Part of the reason why I write this site is to familiarize people with La Jolla, California who otherwise might not be aware of what or where it is. Here, I’ll highlight why our seaside community makes an excellent base for a San Diego family vacation and sprinkle in fun facts that even residents may not know.
The frequently asked questions below are ones that I repeatedly get from readers, customer service agents, and people who raise an eyebrow when I mention where I live. I first moved to La Jolla to attend UC San Diego, so I have been answering these questions for nearly three decades. However, when researching this post, I unearthed some new-to-me tidbits.
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How do you pronounce La Jolla?
Before we go any further, La Jolla is pronounced La-HOY-a. Our mail can be a wreck with misspelling at times so to prevent this, I spell out La Jolla every time I verbally give out my address.
What does La Jolla mean?
The meaning of La Jolla is slightly complicated to explain. Residents will tell you that La Jolla means “The Jewel” in Spanish. It is a pretty affluent town surrounded by sparkling blue, clear ocean, which makes this explanation entirely appropriate. In fact, “The Jewel” is the most widely accepted La Jolla meaning.
But, jewel or gem in Spanish is joya. So, maybe the spelling of jolla evolved because you pronounce a double “l” like a “y” in Spanish.
Or, maybe that’s entirely wrong. One theory stems way back to the Kumeyaay indigenous people who were here long before Spanish settlers. The Kumeyaay called the area mat kulaaxuuy (which translates to land of holes — possibly due to our sea caves). It’s thought that the Spanish translated mat kulaaxuuy into La Jolla. How? I’m not entirely sure. Neither is anyone else.
Is La Jolla, California a city?
No, La Jolla is part of the City of San Diego.
The California Coastal Act designates La Jolla, California as a special community due to its importance as a visitor destination and likely due to the world-renowned institutions like UC San Diego and the Salk Institute that call it home.
The final line of my mailing address is La Jolla, CA 92037 instead of San Diego, CA 92037 (though my mail would arrive just fine in either case) because of this.
However, many La Jollans feel that we should be our own city. It’s complicated — and I see both sides of the argument — but that’s a topic for another day.
What county is La Jolla in?
The City of San Diego is a part of San Diego County. This means that La Jolla, California is in San Diego County.
Where is La Jolla, California located?
La Jolla, California coastline includes 7 miles of beach starting at Pacific Beach on the south and ending at the Del Mar border on the north side. At least, this is the most widely accepted demarcation.
The Pacific Ocean obviously borders La Jolla on the west but the eastern boundary (and sometimes the northern boundary) gets a little muddy.
The City of San Diego defines the eastern border as roughly Gilman Drive and the I-5. They also call UC San Diego the northern boundary. I think that it’s widely accepted that Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and some surrounding areas north of the university are in La Jolla because they fall in La Jolla zip codes.
According to the U.S. Postal Service, you can use La Jolla, CA as your postal address in zip codes 92037, 92038, 92039, 92092, and 92093. This is the border criteria that I use on this site. I believe that if your postal address says La Jolla, that you or your business are legitimately in La Jolla.
However, because we are not technically our own city, court rulings allow businesses east of the 1-5 freeway to use La Jolla in their names, even though they reside in San Diego zip codes. The rulings cite that La Jolla is “a state of mind” with undefined boundaries.
How far is La Jolla from San Diego?
When people ask how far La Jolla is from San Diego, they’re usually talking about the time it takes to arrive from the airport or perhaps from a downtown San Diego hotel.
La Jolla is 12 miles north of downtown San Diego. La Jolla to San Diego drive time depends on whether you hit any traffic, which there can be during rush hour, and where exactly in La Jolla you are headed to. From San Diego International Airport to La Jolla Cove, the drive time should take 20 minutes.
I can see downtown San Diego and watch planes take off and land from my backyard as we’re on a hill called Mount Soledad. It takes me about 25 minutes to get to the airport from my house.
What is La Jolla weather like?
The temperature in La Jolla ranges from 50°F to 77°F throughout the year. It rarely dips below 44°F or exceeds 85°F (it does during seasonal Santa Ana winds). We have a pretty mild Mediterranean-like climate. I know, it’s pretty awesome.
There really isn’t a bad time of year to visit La Jolla, California though some months are better than others. I go into more detail on this topic in my article about the best time of year to visit San Diego. My favorite La Jolla weather months are July — September after our seasonal May gray and June gloom cloud cover disappears.
