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Visit La Jolla on a Budget

La Jolla’s beautiful seaside village has a reputation for being pricey, with posh boutiques, grand mansions, and exotic cars everywhere you look, but don’t be intimidated.

This renowned coastal gem is home to a community passionate about art & culture, history, wildlife, conservation, and fun, but it’s not exclusive to those with deep pockets.

Discover how you can visit La Jolla on a budget with both free and budget-friendly activities, so you can enjoy all that La Jolla has to offer.

Getting to La Jolla

By Bus

$2.50 one way

The most budget-friendly way to get to La Jolla is by taking the 30 MTS bus. You can catch this bus at any bus stop in Downtown San Diego, Old Town, and get off at the Silverado and Herschel stop in downtown La Jolla to start your day exploring. The ride takes around 35 minutes, depending on traffic flow, and it’ll only cost you about $2.50 each way.

You can stay on the number 30 bus to explore the northern parts of La Jolla as well.

MTS also offers special promotions on weekends for families on Saturdays and Sundays when up to two children (age 12 and under) can ride for free with a fare-paying adult, and children under five always ride free.

By Coaster

$5.50 to $11.50 roundtrip

For a fun way to get to La Jolla, hitch a ride on the coaster from either the Santa Fe Depot or Old Town stop if coming from the south or any stops coming from North County, and get out at the Sorrento Valley station. From there, you can catch the number 974 to Gilman Dr & Eucalyptus Grove Ln, where you’ll get on the number 30 bus, which takes you into the Village of La Jolla, getting off at Silverado St and Herschel Ave. 

For departure times, check the coaster schedule. Children under 6 ride free with an accompanying adult. 

man doing handstand on rocks at windansea beach near historic surf shack in La Jolla
Photo by Frank Mckenna on Unsplash

Free Things to Do in La Jolla

La Jolla Tide Pools

Spend the day exploring the nooks and crannies of the tide pools, where you’ll see the bizarre and beautiful marine creatures that creep and crawl. Twice a day, you can climb around on the exposed rocks during the low tide to discover a variety of colorful plants and animals that flourish there. 

There are a couple of different go-to spots along the coast of La Jolla to explore and a lot to learn about these rocky shoreline areas. Check out our complete guide on tide pool locations and what to look out for, as well as this educational guide to review before you go to help you survive these unique marine jungles.

The Beaches of La Jolla

La Jolla is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in San Diego. There are plenty of beaches to choose from, whether you’re looking for a family-friendly, secluded, easily accessible, or adventure-packed beach experience. Some popular favorites among locals and out-of-towners are La Jolla Shores, a hub for activities like snorkeling, kayaking, beginner surfing, bonfires, tide pools, and more! 

Watch herds of sleeping seals soaking up the sun at the Children’s Pool Beach, or catch seasoned surfers take on the rough waters at Windansea Beach. Find the best beach for you here.

La Jolla Cove

1100 Coast Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037

La Jolla Cove is an iconic San Diego landmark, always buzzing with life. This gorgeous protected inlet is rich in history and is home to abundant and active marine life. It’s the perfect place to bring the family for a beach day, snorkel, swim, walk around, and listen to the sea lions bark. 

It’s also been a tradition in September for registered swimmers to “swim the jewel,” heading out from the cove for a one or three-mile swim and back. Visitors can come to watch the event and cheer the swimmers on.

See our complete guide to La Jolla Cove here.

sun setting over the green grass at ellen browning scripps park

Ellen Browning Scripps Park

1100 Coast Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037

In 1927, this La Jolla park was dedicated and named after celebrated community figure and philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps. So grab some lunch or a sweet treat and head down to enjoy this beautiful space for a daytime picnic or sunset stroll. This 5.6-acre park sits pristine atop the rocky bluffs adjacent to the iconic La Jolla Cove and stretches west, ending at Shell Beach. 

