Best Things to Do in La Jolla, CA: Top 12 Attractions to Visit

by Saad Backup
Best Things to Do in La Jolla
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Are you thinking about visiting La Jolla in California this year? Here are some of the most fun and unique things to do in La Jolla. These breathtaking sights, activities, and attractions are sure to make for an unforgettable vacation experience.

Imagine a place where the sun kisses the ocean, where sea lions frolic on the shores, and where the air is filled with the scent of eucalyptus trees. Welcome to La Jolla —a coastal paradise that’s a jewel in the crown of San Diego. With its dramatic cliffs, turquoise waters, and vibrant arts scene, La Jolla is a destination that beckons travelers to explore its many wonders. Whether you’re interested in outdoor adventures, upscale shopping, cultural experiences, or simply relaxing by the beach, there’s no shortage of things to do in La Jolla.

Are you a thrill-seeker ready to ride the waves at Windansea Beach, or perhaps a nature enthusiast eager to uncover the secrets of La Jolla Cove’s hidden caves? In La Jolla, there’s a treasure trove of experiences for everyone. What’s even better? Many of these attractions are conveniently located within walking distance of each other. This makes it a breeze to immerse yourself in the finest that this coastal sanctuary has to offer.

So, grab your sense of wonder as we dive into the ultimate guide to the best things to do in La Jolla, California. From outdoor activities in the glorious weather, to hidden gems that even locals rave about, this list is your golden ticket to a trip you’ll never forget. Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in La Jolla.

The best things to do in La Jolla right now
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Best Places to Visit in La Jolla

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in La Jolla? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this exquisite vacation spot. So keep reading to discover all these unique La Jolla  places to visit.

Are you looking to explore tide pools and snorkel in the marine reserve? Or would you prefer upscale shopping and dining? Whatever you’re planning, these must sees in La Jolla can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in La Jolla that you should know about.

1. La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove is not just another beach; it’s a marine sanctuary teeming with life. From sea lions basking in the sun to vibrant schools of fish darting through the water, this cove is a nature lover’s paradise. The crystal-clear waters make it an ideal spot for snorkeling and scuba diving, offering you a front-row seat to an underwater world that’s nothing short of magical.

But what sets this cove apart is its accessibility. Located right in the heart of La Jolla, it’s a stone’s throw away from cafes, art galleries, and boutique shops. So, after you’ve had your fill of marine exploration, you can easily switch gears and indulge in some retail therapy or gourmet dining.

Wondering about the coolest activities in La Jolla? Well, for an ocean aficionado, snorkeling at La Jolla Cove should be at the top of your bucket list. The cove is also a popular spot for photography, thanks to its stunning sunsets and the playful sea lions that often steal the show. For both underwater adventurers and landlubbers seeking the perfect Instagram shot, La Jolla Cove offers a unique blend of natural beauty and urban convenience.

Exploring the hidden treasures of La Jolla Cove and experience the best things to do in La Jolla
Exploring the hidden treasures of La Jolla Cove and experience the best things to do in La Jolla

2. Sunny Jim Cave

Wondering what to do in La Jolla that’s a bit out of the ordinary? Look no further than the Sunny Jim Cave. This isn’t just any cave; it’s a subterranean wonder accessible through a quirky little store called the Cave Store. Yes, you read that right! You descend a set of 145 wooden steps to enter a world that feels like it’s straight out of a pirate tale.

The cave itself is named after a cartoon character who resembled its silhouette. Once you’re inside, the ocean waves echo against the walls, creating an ethereal soundscape that’s both calming and invigorating. The cave has been a part of La Jolla history since 1902 and was even used for smuggling during Prohibition. How’s that for a unique slice of Americana?

Photographers and Instagrammers, get your cameras ready! The natural light that filters through the cave’s opening creates a magical setting that’s perfect for capturing memories. It’s one of those unique places in La Jolla where you can feel like an adventurer without breaking a sweat.

If you’re looking for cool and unique things to do in La Jolla, the Sunny Jim Cave offers an experience that’s as intriguing as it is fun. Don’t miss out on this hidden gem!

