La Jolla: The Jewel of San Diego

Where the undulating landscape of San Diego meets the shimmering blue Pacific lies the community of La Jolla. Often called California’s Côte d’Azur, La Jolla’s scenic coastline offers unrivaled natural beauty—from white sand beaches lined with palm trees to craggy inlets and sandstone cliffs dropping to the sea. The name La Jolla is an adaptation of the Spanish word la joya, which means, “the jewel.” And it’s no wonder; La Jolla truly is a jewel by the sea.

La Jolla’s tony downtown “Village” is the place to go for posh hotels, art galleries, jewelers and cafés. The area centered on Prospect Street and Girard Avenue offers countless opportunities for shopping and fine dining. Upscale national retailers like Ralph Lauren and Armani Exchange sit side-by-side with smaller, local boutiques. There are also many fine restaurants to choose from—for everything from surf & turf to exotic foreign foods like Indian, Thai or Mexican.

Of course La Jolla’s many beaches are a huge part of its allure, each offering something unique. North of the Village is broad, sandy La Jolla Shores. Stretching for just over a mile, it’s perfect for swimming, body surfing or just catching some rays. There’s a grassy park adjacent to the sand with a play area for children and a cement boardwalk that’s great for jogging, cycling or rollerblading too.

To the south is a rocky outcropping that forms La Jolla Cove. The water here is usually very calm and clear. In fact, the area is protected as the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve and offers exceptional opportunities for snorkeling and diving. With visibility reaching up to twenty feet, a variety of marine life can be viewed here, including colorful fish, moray eels, and sometimes even stingrays, bat rays and leopard sharks. If staying above the water is more your thing, kayaking is very popular at the Cove too. Visitors can rent one along Coast Boulevard or take a guided tour to see the Cove’s rugged landscape from a different point of view. There are interesting rock formations and seven sea caves to explore.

Adjacent to La Jolla Cove is the Children’s Pool, a cozy inlet that’s protected from the rough surf by a concrete breakwater. California sea lions and harbor seals have made this their home in recent years, so swimming isn’t advised here anymore. However, you can still find a patch of sand for yourself and watch these lovable creatures up close. There’s a railing along the top of the breakwater, offering overhead views of the lazy animals as they bask in the sun.

Perched on a bluff above La Jolla Cove and the Children’s Pool is Ellen Browning Scripps Park; a wide grassy area dotted with Torrey pines and cypress trees. The park is a great place for a picnic, throwing a Frisbee around or as a place for the sand-phobic to sit back and relax. It’s also one of the best places around to watch the sunset.

Continuing south along the coast you’ll next reach Windandsea Beach, a true surfers’ paradise. Located a little farther away from the tourist crowds, this beach is ideal for those seeking strong waves and incredible surf breaks.

La Jolla is the quintessential California beach town. Beautiful beaches, postcard-perfect vistas and a laid-back yet cosmopolitan lifestyle make La Jolla an ideal vacation destination. In fact, my entire family just spent an amazing week together there and I can’t wait to go return someday soon.

When to go: San Diego has a mild, Mediterranean climate so most of the year the weather is very pleasant. The summer months of July through September are peak season in La Jolla. Year-round high temperatures average between 67°F and 82°F (19°C and 28°C). The weather may be unpredictable in May and June where the fog rolls in (known locally as “May gray” and “June gloom”). However, it usually burns off by late afternoon and there’s nearly always a refreshing sea breeze.

How to get there: To reach La Jolla from downtown San Diego, take I-5 north to the La Jolla Parkway exit. After cresting the hill, the road turns into Torrey Pines Road. To get into downtown La Jolla, turn right onto Prospect Street. If you’re heading south, exit I-5 at La Jolla Village Drive and turn right. Make a left onto Torrey Pines Road, continue along the coast, and then make a right onto Prospect Street.

Here are some more photos of La Jolla:

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Don’t Miss: Climb down 144 steps through a dark, man-made tunnel to reach the “Sunny Jim” sea cave. Located at 1325 Coast Blvd. South [Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 7 days a week. Admission is $4 adults; $3 children].

Don’t Miss: The San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art. Located at 700 Prospect Street. [Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Tuesday. Admission $10 adults; $5 seniors; students under 26 and military (with ID) free.]

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