nudity, Blacks Beach has been a cultish local favorite for decades. The pathways down – there are several – are tricky, steep, and not for the faint of heart; the indelible Ho Chi Minh Trail is especially known for its treacherous and muddy terrain. On top of all that, it’s an awesome place to catch the sunset.

While the northern part of Blacks Beach is clothing optional, the southern part of it is utilized by surfers and swimmers; and makes for some great amateur photography!

The Views:

The Sunsets:

The Surfers

The Trails:

There’s nothing quite like the sand-colored cliffs at Blacks Beach.

The Paragliders:

Paragliders can almost always be seen flying high above the cliffs at Blacks Beach. They come directly south from the Torrey Pines Gliderport, and the color contrast really makes for some beautiful photos!

The Cliffs

The Mushroom House

Fun Fact: The elusive and famed “Mushroom House” is located on the southern portion of Blacks Beach! Built in 1968, it was originally called the Pavilion and could be accessed from the cliffs above via a nearly vertical tramway running almost 300 feet down the cliff. It was used as a guest house and was designed by architect Dal Nagle to withstand naturally occurring rock slides, earthquakes, and waves. It offers an 180-degree view from Torrey Pines State Park to La Jolla.

Although Blacks Beach is one of the most photogenic, there are plenty of other gorgeous La Jolla beaches! What’s your favorite La Jolla Beach in California? Share with us on Facebook!

 

 

Exploring La Jolla Tide Pools with Kids

“Look here, look here! Come and see this Mami!” The kids usually shout excited looking at the marine life they find at the La Jolla tide pools.

We recently visited the tide pools for the first time ever and now we are hooked! It’s so fun to go see sea creatures in their natural habitat.

Dike Rock Tide Pools

Our adventure included two La Jolla Tide Pools: Dike Rock and Hospitals Break. When you explore tide pools with kids you are probably going to discover more because kids are such experts to point out the best finds!

That said, I decided to take them to Dike Rock first which is north of Scripps Pier. I parked close to the entrance of Scripps Beach on La Jolla Shores Dr., just make sure to park where there isn’t time limit because you’ll spend a long time exploring and you don’t want to rush back! (It happened to us!!).

Once you get down to the beach you walk north until you see the rocks where the tide pools are located.

We started exploring immediately. The first creatures we saw were crabs, they were everywhere and in lots of different sizes. We even saw one that was eating! It was moving his claws one after the other to his mouth!

Another creature that you will probably see a lot are Sea Anemones, they are greenish inside and sometimes if they are curled you won’t notice them, they are brown and covered with shells on the outside.

Hospitals Break Tide Pools

The second and final stop in our tide pool exploration was Hospitals Break, it’s south of the Children’s Pool and it’s quite a big area for tide pools. The rock formations there are very unique, there are some rocks covered with what seems like a carpet of seagrass, it’s amazing.

The kids can’t stop talking about their experience at the tide pools, we are planning to come back with some friends. I recommend you to go with your kids, if you do, make sure to check out the tide charts before you go, look for a minus (-) number for the best experience!

What to bring:

  • Wearing swimming suit is best or clothes you don’t mind getting wet
  • Water shoes (not flip flops)
  • Don’t forget the Sunscreen
  • Camera

Where to go:

And here is a list of the most talked-about La Jolla Tide Pools you can visit, starting north and going south:

  • Dike Rock
  • South of La Jolla Shores Beach
  • La Jolla Cove
  • Shell Beach
  • Hospitals Break
  • Whispering Sands Beach
  • Marine Street Beach
  • Windandsea beach

Happy tide pooling in La Jolla!

things to do in la jolla

Top Things to Do in La Jolla

La Jolla offers countless activities to dabble in. Whether you enjoy long walks, adventurous outdoor activities, fantastic shopping, or fine dining, you will always find what you’re looking for here in La Jolla!

Dining

From the famous fine dining of George’s at the Cove to the Brockton Villa’s award-winning french toast, you will be delighted by the incredible variety and pristine quality of La Jolla restaurants. If you’re seeking a more casual spot for a laid-back beach day, don’t worry, there are plenty of spots for grabbing a bite.

Enjoy cooking yourself? There are great local stores and the terrific La Jolla Open Aire Market (every Sunday) for picking your own produce. Learn more about the La Jolla food scene on our Ultimate Guide to the Best Restaurants in La Jolla.

Indulge Your Sweet Tooth

La Jolla is known for its fine dining – and its confectionaries! There are several delicious spots to grab something sweet after dinner, from bakeries to gelaterias and ice cream shops.

  • Sugar & Scribe Bakery
  • Bobboi Natural Gelato
  • Haagen Dazs Ice Cream
  • Gelateria Frizzante

For more information on all of these, head to our dining guide!

La Jolla Beaches

The soft sand and blue waters of the Southern California seaside are highly acclaimed for a reason. Whichever beach spot you choose here, you’ll have made the right choice! From family-friendly activities to beautiful spots to lay out, each La Jolla beach definitely has its own personality.

