June 29, 2023
Travel experts at SIXT color-picked 53 waterways across the U.S., revealing where the bluest waters…Read more
If you’re planning a trip to Southern California, you’ve landed in the right place. The charming coastal community of La Jolla is located in San Diego, California. The weather is close to perfect year-round, and the array of activities in La Jolla is near endless, with something to satisfy every type of visitor.
Upon getting to La Jolla, you’ll be greeted by breathtaking landscapes, sandy beaches, rugged coastline, majestic wildlife, and more. So choose your adventure in La Jolla and fill your days with a mix of activities. From laidback beach days to educational experiences, a fun day shopping, and incredible restaurant options, you won’t have any trouble keeping your itinerary packed.
This guide breaks down over 30 activities in La Jolla that are worth your time and will have you planning a second and third trip so you can cross more off the list!
Photo by Thomas Hawk via Flickr.
Pack the towels, sunscreen, and snacks, and head out for a proper beach day. It’s one of those activities in La Jolla that should be on every SoCal itinerary, and you’ve got great options. So absorb and connect to the beautiful La Jolla landscape from the sand!
La Jolla has a beach to suit most of everyone’s vibe. The smaller beaches invite you to escape the crowds and enjoy more solitude. Or head to the popular beaches where all the action is and access to activities is convenient. Here are our top three beaches to visit and why:
La Jolla Cove Beach recently landed the #10 spot on TripAdvisor’s Top 25 Beaches in America. It’s been a favorite beach since La Jolla’s earliest days of settlement and has a rich history. It’s a smaller beach with golden sands, clear blue water, and surrounded by stunning cliffs. This is La Jolla’s top spot for swimmers and snorkelers.
La Jolla Shores is an all-in-one beach destination. You’ll have a one-mile-long stretch of flat beach with plenty of room to set up and sprawl out. The waters off La Jolla Shores are calmer, the surf is small, and activities are abundant.
Enjoy bicycling, surfing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, tide pooling, and more. La Jolla Shores also boasts the large grassy area of Kellogg Park, a boardwalk to walk or skate on, and even a playground for the kids. Restaurants and shops are all within walking distance, and a large parking lot with free parking.
Black’s Beach is a long stretch of golden sandy beach located North of the Scripps Pier. It’s one of La Jolla’s most secluded beaches because of its location underneath the towering cliffs. Getting to Black’s is quite the trek, unless you walk to it from La Jolla Shores Beach.
The Northern part of Black’s is also notorious for its nude section of the beach. To avoid seeing nudity, don’t go farther than the staircase leading up to the Torrey Pines Gliderport.
Check out our Ultimate Beach Guide for information on La Jolla’s beautiful beaches.
La Jolla is a prime destination in San Diego for water adventures. The Underwater Park & Ecological Reserve spans over 6000 acres of ocean bottom. Its special protections help maintain and protect the diverse marine and plant life that call it home. There is much to see between wildlife, rocky reefs, giant kelp beds, sand flats, the submarine canyon, and sea caves.
Whether you want to kayak, paddleboard, snorkel, swim, or even get a surf lesson, there is something for everyone and their comfort levels. The waters are calm and friendly, so even the most timid first-timers can feel more at ease trying something new!
Most of these activities launch from La Jolla Shores, where there are plenty of places to rent gear or book guided snorkel and kayak tours. Swimmers and snorkelers can enter the waters from La Jolla Cove Beach.
The Coast Walk Trail is a shortie but a goodie. This .6-mile trail hugs the bluffs overlooking La Jolla Cove, offering spectacular views. The sandy trail is a historic asset maintained by the Friends of Coast Walk Trail, its volunteers, and its supporters.
The path includes a white footbridge and several areas you can stop to take a break and take in the views. It’s a great place to spot wildlife like dolphins, whales, seals, sea lions, and birds, all while enjoying native plants and flowers.
