No trip to Southern California is complete without a trip to the stunning coastal town of La Jolla! This luxurious area is known for its endless views, beautiful beaches, and high-end style. So whether you’re just visiting La Jolla or it’s part of a larger San Diego vacation, don’t miss out on all the best things to do in La Jolla California!
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1. Meet the Seals at La Jolla Cove
When looking for the best things to do in La Jolla California you have to start with the seals! Anyone who visits La Jolla remembers their experience with these lovable sea creatures. All along the cliff walk, you can see both harbor seals and sea lions playing on the rocks below.
The place where you’ll see the most is the La Jolla Cove, but really anywhere along the cliffs in this area will do! Enjoy your time and take photos, but don’t get too close to the seals and disturb them in their natural habitat.
2. Play at La Jolla Underwater Park
The water near downtown La Jolla is actually part of the 6,000 acre underwater park! Here you’ll see plenty of kayakers and paddleboarders exploring the ocean.
It’s also a great place to go snorkeling and diving to see more of the sea life of La Jolla. Aside from the seals, you’ll find stingrays, leopard sharks, and even sea turtles in the ecological reserve.
3. Explore the Seven Sea Caves
After seeing the underwater park, one of the best things to do in La Jolla California is to experience the seven sea caves. Looking down the coast, you may not know there are 7 different special caves inside the sandstone rock walls.
The caves which were once a favorite hiding spot for smugglers, each have their own unique names and history. One of the coolest parts about taking a kayaking tour is that you can actually explore inside the caves. So if you’re looking for what to do in La Jolla on the water, the sea caves are amazing!
→ Book a 90 Minute La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaking Tour!
4. Adventure into the Cave Store
The only cave of the seven you can enter by foot is named “Sunny Jim” which you enter by going through the Cave Store. Honestly, the history of the store is almost as interesting as the cave itself!
In 1902, German professor Gustav Shulz began tunneling through the other side to Sunny Jim to give visitors a unique view inside the cave. Thanks to Gustav, you can still discover the wonders of the cave to this very day!
5. Art Gallery Hop
One of the best things to do in La Jolla San Diego for art fans is to visit the many galleries! They fit in perfectly with the high-end style of La Jolla with what feels like dozens of galleries lining downtown on Prospect Street.
Our personal favorite is the Dr. Suess Legends Gallery where you can see the famous books come to life through paintings. We also love stopping into Artemis Fine Art Gallery and National Gallery of Fine Art La Jolla as well.
6. Have Lunch at La Valencia Hotel
While you’re perusing Prospect Street looking at the art galleries it would be hard not to notice the massive pink hotel on the ocean side of downtown. La Valencia Hotel is one of the most beautiful in all of La Jolla, and the good news is even if you’re not staying there you can still experience it! Stop in for lunch or grab a drink on their stunning patio overlooking the property and beach in the distance.
7. Sunset at Windansea Beach
With all the beautiful beaches that La Jolla has to offer, it’s hard to choose just one for sunset! We may be partial to Windansea because it’s where we lived for a year (and also got engaged!), but we still believe it has one of the best sunsets in California.
What makes it so special is the long jagged rocks which extend out on the right side of the beach. Bring chairs or a blanket to sit out and take in California’s golden hour.
→ Windansea Beach: Why it’s Our Favorite Spot in La Jolla San Diego
8. Eat at the Taco Stand
Eating out is one of the best things to do in La Jolla San Diego! You’ll be happy to know that even with its upscale restaurants there are still some great low-key places to grab tacos. Honestly, the Taco Stand became a weekly ritual for us when we lived in La Jolla.
From the juicy al pastor burrito to the cactus tacos, the Taco Stand always delivers! It does get busy here so we recommend ordering online beforehand to avoid a wait.
→ The Taco Stand La Jolla: Why it’s the Best Mexican Food in Town
9. Spend the Afternoon at Birch Aquarium
Did you know La Jolla is home to one of California’s best aquariums? Scripps Institution of Oceanography runs this fabulous aquarium dedicated to the marine life of San Diego. See the different exhibits ranging from the Hall of Fishes to the Giant Kelp Forest. Incredibly, the Birch Aquarium has over 60 separate habitats to view marine life in. Don’t miss out on the seahorses and tide pools either!
10. Hit the La Jolla Happy Hours
After a day of fun and adventure one of the best things to do in La Jolla San Diego is happy hour! We were surprised that with so many fancy restaurants and bars that there were still deals to be had. From cocktails and oysters at Herringbone to pizza at Isola and Catania, there’s always time for happy hour in La Jolla.
11. Play a Round of Golf at Torrey Pines
Love golf? Then you’ve surely heard of the legendary Torrey Pines course! While there are numerous amazing places to play golf around San Diego this is a bucket list location for fanatics of the sport.
