20 Best Things to Do in La Jolla

Discover the most unique and fun things to do in La Jolla, San Diego. Explore our guide to the best activities and attractions in this gorgeous coastal city.
Todd Sarouhan
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means if you make purchases through them, I may be compensated at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Best Things to Do in La Jolla
Top Landmarks in La Jolla
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Traverse the Beachy City and Visit Top Landmarks in La Jolla

Snorkeling Amongst Kelp Near the Seven Caves in La JollaBirch Aquarium Gray Whale Tail Statue

Whether you’re planning an extended San Diego vacation or you’re looking for a refreshing spot for a weekend getaway, sunny La Jolla should be at the top of your list of places to visit!

While it’s predominantly known as a surfing neighborhood, La Jolla is also a very wealthy area with many beachside mansions and plenty of upscale things to do, including fine dining, shopping, and wine tastings. It’s also a haven for those who enjoy the great outdoors, as there are many opportunities for wildlife photography, birdwatching, learning about marine life, and exploring your surroundings while soaking up the year-round San Diego sun.

If you prefer to take in La Jolla’s characteristic laid-back vibes, you can immerse yourself in its surfing culture, or you can go for a leisurely walk through Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve on the bluffs above the beach. Alternatively, try out some of San Diego’s most unique activities like stand up paddle boarding and paragliding over the Pacific Ocean.

From La Jolla’s wide array of beaches that more than rival citywide favorites like Mission Beach and the Pacific Beach to more culturally-focused activities like visiting the La Jolla Playhouse or the Atlas and Map Museum, it’s no exaggeration to say that La Jolla has something to offer to all types of travelers!

There’s no better way to explore the best things to do in La Jolla than with a Go City San Diego pass. The pass is your ticket to discounted admission for the entire family to San Diego’s top attractions! It allows visitors to get the full Southern California experience by not only seeing all that La Jolla has to offer, but also checking out the best things to do in Downtown San Diego, the best things to do Old Town San Diego and the best things to do in many other nearby neighborhoods such as Encinitas, Del Mar and Little Italy.

The pass includes discounts on beach gear rentals and admission costs to many of San Diego’s most popular attractions, from La Jolla museums and aquariums to Balboa Park museums and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Use our discount code GVSD5OFF to unlock even more savings!

Todd tours a 4-star hotel on the shores of La Jolla Cove, the Grande Colonial La Jolla. This beachside escape dates back to 1913 and combines luxury hotel amenities and an exclusive boutique atmosphere. Be sure to visit Nine-Ten restaurant and bar for some of La Jolla's finest cocktails and cuisine.

Stay at the Grande Colonial La Jolla

Beach & Waterfront Sightseeing in La Jolla: The 20 Best Things to Do in the Jewel of San Diego

Relaxed and artsy vibes meet culture and class in the blooming neighborhood of La Jolla! Our list of La Jolla’s best attractions includes all the greatest hits, from stunning shorelines to magical museums and everything in between, plus some hidden gems that are only known to locals and especially dedicated Southern California travelers.

Looking into a Kelp Forest in the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park
Looking into a Kelp Forest in the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park

1) Get in the Water at La Jolla Underwater Park

Beach: San Diego - La Jolla Underwater Park

The La Jolla Underwater Park is a large marine ecological reserve filled with kelp forests, shallow reefs, and other underwater habitats. It’s a great place to check out local wildlife, whether you’re observing sea lions and seals from the comfort of the sandy shore or diving down to look for sea turtles, fish, and other native species.

Scuba diving is very popular at the La Jolla Underwater Park, as is snorkeling and kayaking. You can rent gear at a discounted rate with a Go City San Diego pass, or take the all-inclusive kayak and snorkel tour for a more guided experience.

Book the Underwater Park: Kayak and Snorkel Tour
People Having Fun at the La Jolla Cove
People Having Fun at the La Jolla Cove

2) Explore the Beach & Sea at La Jolla Cove

Beach: La Jolla Cove

As one of the most famous and popular beaches in all of La Jolla, spending an afternoon at La Jolla Cove easily makes our list as one of the best things to do in San Diego’s premier locations.

