La Jolla (pronounced: La HOY-yah) is an upscale beach neighborhood of 48,000 people (2010) in San Diego that, while part of the city, is often viewed as its own distinct community. La Jolla is home to the University of California, San Diego campus, beautiful beaches, and gorgeous scenery. Fans of brutalist architecture will not want to miss two of the world's most significant works in that style, the Geisel Library at UCSD and the Salk Institute.
- 1 La Jolla Village Information Center, 1162 Prospect St, ☏ +1 858-454-5718. Daily 10AM-6PM (summer); daily 11AM-4PM (winter).
La Jolla is off the I-5 freeway, north of downtown San Diego and Pacific Beach. There are several ways to get there:
- La Jolla Parkway to Torrey Pines Road from I-5 North (there is no exit to La Jolla Parkway from southbound I-5) or westbound State Route 52
- Northbound Mission Boulevard and La Jolla Boulevard from Pacific Beach
- Southbound Torrey Pines Road from Del Mar
- Westbound La Jolla Village Drive to southbound Torrey Pines Road from southbound or northbound I-5. La Jolla Village Drive from I-5 can also get you to University City (east), or UCSD (west).
By public transit
San Diego's public transit outfit, the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS), operates a small hub of bus routes at the UTC shopping mall in University City. Route 30 serves the La Jolla village, connecting to Pacific Beach and Old Town to the south (as well as Downtown on weekdays) and UCSD and UTC to the east, stopping within walking distance of many of La Jolla's attractions, such as the Cove and the Birch Aquarium. North County Transit District's Route 101 serves UTC and UCSD and runs north on Torrey Pines Road and up the coast of Northern San Diego County, connecting to Torrey Pines State Park and other destinations around there.
When you're in the La Jolla "village" area (near the Cove), the best way to get around is not to drive. This area is dense enough that you can easily walk, bike, or roller skate around the neighborhood. Plus, parking can get a little difficult to find, so once you get a spot you might not want to risk losing it.
For the areas of La Jolla outside the "village", such as around UCSD or Torrey Pines, a car will be the easiest way to get around due to the distances and hilly terrain of the surrounding area.
- 1 Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, 1008 Wall St, ☏ +1 858-454-5872. Tu Th-Sa 10AM-5:30PM, W 10AM-8:30PM, closed Sundays and Mondays. A nonprofit, membership library which sponsors art exhibitions, concerts, lectures, and art classes. Free.
- 2 Birch Aquarium at Scripps, 2300 Expedition Way, ☏ +1 858-534-3474. Daily 9AM-5PM. The public center for the renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography (of University of California, San Diego), this aquarium has many fantastic exhibits, with oceanic species from all over the Pacific Ocean displayed, as well as sharks, a tide pool, a large kelp tank, and a coral reef (with actual living coral). The museum also has some spectacular views of the ocean and La Jolla as well as some nifty tide pools where you can touch tide-pool animals. $17 adults, $14 teens, $13 seniors, $12.50 children, $12 students, free for children age 2 and under.
- 3 The Cave Store, 1325 Coast Blvd, ☏ +1 858-459-0746. Built on top of a sea cave, this gift shop offers tours of a small cavern open to the ocean. $5 adults, $3 children 16 and under.
- 4 Children's Pool Beach, 850 Coast Blvd (near La Jolla Cove). This beach is a favorite breeding spot for harbor seals. The beach is closed Dec 15-May 15 during breeding season, but you can still observe the seals from a safe distance. This beach used to be the children's beach, and there is an ongoing dispute between animal rights supporters and others who disagree about who should own the beach. Depending on the current turn of events, swimming may or may not be permitted. Occasionally, the seals vanish, but move a few hundred feet to the right, close to the cove itself.
- 5 Mount Soledad. A prominent landmark just to the east of La Jolla, overlooking much of San Diego. The top of the mountain is adorned by the Mount Soledad Easter Cross and Veterans Memorial. It is home to many rabbits and couples. Sunrise and sunset are the two favorite times to go here. The twisty roads leading to the hill are full of plant life and give access to multimillion dollar hobbit homes which look much smaller from the street than from down below, as they are on a sloping hill. There are a few hairpin turns and tight bridges that are worth finding.
- 6 Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego La Jolla, 700 Prospect St, ☏ +1 858-454-3541. Th 11AM-7PM, F-Tu 11AM-5PM, closed Wednesdays. Permanent and changing contemporary art exhibits. $10 adults, $5 students/seniors, military/age 25 and under free.
- 7 Salk Institute of Biological Studies, 10010 N Torrey Pines Rd, ☏ +1 858-453-4100. Near UCSD is this architectural monolith; the structure for this noted institution is built out of unfinished concrete and perched atop the cliffs overlooking the ocean. It is one of famed modernist Louis Kahn's most important works. Two symmetrical buildings stare at each other across a courtyard, the length of which runs a wide river which reverses into a pool and, through a small waterfall, down towards the dining hall seating area. The building is surrounded by a moat, and sports orange trees in the courtyard. In addition, many doors are deliberately unlabeled to encourage scientific exploration. The Salk gives tours, but you must schedule them (they are early in the morning).
- 8 University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr, ☏ +1 858-534-2230. A combination of a small liberal arts college and a large research university, UCSD has a good reputation locally and offers some interesting sights. You can take a walk around the campus and observe a number of famous artworks and architectural structures.
- Be sure to see the 9 Geisel Library, named for the noted author Theodore Geisel (you may know him as Dr. Seuss!) This library is truly outstanding and looks a bit like a giant UFO. Seeing it at dusk is preferable, when the lights are on and the spaceship look is complete. On one side of the library, a sidewalk paved to look like a giant snake brings you down to a sculpture of a book. The floors in the library are quieter as you go higher up, with almost zero tolerance for noise on the eighth floor. The building's design was used for the snow fortress set at the end of the 2010 science fiction film Inception.
- Also look for some of the campus artwork, such as 10 "Stonehenge", which is a realistic sculpture of stonehenge, and the 11 SunGod statue, which is bright, flamboyant and huge, but somehow camouflaged in a dark lawn.
- There's also a Che Cafe and Porter's Pub, which should entertain some amount of counterculture. Next to Porter's Pub there's an outside glass blowing facility attached to a coffee shop, so you can sip coffee while watching people blowing glass. Adjacent to that is a blacksmith and pottery workshop.
- UCSD also has many food joints, dining halls and restaurants that are open to the public. Be sure to hop into the Price Center, which is very close to the Geisel Library and Gilman Drive. There you will find a Burger King, a Subway, Round Table Pizza, Bombay Coast, Rubio's and more.
- UCSD offers tours for prospective students Monday through Saturday, as well as visitor tours most Sundays.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
12 Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, 12600 North Torrey Pines Rd, ☏ +1 858-755-2063. Gates open at 7:15AM and close at sunset. Visitor center 9AM-6PM summer, 10AM-4PM fall-spring. Interpretive nature walks leave the visitor center at 10AM and 2PM on weekends and holidays.. No bikes, dogs, food and beverages allowed. If you walk into the park, it’s free. Otherwise, parking fees are $10 (winter) or $12 (summer) per car M-Th, and $12 (winter) or $15 (summer) per car F-Su and holidays.
A 2000-acre reserve consisting of a plateau with steep cliffs overlooking small canyons and the beautiful Torrey Pines State Beach. There are a number of hiking and beach-access trails, and a variety of wild flora and fauna, including the rare Torrey Pine tree, for which the park is named. There's also a wide variety of animals. Rabbits, foxes, raccoons, coyotes, hawks, hummingbirds, and owls are all a part of the landscape, so sightings are common -- especially as sunset approaches. From agave and freesia, to sage and strand, visitors will also see plenty of wildflowers and plant life along the way.
There is a visitors center with a small museum on top of the plateau. Here you can pick up a map, check out a few exhibits, and gather any information that you may need before preparing for a hike down to the beach. The hike down from the visitor center offers excellent views of the ocean, but there are several other trails, such as the Broken Hill Trail, leading to the beach also with great views of the ocean - if you're lucky, you may spot Gray Whales in the winter or bottlenose dolphins. The beach itself is at the base of scenic cliffs and is excellent for swimming. It is also one of the least crowded beaches in the area, and is also great for picnics, walking, and relaxing.
