Things to Do in La Jolla
With a dramatic coastline and panoramic views from Mount Soledad, La Jolla – known as “the Jewel of San Diego” – is one of the most sought-after vacation destinations in Southern California. Whether you’re considering reserving a home or have already booked a La Jolla vacation rental with Bluewater Vacation Homes, discover all there is to do in this community rich in heritage and culture – and boasting some of the best beaches in the country. Check out these popular local experiences.
Often simply referred to as the Village, the Village of La Jolla is the city’s downtown business district. Browse one-of-a-kind boutiques, art galleries and jewelry stores or dine at world-class restaurants offering Mexican cuisine and fresh seafood. Shopping presents upscale and unique options with designer fashions, custom jewelry, ornate antiques, oriental rugs and exotic cars. Book a guided historic tour for an insider’s glimpse of the neighborhood and view its Spanish and eccentric modern architecture.
Rising more than 800 feet from the ocean, the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial features the iconic Mount Soledad Cross and panoramic views of La Jolla, San Diego and Mexico. The Veterans Memorial honors more than 3,500 veterans, living and deceased, from the Revolutionary War to current conflicts. Black granite plaques include a picture of the veteran with a brief summary of their military experience.
Local tip: Visit at sunrise or sunset for the best views.
Undergoing a major renovation and expansion to double its size and quadruple its galleries, MCASD La Jolla offers a second location to the main museum in downtown San Diego. Take in fabulous ocean views as you browse art, eat lunch on the patio at the Museum Café and shop the Museum’s X Store.
Local tip: Since the museum is undergoing renovations, we recommend checking the website prior to your visit to confirm the La Jolla location is open.
The Athenaeum library, devoted exclusively to music and art, has an outstanding and ever-expanding collection of books, periodicals, reference material, music recordings, sheet music and videos. In addition, it presents a year-round schedule of art exhibitions, concerts, lectures, studio art classes and other special events.
UC San Diego, located in La Jolla, consists of six colleges in one. Artwork and sculptures are sprinkled throughout the 1,200-acre campus, and architecturally interesting structures abound. At the center of the university is the Geisel Library named in honor of author Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) and his wife Audrey. This famous library has been featured in several films and TV shows. Book a guided walking or bus tour for an off-the-beaten-path experience and explore the campus’s fascinating history.
This biological research institute, one of the top 5 research centers in the world, was designed by world-renowned architect Louis I. Kahn. Built on 27 acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the institute consists of two mirror-image structures – each six stories tall – that flank a grand travertine courtyard. Book a guided architecture tour to discover why it was described in the San Diego Union-Tribune as “the single most significant architectural site in San Diego.”
The La Jolla Playhouse was founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer. The Playhouse has mounted 95 world premieres, commissioned 50 new works, and sent 34 productions to Broadway garnering a total of 38 Tony Awards, including the 1993 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. Purchase a ticket to see their latest production and become immersed in the world of a new play or musical.
This award-winning aquarium by the world-renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego features more than 60 habitats of fish and invertebrates from the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest to the tropical waters of Mexico and beyond. Don’t miss the two-story Giant Kelp Forest, ElasmoBeach sharks and Preuss Tide Pool Plaza exhibits.
The Torrey Pines Gliderport is one of the most historic aviation sites in North America with nearly 100 years of flying history. Take a tandem hang gliding flight, learn to fly a paraglider or watch from the ground below. You can also grab a bite to eat in the Cliffhanger Café while taking in sights and views of the ocean.
Walk along the peaceful trails of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve to see native animals, wildflowers and the area’s namesake pine trees. The reserve showcases 1,500 acres of coastal land preserved as it was before San Diego was developed – including the maritime chaparral, the rare Torrey pine, miles of unspoiled beaches and a lagoon that is vital to migrating seabirds.
The most photographed spot in San Diego according to AAA magazine, Scripps Park is a popular spot for outdoor activities and weddings. In the summer, it hosts free concerts and a Fourth of July fireworks display. Go for a stroll along the oceanside walkway, have a picnic or watch the sea lions.
Descend a tunnel in the basement of the historic Cave Store to explore Sunny Jim Sea Cave by land. You can also rent kayaks to explore it by sea along with seven other La Jolla caves. Inside the caves, view ocean-carved rock and sandstone featuring fossilized shell and colorful mineral deposits. Wildlife includes sea lions and a variety of birds.
Children’s Pool in La Jolla is the place to be to watch colonies of playful harbor seals and sea lions. It offers a small sandy beach partially protected by a seawall. Walk along the seawall for panoramic views of the ocean and seals. The beach is closed to the public yearly during harbor seal pupping season, December 15–May 15.
Tide pooling is a popular activity for all ages! Much of La Jolla has a rocky coastline creating optimal conditions for viewing marine life at low tide, November through March.
Local tip: For the best tide pooling experience, we recommend visiting these areas in La Jolla and going when there is a minus tide, low surf and calm weather. Don’t forget that tide pools are delicate ecosystems. Avoid stepping on marine life, don’t remove attached animals, carefully turn rocks back over after examining them and return creatures to the same tide pools where they were found.
South end of La Jolla – Hermit crabs and sea snails are common here. Sometimes you can spot sea urchins, brittle stars or even an octopus.
Hospitals Reef and Shell Beach
South of Ellen Browning Scripps Park and Children’s Pool – These less-crowded tide pools are favorites among locals. Visiting during a minus tide is a must. Look for anemones, crabs and starfish.
Just north of Scripps Pier – Birch Aquarium holds guided tide pool tours here. Look for a single large rock where you can find large sea anemones, crabs, starfish, mussels and more.