As the site of four major championships, the gorgeous 18 hole spectacle is a must if you’re in the area. Since it’s such a popular place to play it would be wise to set a tee time as far in advance as possible. Also, if you’re a resident of California you get an awesome discount at Torrey Pines.
12. Hit the Beautiful La Jolla Beaches
Windansea may be our favorite beach in La Jolla, but there are so many more swimming spots to discover! Really from Windansea all the way to downtown, you will find endless coves and places to lay your beach towel down. It’s so fun to just wander from cove to cove and find your own piece of paradise! You can spend all day exploring the coast of La Jolla dipping in and out of the ocean.
→ 9 Most Beautiful Beaches in La Jolla California You Have to Experience
13. Fly High at Glider Point
As you look out across the ocean from downtown La Jolla you might see something interesting flying off the cliffs! Glider Point is actually the best place to go hang gliding around San Diego!
Some days it’s common to see dozens of adventure enthusiasts launching themselves from cliffs over the water. If you’re daring enough you can even fly with a professional high above the La Jolla cliffs for around $200.
14. Hike to Blacks Beach
Some of the best things to do in La Jolla California involve hiking, and that’s definitely true of Blacks Beach. Park at one of the upper neighborhoods near the entrance of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The hike down is steep and you will eventually be on all fours going through the tight rock formations.
In the end, you’ll even have to repel down a short distance on a rope! There is also one more thing you should know about arriving at Blacks… It’s a nude beach! So don’t be surprised if people are a little more free with their clothing here.
15. Shop at the Weekend Farmers Market
What would a California vacation be without a farmers market? The La Jolla farmers market is Sundays from 9am to 1pm at 7335 Girard Ave. The lively market plays host to local arts, antiques, and lots of amazing food.
Stop in and grab an iced coffee or juice as you stroll through the many stands. This is also a great place to grab some souvenirs before your trip home.
16. Coastal Trail to La Jolla Shores
The La Jolla Coast walking trail takes you along the scenic cliffs from downtown all the way to another fun part of town. The hour-long walking trail brings you to the neighborhoods of La Jolla Shores where you’ll be greeted by a sprawling beach.
The ocean is typically a little calmer here than the other La Jolla beaches which make for a relaxing swim. There are also some great bars and restaurants on Avenida De La Playa leading to La Jolla shores.
As you can see, La Jolla is massive and there is so much to do and see! We hope you make it a point to visit this special beach town on your next trip to beautiful Southern California.
Have more recommendations for the best things to do in La Jolla or questions on this article? Make sure to comment below and let us know!
Brigitte and Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Where to Stay in San Diego
Ultra Luxury – La Valencia – If you’ve ever visited La Jolla then you’ve probably seen the extraordinary pink luxury hotel overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We honestly can’t think of a better, more luxurious place to stay in San Diego!
Fun Vacation – Hotel Indigo – This funky but comfortable accommodation is a great choice if you’re looking to stay downtown without breaking the bank. Situated right in the happening Gaslamp district, Hotel Indigo features a rooftop bar overlooking Petco Park.
Fun Vacation – Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa – This Polynesian-style resort is set on the shores of Mission Bay. Its gorgeous setting makes it easy to hang out all day on property, while also being just a short stroll away from the ocean.
Beachfront – Pacific Terrace Hotel – Oceanview hotel set directly on the Pacific Beach boardwalk. Lovely atmosphere and a great stay for any type of traveler.
Hostel Life – ITH Beach Bungalow Surf Hostel – Located in the heart of the boardwalk in Pacific Beach, this surfer hostel is one of the best options around! It has an amazing view and is right in the middle of all the beach bars and action of San Diego’s most popular beach.
For more places to stay around the San Diego California attractions you can explore the latest prices here!
USA Travel Planning
Flights: We always find great flights using Skyscanner and Kayak. This way you can plan your trip around the cheapest and most direct routes.
Accommodation: Compare multiple sites to get to the best deal such as Booking.com and Agoda! Also, Hostelworld can be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget.
Rental Car: We use Discover Cars when traveling. Consider renting a car in one city and dropping it off in another for an epic road trip!
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for tours all around California. Visit the San Diego Zoo, skip the line at the USS Midway Museum, or go on a Sea Cave Kayak Tour in La Jolla!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered! We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years and they are there when we need them.
Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials!
I lived next door to La Jolla in Pacific Beach right off of Garnet Avenue back in the day. Moved to Redondo Beach where I met my future husband and returned to San Diego to honeymoon at the Hotel del Coronado, that was in 1987. Still married and now living in Charlotte, NC.
Great story! Jake and I lived on Bonair St in La Jolla and got married right on the beach there. We love La Jolla (-: