If you know anything about San Diego, California, you know that a trip to San Diego can easily make up multiple vacations in one. Each neighborhood in San Diego boasts uniqueness and diversity in experiences to be explored.
During spring break, we had the pleasure of visiting La Jolla, a coastal beach town in Northern San Diego with luxury experiences suitable for solo, couple and family travelers.
In this guide, you will learn our best recommendations for how to spend a week in one of San Diego’s most luxurious beach town, La Jolla with kids…or without. Find out where to stay, what to eat and what to do in La Jolla, California on your holiday.
Our Stay At the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines was hosted. However, all thoughts, opinions and photography are my own.
What is La Jolla, California?
La Jolla is a luxury neighborhood in the northern side of San Diego and San Diego county, California. What makes La Jolla so special is the upscale quality and unique beach scenery.
The La Jolla coastlines give stunning views of the Cliffside and Cliffside homes right on the Pacific Ocean. While San Diego is very much a sprawling city next to the ocean, La Jolla surpasses many other coastal destinations with luxury offerings and a much more relaxed and easy going attitude than the city center.
The city is very much culminated by surf and beach culture. La Jolla is a quintessential southern California experience. Travelers can find upscale and thrill seeking experience all within one area.
How Far is La Jolla from San Diego? La Jolla is just 11- miles distance between La Jolla and the city center of San Diego. Vacationers in San Diego County can have easy drivable access to La Jolla and the city of San Diego for a diverse vacation experience that offers a variety of experiences.
Best Hotels in La Jolla: Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines
We had the pleasure of staying at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines which is a stunning luxury property with amazing views of the historic Torrey Pines golf course and the Pacific Ocean via the Torrey Pines State preserve.
This resort does not disappoint. Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines is made up of 394 Guest rooms and 4 stories. Each room offer sweeping views of either the golf course, pool and/or the ocean with a balcony for enjoying the southern California weather year- round.
The resort includes a plethora of amenities to suit the needs of all guests. Although Covid-19 restrictions has affected what is currently available on property (written in March of 2021), Southern California and San Diego County is slowly but surely allowing more amenities and less restrictions both on and near properties in the area.
Some of the amenities including bike rentals, hiking trails to the Torrey Pines state preserve, golfing, a heated pool, on site dining including a Starbucks booth, event rental spaces, a fitness center and spa for guests to enjoy.
While tempting to spend the day on the well- manicured grounds of the property (and you should spend at least some amount of time exploring the grounds), the location of the resort is prime for exploring most attractions within La Jolla.
Each restaurant and attraction that we mention in the sections below were under 10 mins of a drive from the Hotel making for a stress free and no hassle travel experience.
Click HERE to learn more about the resort and current deals!
Attractions in La Jolla, California
La Jolla, California is an outdoor paradise for beach lovers and travelers seeking sea life experiences.
What are the differences between a beach vacation in La Jolla vs San Diego? While the city of San Diego has a ton of attractions both indoor and outdoor to offer, the true difference between San Diego and California Beaches/ Attractions is that La Jolla is more of a sightseeing experience with hands on learning opportunities about marine life and other naturally occurring features.
If you are traveling with children, La Jolla is a great opportunity for learning about science and marine biology while on vacation up close and personal for homeschooling, world schooling or road schooling.
If you are not traveling with children but still enjoy interesting marine life or adventure travel, this is still a great destination for you with a variety of outdoor activities for every budget.
Paragliding in La Jolla at the Historic Torrey Pines Glider Port
The Torrey Pines Glider Port has over 100 years of history and is one of the most historic locations for Hang and Paragliding in the United States. Guests can choose to view Glider Pilots take off and land for free most days out of the year at the Glider Port.
There is a picnic spot available either on the grass or picnic tables that can make for an enjoyable day time experience. Snacks are also available for a small fee at the glider port snack shack.
How much does tandem paragliding cost?
Adventurous travelers can take on tandem paragliding with a trained and certified pilot starting at $175 pp. For an additional fee, the company will record your flight and take photos of your excursion if you wish but a personal go pro is permitted during your flight.
The flight lasts 20-25 minutes but plan to wait for at least half hour prior to your flight as it is on a first come/first served basis.