Discover the captivating formations of Sunny Jim Cave, a natural masterpiece carved by time and water
Discover the captivating formations of Sunny Jim Cave, a natural masterpiece carved by time and water

3. Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

When it comes to La Jolla attractions, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) is a must-see. Situated in a stunning location overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this museum is a haven for art enthusiasts and casual visitors alike. The MCASD offers an ever-changing array of exhibitions, featuring works from the 1950s to the present. From abstract sculptures to thought-provoking installations, the museum is a playground for the mind and senses.

The museum’s architecture is a work of art in itself, blending modern design with natural elements. The outdoor garden is a serene space, perfect for contemplation or a leisurely stroll. It’s one of those best places in La Jolla to escape the hustle and bustle while immersing yourself in artistic brilliance.

In search of unique things to do in La Jolla? Engaging in one of the museum’s exclusive events, such as artist talks or film screenings, can truly elevate your visit. The MCASD goes beyond being a mere museum; it offers an immersive encounter that deepens your appreciation of contemporary art and culture.

For those who appreciate the finer things in life, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is a destination that shouldn’t be missed. It’s not just about looking at art; it’s about feeling it, understanding it, and letting it inspire you.

Interior view of Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego showcasing sea side
Interior view of Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego showcasing sea side

4. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Curious about where to go in La Jolla if you love the great outdoors? Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is an essential destination. This sprawling reserve offers more than just hiking trails; it’s a sanctuary for native flora and fauna. It includes the very rare Torrey Pine tree. As you traverse the well-marked paths, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the rugged cliffs that define La Jolla’s coastline.

The reserve is a haven for birdwatchers, with a variety of species making their home here. Keep an eye out for the California quail or the red-tailed hawk as you make your way through the trails. The Visitor Center offers informative exhibits and guided tours. This makes it one of the best places to go in La Jolla for an educational yet adventurous day out.

For those into photography, the scenic vistas provide endless opportunities to capture the beauty of La Jolla. From the golden hues of the setting sun to the azure waves crashing against the cliffs, every moment here is picture-perfect.

Wrapping up a day at Torrey Pines with a picnic as the sun sets is the cherry on top of an already fabulous outing. It’s not just a hike; it’s a journey through one of the most stunning natural landscapes that La Jolla has to offer.

The golden hour at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, the sun casting a warm glow on the landscape
The golden hour at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, the sun casting a warm glow on the landscape

5. George’s at the Cove

When it comes to La Jolla places to visit, George’s at the Cove is a culinary landmark that you can’t afford to miss. Perched high above La Jolla Cove, this restaurant offers an unparalleled dining experience. With a menu that celebrates the best of California cuisine, each dish is a masterpiece of flavor, presentation, and texture.

The restaurant’s terrace is the place to be, especially during sunset. As you sip on a signature cocktail or a glass of fine wine, you’ll be treated to a panoramic view of the ocean that’s simply mesmerizing. It’s one of those cool destinations in La Jolla that combines gastronomic delight with natural beauty.

But George’s at the Cove isn’t just about the food and the views. The service here is impeccable, making you feel like a VIP from the moment you walk in. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or simply treating yourself to an extraordinary meal, this restaurant elevates dining to an art form.

For foodies seeking the coolest things to do in La Jolla, a meal at George’s at the Cove is an experience that will tantalize your taste buds and nourish your soul.

Discover Unforgettable Evenings at George's - Where Fine Dining and Ocean Waves Converge
Discover Unforgettable Evenings at George’s – Where Fine Dining and Ocean Waves Converge

6. La Jolla Shores Beach

In your compilation of La Jolla things to do, ensure that La Jolla Shores Beach claims its rightful spot. This shoreline is a paradise for those seeking relaxation, sun-soaked moments, and perhaps a ride on a wave or two. Extending for approximately a mile, the sandy expanse provides abundant room for visitors to bask in the Californian sunlight and find their own piece of coastal bliss.

What sets this beach apart is its versatility. It’s a hit among surfers, families, and even scuba diving enthusiasts. The gentle waves make it an ideal spot for beginner surfers, while the underwater park attracts divers from all over. It’s one of those unique places in La Jolla where you can go from building sandcastles to exploring underwater worlds in the same day.

The beach also features a playground, making it a family-friendly option. Kayak rentals and paddleboard lessons are readily available. For those who prefer to stay dry, the scenic boardwalk is perfect for a leisurely stroll.

La Jolla Shores Beach is more than a place to relax; it’s a hub of activities that cater to various interests. As such, it’s no wonder that this is among the best things to do in La Jolla, California.

