La Jolla’s rugged seven-mile coastline is part of its charm, and each of its beaches is favored for different reasons. Here, I outline the best La Jolla beaches and why you will enjoy each one.
After all, going to the beach (and spotting our famous seals and sea lions) is one of the best things to do in La Jolla and a reason why many choose to base their San Diego vacations in my hometown.
1. La Jolla Shores Beach
Why go: This is the best La Jolla beach for all-day sunbathing, family fun, and a wide range of water sports. In fact, it’s one of the best San Diego beaches, if not the best.
La Jolla Shores Beach is a 1-mile-long stretch of beach that sits just south of the Village (downtown La Jolla). This beach is particularly great for families with small kids, surfers, and kayakers.
It’s the only kayak launch spot in La Jolla, and its long, flat sandy shore makes for a pretty easy takeoff point for most water sports. You should plan to take a La Jolla kayak tour of our seven sea caves departing from here. If you’d like to learn how to take surfing lessons in La Jolla, this is the spot. And during the winter low tides, you can walk north on the beach, past Scripps Pier, to a neat group of La Jolla tide pools called Dike Rock.
The beach is comfortable and makes for a great picnic spot, with plenty of grass at nearby Kellogg Park. There is also a large playground area for kids, as well as bathrooms and showers, fire pits, and volleyball courts. If you’re heading out here for a bonfire, keep in mind you should get there early to reserve a pit (you can only have wood-burning fires in city fire pits). They go extremely fast, especially in the summer.
Our La Jolla Beach hotels, La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club and La Jolla Shores Hotel, are located next to each other on the sand here. There is also a state-of-the-art permanent lifeguard station near the hotels, Kellogg Park, and the public parking lot.
You’re also within walking distance of the local shops and restaurants on Avenida de la Playa, so spending a full or half day enjoying the neighborhood is easy.
Fun fact: During the summer, La Jolla Shores beach is where the largest aggregation of leopard sharks in the world happens. You can also see stingrays (it’s wise to shuffle your feet when entering the ocean to scurry them away) and other rare sea life you wouldn’t see elsewhere, depending on the season.
Activities: Surfing, boogie boarding, scuba diving, swimming, volleyball, fire pits, tide pools, kayaking, running, long walks, dog walks (during permitted hours).
Nearby dining: Both hotels have great beachfront dining between The Marine Room and The Shores Restaurant. You’ll want to book high tide dining at The Marine Room when the waves crash onto the restaurant windows. On Avenida de la Playa we like The Cheese Shop for to-go sandwiches, Shorehouse Kitchen, and Scoops for ice cream.
Parking and how to get there: La Jolla Shores Beach is easily accessible from Torrey Pines Road and La Jolla Shores Drive. A large parking lot is located at 8300 Camino Del Oro. There is also plenty of free street parking in the nearby neighborhoods, but you still want to take Uber or arrive early in the summer or when the weather is nice.
2. La Jolla Cove Beach
Why go: It’s one of the best La Jolla beaches because of easy entry into the ecological reserve for snorkeling and diving, a nice though small strip of sand for sunbathing (which can get crowded in good weather), and the La Jolla sea lions who call this stretch of beach home.
La Jolla Cove is arguably what our little seaside town is known for. The Cove remains protected as part of the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, meaning it’s home to an incredible variety of marine life and, therefore, popular with snorkelers, swimmers, and scuba divers.
The swells that roll in from the open ocean here can be relatively forceful along the edges of beautiful La Jolla Cove, so swimmers here are typically more experienced. The water temperature is also often a little colder than the average San Diego beach. Unlike other La Jolla beaches nearby, the dry sand area is very small at high tide. During low tides, however, some great La Jolla tide pools are revealed.
It’s still a relatively popular spot for swimming, San Diego snorkeling, and scuba diving, despite some trouble with pollution in recent years from the stormwater run-off after rains. It’s also home to many open-water swimming events year-round, including the Rough Water Swim. Bouys offshore mark distance for serious swimmers.
However, surfers, beware. Because La Jolla Cove is within the Underwater Park, swimming devices like surfboards, boogie boards, and kayaks aren’t allowed. All sea animals are strictly protected here. Keep an eye out for the bright orange Garibaldi fish (California’s state fish), which is unusually common in the area.
Speaking of animals, this is where the California sea lions hang out. They’re mistakenly referred to as the La Jolla Cove seals, but they are sea lions. You’re no longer allowed to walk on the point for your safety and theirs, but you’ll see and hear plenty from the boardwalk. They’re also responsible for the La Jolla Cove smell (I don’t mind it).
