La Jolla Cove Tips from a San Diego Expert

La jolla seal on rocks 1

A beloved landmark of both San Diego natives and visitors alike, the La Jolla Cove is home to more than Southern California’s millionares, it’s home to a large colony of Harbor Seals and California Sea Lions. Visitors can watch these animals and even swim with them at all times of the year.

Here, I’ve compiled what you need to know before you visit so you can make the most of the most visible group of seals on the California coast.

1. Finding Elusive Free Parking

If you’ve ever been anywhere in California, you know that parking is always a nightmare! What is the key, you ask? PATIENCE.

… and this map where I’ve circled your destination and highlighted the lesser known parking spots. You’re welcome.

2. Snorkel in the Swimming Spots

La Jolla momma seal on rock

There are 2 main locations in La Jolla Cove for swimming, scuba diving, or snorkeling; the Children’s Pool Beach and the Cove itself. Children’s Pool is much less crowded, but there is a lot more seaweed to wade through.

My usual swimming spot is in the cove. It is shallow enough to walk into most of the way. You only need to get about 10 feet out into the water before you can look down and see bright orange Garibaldi fish, green sea bass, and if you’re lucky, a seal!

If you need it, rent snorkel gear from one of the shops near La Jolla Shores for about $10/ day.

3. Find the La Jolla Cove Caves

Cave #1: To the left of the cove beach stairs, there is a little cave entrance that usually goes unnoticed. Take off your shoes and clamber over the rocks out onto the other side where you’ll find lots of crabs and shallow pools of water that the smaller seals play in less than five feet away from your toes. If you go late at night, you might even be able to find an octopus.

Cave #2: (video below) From the Cove, walk uphill along Coast Blvd. until you reach The Cave Store. Turn left in front of the store and follow the dirt trail to the stairs. Go towards your right on the rocks and climb your way down (no more stairs) until you reach the smooth rocks below. The tide can get really high over here so be more cautious.

4. Explore the Secluded Spot

During San Deigo’s perpetual summer weather, you might get overwhelmed with the sheer number of people there. If so, try one of these two spots within walking distance much further away from the crowds. La Jolla Beach is sandy and fairly secluded, perfect for lounging and reading.

Directions: keep walking to the other side of Cuvier Park (fair warning, it is a trek from the cove) you’ll make it to the tide pools. It is rockier but has lots of rock alleyways to explore with tons of sea anemones and crabs. The tide is a little stronger at these two spots but still completely manageable if you want to swim.

Wind and Sea Beach panorama

5. End the Day with Gelato

After tiring yourself out from swimming and lounging in the sun, walk up Girard Avenue to visit Bobboi Natural Gelato. Their staff is incredibly patient and will let you try tons of flavors before deciding. Our favorites are the charcoal vanilla and fresh strawberry. We’re usually pretty sensitive to dairy, but we never feel wonky after having this gelato because of their fresh, natural ingredients.

Bobboi gelato La Jolla

The real key to visiting La Jolla Cove is expecting that it will be crowded (unless you go on a Tuesday morning, in which case, tell me where you work so I can have mid-week vacations too).

Be flexible with your plans, consider going to the La Jolla Shores if it’s too crowded. Be prepared for multiple activities to give yourself enough to do for the day. Enjoy the sunshine and seals!

If you’re looking for more San Diego activities, check this out!

La Jolla Cove Pinterest Graphic

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  1. Brianna on June 10, 2020 at 6:54 pm

    La Jolla looks amazing! I would love to snorkel there and see the fish and seals. Great post and information, especially with how to get free parking there.

    • Megan on June 12, 2020 at 10:22 pm

      Totally worth a visit any time you’re down in Southern California!

  2. Margarida Vasconcelos on June 10, 2020 at 7:31 pm

    Ohh I have never heard about this place, thanks for sharing.

  3. Rachel Ennis on June 10, 2020 at 7:33 pm

    Always end on gelato, I say. Thanks for sharing such meaningful tips. Especially about parking! I can tell you really know the secrets here!

    • Megan on June 12, 2020 at 10:19 pm

      Parking becomes a skill when you live in California haha!

  4. Bolupe on June 11, 2020 at 4:18 pm

    Thanks for this local guide of La Jolla Cove and for sharing the insider’s tips like swimming in the children’s pool because it is less crowded. It will be lovely to see a seal and my girls will absolutely love it.

    • Megan on June 12, 2020 at 10:17 pm

      thanks for reading! It can get really crowded during the summer so it’s good to know the alternative spots!

  5. Jiayi Wang on June 12, 2020 at 6:04 pm

    I would love to go snorkeling here! The seals are super cute too 🙂

    • Megan on June 12, 2020 at 10:15 pm

      it’s so much fun! Super clear most days!

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