- 1 Torrey Pines Gliderport, 2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Dr, ☏ +1 858-452-9858. Learn to hang glide.
- 2 La Jolla Cove, 1100 Coast Blvd. A very popular beach for swimming, scuba diving and snorkeling, set against beautiful sea cliffs. The bluffs above the beach are grassy, making a great spot for picnics. Keep in mind that La Jolla Cove is part of the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, so fishing, scavenging, or "swimming devices" (surfboards, boogie boards, inflatable mattresses, etc.) are not allowed. You may also find a very large number of sea-birds and animals flying, walking and lazing around the area in the daytime.
- 3 Windansea Beach, in south La Jolla. This beach has no facilities, but is notable for playing host to a great number of talented and famous surfers. The simple "Surf Shack" structure there has been designated a historic landmark. There are huge, smoothly sculpted rocks on this beach that are fun to climb on and look at.
- 4 Marine Street Beach, in south La Jolla. A local beach with some rough and dangerous surf. This is a great spot for body surfing and body boarding. No facilities are available here.
- 5 La Jolla Shores. In north La Jolla, this beach has some of the gentlest waves of any beach in San Diego. The beach is notable for being near the Scripps Institution of Oceanography campus and it contains the Scripps Pier. This is one of the only beach boat launching areas in La Jolla, so it's a popular spot for kayaking and surfing.
- 6 Black's Beach, in north La Jolla just below Torrey Pines State Park. Set against high cliffs, Black's Beach is the largest nude beach in the country. There are two parts of the beach. There is the southern part in the City of San Diego, where nudity is not allowed (although this rule is rarely enforced), and the northern part in Torrey Pines State Park, where clothing is purely optional. Black's Beach has one of the most powerful beach breaks in Southern California, making it a popular, but dangerous, surfing spot. To get down to the beach, you have three options. First, you can walk from La Jolla Shores, which is a long stretch. Second, you can go to the Gliderport and take a breathtaking path on the side of the cliff that goes straight down. Don't come in high heels, although it's a safe enough path for surfers to run by you with their surfboards. The top is a great spot to watch the sunset! Third, you can drive along the cliffs north from the Gliderport. Park in the last allowable spot, and take another breathtaking path down. The second path is less beautiful but takes you farther towards the unexplored parts of the beach. The second path forks at the very bottom of the cliff. If you take the fork, which goes into the canyon, you will arrive via a twisty path at the bottom of a hidden waterfall which is home to hummingbirds. It's a few hundred feet in and well worth the walk. The full moon drum circle goes on here each month. Look for it on a rainbowgathering website. It starts at dawn and goes till dusk. People bring tents and sleeping bags, though most go back up the cliffs. This is a no alcohol event, but feel free to bring wood, a drum, juice and a trashbag to clean up.
- 7 Torrey Pines State Beach, north of La Jolla. Stretched along Torrey Pines State Park and set against gorgeous cliffs, this beach is one of the most beautiful around. A salt marsh at the north end of the beach empties into the ocean. The beach is also a popular one for surfing and body boarding.
- 8 Torrey Pines Golf Course, 11480 North Torrey Pines Rd, ☏ +1 858-452-3226. A stunning seaside public golf course noted for hosting the PGA Tour Farmers Insurance Open every January or February.
- 9 La Jolla Country Club, 7301 High Ave, ☏ +1 858-454-9601.
There are high-end shops and art galleries along Prospect Place and Girard Streets in downtown La Jolla.
- 1 Westfield UTC (formerly University Towne Center), 4545 La Jolla Village Dr (just east of La Jolla, in University City), ☏ +1 858 546-8858. M-F 10AM-9PM, Sa 10AM-8PM, Su 11AM-7PM (individual store hours vary). An outdoor shopping mall just outside of La Jolla, in the University City area. Basically anything you'd find in your average suburban shopping mall with the addition of an ice skating rink, called Ice Town.
- 1 Brockton Villa, 1235 Coast Blvd, ☏ +1 858-454-7393. M 8AM-3PM, Tu-Su 8AM-9PM. Well known for their breakfast and lunch menus. $12-$25.
