12 Best Things To Do In La Jolla, CA: Coves, Cuisine, & Crashing Waves - Updated 2021

things to do in la jolla california

La Jolla is a seaside community in San Diego, California renowned for its sights, sounds, and sands, the best in California. Boasting the ideal combination of breathtaking views and dynamic attractions, the area’s unparalleled climate alone begs for your well-deserved attention. The name La Jolla was argued to have been derived from Spanish’s La Joya, meaning ‘The Jewel’. This has led to La Jolla being nicknamed 'The Jewel City’.

Between blue skies and bluer waters, there is enjoyment to be found as the Beach Boys sing, “All over La Jolla.” Find out about the activities that will solve your dilemma in figuring out the best things to do in La Jolla.

1. Discover La Jolla Cove

Leones Marinos y Aves de mar en la playa de La Jolla, San Diego / Sea Lions and Sea Birds at La Jolla Cove Beach at San Diego
Source: Photo by Flickr user Idibal used under CC BY 2.0

Start your vacation in La Jolla with a visit to the foundation of the area’s reputation: La Jolla Shores, the perfect beach for relaxation. The sands are smooth, the water is refreshing, and the waves break in all the right places. Set against the red-bricked La Jolla Shores Hotel, this strip of paradise looks to turn your afternoon into an adventure.

La Jolla Cove

Address: 1100 Coast Blvd, La Jolla, San Diego, CA 92037-3600

2. Shop top retail on Prospect Street

La Jolla CA - Prospect St
Source: Photo by Flickr user cultivar413 used under CC BY 2.0

Keep a good thing going with the massive array of shopping options on Prospect Street! Located just off the Cove, Prospect Street and its neighboring shops offer no shortage of local goods, beachwear, and boutique items of all kinds. Blue Apparel LLC, Hats Unlimited, Jewels by the Sea, Prospect Rug Gallery, and the Urban Wave Company characterize the retail opportunity as truly unforgettable.

3. Skim the art scene at the Stuart Collection

The Stuart Collection's Fallen Star
Source: Photo by Flickr user Sam Beebe used under CC BY 2.0

By their own admission, the University of California, San Diego established the Stuart Collection in 1981 to exhibit the premiere artwork of our time. Seeking to enhance the cultural and intellectual experience of the individual, the Stuart Collection contains 18 unique works of artistry at present, and does well to present the art-lover unprecedented access to the finest artistic crafts available for display. Niki de Saint Phalle’s Sun God, Terry Allen’s Trees, and Nam June Paik’s Something Pacific are only only a few of the works which grace your gaze as you peruse the intrinsic beauty of the campus grounds.

The Stuart Collection

Address: 9500 Gilman Dr, La Jolla, CA 92093

Price: Free admission

Access: On-campus at UC San Diego

Contact: +(858) 534-2117

More information

4. Tour the sea caves by kayak

"7 caves" of LaJolla, near San Diego
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Dave Bunnell used under CC BY-SA 2.5

Looking to experience La Jolla’s diverse marine life from unparalleled angles? Look no further than La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks, easy as a life jacket, a paddle, and a craving for adventure. Dynamic tours led by expert guides introduce you to sea life environments. La Jolla Sea Caves Kayak Tours is your next destination marine experience!

La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks

Address: 2164 Avenida De La Playa, (Upstairs), La Jolla, CA 92037

Price: from 44.00 USD

Number of Guests: 20

Access: Park at Camino del Oro

Contact: +(858) 454-0111

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5. Pay respects on Mount Soledad

Mount Soledad Cross
Source: Photo by Flickr user Jason Pratt used under CC BY 2.0

Witness to unparalleled views from Mount Soledad, a testament to human achievement since its landmark recognition in 1954. Soledad exists as the sole monument worldwide dedicated to the recognition of veterans, living or deceased, from the Revolutionary War to present times, by means of both photo and description. Partake in past contributions to human freedom while admiring the majesty of the La Jolla shoreline, when you stand amidst the winds atop Mount Soledad!

Mount Soledad

Website: Mount Soledad

6. Golf the iconic Torrey Pines Course

Torrey Pines Golf Course plaque
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Bernard Gagnon used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Indulging in the area’s finest golf, at Torrey Pines Golf Course, is a good day made unforgettable. Relive the history of the iconic 2008 U.S. Open Championship here among flawlessly manicured greens and challenging holes. Whether you’re a regular to the area, or partaking in your dream golf getaway, the Torrey Pines Golf Course is only a swing away.

Torrey Pines Golf Course

Address: 11480 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037

Price: from 170.00 USD

Opening Hours: 6 am to 9 pm

Duration: Around 4 hours required.

Access: Drive past Torrey Pines Golf Course Driving Range

Contact: +(858) 581-7171

Near by Food: The Grill at Torrey Pines, Truluck’s Seafood, Steak and Crab House, Cliff Hanger Cafe

Website: Torrey Pines Golf Course

7. Marvel at the Museum of Contemporary Art

La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Mfield used under CC BY-SA 3.0

To visit the Museum of Contemporary Art is to immerse yourself in the area’s finest sculptures and installations. Originally the Art Center in La Jolla, the Museum of Contemporary Art is decorated with the artistic contributions of Donald Judd, Piero Manzoni, Franz Kline, California native Craig Kauffman, and others, all of whom contribute to the dynamic aesthetic of the center since its institution in 1941. Become the newest art critic of La Jolla when you visit the Museum of Contemporary Art!