A visit to the beach is an incredible choice for any San Diego vacation, especially if you’re looking to relax and take in the year-round blue skies and comfortable temperatures. The beach is tucked in next to a cliff with plenty of shade alongside space to sunbathe. The natural protection of the cove prevents the waves from getting too choppy, making it a great spot for swimming and a top location in San Diego for snorkeling.

It’s common for seals and sea lions to come ashore here, and tide pools form on the beach’s rockier areas during low tide. This isn’t an especially wide beach, but if it’s too crowded on the sand, you can set up your gear on the grass of nearby Ellen Browning Scripps Park, which borders La Jolla Cove.

Rare Empty Beach at Windansea Beach
Rare Empty Beach at Windansea Beach

3) Go Surfing in La Jolla

San Diego Tours: 5 Best San Diego Surf Lessons & Rentals

La Jolla is a hub for San Diego’s characteristic surfing culture, with many world-famous surfing beaches and local landmarks. Some beaches even hold annual surf competitions, but there are also plenty of coastal areas with more beginner-friendly waves.

Either way, taking surfing lessons with the Learn to Surf in La Jolla tour or renting a surfboard on your own at a discount with a Go City San Diego pass are both great choices. La Jolla beaches with great surfing conditions include Bird Rock Beach, Big Rock Reef, Hospital Beach, Blacks Beach, Scripps, and the iconic Windansea Beach, home of the Surf Shack and a favorite choice of many local surf legends.

While La Jolla is a popular San Diego location for trying your hand at surfing, there are beaches perfect for this adventurous activity all up and down the local shoreline. Riding the waves is a classic Southern California and San Diego experience you won’t regret, and thus makes our list of the best things to do in San Diego in the area’s best neighborhoods.

Also, be sure to check out our list of the best surf lessons and rentals for more fun in the sun!

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Sea Dragon at Birch Aquarium
Sea Dragon at Birch Aquarium

4) Visit the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

San Diego Attractions: Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Learn about sea life without getting wet at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

This is one of the best aquariums in the area and most entertaining things to do in San Diego. With thousands of fish belonging to hundreds of different species, the facility offers hours of education to its visitors. In addition to huge aquarium displays featuring a variety of marine habitats, there are touch tanks, feedings, and multimedia displays for a more hands-on experience that’s great for kids and adults alike.

Don’t forget to grab a Go City San Diego pass before your trip to enjoy discounted admission to the Birch Aquarium and other attractions throughout the city. The Birch Aquarium is part of the All-inclusive pass, the pass option that helps travelers save the most on activities, attractions and gear rentals!

Buy Tickets to the Birch Aquarium
Women on Stand up Paddleboard at Sunset
Women on Stand up Paddleboard at Sunset

5) Rent a Stand up Paddle Board (SUP)

San Diego Tours: 5 Best San Diego Surf Lessons & Rentals

Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) has recently gained popularity on the West Coast as a fun beach day activity, and there are few places better suited for the activity than the La Jolla beaches. The most ideal paddle boarding conditions are clear, calm waves, so top picks include La Jolla Cove and the ocean around the La Jolla Ecological Reserve and Seven Sea Caves.

Once again, with a Go City San Diego pass, you can rent a stand up paddle board and explore the sea at your own pace, or try out other fun water sports like kayaking, swimming and snorkeling.

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Sea Lions on the Beach at the Childrens Pool
Sea Lions on the Beach at the Childrens Pool

6) Take a Children's Pool Beach Tour

Beach: The Children's Pool

The Children’s Pool is best known for being a favorite spot of wildlife enthusiasts, as sea lions and seals make the area their nesting ground from December to May. While it’s not the best place to swim, it’s still well worth a visit, especially when you stop by as part of a tour of the La Jolla’s beaches.

If you’re looking to learn more about the town you’re in, go sightseeing on The La Jolla Tour. Alternatively, you can also traverse La Jolla’s beaches by segway or e-bike tour, both of which include stops at the Children’s Pool!