With plenty of open space to sprawl out, toss the frisbee around, and walk the perimeter to the many scenic overlooks, it’s a beautiful way to spend an hour or two taking in all the coastal sites and sounds. There are restrooms available and free street parking available in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial

6905 La Jolla Scenic S Dr, La Jolla, CA 92037

The 360-degree views atop Mount Soledad are a sight to behold on a clear and sunny day. The Veterans Memorial dons a giant cross that can be spotted from miles away and a surrounding monument honoring military veterans living or deceased, with photos and stories that keep their memory alive. 

Visitors can walk around the memorial to pay their respects, enjoy the panoramic views of the San Diego coast and inland areas, meditate as the sun rises, or catch a classic San Diego sunset to end their day. Parking is free and tends to be full on busy days.

Self-Guided Walking Tour of the La Jolla Murals

Enjoy a gentle walk around the Village of La Jolla to tour the murals of La Jolla and learn about the artists and their artworks. Founded by the La Jolla Community Foundation in partnership with the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, local artists are commissioned to create colorful and inspiring pieces for the city’s public spaces, bringing energy and vitality to the community through art. 

You can find the murals through a self-guided tour or register to be a part of a free guided tour by the team at the Athenaeum. There are fifteen murals around the La Jolla Village for viewing, with new works added year-round.

Athenaeum Music & Arts Library

1008 Wall Street, La Jolla, CA 92037

The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library is a non-profit library dedicated to offering its growing library of resources in music and the arts, including a collection of books, periodicals, and reference materials. 

Their youth arts programs, children’s story times, and mini-concerts are notable free activities for the family, with a consistent calendar of events. They also offer paid events for non-members, such as art history lectures and various concert series for under $30.

La Jolla Open Aire Market

7335 Girard Avenue, La Jolla, CA 92037

Established in 1998, The La Jolla Open Aire Market is a farmer’s market created to directly support La Jolla Elementary and its various initiatives to improve the school and quality of experience for students and staff. Come out for some fresh air and a stroll to check out our local vendors every Sunday from 9 am to 1 pm.

All proceeds go to improving school programs such as art, music, library, technology, and more classroom teachers to promote smaller class sizes. Admission is free, and there is ample street parking available.

The Torrey Pines Natural Reserve

12600 N. Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037

The Torrey Pines State Reserve is 2,000 acres of wild landscape home to the country’s rarest pine tree, Pinus Torreyana. Its fragile environment is a geological gem, telling a story of the area’s evolution and habitat and the continued influence this unique shoreline has on the species within it. 

Prepare for stunning coastal views, a rich flower and plant community, beginner to intermediate-level trails including uneven terrain and elevation gain, and high broken cliffs with deep ravines. 

Parking is free on the north beach or $10-25 per car at the south beach lot. Parking on North Beach requires walking up the steep paved road to the reserve, a guaranteed leg burner. Entering at the south beach allows access to drive up to the top, where additional parking is closer to the trails and viewpoints.

La Jolla Historical Society

780 Prospect Street, La Jolla, CA 92037

Self Guided Tours

The La Jolla historical society curated various self-guided tours highlighting historical landmarks and architecture throughout La Jolla. Each guide includes a map and information about each stop on the tour.

Wisteria Cottage Gallery

Built in 1904, the Wisteria Cottage at the La Jolla Historical Society was a private residence that, over the years, wore many hats, including being a church, meeting hall, elementary school, and bookstore. It is now the thriving headquarters of the La Jolla Historical Society, with a team dedicated to the historical research of the La Jolla area and sharing it with the community. 

It is also open for visitors to view its gallery of high-quality exhibitions related to La Jolla’s history and appreciate one of the community’s most prominent examples of La Jolla’s classic cottage architecture.

La Jolla Coast Walk Trail

This short .6-mile coastal walk can be accessed at the Cave store or off Prospect Street at the end of a small cul-de-sac with a small parking lot. Take your time following the trail along the bluffs across a white footbridge while making stops along the way to view sea lions relaxing below, sacred black cormorants roosting, beautiful flower and plant species, and kayakers exploring the sea caves below. 