Finding peace and solitude while strolling along La Jolla Shores Beach, where the horizon meets the sea
Finding peace and solitude while strolling along La Jolla Shores Beach, where the horizon meets the sea

7. La Jolla Tide Pools

Contemplating where to visit in La Jolla? The La Jolla Tide Pools should undoubtedly capture your attention. Nestled along the coastline, these natural marvels provide a captivating window into marine existence. As the tide recedes, an array of sea creatures, ranging from vibrant starfish to enigmatic octopuses, emerges, creating a truly enchanting spectacle.

The tide pools are a fantastic place for both kids and adults to learn about marine biology in a hands-on way. You’ll find interpretive signs that provide valuable information about the ecosystem. This makes it one of the best places to go in La Jolla for an educational outing.

For photography enthusiasts, the tide pools present a fantastic opportunity. The combination of rocky formations, shimmering water, and vibrant marine life creates a picturesque setting that’s begging to be captured.

La Jolla attractions often boast of their natural beauty, and the tide pools are no exception. They offer a serene yet engaging environment where you can connect with nature while learning something new.

A panoramic view of rocky shores with pools filled with water, highlighting the La Jolla tide pools' unique ecosystem
A panoramic view of rocky shores with pools filled with water, highlighting the La Jolla tide pools’ unique ecosystem

8. La Plaza La Jolla

In the realm of contemplating activities among La Jolla things to do that seamlessly blend luxury with a touch of local essence, look no further than La Plaza La Jolla.This upscale shopping center is a paradise for shopaholics and fashionistas alike. With a curated selection of high-end boutiques, art galleries, and gourmet eateries, it’s a one-stop destination for all things chic and sophisticated.

The architecture of La Plaza La Jolla is a visual treat, blending Spanish Revival design with modern aesthetics. As you stroll through the elegant courtyards, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into a European village, complete with fountains and lush greenery. It’s one of those cool destinations in La Jolla where you can shop, dine, and unwind in style.

But wait, there’s more! The shopping center frequently hosts events like wine tastings and live music, adding a layer of excitement to your retail therapy. It’s one of the best places in La Jolla to experience the local culture while indulging in some luxury shopping.

Whether you’re in the mood for designer fashion, unique art pieces, or gourmet dining, La Plaza La Jolla offers an experience that’s as enriching as it is luxurious. Don’t miss out on this gem!

Discover a world of boutique treasures and culinary delights at La Plaza La Jolla
Discover a world of boutique treasures and culinary delights at La Plaza La Jolla

9. Children’s Pool Beach

In the quest for distinctive activities in La Jolla, a visit to Children’s Pool Beach is essential. Originally designed as a safe swimming area for kids, this beach has become a sanctuary for harbor seals. The man-made seawall provides a calm environment where these adorable creatures can bask in the sun and care for their pups.

Visitors flock here not just for the beach but for the incredible opportunity to observe seals in their natural habitat. With binoculars in hand and a sense of wonder, you can watch these marine animals play, rest, and interact. It’s a La Jolla attraction that’s both entertaining and educational.

The area also has a walkway that offers panoramic views of the ocean, making it a popular spot for sunset admirers. While swimming is discouraged due to the seal population, the scenic beauty and unique wildlife experience make it one of the best places to go in La Jolla.

Children’s Pool Beach offers an experience that’s both heartwarming and awe-inspiring. It’s a slice of paradise where humans and animals coexist in harmony.

Kids playing in the gentle waves of Children's Pool Beach while parents watch nearby
Kids playing in the gentle waves of Children’s Pool Beach while parents watch nearby

10. La Jolla Country Club

For golf enthusiasts, one of the coolest activities in La Jolla has to be a round at the La Jolla Country Club. This exclusive golf course is a masterpiece of design, offering challenging fairways and stunning ocean views that will make even the most seasoned golfer pause for a moment of appreciation.

The course is meticulously maintained, with lush greens that contrast beautifully against the azure backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. It’s not just about the game here; it’s about the entire experience. From the moment you step onto the first tee, you’ll feel a sense of tranquility that only a setting this gorgeous can provide.

But don’t let the beauty fool you. The course is known for its challenging layout, requiring strategic play and precise shots. It is one of those La Jolla places to visit that you won’t easily forget.