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Mother and Daughter Snorkeling in a Kelp Forest at La Jolla Underwater Park
Mother and Daughter Snorkeling in a Kelp Forest at La Jolla Underwater Park

7) Spend a Warm Afternoon Snorkeling at La Jolla

San Diego Tours: 4 Best San Diego Kayaking & Snorkeling Tours

The gorgeous waters of the La Jolla Ecological Preserve and La Jolla Cove are perfect for snorkeling, so it’s no surprise that this is a popular location for the best kayaking and snorkeling tours in San Diego. Go on a Kayak and Snorkel Tour in La Jolla or you can rent snorkeling gear at a discount through the Go City San Diego pass, or take a more guided tour of the area, snorkeling gear included, on the Snorkeling Adventure in La Jolla.

During the tour, you’ll get to free dive and swim through the famous Emerald Cave, which is home to many species of marine animals. These include brightly colored Garibaldi and other tropical fish, as well as sea turtles, seals, sea lions, lobsters, and the occasional leopard shark.

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Closeup View of Sea Grass at the La Jolla Tide Pools
Closeup View of Sea Grass at the La Jolla Tide Pools

8) Explore La Jolla’s Most Interesting Tide Pools

Beach: La Jolla Tide Pools

When the tide goes out, sea water pools in divots and rocky spots on the beach, forming tide pools teeming with marine life. Some of the best spots to explore the tide pools in La Jolla are at the La Jolla Tide Pools. Toward the southern end of the beach, curious travelers will find the tide pools at the less crowded Marine Street Beach. You can walk between these two locations during low tide.

Exploring tide pools is a fun and educational activity that’s perfect for young kids, and best of all, it’s completely free. Commonly found sea creatures include snails, sea urchins, jellyfish, crabs, small octopi, sea anemones, hermit crabs, barnacles, mussels, and clams.

Peets Coffee Shop in the Village of La Jolla
Peets Coffee Shop in the Village of La Jolla

9) Go Shopping in La Jolla Village

Shopping in San Diego: Shopping in Downtown La Jolla

Downtown La Jolla is known by the moniker, ‘La Jolla Village’. Just like Seaport Village in the Embarcadero neighborhood by the San Diego Bay, this is a bustling section of town that’s full of boutique shops, dining options, and entertainment venues. It’s a great place to do some shopping as you enjoy the excellent weather and beautiful views of the ocean, with an assortment of high-end shops and art galleries mixed in with cafes, coffee shops, and locally-owned businesses.

La Jolla Village is conveniently located within walking distance of The Children’s Pool and La Jolla Cove, so you can stock up on supplies, spend the morning on the beach, then head inland for lunch and some of the best shopping in all of San Diego!

La Jolla Underwater Park Kayak and Snorkel Tour
La Jolla Underwater Park Kayak and Snorkel Tour

10) Take a Kayaking Tour that Visits the Seven Caves

San Diego Tours: 4 Best San Diego Kayaking & Snorkeling Tours

La Jolla’s Seven Caves are located just off the shore in the La Jolla Ecological Reserve at La Jolla Caves Beach. These towering natural structures are a true sight to behold on land, but they’re even more remarkable as you explore and approach on a kayak!

On the Kayak Tour of the Seven Caves, one of the best San Diego kayaking and snorkeling tours, you’ll get the chance to see these caves up close while also checking out local marine life and doing some birdwatching.

The tour of the caves includes views of Arch Cave, Clams Cave, Sunny Jim’s Cave, Emerald Cave, and more. In between sightings of sea lions, garibaldi, and guitarfish, you may even spot a leopard shark, a sea turtle or dolphin if you’re lucky.

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Beautiful Sunset over the Cliffs at Torrey Pines State Reserve
Beautiful Sunset over the Cliffs at Torrey Pines State Reserve

11) Go on a Scenic Seaview Hike in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

San Diego Parks & Nature: Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

On the cliffs above the shores of La Jolla, you’ll find the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and the Torrey Pine State Reserve Loop, one of the best hiking trails in San Diego. This trail isn’t especially challenging, which makes it a good fit for more laid-back hikers who are less interested in working up a sweat and more interested in taking in the beautiful views as you work your way up to the cliff summit.

Check out the namesake Torrey Pines as you walk the reserve loop, head up to the Torrey Pines Gliderport for amazing views, and follow the beach trail for easy access to a secluded section of the coast.