Review the coast walk trail history and self-guided tour to learn more about this gorgeous trail, its rich history, and where to access it.

three paragliders fly over the cliffs of Torrey pines in La Jolla
Photo by Lance Anderson on Unsplash

Watch the paragliders at the Torrey Pines Gliderport

2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Drive La Jolla, CA 92037

The Torrey Pines Gliderport is an exciting stop where visitors can enjoy the coastal views while paragliders soar above. You can watch them arrange their equipment, prepare for take-off and welcome them in when they land safely. It’s also a fantastic spot to watch the sunset. Enjoy lunch on the deck at the Cliffhanger Cafe or come for the live music on Saturdays between April and October from 1:00 pm to 4:0pm. Parking is free. 

Things to do Under $50

The Comedy Store

916 Pearl St, La Jolla, CA 92037

Come get your laughs in at the iconic Comedy Store in La Jolla. The Comedy Store gets its deep roots from its Hollywood and Westwood stores. However, owners looked to expand in the San Diego area with its opening in 1977, providing an opportunity to up-and-coming comics through open mic nights, expanding fandom for known comics, and creating a place to celebrate the art of the joke while spreading joy and hardcore laughter in the community. 

They keep their calendar updated, and ticket prices vary from $10 to $25, with the occasional free event. All shows are 21 and up with ID and a 2-drink minimum. Free parking is available around the venue.

The Cave Store Sea Cave Tour

1325 Coast Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037

The Sea Cave tour at the Cave Store is a unique adventure. You’ll enter through the cave store, where you’ll take the 145 steps down through cool narrow sandstone carved out in 1902. The sea cave, “Sunny Jims,” is one of many along the cove and is said to have been used to smuggle alcohol during the prohibition era. 

Once at the bottom, there’s a small viewing platform where you can look out through the cave and see passing snorkelers and kayakers. The tour takes about 15-20 minutes and costs $10. Free parking is available in the surrounding neighborhoods or metered parking.

Guided Sunset Walk on the Scripps Pier

8650 Kennel Way, La Jolla, CA 92037

Costs | Member $25, Non-Member $30

Built in 1916 and funded by Ellen Browning Scripps, the 1000ft Scripps Pier was constructed so the Scripps Institute of Oceanography could collect clean marine specimens for research. It was later replaced in 1988 to be the modern pier you see today. 

On select Saturdays and Sundays from Sept 25 to Nov 5, visitors can experience a sunset walk on the pier, which is usually closed to the public. Guests must be at least nine years old to participate and will have 90 minutes to enjoy their sunset walk with hands-on science stations, examining samples under a microscope, and more interactive activities.

Guided Walking tours of La Jolla

780 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037

The La Jolla Historical Society offers a variety of self-guided tours, but you can also check out their schedule of guided walking tours led by historian Caren Olten. The tours last about 90 minutes and cover La Jolla’s unique history, architecture, and landscape.

bright yellow fish swims in aquarium with coral and sand that is lit up with fluorescent purple lights
Photo by Craig Lovelidge via Unsplash

Birch Aquarium

2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, CA 92037

Costs | Child (3-17) $19.95, Senior & Student $22.95, Adult $24.95

Enter a world of marine exploration at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, UC San Diego. The aquarium boasts over 60 habitats of fishes and invertebrates spanning from the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest to the tropical waters of Mexico. 

With plenty of interactive activities, you’ll learn about research discoveries covering climate, earth, and ocean science. Then, take the family to enjoy the aquarium and grab light bites at the Splash! Cafe. Tickets can be purchased in advance online. Free 3-hour parking is available.

Salk Institute Architecture Tours

10010 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037

Costs | Children under 12 are free. Military, senior, and student are $15. Adult tickets (12 and over) are $20

The Salk Institute is an architectural masterpiece that houses a community of dedicated scientists and thinkers, creating a space for exploration, problem-solving, and understanding of the profoundly complex foundations of creation and life. 

