Things to do

20 Things To Do In La Jolla San Diego

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La Jolla is a picturesque, hilly seaside neighborhood in San Diego, California, known for its stunning coastline along the Pacific Ocean. Spanning seven miles of curving shoreline, it is a popular beach destination with gorgeous beaches like La Jolla Cove, ideal for activities like body surfing and snorkeling.

The area, with a very small population, is considered one of the best places to live in San Diego County due to its scenic beauty and vibrant community. Its dramatic cliffs and ocean views make it a jewel by the sea.

Here are 20 exciting things to do in La Jolla that will make your visit unforgettable.

1. Enjoy Snorkeling and Scuba Diving in La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove is a stunning small beach surrounded by cliffs, making it one of the most photographed spots in San Diego. It is part of the La Jolla Underwater Park, a protected marine reserve, ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving due to its clear waters and abundant marine life.

Visitors can often see sea lions basking on the rocks, adding to the cove's charm. Besides exploring the cove, there are many other things to do in La Jolla, such as visiting nearby attractions like the Birch Aquarium and enjoying the scenic trails at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.

2. Explore Birch Aquarium at Scripps

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The Birch Aquarium at Scripps, a top attraction among things to do in La Jolla, San Diego, offers an immersive experience into the world of marine life and oceanography. As the public outreach center for the renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, it features more than 60 habitats filled with a diverse array of marine animals, from vibrant coral reefs to deep-sea creatures.

Visitors can engage with interactive exhibits, witness daily feedings, and enjoy stunning views of the Pacific Ocean from the outdoor tide-pool plaza. Special programs and educational events make it a perfect destination for families and ocean enthusiasts alike.

3. Visit Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, located in La Jolla, is a 2,000-acre coastal park offering breathtaking ocean views, diverse wildlife, and unique geological formations. It is home to the rare Torrey pine tree, found only here and on Santa Rosa Island.

Visitors can enjoy scenic hiking trails that range from easy to challenging, all of which provide stunning vistas of the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding landscapes.

The reserve is a prime spot for birdwatching, photography, and nature walks, making it a must-visit for anyone sightseeing in La Jolla. The park's pristine beaches and cliffs add to its natural beauty, offering an immersive experience in Southern California's coastal environment.

4. Watch Seals and Sea Lions at Children's Pool

Children's Pool in La Jolla, California, is a small sandy beach originally created as a safe swimming area for children by the construction of a sea wall in 1931. Over the years, it has become a popular spot for observing seals and sea lions that now frequent the area.

The beach offers a unique opportunity to watch these marine mammals up close, making it a must-visit destination. Visitors can also enjoy the beautiful coastal views, stroll along the sea wall, and take photographs.

With its rich wildlife and scenic beauty, the Children's Pool is a highlight among the many things to do in La Jolla, California.

5. Hike at Ho Chi Minh Trail

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The Ho Chi Minh Trail in La Jolla, San Diego, CA, is a hidden gem for adventurous hikers seeking a challenging and rewarding experience. Known for its steep and rugged terrain, the trail offers stunning coastal views and a unique hiking adventure.

Due to its steep drops and uneven surfaces, it is recommended for experienced hikers and is not suitable for children or pets. Along the way, hikers can enjoy the natural beauty of La Jolla's coastline, making it one of the exciting things to do in La Jolla, San Diego, CA.

The trail's name, reminiscent of the famous Vietnamese supply route, adds an intriguing historical twist to the journey. Hikers should wear appropriate footwear and be prepared for a challenging but incredibly scenic hike.

6. Catch a World-class Theater Production at La Jolla Playhouse

La Jolla Playhouse is a renowned theater located on the University of California, San Diego, campus, making it a central part of the attractions in La Jolla. Established in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, and Mel Ferrer, this prestigious playhouse has become a cornerstone for innovative and original productions, often serving as a launching pad for Broadway shows.

The Playhouse is acclaimed for its commitment to developing new talent and fostering creative collaborations. It features a variety of productions ranging from drama to comedy, attracting theater enthusiasts from around the world.

The Playhouse's intimate setting allows for an immersive experience, making it a must-visit for anyone interested in the performing arts. Its contribution to the cultural landscape of La Jolla enhances the area's reputation as a hub for arts and entertainment.

7. Explore Sunny Jim Cave by foot

This unique sea cave is accessible via a hand-dug tunnel that starts at the historic Cave Store, a small shop offering guided tours. The tunnel, carved in 1902, descends through 145 steps, leading visitors to the cave’s opening that faces the ocean.