Sunset Reflecting off of Nearby Building at the Childrens Pool
Sunset Reflecting off of Nearby Building at the Childrens Pool

12) Take a La Jolla Guided E-Bike Tour

Neighborhood: La Jolla

Explore various landmarks and beaches throughout La Jolla when you sign-up for the The La Jolla Guided E-Bike Tour. The day trip starts in Downtown La Jolla, otherwise known as the La Jolla Village, and winds along the beautiful La Jolla Beaches, including the La Jolla Cove and the Children's Pool. Then you will ride through the luxury neighborhoods to Windansea Beach then all the way to Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach.

From the comfort of an e-bike, you’ll get to pass through La Jolla Village and various beaches including Bird Rock, Windansea Beach, and La Jolla Cove, with plenty of time to take in the views.

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Sculpture Outside the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego La Jolla
Sculpture Outside the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego La Jolla

13) Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla

San Diego Area Museums: Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla

Of the many museums and art collections in La Jolla and all of San Diego, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla, alongside its sister museum in Downtown San Diego, is one of the best at capturing the unique culture of the city in its modern incarnation.

While some art museums have pieces exclusively from the past, this museum’s focus on contemporary art serves as a reflection of recent social movements, the lives of diverse population groups, and what it means to be a San Diegan, while still incorporating elements of history.

Exhibits and pieces on display rotate on a regular basis, so there’s always something new to see as you wander through one of San Diego’s most popular museums.

Looking at Marine Street Beach on a Sunny Day
Looking at Marine Street Beach on a Sunny Day

14) Practice Yoga on the Beach

Beach: Marine Street Beach

Do your sun salutations in one of the sunniest places on the West Coast when you try your hand at yoga on La Jolla’s beaches. The consistent crash of the waves in the distance makes for the perfect serene soundscape. Ease into various yoga poses at sunrise or sunset, and enjoy the warm sand under your toes to complete the picture of idyllic paradise.

For the best results, you’ll want to pick a calm beach with plenty of space to stretch out, like Marine Street Beach. Consider going in the early morning to avoid the crowds and rise with the sun.

Boardwalk at La Jolla Shores
Boardwalk at La Jolla Shores

15) Hit the Beach at La Jolla Shores

Beach: La Jolla Shores

If you’re seeking a great place to relax and sunbathe the day away, look no further than La Jolla Shores, one of the most popular beaches in the neighborhood. This beach is large when compared to some of the smaller coves you’ll find along San Diego’s coastline, which makes it a great place to spend the afternoon tanning, cooling off with a swim in the ocean water, and enjoying a picnic lunch.

The shelter of the bay helps keep the waters calm at La Jolla Shores beach, so even beginner surfers can rent a board and hit the waves, though there’s not much challenge for experts. Other popular activities during a family filled day at La Jolla Shores include kayaking, paddle boarding, and building sand castles!

The Beautiful Grande Colonial La Jolla Hotel next to the La Jolla Tide Pools
The Beautiful Grande Colonial La Jolla Hotel next to the La Jolla Tide Pools

16) Go on a 2-Hour Guided Segway Tour in La Jolla

If you want to tour the city’s most stunning sights but you don’t want to travel by foot or public transport, try a segway instead. On the 2-Hour Guided Segway Tour, you’ll get to see multiple beaches, landmarks, and other points of interest like shops and coastal estates, including large mansions.

The tour is narrated by an experienced guide, so you can learn about this affluent neighborhood as you travel. This is a great activity suitable for anyone ages 12 and up with an accompanying parent or guardian, and all necessary safety equipment is provided on the tour.

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Menu at Wayfarer Bakery in Bird Rock
Menu at Wayfarer Bakery in Bird Rock

17) Enjoy a Fresh Croissant at the Popular Wayfarer Bread & Pastry

Neighborhood: La Jolla

There’s almost always a line at Wayfarer Bread & Pastry, but just one taste of the delicious baked goods they serve and you’re sure to agree that it’s well worth the wait. This immensely popular bakery is well-beloved by locals and tourists alike, and it’s the perfect place to stop for a morning coffee or afternoon pastry as you tour through La Jolla.

In addition to baked goods, Wayfarer Bread & Pastry also serves pizza in the evenings on specific days and you may need to pre-order. You can pick up a variety of sandwiches and fresh baked breads as well, which make for a great picnic lunch.

