La Jolla is a stunning seaside town located in San Diego County, California.
With its white-sand beaches, picturesque cliffs, and wide range of outdoor activities, it’s no wonder why La Jolla draws so many visitors each year.
12 Best Things to Do in La Jolla, California
Whether you’re planning a romantic getaway or a family vacation, this guide will show you all the best things to do when visiting La Jolla.
1. Stay at the Cormorant
If you’re planning a trip to this coastal paradise, the Cormorant Hotel is the perfect place to stay. Not only does it offer prime beachfront access and luxurious accommodations, but there’s plenty to do in the area too.
Here, you’re in the midst of all the action, so it’s a perfect getaway spot.
Plus, when you travel to the rooftop, you can enjoy some food and drinks at Birdseye.
It’s one of the very few rooftop bars of its kind in the area with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.
2. Swim at La Jolla Cove Beach
La Jolla Cove Beach is one of the most popular beaches in the area. This beach offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and plenty of opportunities for swimming and snorkeling.
If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of some sea lions sunbathing on the rocks. This is one of the best places for it!
Be sure to bring your camera along because you won’t want to miss out on capturing some beautiful photographs of La Jolla Shores Beach with sea caves.
3. Wander the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) is a great place to visit during your stay in La Jolla. The museum houses an impressive collection of modern art from over 4,000 artists from around the world.
Not only will you be able to admire some amazing artwork here, but you’ll also have the chance to attend special events such as lectures and film screenings throughout your visit.
If you love art museums, this is a must-see.
4. Journey Through the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography
The Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego is one of the top attractions in La Jolla. Here you can explore exhibits featuring more than 500 species from tropical coral reefs to seahorses and jellies from our own Southern California coastal waters.
There are also interactive experiences that allow visitors to learn about marine life conservation and sustainability initiatives happening around the globe.
If this is interesting to you, then don’t miss the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
5. Go on a Kayak Tour
Whether you’re an experienced kayaker or just starting out, La Jolla Kayak Tours are the perfect way to experience the sights and sounds of this vibrant city from the water.
For those wanting to get their feet wet in the world of sea kayaking, there are several guided tours offering basic instruction and safety tips along beautiful coastal routes.
Experienced paddlers can choose from more advanced tours that offer longer distances and more difficult terrain.
Depending on your route and time of day, you may see playful sea lions frolicking in the waves, or dolphins breaking through the surface nearby as they hunt for food. This is also a great place to go whale watching.
6. Walk Along Prospect Street
This beautiful stretch of road is full of shops, restaurants, and outdoor activities that make it the perfect place to spend the day doing tons of fun things.
From boutiques and specialty stores to art galleries and gift shops, there’s something here for everyone. If you’re looking for unique items or one-of-a-kind souvenirs, then this is the place for you.
Whether you’re craving Italian, Mexican, Japanese, or farm-to-table dishes made with locally sourced ingredients, the best restaurants can be found here.
There are also plenty of cozy cafés where you can grab a coffee or a pastry before heading out on your next adventure, like Harry’s! (More on Harry’s in a bit.)
Just off Prospect Street is La Jolla Shores Beach, a popular spot for swimming and surfing, as well as other parks such as Ellen Browning Scripps Park which offers stunning views of La Jolla Cove, mentioned above.
If golf is more your speed then head over to Torrey Pines Golf Course which boasts two 18-hole courses with breathtaking ocean views.
7. Explore Windansea Beach
Windansea Beach is the best spot for both amateur and experienced surfers. The waves here are often stronger than those at nearby beaches.
You can take a leisurely stroll along the small beach and admire the views or take part in a more rigorous hike along one of the trails nearby.
There are also plenty of tide pools that are perfect for exploring marine life up close.
Windansea Beach also offers plenty of space for picnicking and camping. Pack a picnic basket full of your favorite snacks and find a nice spot on the beach where you can relax and enjoy some quality time with your friends or family.
Camping is also allowed on certain parts of the beach.
8. Visit La Jolla Playhouse
La Jolla Playhouse is a spectacular theater in the heart of beautiful La Jolla, California. Whether you’re looking for a night out with family or friends, an evening of entertainment and culture, or just an escape from the everyday hustle and bustle, you’ll find it all at La Jolla Playhouse.
The main attraction of La Jolla Playhouse is its live performances. From classic plays to modern musicals, the theater has something to offer every genre enthusiast.