  • La Jolla Shores
  • La Jolla Cove
  • Windansea Beach
  • Shell Beach
  • Children’s Pool
  • Wipeout Beach
  • Boomer Beach
  • Marine Street Beach
  • Torrey Pines Beach
  • Black’s Beach

Activities

From kayaking and snorkeling to land activities like golfing at the world renowned Torrey Pines Golf Course, you will find countless sun-soaking activities to take part in. Enjoy hiking? Get ready to the hit the trails because there are many great ones you’ll want to explore. For a more relaxing day with the family, the parks here act as the perfect spot for bringing a picnic and throwing a frisbee.

la jolla things to do

Outdoor

  • Hike into Sunny Jim Cave (lots of stairs, but an incredible view!)
  • Have a picnic at Ellen Browning Scripps Park
  • Take a walking tour of La Jolla’s murals
  • Visit UCSD (and check out the outdoor Stuart Collection)
  • Try stand-up paddle boarding or surfing
  • Take a Kayak Tour of the La Jolla Sea Caves
  • Go snorkeling around the Cove – and swim with the leopard sharks!
  • Watch the gliders at Torrey Pines Gliderport
  • Visit Mt. Soledad Veteran’s Memorial
  • Go whale watching
  • Take your own Architecture Tour of La Jolla (Geisel Library and the historic cottages in the Village are some of the best examples!)
  • Check out the local tide pools 
  • Watch a beautiful sunset from the shore
  • Hit the La Jolla Open Aire Market (every Sunday, 9am-1pm at 7335 Girard Ave)

Indoor

  • Spend the day at the Birch Aquarium
  • Enjoy one of La Jolla’s many museums
    • Museum of Contemporary Art
    • Map & Atlas Museum
    • Athenaeum Music & Arts Library
  • Check out one of the many art galleries
    • Madison Gallery
    • Thumbprint Gallery
    • Contemporary Fine Arts Gallery
    • National Geographic Gallery
  • See a play at world-renowned La Jolla Playhouse
  • Visit the Salk Institute (you’ll need to schedule one of their Guided Tours)
  • Visit the La Jolla Historical Society for a bit of local history

Cruise the Coast

The main attraction of La Jolla is, of course, the ocean. Enjoying the views from land is great, but why not get close and see it from the water itself?

La Jolla offers breathtaking sunset and dinner cruises that will have all those on land envious. Learn more about the cruises offered to you at our Dinner Cruises & Sunset Cruises Page. During whale watching season, they offer special Whale Watching Cruises – a spectacular event that you don’t want to miss out on.

Shopping

Whether you’re seeking the perfect ring from Cartier, a fun & fresh outfit from Francesca’s or a day of window shopping, La Jolla has the shopping escapade you have in mind. From the big brand shops in the UTC mall to local shops of Ivanhoe, shopping lovers are spoiled for choice.

  • Girard Avenue Shops
  • Shops on Ivanhoe St.
  • Westfield UTC
  • Design District on Herschel Ave.

Local Events

Annual happenings like the Christmas Parade and theater shows keep life, including the nightlife, here interesting. Check out our calendar & blog to see what is coming up! And learn more about La Jolla events at our Events Page. Here are some annual events that you can look forward to every year.

  • Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course (January)
  • La Jolla Concours d’Elegance: a world-renowned seaside car show (April)
  • Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla: explore some of La Jolla’s most beautiful gardens (May)
  • 4th of July Fireworks at La Jolla Cove (July)
  • La Jolla Rough Water Swim (September, unless cancelled)
  • La Jolla Art & Wine Festival (October)
  • La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival (December)

Comedy Shows

As we all know, laughter is the best medicine. Come get a dose of it at La Jolla’s top laugh-inducing spot, The Comedy Store, which has been around since 1977. This venues features all types of comedians, so you’re sure to find someone who will have you chuckling. Learn more about what this venue has to offer at our Comedy Store Page.

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Take a Walk (or a Hike!)

There are several beautiful areas to walk through and enjoy the scenery in La Jolla.

  • Coast Walk Trail
  • Torrey Pines Trails
  • Scripps Coastal Reserve – Biodiversity Trail
  • Mt. Soledad trails
  • Fay Avenue Bike Path

For more information on hiking, head to our scenic hikes page!

Stay the Night

La Jolla hotels range from five-star extravagant experiences to historic bungalows by the sea. There are plenty of options to choose from, no matter what your style is!

  • La Jolla Shores Hotel
  • La Jolla Cove Suites
  • La Valenica
  • Grande Colonial
  • The Lodge at Torrey Pines
  • Estancia La Jolla
  • Pantai Inn
  • Empress Hotel
  • Hotel La Jolla
  • Redwood Cottages
  • Bed & Breakfast Inn at La Jolla
  • Scripps Inn

Head here for more information on all of these hotels in La Jolla.

Whether you’re staying for a day or for the week, there plenty of ways to stay busy and enjoy your time in La Jolla! What are some of your favorite things to do here? Let us know in the Facebook comments!