Path at the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park
Path at the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park

18) Take a Self-Guided Walking Tour

Looking for a way to explore the city at your own pace but still learn fun facts about various local landmarks? Take the Self-Guided Walking Audio Tour. All you need to enjoy this tour is a phone that can play audio and your own two feet, as the tour comes with a live GPS map detailing a fun and exciting route through the city.

Listen to narration by professional voice artists as you traverse the Coast Walk and Prospect Street. Walkers can look out over the picturesque beaches, admire the neighborhood’s architecture, and learn about the history of the first people in San Diego, the Kumeyaay tribe, and visit Cuvier Park, all while hearing informative tales and local legends.

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Memorial Day at Mount Soledad in La Jolla
Memorial Day at Mount Soledad in La Jolla

19) Pay Your Respects at Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial

Neighborhood: La Jolla

Mt. Soledad is home to a National Veterans Memorial which commemorates the lives and service of thousands of military members. The memorial was dedicated in 1954 as a way to honor San Diego’s extensive military history.

In addition to visiting the memorial, Mt. Soledad also offers spectacular sprawling views of La Jolla and the Pacific Ocean coastline beyond. When skies are clear, you can even see all the way out to Tijuana Mexico in the distance! It’s a great place to take a few pictures or just enjoy the view on a sunny day.

Stairs to La Jolla Sea Cave
Stairs to La Jolla Sea Cave

20) Visit Sunny Jim Sea Cave

Beach: La Jolla Caves Beach

Most of the Seven Sea Caves around La Jolla Caves Beach are only accessible via boat or kayak, but Sunny Jim Sea Cave is unique in that it can be accessed by land. Take a tour of the Sunny Jim Sea Cave to see this stunning natural wonder for yourself, and step right inside the cave which has been carved by the ocean waves over many hundreds of years.

Sunny Jim Sea Cave is accessible via a man-made tunnel that dates all the way back to 1902. The tunnel is said to have originally played a role in bootlegging, so visiting the cave is also like stepping back into San Diego’s history.

Kayak Ride with Go Pass!
La Jolla - 90-Minute Kayak Rental
La Jolla 90-Minute Kayak Rental
When visiting La Jolla, use your Go Pass and hop on a tandem kayak ride! This 90-minute ride from La Jolla Beach takes you on an adventure to see all the area has to offer. Check out the famous seven caves and sea lions while enjoying the SoCal sun!
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Local Tips
What activities does the Go City San Diego pass include?

There’s a variety of activities included with the Go City San Diego pass such as: The San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, LEGOLAND, SeaWorld, Hiking Tours, Whale Watching, Museum Tours, Speed Boat Adventures & more!

For the most popular attractions and water-sport rentals as well as the biggest discounts, consider the All-Inclusive Pass.

Use our exclusive discount code GVSD5OFF to save an extra 5%!

Top Tips for Experiencing the Best Things to Do in La Jolla

Explore one of the most popular neighborhoods in San Diego county, and make your trip truly stand out with these tips for a successful visit to La Jolla.

Arrive at the Beach Early by Staying Nearby

Many beaches in the area such as La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores can get quite busy on warm weekends. For smaller beaches, this can make it hard to find a good spot if you arrive too late.

Consider booking a hotel at one of the best hotels in La Jolla so you can head down to the coast bright and early to make the most of your trip!

Enjoy Live Entertainment in La Jolla

Don’t pass up the opportunity to watch live music and theater performances in La Jolla, which can help you feel more acclimated to local culture. Check out playhouses, theaters, and out-of-the-way venues for a truly authentic look at the neighborhood.

Grab a beer at one of San Diego’s many breweries or have a drink or meal as you’re entertained with live music performed by local talent.

Featured Hotel
Grande Colonial La Jolla
Grande Colonial La Jolla
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Families
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Luxury
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Near Beach
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With a fantastic bar, a relaxing lobby and prime location, experience the charms of this vintage boutique hotel when you stay at Grande Colonial La Jolla.
Prices Starting at $249
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Tours & Adventures
Visit SeaWorld San Diego
Visit SeaWorld San Diego
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Guided La Jolla Sea Cave Kayak Tour
Guided La Jolla Sea Cave Kayak Tour
$144 per 2 people
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