If you’re looking for an insider’s perspective on what goes on behind the scenes at a professional theater, then be sure to check out one of their guided tours. Led by knowledgeable guides who are passionate about theater, these tours provide insight into everything from costume design to set construction.
La Jolla Playhouse is located in close proximity to many great restaurants and shops so you can easily make a day (or night) out of your visit here.
9. Explore Downtown La Jolla
Downtown La Jolla has something for everyone; from local boutiques filled with unique finds to popular restaurants offering delicious cuisine from around the world.
When staying at The Cormorant Hotel, be sure to head downtown for some shopping at Girard Avenue or catch a show at one of several theaters in town.
On Girard Avenue, I fell in love with Warwick’s, the country’s oldest independently owned bookstore. The locals love it so much, they spent millions to keep it in downtown La Jolla. Click here for the story.
Afterward, treat yourself to dinner overlooking the ocean at George’s At The Cove or grab a drink (and some karaoke) at Coyote Ugly Saloon & Dance Hall.
We stopped for a drink and appetizer at Puesto and had breakfast at La Jolla’s oldest diner, Harry’s Coffee Shop. My husband ordered the famous B.W. Benny. I also got a La Jolla Cove burger at Public House.
It was all amazing! See?
10. Soar High at Torrey Pines Gliderport
Torrey Pines Gliderport is a breathtakingly beautiful place to experience the thrill of flight. Get an adrenaline rush or take in the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Torrey Pines Gliderport.
The main attraction at Torrey Pines Gliderport is undoubtedly gliding and hang gliding. With more than 10 tow planes available, the experienced staff can help you soar higher than ever before!
For those new to gliding and hang gliding, Torrey Pines offers introductory flights so that you can get a feel for it before taking your skills to the next level.
If you’re looking for an even bigger thrill, why not try paragliding? Paragliders launch from the cliffs at Torrey Pines and sail through the air with unparalleled views of downtown San Diego and its surrounding beautiful beaches. There are several different courses available depending on your skill level.
Torrey Pines State Park is home to 8 miles of trails that offer sweeping views of both land and sea. The Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve trails range from easy-going strolls to challenging treks up steep inclines, so no matter what your fitness level is there’s something here for you.
And don’t forget about all the wildlife – keep an eye out for dolphins, grey whales, seals, and more.
11. Check Out Balboa Park
Balboa Park has dozens of miles of trails that wind through its rolling hills and dense forests. These trails are ideal for hiking or taking leisurely strolls on a sunny day.
You can also go mountain biking along some of the more rugged paths. And if you’re feeling adventurous, there are several trails that lead up to the top of nearby peaks that offer spectacular views of La Jolla and beyond.
The Nature Center at Balboa Park is a great place to visit if you want to learn about the local flora and fauna. The center offers educational programs for kids as well as adults, and it’s home to a variety of animals such as birds, turtles, frogs, and fish.
Balboa Park is an ideal spot for outdoor activities like picnicking, volleyball, disc golfing, or even just relaxing in one of the many lawn areas scattered throughout the park.
There are also tennis courts available for those who want to play some competitive matches amongst friends or family members.
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can even try your hand at horseback riding.
12. Visit the Children’s Pool Beach
The Children’s Pool Beach has been around since 1931 when it was created as a protected swimming area for children.
Today, it’s one of the most popular spots for sightseeing in La Jolla because of its resident harbor seals and sea lions. There are viewing areas along the shoreline where visitors can observe the animals from a safe distance.
With its majestic cliffs, serene beaches, museums, aquariums, and more, there’s something for everyone in La Jolla.
From cozy restaurants with ocean views to exciting outdoor adventures like kayaking and hiking—you can easily spend days soaking up all that this sunny coastal town has to offer without ever getting bored.
So if you’re looking for an unforgettable getaway full of fun-filled activities that are sure to please everyone, don’t miss out on exploring all that La Jolla has to offer.
If you want to venture out of La Jolla, don’t miss the nearby San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld San Diego, or a ride on the Old Town Trolley!
For more on things to do in the San Diego area, click here to see how my family spent a few days on our first trip to one of my favorite cities!
If you’re nearby and travel to Laguna Beach, don’t miss this round-up of the best things to do here.
Palm Springs? No problem. I have you covered.