Once inside, the cave offers a remarkable view of the Pacific Ocean, framed by the rocky interior. Named "Sunny Jim" by Frank Baum, author of "The Wizard of Oz," due to its silhouette resembling a cartoon character from British cereal ads, the cave is one of only a few that can be entered by land.

In addition to Sunny Jim Cave, the surrounding areas offer numerous things to see in La Jolla, California, such as the scenic La Jolla Cove, the marine-rich waters of the La Jolla Underwater Park, and the bustling shops and restaurants along Prospect Street.

8. Stop by Family-Friendly Kellogg Park

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Kellogg Park, located in the La Jolla Shores neighborhood, is one of the premier destinations for families and outdoor enthusiasts exploring things to do in San Diego La Jolla. This expansive park features large grassy areas perfect for picnicking, playing frisbee, or simply relaxing under the sun.

Its proximity to La Jolla Shores Beach makes it an ideal spot for beachgoers who want to enjoy both the sand and green spaces. The park is equipped with clean restrooms, playgrounds, and ample parking, although it can fill up quickly on weekends.

The scenic ocean views from Kellogg Park provide a picturesque backdrop for a leisurely day out. The park is also a popular spot for events and gatherings, offering a vibrant community atmosphere.

9. Shop at La Jolla Open Aire Market

The La Jolla Open Aire Market is a vibrant community farmers' market held every Sunday at La Jolla Elementary School. Known for its lively atmosphere, it features a diverse array of vendors offering fresh produce, artisanal foods, flowers, and handmade crafts.

Shoppers can find everything from organic fruits and vegetables to gourmet cheeses and baked goods. The market also supports local artisans, showcasing unique jewelry, clothing, and art. Live music and family-friendly activities add to the festive environment, making it a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.

The market's proceeds benefit the La Jolla Elementary School, contributing to educational programs and resources. This blend of community spirit, high-quality products, and a welcoming atmosphere makes the La Jolla Open Aire Market a beloved Sunday tradition in the area.

10. Learn About the La Jolla Historical Society

The La Jolla Historical Society, located in the heart of La Jolla, is dedicated to preserving and sharing the rich history of this coastal community. Housed in the historic Wisteria Cottage, the Society offers a variety of exhibits, educational programs, and events that highlight La Jolla’s cultural and architectural heritage.

Visitors can explore rotating exhibits that cover topics from local history to contemporary issues, often featuring photographs, artifacts, and personal stories from the community. The society also hosts walking tours that showcase significant landmarks and architectural styles in La Jolla.

Additionally, the Society maintains an extensive archive and research library, making it a valuable resource for historians, researchers, and anyone interested in learning more about La Jolla’s past.

11. Explore La Jolla Underwater Park

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La Jolla Underwater Park is a 6,000-acre protected marine area in San Diego, renowned for its rich biodiversity and unique underwater landscapes. The park comprises four distinct habitats: rocky reefs, kelp beds, sand flats, and submarine canyons, creating diverse environments for marine life.

It's a top destination for snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and swimming, offering visitors the chance to encounter an array of marine species, including garibaldi fish, leopard sharks, and sea lions.

The park also includes the Ecological Reserve and Marine Life Refuge, which are designated no-take zones to preserve the natural environment. One of the park's highlights is the artificial reef made from sunken ships, which provides a fascinating exploration site for divers.

12. Stroll and Shop at Girard Avenue and Prospect Street

Girard Avenue and Prospect Street in La Jolla, San Diego, are the heart of the village, known for their charming atmosphere and variety of activities. These streets are lined with boutique shops, art galleries, and gourmet restaurants, making them perfect for a leisurely stroll.

You can find unique clothing, jewelry, and home décor in the stylish shops, while the art galleries showcase works from local and international artists. There are also cozy cafes and fine dining options where you can enjoy delicious meals with a view of the ocean.

The streets often host local events and festivals, adding to the lively and welcoming atmosphere. Whether you are shopping, dining, or simply enjoying the vibrant scene, Girard Avenue and Prospect Street offer something for everyone, making them must-visit spots in La Jolla.

13. Find Great Spot for a Picnic at Ellen Browning Scripps Park

Named after the philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps, the park is a perfect place for families and visitors of all ages. It offers wide, grassy areas ideal for picnics, playing, or just relaxing under the sun. The park is famous for its stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, where you can watch waves crashing against the cliffs and see seals and sea lions lounging on the rocks nearby.

Many people come here to enjoy a leisurely walk along the paths, have a picnic, or simply take in the beautiful scenery. The park is also a popular spot for weddings and special events because of its picturesque setting.