Fun Fact: Weight is NOT a factor for paragliding. If the winds are at a safe and desirable condition for the day, guests young and old and of any weight can enjoy the adventure of a lifetime. Flights are offered daily from 11am to 5pm weather permitting.
Hang Gliding starts at $225 pp. However, it is only offered occasionally and guests are required to call the morning of their intended flight to confirm that it is available.
Best La Jolla Beaches: La Jolla Cove
La Jolla Cove is located approximately 20 mins from downtown San Diego. If you’re staying in the La Jolla neighborhood, it will likely be no more than 10 mins from your hotel or resort.
What makes La Jolla Cove unique is the picturesque sea caves and cliffs that can be discovered by walking, boat/kayak and/or swimming. It is also abundant in marine life animals for up close and personal discovery.
While the beach itself is not that large, it is connected to the famous Scripps Park which offers a variety of areas for seaside picnics and sightseeing.
What makes Scripps Park Special? Scripps Park was made famous for being the inspiration of the trees in the Lorax By Dr. Seuss.
In this park, guests can see leaning trees that slightly resemble the ones seen in the books and movies. While there is no formal attraction, it is fun to see the inspiration in person.
It is worth spending at least a half day either on the beach for relaxation or discovering the coves and exploring the entire park.
Where to see Sea Lions at La Jolla Cove?
La Jolla Cove is also the Best Place in La Jolla to see Seals and Sea Lions. There is a portion of La Jolla Cove where visitors can step down into the rock formation where the Sea Lions are resting and take an up close and personal look.
While there are no formal restrictions in place regarding how far away from the animals you have to be, It is encouraged that guests avert from disturbing the animals.
Visitors should not touch them and try to remain at a safe distance. Sea Lions and Seals are not vicious by nature but could cause harm if disturbed. There is more than enough room on two levels of the beach to watch them and take pictures at a safe distance.
Why Does La Jolla Cove Smell? Guests who visit La Jolla Cove typically share the same complain…the smell. As you can expect, the smell does come from the marine life in the area.
However, Scientists and Biologists say that Sea Lion Poop plays a vital role in keeping other marine life alive (Source). So, if you can overlook the smell for a couple of minutes to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience, we highly recommend that you do.
Where to Park in La Jolla Cove?
As mentioned above, if you are planning to have lunch first; there is a variety of parking options including a valet service in front of Duke’s that is one $12 for around 5 hours.
However, if you would just like to park near the beach, the parking fills fast and it is recommended to get out there early in the day for close parking. Parking is found on La Jolla Boulevard and by mid-day the parking lot is often full.
Street parking near the beach is typically 2 hours at a time and there are also parking garages with hourly rates as well.
Torrey Pines State Beach and State Reserve Park
The Torrey Pines State Beach and Reserve Park is made up of 1750 acres of preserved nature and wildlife from above the cliff to the beach. There are a wide variety of walking and hiking trails suitable for all abilities that lead down the pristine beaches. Either way you choose to explore, there are stunning views.
Also, if you choose to stay at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines; you will have access to both the reserve and the beach within walking or short driving distance.
Torrey Pines Beach Parking
Parking varies based on day and can range from $10 to $25 per vehicle for all day access or 8am to Sunset.
However, there is free parking just a short walk away along Highway 101. If you don’t have the time to explore the beach, it is still worth driving past the beach for short scenic views in the evening.
La Jolla Covid-19 Restrictions/ San Diego County Travel Restrictions (Updated March 2021)
Requirements across California are very different based on a county level . La Jolla is apart of San Diego County .
- San Diego County is currently in the less restrictive Tier 2 or Red Tier of Reopening
- In San Diego , you will find outdoor dining and limited indoor dining. Masks are mandatory for all common areas. Retail and shopping are operating at 50% indoor capacity
- Starting April 1st, you’ll find that amusement parks are opening at between 15% and 20% capacity
- We stayed in San Diego ( La Jolla) for 4 nights/ 5 days and at no point did we feel unsafe . Everyone was kind, wearing masks and we were able to have A great time with no exception
Bottom Line: We highly recommend adding San Diego to your list for spring break destinations if you feel comfortable and are willing to Adhere to all policies that are currently in place
Best Places to Eat in La Jolla, California
Best Tacos in La Jolla: Puesto La Jolla
Puesto La Jolla is a California based Mexican American restaurant that celebrates traditional Mexican style cuisine with a modern culinary twist.
