La Jolla is often referred to as the “Jewel of California.” With its perpetual sunshine, white sand beaches, and aquamarine waters, it’s not hard to see why. The popular tourist destination isn’t just for beach bums, either. La Jolla boasts an eclectic mix of world-class cuisine ranging from street tacos to fine dining, as well as a thriving art and music scene. Here’s how to get the most out of this beach town — all for less than $75 a day.
What to Do Outside
No trip to La Jolla is complete without a day spent at the beautiful La Jolla Cove. With several sandy coves lining this beautiful stretch of coastline, visitors can find clear, calm waters for swimming; peep sunbathing harbor seals; and catch bodysurfers gliding magnificently through the waves. Just know that there are treacherously rocky areas further out from the shoreline, so don’t venture too far from the beach.
If you feel up for the challenge, sign up for a surf lesson at La Jolla Shores beach. Menehune Surf offers hour-long lessons for as low as $50 per person. The price includes everything you need to get started on the big waves, including a board rental, wetsuit, rashguard, an experienced instructor, and the 10 percent City of San Diego surcharge.
Bask in nature and enjoy the fresh Pacific breeze during a gorgeous stroll along the La Jolla Walking Trail. The easy 30-minute walk from La Jolla Shores to La Jolla Cove (or vice versa) offers magnificent views throughout.
Plan your visit to La Jolla on a Sunday, and check out the La Jolla Open Aire Farmers Market between 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Shop for fresh locally grown produce and handicrafts from San Diego-based artists while enjoying the live music and a food court with local vendors from the surrounding area.
What to Do Inside
The La Jolla outpost of the Museum of Contemporary Art features local and internationally renowned artists across all media forms with a revolving schedule of dynamic exhibitions and public programs for visitors. Be sure to soak up the sun at the Sculpture Garden and enjoy the ocean views from the Edwards Garden Gallery. $10 general admission; free every third Thursday of the month.
Music lovers can head to the La Jolla Athenaeum Music and Arts Library, a non-profit library with an extensive collection of sheet music, librettos, artists’ books, and reference material. The Athenaeum hosts a year-round schedule of art exhibits, live musical performances, lectures, and art classes. Entrance is free; special events and performances paid.
Enter the fascinating underwater world full of sharks, living coral reefs, and tropical fish at the world-renowned Birch Aquarium, located on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the interactive exhibits feature more than 60 different marine habitats, including a living tide pool. $17 general admission.
What to Eat
The beautiful oceanviews in downtown La Jolla make it a perfect area to enjoy brunch. You have your pick of the best in casual Southern Californian fare, including the perennial favorite, The Cottage, for crabcake benedicts ($15) and stuffed French toast ($14). Winning award after award, the quality of food and service make this a classic. Another great brunch joint is the unpretentious Cody’s La Jolla, which serves up a delicious lobster roll with all the fixings ($21) and grilled mahi mahi tacos with homemade roasted corn salsa ($15). For something on the healthier side, the tasty Mexican and Asian-inspired menu at Coffee Cup Cafe has a wide range of dishes that will go easy on your waistline but are still packed with flavor. The zen breakfast ($10.50) is an especially flavorful meal, made with marinated grilled tofu and zucchini over a bed of scrambled egg whites and brown rice.
For weekday happy hour specials, head over to the stunning open terrace overlooking the Pacific Ocean at George’s at the Cove — think: $4 pints of beer and $7 cocktails. You can also enjoy reduced prices on several menu items, including the crispy calamari ($7.50) with Meyer lemon aioli sauce.
Of course, no trip to San Diego is complete without a stop at a taco stand for delicious and authentic Mexican food north of the border. Although there’s much debate over which stand serves up the best roadside Mexican food, Don Carlos is consistently on the top of every local’s list. Fresh tacos start at $4 each and burritos will set you back between $5-$8. Try them “wet” for a gut-busting experience.
If you’re looking for something to satisfy your sweet tooth, La Jolla has plenty of choices. For a decadent and luxurious treat, try the amazing half-baked chocolate cake ($10) at Nine-Ten inside the Grande Colonial Hotel. If you need to cool down from the southern California sunshine, order a scoop of fresh, creamy gelato from Bobboi Natural Gelato, where a middle-sized serving of Mediteranneo with hazelnuts and pistachios will set you back $5.50. If you prefer something lighter, you can’t go wrong with the adorably decorated cookies from Girard Gourmet ($2.50-$5) — which can also double as great souvenirs from your time in wonderful, sunny La Jolla.