The trail is most accessible from Coast Boulevard, in front of the Cave Store. Starting the trail from this side is best for those who use wheelchairs or strollers or want an easy walk. Once you reach the footbridge, the trail is no longer wheelchair accessible. You can also access the trail from Torrey Pines Road north of Prospect St., but it has limited parking.
Covering around 2,000 acres of coastal land, the Torrey Pines State Reserve offers stunning views of the ocean, unique canyons, and stunning cliffs. It is home to the country’s rarest and endangered pine tree, the Torrey Pine.
Torrey Pines sees a lot of action from locals and tourists who enjoy getting outdoors. Visitors can explore the various trails throughout the reserve on a self-guided adventure or join a weekend-guided nature walk.
The views are epic, so this is also a glorious spot to watch for ocean wildlife like whales and dolphins. If you have them, binoculars would be a fun piece of gear to bring along.
The park is open 365 days a year from 7:15 am to sunset. They do not permit dogs and other animals to enter the reserve. Parking is available within the reserve in the south and north lots for a fee of $15-$25 per vehicle. You can save on fees by parking facing the beach along N Torrey Pines Rd. See trail maps and more information here.
If you like golf, visiting the world-famous Torrey Pines Golf Course is a must-do activity in La Jolla to cross off your bucket list. Whether you play a round or go to appreciate the pristinely landscaped green grounds and ocean views, it’ll be worth it.
There’s a good reason golf’s most elite figures have played this course. They have held the US Open at this course, and San Diego’s PGA Tour, the Farmers Insurance Open, returns yearly. The iconic course has 36 holes with resident and non-resident course fees and the option to rent equipment.
Although you can’t rent gear in advance, you can reserve a tee time up to 90 days in advance. Get golf sportswear, accessories, and other merchandise at their pro shop.
Photo by Steve Adams on Unsplash.
Watching the animals of La Jolla is an activity in La Jolla that could keep you busy all day. You will encounter wildlife in La Jolla, inside the water or not.
No matter what time of year you visit La Jolla, you will see (and hear) California sea lions and harbor seals. However, if you visit during the seal or sea lion pupping season when babies are born, it’s an extra special time. Seal pupping season is between December and May, and sea lion pupping season is between May and October. See the viewing guidelines to help you have the best and safest experience possible while viewing La Jolla’s seal and sea lion population.
You can catch gray, blue, humpback, and fin whales. Gray whales are most commonly seen in La Jolla from December to April as they migrate south from Alaska to Mexico. Blue whales are most active during their feeding season between June and September. You can book a whale-watching tour to see these majestic giants better.
Leopard sharks are common in La Jolla, especially during the summer. They gather by the hundreds in the shallow waters off La Jolla Shores Beach to mate and give birth. You can see them from the beach, wading in the shallow water, snorkeling, or scuba diving.
A popular spot to go is in front of the Marine Room restaurant at the southern end of La Jolla Shores. Leopard sharks aren’t typically aggressive toward humans, but it’s best to avoid touching or disturbing them.
Activities in La Jolla that celebrate art, live music, culture, and history have been longtime fixtures in the La Jolla community.
On the first Friday of every month, the La Jolla Village Merchants Association guides art lovers through La Jolla Village to view art collections from the area’s finest art galleries. Each month usually follows a new theme. Enjoy art, food, drinks, entertainment, and more.
The Art & Wine Festival is a free activity in La Jolla that celebrates art, regional and international wines, craft beer, and spirits. The event usually occurs in October and takes over the streets of downtown La Jolla. Even if you’re not into art, it’s a fun outdoor activity where you can, at the very least, grab a drink and enjoy the weather.
The La Jolla Historical Society is located in one of La Jolla’s original beach cottages. Their team helps preserve and share La Jolla’s rich history by hosting unique exhibitions, events, and educational programs. They also offer several self-guided tour materials that are free to download.
Photo via muralsoflajolla.com.
For urban art lovers, taking a tour of the murals is a great sunny day activity in La Jolla. The public art project began in 2010 as a collaboration between the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library and the La Jolla Community Foundation.