Major areas of study include immune system biology, aging and regenerative medicine, cancer biology, and more. The facility sits gloriously overlooking the ocean, with its inspiring buildings complementing the magnitude of the work being done inside.

Take a tour of the grounds to see for yourself and take home some of the incredible energy you’ll find there. Tours last about an hour and require advance registration. Free parking is available along Torrey Pines Scenic Drive or at the Torrey Pines Gliderport parking lot. 

Adventure Rentals- Snorkel, Stand Up Paddleboard, Kayaks, Surfboards, & Bikes

Costs | $18-$60

Once you feast your eyes on that cobalt blue water of the pacific ocean and the scenic village vibes, it’ll draw you in immediately, and there are several ways you can explore it more closely. La Jolla is the go-to spot in San Diego for top-tier snorkeling, paddle boarding, kayaking, and surfing. 

La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores are great places to snorkel and get up close to explore rocky reefs and see bright orange Garibaldi fish, leopard sharks, and more exciting marine life lurking below. 

Adventure rentals are abundant around La Jolla, so you can choose the type of adventures you want to fill your day. Gear rentals typically last up to two hours and range in price from $18-60, depending on the gear and company. Bike & Kayak Tours, La Jolla Kayak, and Everyday California are among some of the great companies in the area offering rentals.

a group of kayakers explore the seven sea caves in La Jolla cove as people watch from the shore
Photo by Abhinaba Basu via Flickr

Things to do Under $100

Adventure Tours- Kayak Tours of the Seven Caves, Snorkeling, and Whale Watching

Costs | $50-$70

While you can rent gear for a self-guided adventure, booking a tour is another great option and a robust way to experience La Jolla. You’ll get a lesson from your guides on how to use your gear, hear information and stories about wildlife experiences in the area, and meet new adventure buddies.

Bike & Kayak Tours, La Jolla Kayak, and Everyday California are among the great companies in the area offering tours. Tours can last up to two hours, with prices ranging from $54 to $69 depending on the activity and company you book through. 

The Lot Movie Theater & Restaurant

7611 Fay Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037

Costs | $50 -$100

Elevate your movie night experience and head to The Lot in La Jolla. Sit comfortably in luxurious, fully reclining leather seats with plenty of space and order from their onsite restaurant and bar, with delivery right to your theatre seats and additional service at the press of a button. 

Tickets can range from $12 to $21 depending on the day of the week, holidays, and new releases. With food and drink, you could still come in at under $100. Up to 4 hours of validated parking is available in their underground lot from Fay Ave. Street parking is also available.

La Jolla Music Society

7600 Fay Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037

Costs | Prices vary depending on the event

The La Jolla music society is a premier stop for anyone interested in the performing arts. The La Jolla Music Society supports the community culture, local artists, and performers with various presentations, including jazz, contemporary, dance, and classical music.

Explore their extensive list of year-round events and programs, with most events priced under $100.

Golf at Torrey Pines Golf Course

11480 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037

Costs | $50-$75

The Torrey Pines golf course sits at the southernmost end of the Torrey Pines state reserve with breathtaking ocean views. This wind and sea-swept 36-hole course has been used in major championship golf competitions and is sure to be one of your most memorable places to play. 

Solo golfers can access this world-class golf facility and play nine holes with their twilight special with a golf cart for under $100. Bring a friend to split the cost and play 18 holes with a golf cart for less than $60 each! 

three tacos with meat, onion, cilantro, guacamole, and two lime slices from the taco stand in La Jolla
The Taco Stand tacos. Photo courtesy of letstaco.com

Cheap Places to Eat in La Jolla

Cafe Vahik

Pick up your morning coffee, breakfast burritos, and bagels. Or, refuel after a workout with a protein shake, or eat light with a sandwich or salad. 

The Taco Stand

Stop in for incredible breakfasts, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and fries. It’s an authentic taqueria experience that’ll be worth the wait. 

