14 Best Things to Do in La Jolla

‌Top Things to Do in La Jolla‌

‌Best Things to Do During the Day in La Jolla‌

‌Best Things to Do Outdoors in La Jolla‌

‌Best Things to Do at Night in La Jolla‌

‌Free Things to Do in La Jolla‌

In a northwestern pocket of greater San Diego, California, lies the affluent enclave of La Jolla (pronounced Luh Hoya). This community contains multimillion-dollar mansions set among the jagged cliffs looking out at La Jolla Cove, La Jolla sea caves, and beautiful beaches. La Jolla also boasts an enchanting history, which you can discover more about with the La Jolla Historical Society.

Although most tourists flock to the community's beaches, La Jolla also offers dining establishments with pristine views and healthy fare. California cuisine is known for farm-to-table entrees and low-calorie dishes with fresh flavors.

Whatever type of vacation you prefer, La Jolla will transform you into a Southern California admirer.

Top Things to Do in La Jolla

Visiting the world-famous La Jolla Cove, with lifeguards and a protected natural landscape, is a must do in La Jolla, whether you are an experienced swimmer or you want to take your children snorkeling for the first time. La Jolla Shores is another popular beach known in which snorkeling marine-life enthusiasts can view leopard sharks. (Don’t worry — they are harmless.)

1. La Jolla Cove Snorkeling

  • Perfect For:‌ Families who love underwater life
  • Website:https://www.sandiego.gov/lifeguards/beaches/cove
  • If You Go:‌ Bring your children, as the Cove is one of nine beaches with permanent lifeguard stations patrolled by San Diego lifeguards.

Another must do in La Jolla is the famous La Jolla Cove. This locale remains one of the most popular snorkeling spots in Southern California — as a segment of the Cove belongs in the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, which is among the clearest waters in the Western United States for viewing marine life.

Be sure to bring your snorkel gear and join one of the many snorkel tours in the area. If you are lucky, you’ll see the garibaldi (supposedly the friendliest sharks), which come close to the La Jolla shore.

2. Birch Aquarium at Scripps

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  • Perfect For:‌ Tropical habitat enthusiasts
  • Website:https://aquarium.ucsd.edu
  • If You Go:‌ Advanced reservations are required.

Part of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, located on the University of California's San Diego campus, the Birch Aquarium offers dozens of tanks full of species from tropical habitats. The aquarium also provides La Jolla tide pool displays of sea life native to the California coastline. Parents will find fun, kid-friendly activities that expose youth to underwater life. My favorite part is the stunning ocean view; I often go out on the aquarium’s deck to take landscape photos.

Tip:‌ After a visit to the aquarium, take a walk down to Scripps pier, located 0.5 miles away for more ocean views.

3. La Jolla Shores

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La Jolla Shores is another one of the best things do in La Jolla. This beach provides a stretch of golden sand and some of the most gentle waves of any beach in San Diego — making the shores a popular spot for swimming and novice surfing. Snorkelers might even spot leopard sharks here because the water is warmer and shallower than other Southern California beaches.

Tip:‌ La Jolla Shores on the weekends can get busy. If you can’t find parking, I recommend nearby Del Mar. The city is up the coast by car a few miles, has an adorable downtown with free parking, and provides paddleboarding options if surfing isn’t your jam.

Best Things to Do During the Day in La Jolla

After you rise, you can head right out your hotel and participate in range of activities in La Jolla, from visiting art museums to picnics in the park. I like to have a change of clothes in my car, as I start every visit to La Jolla with a stroll down the streets to window shop and then snuggle into a beach chair for an afternoon reading at the beach.

4. Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

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  • Perfect For:‌ Tourists who want to expand their art knowledge
  • Website:https://mcasd.org/
  • If You Go:‌ The museum is closed Monday to Wednesday. All second Sundays and third Thursdays of the month offer free admission, with third Thursdays open for extended hours through 8 pm.

Located on Prospect Street, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego offers ever-changing collections and exhibitions. I like to check the website to find out what’s coming. If you want to learn more about art, you can book a free tour every third Thursday of the month at 6 pm. The museum also has a downtown San Diego location on Kettner Blvd.

Tip:‌ After the museum, you can window shop around downtown La Jolla and visit the boutiques with diamonds, emeralds, and trendy clothing on display.

5. Healthy Mexican Food at Don Carlos

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  • Perfect For:‌ Adventurous foodies
  • Website:‌ www.eataburrito.com
  • If You Go:‌ Expect to find non-traditional, healthy Mexican food

After a long daytrip to Los Angeles, Mexico, or around the San Diego area, Don Carlos (like so many of San Diego's ubiquitous Mexican restaurants), offers a wide variety of traditional Mexican dishes. The twist here is variety of healthy menu options, including tofu burritos made with tofu, eggs, lettuce, fresh salsa and curry; mushroom burritos, made with mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, lettuce and cheese; and soyrizo tacos, in which the spicy Mexican chorizo sausage is replaced with a less-fattening soy variety.

6. Ellen Browning Scripps Park

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Perfect For:‌ Weddings and engagement photos
If You Go:‌ If you want to use this location for an event, you can apply for a permit of up to 80 people from September to May and 50 people outside these months.

One of the most photographed locations in all of San Diego County, the Ellen Browning Scripps Park is located at the bottom of a walkable hill and is full of open, green space. I like to get ice cream and come down and watch the seals and sunsets. One of my favorite parts about this park is I can get a view of the ocean without getting any sand on me.