Our winters aren’t too bad either. I will say that coastal Southern California grinds to a halt when it rains because it’s so rare. In my house, there’s usually a mad scramble during the first rain to figure out where the umbrellas are stored. On the flip side, we rarely run the air conditioning or heating in our house because the temperature stays pretty mild, though there are always a handful of days when we need to.
Visitors from the north and east revel in our December beach weather. However, you couldn’t get most locals to stick a toe in the ocean without a wetsuit.
What is it like to live in La Jolla?
In my opinion, La Jolla is down-to-earth relative to similar affluent communities in the nation. According to Zillow, the median home value at the time of this writing is $1,722,004. From funky (multi-million dollar) beach shacks to condo complexes to custom estates, you see a little bit of everything here housing-wise.
It’s not uncommon to see someone look like they’ve just emerged from the Neiman Marcus catalog, but most people in my world spend the day in Lululemon and other casual wear. It’s a small community so we’re likely to see someone we know every time we run errands in the Village.
We very rarely need to leave La Jolla for essentials, dining, and other conveniences. Everything from housewares to kids’ clothing to surfboards is available in our four main areas: the Village of La Jolla (our downtown), La Jolla Shores, and Bird Rock.
Alfresco dining is popular (with heat lamps in the winter) at La Jolla restaurants as are sustainable, farm-to-table menus that will knock your socks off. We have some of the best restaurants in San Diego and because some are within walking distance of each other, a fun happy hour hop is highly recommended. They’re all kid-friendly.
Sure, there’s family money and internet millionaires, but most people work hard to live and raise their kids here.
Do any celebrities live in La Jolla?
Yes, but many like to fly below the radar. Famous people that have called La Jolla home or have homes in La Jolla include the below.
- The most famous person to call La Jolla home is the late Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel. His wife, Audrey Geisel, lived here and continued their long string of philanthropy projects until her death a few years ago.
- Mitt Romney owns a beach house (a friend of mine recently spotted him at Costco shopping like a regular guy).
- John McCain owned a home.
- Sally Ride, the former astronaut, lived in La Jolla until she passed away in 2012.
- Raquel Welch grew up here and earned beauty titles such as “Miss La Jolla” and “Miss San Diego”.
- Robin Crosby and Warren DeMartini from the band Ratt went to La Jolla High School (my husband would like me to lob this in).
- Alicia Keys bought the famous Razor House.
- Robin Wright Penn attended La Jolla High School.
- NFL quarterback Doug Flutie makes his home in La Jolla (not too far from me).
I hesitate to give this a headline but people also ask where the Kardashians stay in La Jolla, California. I know that they have stayed at La Valencia Hotel and have been photographed at The Lodge at Torrey Pines. Why? Well, Kris Jenner’s mother, M.J. Shannon lived here for quite some time.
And, there are many other prominent politicians, scientists, and business owners who live here, too.
What are the famous attractions?
Outside of beachgoing, people visit because they want to see these top attractions and landmarks:
- La Jolla Cove
- La Jolla seals and sea lions (take the coastal walk between the Cove and Children’s Pool)
- Birch Aquarium at Scripps
- San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park
- Mt. Soledad Veteran’s Memorial
- Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
- Torrey Pines Golf Course
- UC San Diego
- La Jolla Playhouse
- Salk Institute for Biological Studies (architecture)
What can I do in La Jolla for a day?
Many visitors take day trips to La Jolla from other parts of San Diego. What you can do here depends on the time of year and where your interests lie.
You can spend an entire day taking advantage of the beaches and perhaps some La Jolla snorkeling. Or you can stay entirely on dry land with a morning walk along the Cove, lunch at George’s, and perhaps some boutique shopping after that.
I’ve broken down some sample itineraries in how to spend a day in La Jolla.
What is the best beach?
Each La Jolla beach is different from the one next to it. If you want to spend a quintessential beach day in La Jolla, California go to La Jolla Shores Beach for its calm waves and clear water where there is plenty of space to lay out a towel.
Snorkeling and kayak tours into the underwater park depart from here. Surf schools teach all ages how to surf here because the waves (usually) break gently due to the reefs offshore. You can walk a few blocks to the shops and restaurants on Avenida de la Playa. It’s my favorite beach in all of San Diego.
Where should I stay?
I have a list of best La Jolla hotels to help you figure out where to stay in La Jolla. Which you choose depends on your budget, the level of accommodations you need, and how you plan to use the beach.
What is your favorite thing about La Jolla?
For me, it’s the friends I’ve made here over the years. What’s yours?
I’ll show you more around town and beyond on Instagram at @lajollamom.