Scoops La Jolla

Satisfy your sweet tooth with handcrafted ice cream, frozen yogurt, crepes, coffee & tea. 

Brick & Bell Cafe

Enjoy cute patio seating and a crumbly soft croissant or scone with your coffee. They’ve also got breakfast sandwiches and bagels.

Fresheria

Fresheria offers cold-pressed juices, smoothies, and tasty brunch, lunch, and evening dining options. Dine in or take it to go for your picnic at the beach

the black balconies of the cormorant hotel in La Jolla overlooking ellen browning scripps park and Pacific Ocean

Cheap Places to Stay in La Jolla

The Sands of La Jolla

5417 La Jolla Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037

Located in the community of Bird Rock, the Sands of La Jolla offers newly renovated rooms & suites with a contemporary style. They are a family owned and operated hotel property proud to provide a budget-friendly option to locals and visitors looking for a comfortable seascape getaway and conveniently enjoy the city. Check out their website for the most up-to-date rates.

With the Pacific Ocean only a minute’s walk away and an 11-minute car right into the heart of the Village of La Jolla, you can quickly get out to explore the city of La Jolla. You can also easily catch the number 30 bus that will take you into the Village to explore.

Pick up coffee and pastries from the nearby Wayfarer Bread & Pastry and enjoy it on a bench at Calumet Park. Later on, grab some wood-fired pizza and beer at Wheat &. Water after your day of exploring 

Holiday Inn Express & Suites La Jolla

6705 La Jolla Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037

The Holiday Inn Express & Suites La Jolla is an excellent option for your future stay. Their guest rooms and suites are light in color and spacious for a refreshing feel. They also include a complimentary continental breakfast for convenience and a peaceful courtyard with a pool and hot tub. Free self-parking is available on-site. A good option for single travelers and families alike.

It’s only a 4 min walk to the local’s favorite Windansea Beach and a 4 min drive to the La Jolla Tidepools. 

The Shoal La Jolla Beach

6750 La Jolla Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037

The rooms at Shoal La Jolla Beach Hotel are spacious, clean, and newly remodeled. Rooms are chic with ocean-inspired colors, textures, and patterns, making for a calm, relaxed, beachy feel with a touch of luxury. Beach access is easy, only 5 minutes away and less than 15 minutes from the heart of the Village of La Jolla by car.

The property is family-friendly, with an outdoor pool with shade umbrellas, pool loungers, a spa tub, and on-site laundry facilities. Parking is free and limited to one space per room. Book direct for exclusive online offers.

The Cormorant Boutique Hotel

1110 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037

The Cormorant Boutique Hotel gets its name from the black cormorant birds that call La Jolla home. The newly renovated hotel is modern and has a restaurant and rooftop bar. The location is right within the heart of the Village of La Jolla, within walking distance to premier shopping, dining, beaches, and more. Some rooms have balconies with stunning ocean views.

Secured covered parking is available on-site for a $25 per night additional charge or free street parking in the surrounding neighborhoods. They offer a 20% discount for booking direct.

For more information on hotels in La Jolla, see our ultimate guide here.

Picture of Valorie Hirsch

Valorie Hirsch

Valorie Hirsch is a Content Manager and writer at lajolla.ca, helping readers discover the best of La Jolla, from things to do, dining, events, and more, so visitors and locals can have the best experience and stay connected. A San Diego native, you can usually find her enjoying live music shows, hiking local trails, tackling the world's most difficult reads, or catching up with her favorite Instagram cat celebrities.
Picture of Valorie Hirsch

Valorie Hirsch

Valorie Hirsch is a Content Manager and writer at lajolla.ca, helping readers discover the best of La Jolla, from things to do, dining, events, and more, so visitors and locals can have the best experience and stay connected. A San Diego native, you can usually find her enjoying live music shows, hiking local trails, tackling the world's most difficult reads, or catching up with her favorite Instagram cat celebrities.

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