Tip:‌ Street parking can get full on the weekends. If you want another picturesque spot, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve has a paid parking lot with loads of nearby hiking trails. You can also watch daredevil gliders as they go hang gliding and paragliding off the side of the cliffs via the Torrey Pines Gliderport.

7. La Jolla Murals

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Perfect For:‌ Walking tour lovers
If You Go:‌ You can sign up for a walking tour of the murals hosted by the Athenaeum if you don’t want to traverse the streets alone.

La Jolla’s Murals started appearing in 2010, and the community loved this art so much that they made the murals a tradition. They add significant color to the sides of buildings all over La Jolla. Because the murals change, every time you visit, you can take a new art walk.

Best Things to Do Outdoors in La Jolla

An obvious statement, La Jolla is made for being outdoors. The community is next to the ocean and offers plenty of sandy beaches and a diversity of water sports, from kayaking to surfing to snorkeling.

8. La Jolla Kayak

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  • Perfect For:‌ Adventure seekers
  • Website:https://www.lajollakayak.com
  • If You Go:‌ Kayaking is available for those age 6 and up

La Jolla Kayak offers four kayaking tours of the La Jolla Cove area. Three tours visit the Seven Caves and La Jolla Underwater Park. The company offers combined kayaking tours that include snorkeling adventures and weekend brunch at Piatti restaurant. Sunset tours are also given along the La Jolla Cove shoreline. Wildlife species viewed on these tours include sea lions, dolphins, and leopard sharks. Windansea Beach is also a local favorite to explore with less tourists.

9. Scuba Diving

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Many tourists visiting La Jolla are looking to partake in scuba diving offerings because of the community's strikingly clear Pacific Ocean waters. In these tours, you can swim next to a giant kelp forest, sea lions, sharks, and rocky cliffs at the La Jolla Underwater Park and Marine Wildlife.

10. Sunny Jim’s Cave

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Perfect For:‌ Families with an interest in exploration
If You Go:‌ Make sure everyone can use stairs and is dressed appropriately.

After paying an entrance fee of a few dollars, tourists can walk down 145 steps into Sunny Jim’s Cave. The tunnel you enter has been around for more than a century and is full of history. You won’t see much at the bottom; it’s more about the journey.

Best Things to Do at Night in La Jolla

Nighttime travel experiences enhance any vacation, as they allow tourists to view the city lights, give them new people-watching opportunities, and the chance to attend top-tier plays. In La Jolla, nighttime activities abound — you can take an evening hike and watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean or visit the local playhouse and take in a musical.

11. Mount Soledad

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  • Perfect For:‌ You like Instagram view spots
  • Website:https://soledadmemorial.org
  • If You Go:‌ Take note of where you parked.

Mount Soledad is one of the top La Jolla attractions and boasts one of the most serene views in all of San Diego County. You can hike or bike to the top of the mountain located on La Jolla Scenic Drive. If you arrive a little before sunset, you can tour the grounds that contain 3,000 granite plaques along veterans' memorial walls. They serve as an homage to the soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War and all the way to modern wartime. After paying honor to the fallen, you can watch the sun dip behind the horizon.

Tip:‌ Mount Soledad is also one of the best spots for an outlook of the bluffs and the laid-back, La Jolla Shores beaches. Bring your camera.

12. La Jolla Playhouse

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  • Perfect For:‌ Couples on a date night
  • Website:https://lajollaplayhouse.org
  • If You Go:‌ For most performances, a limited number of $25 tickets are made available one week before the first performance.

At this theater, I watch top actors from New York and Los Angeles transform into characters in plays I know and plays I don’t. No matter what I see, the talent at La Jolla Playhouse is unparalleled. World premieres also often occur here.

Free Things to Do in La Jolla

Although La Jolla is known for its rich residents, tourists on a budget can find no-cost activities. The beaches are free, and you can take your kids to explore the seashells at low tide, walk around the farmer’s market, or simply walk the streets and window shop.

13. Black's Beach

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Although nude beaches are technically illegal in San Diego, Black's Beach is the area's unofficial nude beach. Between La Jolla Shores and Torrey Pines State Beach, Black's Beach is a secluded strip of sand that lies beneath 300-foot cliffs. While not easily accessible, the beach is a popular spot in San Diego, both for its tolerance of nudism and spectacular beauty. In addition to swimming, sunbathing and surfing, Black's Beach is a spot for beach volleyball, horseshoes, and other recreational activities, and one of the secret places to visit in La Jolla.

14. La Jolla Open Aire Farmer’s Market

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Rather than visit the expensive The Marine Room (the restaurant on the water), you can pick up fresh foods at the weekly open aire farmer’s market, or you can walk around and taste the free samples. The funds from the market support initiatives benefiting students in La Jolla.

Tip:‌ After the market, visit the Cave Store, which has a 143-step man-made tunnel built into it that heads down to a large sea cave.

You don't need to spend any more time figuring out what to do in La Jolla. As you can see, the community offers a number of fun things to do, from outdoor water activities, such as surf lessons and coast walks, to unmatched views of La Jolla from the top of Mt. Soledad. For anyone wanting to meet other like-minded tourists, La Jolla tour options are available at the many museums, art galleries, and sea caves. You could spend a week simply exploring Girard Avenue and its variety of restaurants and shops — the cacophony of sounds and ocean smells makes the journey to this Western community worth every effort.