The murals support local, national, and international artists and enhance the community’s character. You can download a map of all the murals for a self-guided tour or join a free guided tour. You can find different murals throughout the Village of La Jolla.
Enrich your visit with a trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla. Walk through beautiful modern auditoriums while taking in inspiring and unique collections. Then, enjoy the sun in the sculpture garden with ocean views. Guests can tour the museum for free on the second Sunday and third Thursday of every month. Admission is otherwise $25 per adult.
The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library is known for its extensive collection of music books, scores, and recordings in music and visual art. With more than 160,000 items, it’s one of the oldest cultural institutions in La Jolla, founded in 1899. They have a year-round schedule of art exhibitions, live music, lectures, and studio art classes. The Athenaeum is a major source of art and music events and activities in La Jolla with a rich history.
Navigation and history enthusiasts will have a blast at the Map & Atlas Museum in La Jolla. Even those who love art and illustration would enjoy this place. Their fantastic collection displays 500 years of one-of-a-kind maps with detailed descriptions of the history and insight into how the world was seen then.
It gives you an incredible view into our world’s cartography at different times. It’s a place that makes you feel like you’ve traveled back in time for a couple of hours. Admission is free but by appointment only.
If laughing is one of our favorite pastimes, you must visit the iconic stand-up comedy club, The Comedy Store. The Comedy Store in La Jolla is an extension of the original Comedy Store that opened in Los Angeles in 1972.
The La Jolla location opened in 1977 and has kept La Jolla laughing ever since. They keep their calendar full of world-class comedians ready to make your night out the most entertaining night of fun you’ve had in a while. It’s intimate, affordable, and nearby some of La Jolla’s best restaurants and shops.
The La Jolla Playhouse has comfortable seating and fantastic acoustics, and there’s no bad seat in the house. They have an incredible offering of unique shows that are inspiring, emotional, and thought-provoking. It’s one of the most celebrated theaters in the country, with season after season of beautiful productions and talented cast members. See what’s playing this season here.
Photo by Hulki Okan Tabak on Unsplash.
The Conrad is an esteemed venue that hosts cultural, arts education, and community activities in La Jolla. The Conrad keeps their calendar full of events featuring diverse performers, music styles, dance, and speakers.
The LOT offers an elevated, luxury movie viewing experience. They’ve got comfortable leather reclining seats, individual tables, and various food and beverage options delivered right to your seat. This is different from your typical movie-going experience, but one you should check out at least once. It’s also a perfect rainy-day activity. They sometimes also hold special events that are open to the public.
Have you ever wanted to know what it feels like to fly? Well, adventure facilitators at the Torrey Pines Gliderport are at your service. Book a tandem paragliding experience with a trained pilot and soar over La Jolla’s dramatic coastal cliffs. Paragliding may be the most exciting way to experience the natural beauty of La Jolla. Parking is ample at the glider port and free. You can also grab a bite at the Cliffhanger Cafe and watch paragliders take off from the deck.
If heights aren’t your thing, maybe depths are! Exploring La Jolla’s underwater park will bring you a feeling of weightlessness and freedom as you take in the mystical and hidden side of La Jolla. Scuba diving will challenge you to overcome your fears, leave the familiar behind, and take on a new identity beneath the water.
Get close to diverse marine life, like colorful fish, sea lions, seals, sharks, giant kelp forests, coral reefs, and more. There are several gear rental shops and guided adventures you can book.
Many activities in La Jolla are perfect for kids, from outdoor activities to educational and interactive experiences. Here are some fan favorites!
The Birch Aquarium offers various activities catering to different ages and interests. Their immersive experiences feature unique exhibits, programs, and tours that teach visitors about marine biology and conservation.
Kids can learn about marine life, habitats, behaviors, and why conservation is important. The aquarium often organizes guided tours, behind-the-scenes experiences, and special events. Their Splash Cafe is also a great stop to grab lunch, with plenty of patio seating. Children 2 and under get in free; tickets range from $20 to $25 with specific discounts if applicable.