La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art

Address: 1100 & 1001 Kettner Boulevard San Diego, CA 92101

Price: from 10.00 USD

Opening Hours: 11 am to 5 pm daily

Duration: Around 2 hours required.

Contact: +(858) 454-3541

Near by Food: Museum Cafe, Piazza 1909, Catania

Website: La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art

8. Fly with Torrey Pines Gliderport

Torrey Pines Glider Port 109
Source: Photo by Flickr user Dirk DBQ used under CC BY 2.0

Torrey Pines Gliderport plays host to the area’s ideal adventure! Perfect to satisfy the most avid thrill-seeker, our large variety of assorted paragliders, hang gliders, and more will have you enjoying the cool sea breezes in no time at all, while soaring high above one of the state’s finest beaches! With mild flying conditions year-round, Torrey Pines Gliderport is the place to be, whatever the weather! Witness nearly 100 years of flying experience when you visit Torrey Pines Gliderport, home to excitement as you’ve never before experienced it.

Torrey Pines Gildeport

Address: 2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Dr, La Jolla, CA 92037

Price: from 175.00 USD

Opening Hours: 9 am to 5:30 pm

Duration: All-day event

Contact: +1 (858) 452-9858

Near by Food: Cliff Hanger Cafe, Bella Vista, Marine Room

Website: Torrey Pines Gliderport

9. Journey underneath the Pacific at the Birch Aquarium

Kelp tank (Birch Aquarium at Scripps, 2007)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Scrippsnews

The ocean is a world in itself, and at the La Jolla Birch Aquarium, it’s yours for the exploring! From its location atop a hill overlooking La Jolla Shores, this public outreach medium allows for the rehabilitation of many oceanic creatures, as well as for the enjoyment and education of those who frequent its grounds. Multitudes of fish and sharks, selections of tide pools, authentic slices of coral reefs, and more await your gaze at this award-winning aquarium. Discover just how deep the Pacific really is when you make the ocean your classroom at the Birch Aquarium!

Birch Aquarium

Address: 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, CA 92037

Price: from 18.50 USD

Opening Hours: 9 am to 5 pm

Contact: +(858)-534-3474

Website: Birch Aquarium

10. Salk Institute: An inspiration of science and architecture

Louis Kahn's Salk Institute
Source: Photo by Flickr user Jason Taellious used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Tours at the Salk Institute need advance booking as it’s a wonderful blend of science and architecture. The outside tour is inspiring because visitors can look out for interesting architectural features. The fountain creates a channel of water, making for a unique photo opportunity. The towering buildings have an ocean view backdrop. To get the best of the plaza, a tour is recommended as you’ll get to see areas where the public cannot go. However, you can walk around most of it by yourself. Perhaps finish up a few fascinating morning hours with a meal at the cafeteria. Mid-century architectural lovers will enjoy the minimalistic feel of the place.

Salk Institute, An Inspiration Of Science And Architecture

Address: 10010 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, San Diego, CA 92037-1099

11. La Jolla Shores Park

29June2019 La Jolla Shores bonfire meetup-2
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user RightCowLeftCoast used under CC BY-SA 4.0

La Jolla Shores Park is a mile-long beach set in a gentle curve where the summer waves are kind to bathers. In fact, it’s a good spot for novice scuba divers. The Shores Park is right down the road from the Salk Institute where there’s a cafeteria. Thre’s a picnic area near the car park if you prefer to cater for yourself. The waves are gentle and the family can enjoy the seaside under the watchful eye of lifeguards. Ablution facilities are provided along with free parking. However, you need to be early or patient to find a parking space. Enjoy walking the beach, swimming, or strolling the sidewalk. It’s a nice place to spend a day, and while it does get crowded in the height of summer, isn’t that all part of having a fun vacation?

La Jolla Shores Park

Address: 8300 Camino del Oro, La Jolla, San Diego, CA 92037

12. Ride in style with La Jolla Segway Tours (from USD 199.0)

Witness La Jolla from a unique perspective, with La Jolla Segway Tours! Tours cover the best of La Jolla Cove, Sonny Jim’s Cave, and other local draws. The affordable tour package truly redefines excitement! Get ready to do things the La Jolla way with its exclusive two-hour, semi-private Segway Tours, conducted by knowledgeable guides!

La Jolla Segway Tour

Duration: 2 hours

6 reviews

Where the best gets better!

LaJolla CA
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user https://www.flick... used under CC BY 2.0

Welcome to La Jolla, where the best gets better! The perfect combination of picturesque weather, local eateries, and sunshine comes packaged as one unforgettable experience. Make sure your next vacation to California comes complete with the best La Jolla has to offer!

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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John Gallagher is a digital marketing consultant and writer from San Diego, California. When he isn't thoroughly enjoying the writing process or pretending he thoroughly enjoys the revision...Read more

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