After your game, make sure to visit the clubhouse for some well-deserved refreshments. The elegant setting is the perfect place to unwind and relive the highlights of your round. If golf is your passion, then a visit to La Jolla Country Club is a must-see in La Jolla.

A beautifully set reception table at La Jolla Country Club
A beautifully set reception table at La Jolla Country Club

11. The Spa at Torrey Pines

When you’re compiling your list of La Jolla things to do, don’t overlook the chance for some serious pampering at The Spa at Torrey Pines. This luxurious spa is the epitome of relaxation and rejuvenation, offering a range of treatments that incorporate natural elements from the surrounding landscape.

As you step into the tranquil environment, you’re greeted with the soothing aroma of eucalyptus and lavender. The spa specializes in treatments that use coastal sage, seaweed, and other local ingredients, making it a unique place in La Jolla to experience the healing powers of nature.

The spa also offers hydrotherapy, saunas, and a variety of massages, ensuring that you can customize your day of relaxation to your specific needs. Whether you opt for a deep-tissue massage or a rejuvenating facial, you’ll leave feeling refreshed and revitalized.

And let’s not forget the stunning views of the Torrey Pines State Reserve that serve as a backdrop to your day of indulgence. It’s a setting that adds an extra layer of bliss to your spa experience. A way to unwind in style is adding a spa day at Torrey Pines to your itinerary. It’s truly a must-see in La Jolla.

A modern running machine at The Spa at Torrey Pines, surrounded by a soothing environment
A modern running machine at The Spa at Torrey Pines, surrounded by a soothing environment

12. La Jolla Open Aire Market

It’s Sunday morning, and you’re curious about what to do in La Jolla? Look no further than the La Jolla Open Aire Market. This vibrant marketplace is a feast for the senses, offering everything from fresh produce to handcrafted jewelry. As you meander through the stalls, you’ll find an array of local artisans showcasing their wares, from organic skincare products to gourmet food items.

The market is also a foodie’s paradise, featuring a variety of international cuisines. Whether you’re craving authentic Mexican tacos or mouthwatering French pastries, you’ll find it here. And don’t miss the live music that adds a lively atmosphere to your shopping experience.

But what truly makes this market a La Jolla attraction is its commitment to community. Proceeds from the market go towards supporting local schools, making it a win-win for everyone involved. You get to shop for unique items and enjoy delicious food, all while contributing to a good cause.

The La Jolla Open Aire Market is more than just a shopping destination; it’s a place where community and culture come together. It’s a cool destination in La Jolla that offers a slice of local life, making it a perfect addition to your travel itinerary.

A colorful array of fruits, vegetables, and artisanal products at La Jolla Open Aire Market
A colorful array of fruits, vegetables, and artisanal products at La Jolla Open Aire Market

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in La Jolla, California

Looking for more content on the top things to do in La Jolla? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to La Jolla:

What is the best time to visit La Jolla?

The ideal time to visit La Jolla is during the spring and fall months when the weather is mild, and the crowds are thinner. However, if you’re a fan of water activities, the summer months offer the warmest ocean temperatures.

What is the nicest part of La Jolla?

The nicest part of La Jolla depends on what you’re looking for, but here are some areas often considered to be the most appealing:

La Jolla Cove:

  1. Natural Beauty: Known for its stunning ocean views, cliffs, and caves.
  2. Wildlife: A great place to see sea lions and seals up close.
  3. Snorkeling and Diving: The cove is a popular spot for underwater exploration.
  4. Photography: Ideal for capturing the sunset and the rich marine life.

La Jolla Shores:

  1. Beach Activities: Perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and surfing.
  2. Family-Friendly: A great beach for families with children.
  3. Kayaking: You can kayak to the nearby sea caves.
  4. Dining: Several beachside restaurants offer ocean views.

Village of La Jolla:

  1. Shopping: High-end boutiques and art galleries line the streets.
  2. Dining: Home to some of La Jolla’s best restaurants and cafes.
  3. Architecture: Features beautiful buildings and historic landmarks.
  4. Walkability: Easily explored on foot, offering a charming and upscale atmosphere.

Torrey Pines:

  1. Golf: Home to the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course.
  2. Hiking: The Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve offers scenic trails.
  3. Beach: Torrey Pines State Beach is less crowded and offers stunning views.
  4. Gliding: The Torrey Pines Gliderport offers hang gliding and paragliding.

Bird Rock:

  1. Local Vibe: A quieter neighborhood with a local feel.
  2. Coffee Shops: Known for its cozy cafes and laid-back atmosphere.
  3. Ocean Views: Offers scenic overlooks and coastal access points.
  4. Community: Features a mix of residential homes and small businesses.

Each of these areas offers a different slice of La Jolla’s overall charm and luxury. This makes them all “nice” in their own unique ways.

How do I get around La Jolla?

La Jolla is relatively compact, making it easy to explore on foot. For longer distances, rideshare services and taxis are readily available. There’s also a local bus service that connects La Jolla to other parts of San Diego.

A scenic view of La Jolla's coastline with waves gently rolling onto the shore
A scenic view of La Jolla’s coastline with waves gently rolling onto the shore

Are there family-friendly activities in La Jolla?

Absolutely! From beaches perfect for sandcastle building to interactive museums, La Jolla offers a plethora of family-friendly La Jolla attractions. Don’t miss the Birch Aquarium and the La Jolla Recreation Center for some wholesome family fun.

Which is better San Diego or La Jolla?

Choosing between San Diego and La Jolla depends on what you’re looking for in a destination, as both places offer unique experiences. La Jolla is actually a neighborhood within the city of San Diego, located about 14 miles north of downtown. Here are some factors to consider:

Reasons to Choose San Diego:

  1. Diversity of Attractions: San Diego offers a wide range of attractions, from the world-famous San Diego Zoo to the USS Midway Museum and Balboa Park.
  2. Nightlife: If you’re looking for a vibrant nightlife with numerous bars, clubs, and late-night eateries, downtown San Diego has more to offer.
  3. Cultural Diversity: San Diego has diverse neighborhoods like Little Italy, the Gaslamp Quarter, and Old Town, each offering its own unique culture and attractions.
  4. Public Transport: San Diego has a more extensive public transportation system, making it easier to get around if you don’t have a car.
  5. Accommodation Options: Being a larger city, San Diego offers a wider range of accommodation options to fit various budgets.

Reasons to Choose La Jolla:

  1. Natural Beauty: La Jolla is renowned for its stunning coastline, featuring cliffs, coves, and sandy beaches. It’s a great place for outdoor activities like kayaking, snorkeling, and hiking.
  2. Upscale Atmosphere: The town is known for its luxury shopping, fine dining, and high-end real estate, offering a more exclusive experience.
  3. Wildlife: The area is famous for the La Jolla Cove, where you can see sea lions and seals up close.
  4. Golf: Home to the Torrey Pines Golf Course, one of the most beautiful public golf courses in the country.
  5. Art and Culture: La Jolla has a thriving arts scene with numerous galleries and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

Hybrid Approach:

Since La Jolla is a part of San Diego, you could easily stay in one and visit the other. They are connected by public transit and a short drive, so you can enjoy the attractions of both.

Is La Jolla expensive?

La Jolla is known for its upscale atmosphere, and while some activities and dining options can be pricey, there are plenty of cool destinations in La Jolla that won’t break the bank. Check out the Open Aire Market or spend a day at a public beach for budget-friendly options.

What is La Jolla known for?

La Jolla is renowned for its stunning coastline, featuring idyllic beaches and dramatic cliffs. It’s a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering activities like surfing, snorkeling, and hiking. The area is also famous for its upscale shopping, fine dining, and cultural landmarks like art galleries and museums.

Is it worth visiting La Jolla?

Absolutely, visiting La Jolla is well worth it for its diverse range of attractions and activities. From its breathtaking beaches and outdoor adventures to its high-end shopping and dining experiences, La Jolla offers something for everyone. It’s a perfect blend of natural beauty and luxury, making it a must-visit destination.

Final Thoughts on Exploring La Jolla

And there you have it—a comprehensive guide to the best places in La Jolla that are sure to make your trip unforgettable. From the awe-inspiring natural beauty of its coastline to the rich tapestry of its cultural offerings, La Jolla is a destination that beckons with a myriad of experiences. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a foodie, or someone simply looking to unwind, you’ll find that La Jolla has something for everyone. So why wait? Start planning your dream vacation now and discover the unique places in La Jolla that will leave you yearning for more.

The best things to do in La Jolla for all types of travelers
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