When we sought out some of the best tacos La Jolla had to offer, we discovered them here. Each dish is a culinary masterpiece brightly colored and flavorful and to tell you the truth, choosing just a few things on the menu to order was such a difficult task because everything looked great.
In the end, we decided on ordering the passion fruit and mango shrimp ceviche and the grilled shrimp bowls. If you love fresh great tasting seafood options, then these selections are perfect for you. Each flavor and ingredient complimented each other well and made for a truly amazing meal.
I also enjoyed a non- alcoholic Agua Fresca called the mango-limon’ and it was everything. Again, so fresh and refreshing. Though non- refillable, I wish they bottled it up for me to take home.
Best Restaurant in La Jolla with an Ocean View: Duke’s La Jolla
If you’ve traveled to Hawaii before then chances are, you’ve heard of how famous Duke’s restaurant is.
Well, the beach town of La Jolla has a franchise of the restaurant and no kidding, Duke’s La Jolla is one of the best restaurants with a view of the ocean in La Jolla. The ocean view at Duke’s is stunning. My best tips are to:
- Include that you want to be seated next to the view in your reservation notes
- Choose a sunset dinner here to enjoy the view.
We had lunch at Duke’s because it was the perfect parking location to park and walk to La Jolla cove just after eating. I enjoyed the crab cakes with jasmine rice and we also ordered a traditional Hawaiian plate with Huli Huli chicken and all the traditional plate fixings.
While delicious, we were shocked by how small the portions especially for the price. Fortunately, it was lunch time and we were planning to explore so a light lunch worked out. Plus, the view and ambiance more than made up for it. We paid for the experience.
BobBoi Natural Gelato
If like us, you planned to explore a bit of La Jolla cove on your trip, then you’re in the perfect location to try Bobboi Natural Gelato to satisfy your sweet tooth.
This authentic Italian gelato shop prides itself of creating healthy and small batch flavors of gelato with decadent and unique flavors. There are a wide variety of flavors that may vary based on the day/week that you visit.
I indulged in the salted caramel and it was delicious. Sweetened to perfection with a rich and creamy texture. We also tried the dark chocolate which was also rich and delicious as you would expect gelato to be.
Some of their more unique flavors are pistachio and dragon fruit to name a few.
The Farmer and Seahorse
The Farmer and Seahorse is a luxury farm to table dining experience in Torrey Pines. The menu offers a variety of fresh and high quality ingredient meals and offers one of the best outdoor dining experiences in La Jolla.
If you choose to visit La Jolla during the pandemic, you will be pleased to know that the patio not only allows for proper social distancing but only adds to the experience.
Guests can visit the restaurant for breakfast, lunch and brunch and if I’m being honest, you should visit for all 3 courses if your schedule allow. We had the opportunity to visit for lunch and my husband and I still consistently rave that we ate the BEST Caesar salad we have ever had in our lives.
Their Caesar salad is fresh cut greens with house made Caesar dressing and cured egg yoke. You can pair the salad with a perfectly cooked steak, chicken or salmon filet.
The quality was to perfection and If you try nothing else on the menu, this should be your pick. They also have a variety of other offerings to choose from.
Based on what we heard from others, you truly can’t go wrong from anything on the menu.
Is The Farmer and Seahorse Kid Friendly?
Although upscale, the restaurant is still one of the best La Jolla kid friendly restaurants. On either side of the outdoor patio, there are open green spaces for children to play as well as a few outdoor games when available.
The Cottage La Jolla
The Cottage is a quaint little restaurant that easily serves as the Best La Jolla Brunch experience in the area.
Breakfast and Brunch are served from 7am to 3pm each day and the waitlist is representative of how good the brunch is. You can expect a twist on some classics like their stuffed brioche French toast which is divine!
Another crowd favorite is the lemon ricotta pancakes and assortment of omelets. My best recommendation for those who want to dine here is to get on the wait list as early as possible.
The wait list opens the day that you desire to dine on yelp at 7:30 am. It is best to be waiting to get on that wait list as it opens. The good thing is that your spot on the wait list is rolling.
If you do not show up early at your designated time, you will just get moved down on the list instead of being removed. The brunch is well worth the wait so be sure to make the list for your intended day.