Photo by Josephine Bredehoft on Unsplash.
Tide pools can keep kids busy for hours on end, and La Jolla has a couple of favorite spots where those who love exploring these tiny worlds can go.
When the high tide goes out throughout the day, it leaves behind small pools and pockets of water in the rocks ripe for exploring when the tide goes out. In these pools of water are tiny marine creatures like crabs, starfish, small fish, sea anemones, and more.
If your visit falls between December and February, you may see the king tide events when the low tide is ‘negative.’ When this happens, the tide is lower than at any other time of the year, revealing even more tide pools. See our ultimate guide to the tide pools for all you’d need to know before you go.
A visit to Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave would score any parent brownie points from their adventure-loving kid. A trip to see Sunny Jim Sea Cave requires visitors to walk down the narrow and steep 145-step staircase that opens up to the cave’s entrance at the bottom.
You access the cave from the Cave Store and pay a $10 fee to take the staircase down. The stairs can be a challenge for some as it is steep and a long way down. The stairs can also be slippery, so take precautions and wear appropriate footwear.
Photo by slworking2 via Flickr.
Light emission by tiny organisms called bioluminescent algae makes the water glow electric blue. Bioluminescence usually occurs periodically during the summer months between June and September. The exact timing and intensity do vary. However, it’s a pretty cool phenomenon to witness when you see it. The moving water activates the appearance of that neon blue. Bystanders looking at the water from the beach would see the blue in the incoming waves.
La Jolla is home to several beautiful parks. The largest and most popular park, Ellen Browning Scripps Park, covers about 5 acres of green lawns with fantastic ocean views. It’s a popular spot for picnicking, sunbathing, yoga, or throwing the ball around.
The kids will have plenty of room to run around. A walking path spans the park’s length and overlooks the bluffs with access to nearby beaches. Other parks include Kellogg Park and La Jolla shores park, which lies adjacent to La Jolla Shores Beach and has a playground for kids.
The La Jolla Library usually has many activities for kids in its monthly events calendar. Activities include crafts, reading and story times, creative workshops, and more. Check out their calendar and filter activities by age range.
Let the kids run around at the La Jolla Recreation Center. Facilities include basketball courts, three large children’s play areas, picnic tables, and more. They also offer seasonal and holiday-specific events and programs for the public to enjoy.
The Children’s Pool is one of the most recognized and beloved landmarks in San Diego. It was originally built in 1931 to provide a safe swimming area for children, with its 300 ft curved concrete wall.
Visitors can also walk out to the very end of the concrete wall, and it’s an excellent spot for photos. In the 1990s, the harbor seals moved in and have ever since shared the area with beachgoers, but with some stipulations.
The Children’s Pool closes entirely to the public every year during the harbor seals pupping season between December and May. Because of the increased population of harbor seals, there have been issues with water quality and higher levels of bacteria. As a result, there’s usually signage warning beachgoers not to enter the water here.
The Scripps Pier was first built in 1915 by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography as a research facility for its marine science program. A new concrete pier was built in 1988 and given its new name to honor La Jolla legend Ellen Browning Scripps.
The over 1,000 feet long pier is closed to the public, but sometimes you can join a guided sunset pier walk with the Birch Aquarium. Head to La Jolla Shores Beach to park and walk up the beach to get to the Pier. The pier is also the site of “Scripps Henge,” where photographers gather in the masses to get an epic shot.
It occurs when the sun perfectly aligns at the center of the opening end of the pier. This event usually happens in May and August.
Photo by Thomas Hawk via Flickr.
When you walk up to the Mushroom House, you’ll ask, what planet did this land from? Dale Naegle designed and built this house in 1965 as a guest house to the main house that sits 300 ft above it. Its curved, dome-like structure resembles a mushroom, hence the name.
Over the years, this unique landmark has gained popularity, with many curious about its history and its future still unknown. The home rests below cliffs prone to collapse, so it’s always best to keep a safe distance. Also, know that the Mushroom House is private property, with no trespassing allowed.
The Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial is a must-stop if you’re looking for panoramic views of the California coastline and San Diego cityscape. The memorial honors American veterans, both living and deceased, who have bravely served in various military conflicts.
Its ‘honor walls’ are lined with plaques, photos, and messages. You can spot the 27-foot white cross from miles away, a recognizable La Jolla landmark since 1954. There are benches, a small grassy area, and a few portable bathrooms.
It’s a hot spot for sunset watchers, photographers, and picnickers. On clear days, you can see Mission Bay, downtown, and as far down as Mexico. You’ll also see the beautiful mountains of East County and North as far as Dana Point and beyond! Unfortunately, the parking around the memorial is limited, so park farther down residential streets or circle a few times to find a closer spot.
Photo by Justin Brown via Flickr.
Founded in 1960, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies is renowned for its innovative research and contributions to the scientific community. Besides leading groundbreaking research in biology, genetics, and neuroscience, it’s an iconic landmark in La Jolla because of its distinctive, futuristic architectural design.
The institute also offers guided architecture tours for architecture enthusiasts and photographers. In September, you can see “Salk Henge” during the autumn equinox when the sun aligns with the institute’s “River of Life” water feature.
Shopping is one of La Jolla’s popular activities, with upscale boutiques, jewelry stores, designer brands, art galleries, malls, and artisan markets. So if you need a unique gift or forgot to pack something, you’re likely to find what you need in La Jolla’s many shops.
The Village of La Jolla is where you’ll find many small boutique shops and name-brand stores. Stroll down Girard Avenue or along Prospect Street for some of the best shopping in town. This shopping district has been called the Rodeo Drive of San Diego, so you know it’s worth it if you want to shop til you drop.
The La Jolla Open Aire Market is the perfect outdoor shopping activity in La Jolla and a weekly community event every Sunday from 9 am to 1 pm! Small businesses from all over San Diego set up to display the best in handcrafted goods, art, fresh produce, and yummy food. All proceeds from this market go to benefit La Jolla Elementary School. It’s located on the corner of Girard Avenue near Genter Street in La Jolla.
Westfield UTC is a gorgeous outdoor mall with all the stores you’d want and more! Not only will it scratch that itch to shop, but it also has relaxing elements if you want a nice place to walk or even sit to read a book with your cup of coffee.
There’s a koi fountain, a promenade, and shaded seating areas with cushioned seating. They sometimes have live music too. Plenty of restaurants and bars to fuel your shopping day, and if you bring the kids, there’s a large playground. Parking is ample and free for the first two hours.
Photo via George’s at the Cove.
La Jolla is a Mecca for various powerhouse restaurants and casual dining experiences for every mood and flavor. So if discovering the best restaurants with ocean views or enjoying tasty handcrafted cocktails are your favorite activity, you’ll have plenty to choose from in La Jolla. Whether you’re visiting for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you may find your next favorite restaurant in La Jolla.
For breakfast, brunch, and lunch, check out The Cottage for traditional American and SoCal cuisine or Caroline’s Seaside Cafe for beachside brunch. George’s at the Cove is excellent for rooftop dining with epic ocean views.
The Marine Room is upscale and romantic, with an exciting twist as you dine at eye level with the waves. The Taco Stand is a block from the beach and a great casual spot for tasty tacos.
The options are seemingly limitless, so come hungry!
La Jolla may have a reputation for being pricey, but we assure you there are activities in La Jolla for every budget. Check out our guide on how to enjoy La Jolla if you’re on a budget. All are welcome in La Jolla.
So whether you are looking for outdoor adventures and cultural experiences or plan to enjoy La Jolla by relaxing on the beach, we’re confident La Jolla will be all you’re looking for and more. We hope you’ve found inspiration in this guide to make the most of your trip and are on your way to enjoying the many activities in La Jolla.
Ahead of your visit to La Jolla, check out our event page for local happenings.
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