- 2 Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, 8970 University Center Ln, adjacent to the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine, ☏ +1 858-535-0078. For when you are feeling laissez-faire with the credit card and want some filet mignon or ribeye.
- 3 Marketplace Grille, 1030 Torrey Pines Rd, ☏ +1 858-456-9576. M-Sa 11AM-9PM, Su 11AM-8PM. Lebanese grill with kebabs and salmon bowls, etc. $10-20 (Feb 2023).
- 4 Shores Restaurant, 8110 Camino del Oro, in the La Jolla Shores Hotel (on the corner of Avenida de la Playa and Camino del Oro), ☏ +1 858-456-0600. Daily 9AM-8PM. Offering seasonal cuisine, oceanfront views and a great selection of wines. Delicious American comfort food.
- 1 Orli La Jolla, 7753 Draper Ave, ☏ +1 858-727-2776. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Boutique hotel with kombucha and comfortable rooms and suites. $210-459.
- 2 Embassy Suites San Diego-La Jolla, 4550 La Jolla Village Dr, ☏ +1 858-453-0400. All-suites hotel. $200-300.
- 3 Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine, 3777 La Jolla Village Dr. Sitting on 11 acres, 419 remodeled rooms, spacious VIP suites, wireless high-speed Internet, and 32,000 square feet of flexible function space. $150-300.
- 4 The Shoal La Jolla Beach, 6750 La Jolla Boulevard, ☏ +1-858-454-0716, [email protected]. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM.
- 5 Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa, 9700 N Torrey Pines Rd, ☏ +1 858-550-1000. A rancho style conference and vacation resort located adjacent to the University of California at San Diego. $200-350.
- 6 Grande Colonial Hotel, 910 Prospect St, toll-free: +1-888-530-5766. A landmark, historic hotel overlooks the shores of the Pacific Ocean and ideally located just steps away from the beach. $200-650.
- 7 Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines, 10950 North Torrey Pines Rd, ☏ +1 858-558-1500. Bluff-top Hilton hotel overlooking the famous Torrey Pines golf course.
- 8 La Valencia, 1132 Prospect St, ☏ +1 858-454-0771. Check-in: 4 PM, check-out: 11 AM. Historic Spanish-style luxury hotel built in 1926, famed for its views of the La Jolla Cove and its Sunday brunch. $240-650.
- 9 The Lodge at Torrey Pines, 11480 N Torrey Pines Rd, ☏ +1 858-453-4420. Rustic alpine-style hotel adjacent to the PGA Championship Torrey Pines Golf Corse. This is a high-end resort and spa. The A. R. Valentien restaurant, named for the California artist, overlooks the 18th hole of the Torrey Pines golf course. Works by Valentien are on exhibit throughout the dining room. $400-650.
- 10 Residence Inn La Jolla, 8901 Gilman Dr, ☏ +1 858-587-1770. A very pleasant suite-style hotel. It is in a quiet area of La Jolla, very close to the University of California at San Diego. The rooms are spacious, with full kitchens. It includes a pool and hot tubs located close to the rooms. There are BBQ grills in the small common patio between the buildings. Within walking distance there is a nice shopping center with several restaurants and grocery stores. Free high speed internet access. $250-280.
- 2 San Diego Public Library La Jolla Branch, 7555 Draper Ave (between Silver and Pearl Streets), ☏ +1 858-552-1657. M Th-Sa 9:30AM-6PM, Tu W 11:30AM-8PM, Su 12:30PM-5PM. Free WiFi available.
- 3 San Diego Public Library North University Branch, 8820 Judicial Dr (just off Nobel Dr), ☏ +1 858-581-9637. M Th-Sa 9:30AM-6PM, Tu W 11:30AM-8PM, Su 12:30PM-5PM. Free WiFi available.
- 4 San Diego Public Library University Community Branch, 4155 Governor Dr, ☏ +1 858-552-1655. M Th F 9:30AM-6PM, Tu W 11:30AM-8PM, Sa 9:30PM-3PM, Su closed. Free WiFi available.
- Pacific Beach lies just to the south, on the coast.
- Del Mar is to the north, past Torrey Pines State Park.