With benches, picnic tables, and lots of open space, it's a great place to spend a day outdoors. Whether you’re looking to relax, explore, or take photos, Ellen Browning Scripps Park offers a peaceful and scenic environment for everyone.

14. Visit the Mount Soledad National Veterans Memorial

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Mount Soledad National Veterans Memorial is a special place in La Jolla, San Diego, dedicated to honoring military veterans. Located atop Mount Soledad, it offers breathtaking 360-degree views of San Diego, the Pacific Ocean, and the surrounding areas.

The memorial features a large cross and walls covered with black granite plaques, each commemorating individual veterans from all branches of the U.S. military. These plaques include photographs and brief descriptions of the veterans' service.

Visitors come here not only to pay their respects but also to enjoy the serene and beautiful environment. It's a peaceful spot where people of all ages can learn about the sacrifices made by military personnel while appreciating the stunning scenery.

15. A Scenic Spot for Surfing at Windansea Beach

Windansea Beach in La Jolla, San Diego, is a beautiful and serene spot known for its stunning scenery and excellent surfing conditions. The beach features rocky outcrops and a sandy shoreline, making it perfect for sunbathing, exploring tide pools, or watching the waves crash dramatically against the rocks.

Surfers love Windansea Beach for its reliable surf breaks, while photographers are drawn to its picturesque sunsets. The beach is also famous for its historic surf shack, built in 1946, which adds a unique charm to the landscape.

It's a great place to relax, enjoy the natural beauty, and experience the quintessential Southern California coastal vibe.

16. Play a Round of Golf at Torrey Pines Golf Course

Torrey Pines Golf Course is a famous and beautiful place located in La Jolla, San Diego, right next to the Pacific Ocean. It's known for its stunning views of the ocean and its challenging golf courses. The golf course has two 18-hole courses: the North Course and the South Course.

The South Course is especially famous because it hosts the PGA Tour's Farmers Insurance Open every year. Golfers from all around the world come here to play on these courses, which are surrounded by cliffs and native vegetation like Torrey pine trees.

The views from the course are amazing, with the blue ocean stretching out alongside the fairways. Whether you're a golf enthusiast or just visiting to enjoy the scenery, Torrey Pines Golf Course offers a memorable experience in a beautiful natural setting.

17. Tour the University of California San Diego

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The University of California San Diego (UCSD) is a renowned public research university located in La Jolla, San Diego. Established in 1960, it has grown to become one of the top universities in the world. The campus is known for its modern architecture, beautiful landscapes, and close proximity to the Pacific Ocean.

UCSD offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs across various fields such as science, engineering, the arts, and the humanities. One of its unique features is the Stuart Collection, an outdoor collection of public art that is spread throughout the campus.

The Geisel Library, named after Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss), is an iconic building and a popular spot for students and visitors. UCSD is also home to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which conducts important research on marine science and climate change.

18. Public Art Installations at Murals of La Jolla

The Murals of La Jolla is a unique public art project that transforms the seaside town into an open-air gallery, showcasing large-scale contemporary artworks. Initiated in 2010 by the La Jolla Community Foundation, this initiative invites renowned artists from around the world to create temporary murals on the exterior walls of buildings throughout the community.

These murals are not just decorative; they provoke thought, inspire dialogue, and reflect the cultural and social narratives of our time. Each piece is meticulously planned and executed, turning everyday structures into canvases that surprise and delight locals and visitors alike.

19. Explore The Map & Atlas Museum of La Jolla

The Map & Atlas Museum of La Jolla is a hidden gem in the heart of La Jolla, San Diego. This fascinating museum houses an impressive collection of rare and historic maps and atlases from around the world.

The exhibits take visitors on a journey through time, showcasing how our understanding of geography and cartography has evolved over centuries. From intricately detailed maps of ancient civilizations to the first depictions of the New World, each piece tells a unique story.

The museum is designed to be engaging for all ages, with informative displays that explain the historical context and significance of each map.

20. Walk Surf or View the Mushroom Beach

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Mushroom Beach, often referred to as a hidden gem in La Jolla, San Diego, is renowned for its unique rock formations that resemble giant mushrooms. These fascinating formations are a result of natural erosion, where softer rock has been worn away, leaving behind the harder, mushroom-like shapes. 

The beach offers a serene and picturesque environment, making it a favorite spot for both locals and tourists seeking a quiet retreat. The tide pools at Mushroom Beach are teeming with marine life, providing an excellent opportunity for tide pooling and exploring the diverse ecosystem.

Visitors can often spot colorful sea anemones, starfish, crabs, and small fish in the clear, shallow waters.