La Jolla is an affluent coastal community in San Diego County, but there’s so much more to this tiny treasure than the glitz and glamour of the main drag. The rugged coastline is home to world-class scientific research facilities at UC San Diego, the Salk Institute, and Scripps Institute of Oceanography.
The sandy beaches, rocky shoreline, and coastal caves are a revelation for geology buffs… but the beautiful beaches here also offer excellent opportunities for sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling. Amazing restaurants line the streets and there are endless tiny shops and galleries to explore. This upscale destination is an amazing weekend getaway that’s definitely worth the drive.
The southern California coastal paradise stands in sharp contrast to beaches closer to home. The change of scenery is worth the 500-mile drive to this beautiful little enclave in San Diego County. Take I-80 E toward Bay Bridge/Oakland and then use the right three lanes to take the I-580 E exit toward CA-24/Hayward/Stockton. Continue on I-580 E for 45 miles and use the right two lanes to take the I-580 exit toward I-5 S/Fresno/Los Angeles. Continue on I-580 E for 16 miles and then I-5 S for about 225 miles until you reach the fork. Stay left to continue on I-5 S. The highway will fork three more times and you’ll stay to the left every time to remain on I-5S toward LA. You may hit heavy traffic around this stretch of highway, but you’re oh-so-close. You’ll be relaxing on the beach before you know it. Follow signs for CA-60 E/Pomona/I-5 S/Soto St/Santa Ana. You’ll follow all signage to continue straight down I-5 S until you see exit 28 for La Jolla Village Dr. Exit here and use the right two lanes to make a right onto La Jolla Village Dr. Just over half-a-mile later, you’ll stay to the left to turn onto Torrey Pines Rd, which will lead you to Girard Ave in the center of town.
Redwood Hollow Cottages are available to rent by the day, week, or even month. These adorable bungalows are nestled along winding paths teeming with flora. Each is uniquely and beautifully furnished. Many of the cottages have a terrace or balcony with views of the ocean, and some include a fully-equipped kitchen. All rooms have bathrooms, and laundry and BBQ facilities are located on the property. The location is amazing – the beach is just steps away, and you’ll be able to walk nearly everywhere you need to go.
The Pantai Inn is a luxury property with Balinese-inspired rooms for the traveler who wants to feel pampered. Located in the heart of downtown and just a one-minute walk from the beach, you’ll be right in the center of paradise. All rooms feature Indonesian artwork, well-equipped contemporary kitchens, and spectacular views. Turn-down service includes lighting the fireplace and complementary coffee, tea, water, cookies, and more! Breakfast can be served to your room and limited spa service are available upon request.
The La Jolla Inn is a moderately-price property only three minutes on foot from the beach. The sunny terrace has ocean views and concierge services are available. The rooms are spacious and clean with comfy beds and free wi-fi. The hotel provides bike rentals to guests and the friendly, knowledgeable staff are happy to point you in the right direction! La Jolla Cove is just steps away. This is a fantastic value in a stellar location.
No visit to Southern California would be complete without a stop at this Tijuana-style taco joint. The space is small and crowded with locals, but the food is incredible. Grab a few carne asada tacos, elote, chips and fresh salsa to enjoy at a table or on one of the benches outside. Wash it all down with a sweet, creamy horchata or an ice-cold brew. Open at 9 am daily through 9 pm most days with extended hours on Friday and Saturday (closing at 10).
The Green Door Café is a cozy little spot with a breezy, eclectic dining area that dishes up fresh, healthy California cuisine at moderate prices. Stop in for lunch or dinner Wednesday through Sunday. The menu is heavy on vegan and vegetarian fare, plus gluten-free desserts – though one bite of the brownie and you won’t miss the wheat! The Bombay curry burger is an unexpected delight and the sides are amazing.
Eddie V’s Prime on Prospect Street is a world-class fine dining experience that you’ll cherish forever. Book a table at sunset to enjoy breathtaking views with your meal. It’s difficult to make a recommendation from the menu because there’s no wrong choice. From the flaky parmesan sole to the decadent truffle mac and cheese to the melt-in-your-mouth filet… it’s like a taste of Heaven. Not in the mood for a meal? Enjoy craft cocktails in the lounge with live jazz playing every night at 6.
La Jolla Cove is hands-down the best spot in San Diego for swimming, diving, and snorkeling. Seals and sea lions frolic in a protected area and beautiful walking paths wind down to the public beach. Explore tiny caves and tide pools, stroll along the cliffs, or wade into the crashing waves. The beach here can be crowded in peak season since it’s an easy stroll from the hustle and bustle of downtown. Visit off-season when the weather is overcast to enjoy the solitude and watch the dramatic waves crash over the rocky shoreline.
Birch Aquarium is located at the world-renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Perched on the cliffs above the sea, the intimate aquarium has live tanks and tide pools that feature over 60 types of wildlife indigenous to the Pacific Ocean. There is also a museum with thought-provoking educational exhibits about ecology and oceanography. The facility here does amazing work, and it’s well worth your time to engage with the knowledgeable volunteers to enhance your experience. Small enough for a half-day visit, but too important to overlook.
Girard Avenue and Prospect Street are the main thoroughfares in La Jolla and a stroll through town is certainly an experience. Don’t be surprised when a Bugatti cruises by – abundance rules in this part of San Diego, but the shops and galleries are beautiful, and browsing is always free. Stop into Brick and Bell to indulge in a sweet treat or a rich espresso, sign up for an impromptu yoga class, or buy gifts for the kids at Geppettos, an amazing toy store.
Jonas Salk was a medical researcher virologist who developed one of the first successful polio vaccines. His discoveries in medicine changed the course of history. The mission of the Salk Institute is to continue his groundbreaking work in neuroscience, biology, virology, genetics, and more. Visitors are welcome every weekend between 8:30 am and 5:30 pm. Hour-long guided architecture tours are available daily at noon and guests are encouraged to drop in on the Meet-a-Scientist talks. Enjoy an intimate, informative chat with a Salk research scientist Monday, Wednesday, or Friday at 11:30.
Mt. Soledad National Veteran’s Memorial is unique in that it honors veterans both living and deceased of every American conflict since the Revolutionary War. Built in 1954, the memorial features a 27’ white cross surrounded by 11 curved walls that show the faces and tell the stories of individuals who served in every war from all branches of the US military. It’s a solemn location and an important reminder of the sacrifices made by the living as well as those who gave their lives for our freedom.