The seaside community of La Jolla Ca. is my top recommendation when visiting San Diego.
If you are planning a trip to San Diego you have multiple choices of where to stay and where to visit while you are here. There are many coastal towns and cities that will let you experience the Pacific Ocean in all its grandeur, not to mention more famous destinations such as the San Diego Zoo, Coronado Island, or the Gaslamp Quarter. But take if from a local; when I have visitors come into town, particularly if it is their first visit to the region, one of the top spots to show them is the sea side community of La Jolla.
The very first thing to know is that La Jolla is not pronounced the way it looks. As with many names in the San Diego region the “J” makes an H sound and the double “ll” makes a y sound. So the name is properly pronounced “La Hoya” following the Spanish pronunciation.
Many follow the logic that the name comes from the Spanish word “La Joya” which translates to “The Jewel” in English. This makes complete sense in that La Jolla is certainly the jewel of San Diego. In fact the community apparently goes by the nickname “Jewel City.”
Despite the coolness factor of La Jolla being the “Jewel City”, certain scholars are quick to point out that the name more likely comes from the Kumeyaay Indian word for the area which was mat kulaaxuuy , or "land of holes." This would later be transcribed by Spanish settlers as La Jolla according to Wikipedia. The land of holes likely referred to the many caves along the shore.
Now that you are an expert on the name La Jolla, let’s explore why you too should put it at or near the top of your list for areas to visit in San Diego?
In addition to being one of the most affluent areas in all of San Diego; La Jolla might well be described as an idyllic seaside community surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean and home to approximately 39 art galleries and museums, The University of California- San Diego, the Salk Institute, Scripps Institution of Oceanography as well as countless world class shopping, dining, and lodging destinations.
If that is not enough, the ocean water in La Jolla is some of the most gorgeous sparkling turquoise water you will find on the west coast. According to the website San Diego.org, La jolla’s beaches and coastline are world-renowned - citing their #9 ranking by AARP in its 2014 list of “Top 15 Beaches in the World.”
Just 12 miles north of downtown San Diego, La Jolla is home to 7 miles of curvy coastline and five separate and distinct beaches. One of those beaches, La Jolla Cove, was ranked the #8 beach in the U.S. by Trip Advisors Travelers’ Choice in 2013.
La Jolla Cove
Guarded by sandstone cliffs on three sides, La Jolla Cove is probably the most desired spot in all of San Diego County for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving. A variety of fish species including the colorful garibaldi, yellowtail, rays and even leopard sharks can be spotted by merely donning a mask and snorkel and slipping face down into the water.
La Jolla Cove is actually part of the La Jolla Ecological Reserve, a 6,000-acre area of protected tidelands and marine life. As a result, the cove is teeming with undisturbed sea life such as lobster, seals and leopard sharks. It is my experience that it is harder to get a snorkeler out of the water in the cove than to get them into the water.
La Jolla Shores
Probably the second most popular of La Jolla’s beaches is La Jolla Shores. Unlike the smaller La Jolla Cove, La Jolla Shores is much more spacious in depth and length with abundant sand, clean water and gentle waves. La Jolla Shores is perfect for families, sunbathers and junior surfers. La Jolla shores is also the kicking off point for ocean kayaking.
There are at least four main kayak & bike rental companies situated within a few blocks of La Jolla Shores, all along Avenida De La Playa.
- La Jolla Kayak 2199 Avenida De La Playa
- HBK Hike Bike Kayak 2222 Avenida De La Playa
- Bike and Kayak Tours 2158 Avenida De La Playa
- La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks 2164 Avenida De La Playa
Kayakers will likely see a variety of sea animals including Seal Lions, Leopard Sharks, Dolphins, Garibaldi, Pelicans, Cormorants as well as visit several different marine environments such as rocky coast, kelp forest, and open ocean.
Kayaks are launched at the foot of Avenida De La Playa and kayakers will paddle the .7 miles over to the seven sea caves in the area of La Jolla Cove.
According to Wikipedia:
“The seven sea caves in La Jolla are perched within a 75-million-year-old sandstone sea cliff. The sea cliff most commonly referred to as the 7 Caves of La Jolla. These seven sculpted cave openings face north, as they sit in between beach of La Jolla Shores and the sandy beach of La Jolla Cove. The seven sea caves are named as follows, from west to east: The Clam's Cave, Sunny Jim's Cave, Arch Cave, Sea Surprize, Shopping Cart, Little Sister, and White Lady. The La Jolla Sea Caves are only accessible by kayak, except Sunny Jim's.”
But if ocean kayaking is not your style then perhaps a leisurely stroll through some of La Jolla’s Art Galleries is more to your likening. The website lajollabythesea.com list approximately 39 art galleries and or museums open for your exploring, shopping and amusement.
Nowhere is southern California’s grandeur more on display than along the coastline in La Jolla. From dramatic cliffs, secluded coves, and sandy beaches there is something to please every spirit.
If you are coming to San Diego put La Jolla on top of your “to do” list.
What about parking?
There is free street parking available but I usually head straight for the Coast Walk Public Parking Garage on Coast Blvd. This puts me within about 100 yards of La Jolla Cove, and at $2.00 an hour and $20 for all day it takes all the stress out of running around trying to find a parking spot. And my Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab gets in and out of the garage just fine.