Fun fact: The water temperature here is almost always cooler than in other areas of San Diego’s coastline because it faces out into much deeper, colder water. If you plan on tide pooling or swimming, be sure to check the tides and water temperature first.
Activities: Swimming, sunbathing, scuba diving (no floating devices like boogie boards or kayaks), tide pools (winter).
Nearby dining: Brockton Villa (great breakfast), Cove House, and Bobboi Gelato line the area — plus La Jolla restaurants in the Village area are all walkable from The Cove. It just depends on how far you’re willing to go.
Parking and how to get there: La Jolla Cove Beach is located at 1100 Coast Boulevard. Parking is typically difficult as the Cove is incredibly popular, but street parking is generally your best bet. You’ll find several paid lots on Prospect Street as well.
La Jolla Cove hotels: One of my frequently asked questions where to stay in La Jolla near La Jolla Cove. My two favorites are La Valencia Hotel (across the street) and Grande Colonial (a few blocks away). They are both located on Prospect Street.
TIP: STOP INTO THE CAVE STOREJust north of La Jolla Cove, you’ll find The Cave Store. Inside is the entrance to Sunny Jim sea cave. You can also rent gear like snorkels here and shop for souvenirs.
3. Children’s Pool Beach
Why go: To see the famous La Jolla seals and walk on the sea wall.
Children’s Pool Beach, located close to downtown La Jolla and within walking distance from La Jolla Cove, is a small cove protected by a concrete breakwater seawall. Ellen Browning Scripps donated the funds for the seawall in 1931, envisioning it as a safe space for children to play and swim out of harm’s way.
Before it was built, there was a shallow water area between a large rock and a mainland bluff called Seal Rock Point; the sea wall was built on top of several rocks and topped by a paved walkway protected by railings. Though swimming is strongly discouraged now due to high levels of bacteria in the water, the walkway is still open to the public and makes for one-of-a-kind views of the surrounding seascape and Seal Rock.
The beach area has been fully claimed by harbor seals for years now, and while swimming is technically still allowed, it’s discouraged to protect the seals. You’ll still see them lounging on the sand, and the beach area closes for a few months every year to respect pupping season, roughly between December 15 and May 15.
There is a year-round lifeguard tower monitoring the area, of course for the seals, but also because people tend to scuba dive in the reefs just offshore.
Fun fact: This is a NOAA-recognized seal rookery and the only one between Mexico and Ventura County. It’s unusual because it’s in an urban setting.
Activities: Seasonal beachgoing and swimming (I don’t recommend either, even if allowed, if harbor seals are nearby), scuba diving, seal watching
Nearby dining: You’ll need to walk back to The Cove area or up to Prospect Street to eat (at least 10 minutes by foot). But just uphill inside Grande Colonial Hotel is one of my favorite La Jolla restaurants, NINE-TEN. Nearby is also a Better Buzz Coffee and some other spots.
Parking and how to get there: La Jolla Children’s Pool Beach is located at 850 Coast Blvd., and your best bet is to find street parking along the coast. There is no official lot, though there are some designated free parking spaces along the street.
4. Black’s Beach
Why go: To surf or enjoy some quiet (note that some people still go nude here) without the kids.
Black’s Beach La Jolla is a secluded section of beach beneath the bluffs of Torrey Pines and is officially part of Torrey Pines State Beach. Black’s Beach is perhaps most notorious for its status as San Diego’s only nude beach, though that’s no longer allowed in the more southern portion managed by the City of San Diego.
Black’s Beach was named for the Black family who owned a horse farm overlooking the beach in the 1940s. They eventually sold the land, and it was divided into several La Jolla Farms lots. The Farms’ residents were the only ones who retained access to the Black family’s private road to the beach, which at that time was a highly coveted secret.
The southern portion of Black’s Beach is well known to surfers as one of the most powerful surf breaks in Southern California. The waves gain their power from Scripps Canyon, an underwater canyon just offshore in the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park. Because of this, Black’s has become a pretty dangerous surfing location and is only advised for very experienced surfers. There is a permanent lifeguard stationed here that is staffed year-round.
Fun fact: While you can still see many amazing homes in the area, you’ll want to look for the oddly-shaped “Mushroom House” and its matching funicular next time you’re strolling along the beach.
Activities: Long walks and runs, swimming, surfing, sunbathing (ahem, nude sunbathing).
Nearby dining: None really, unless you come via the Gliderport. There, you’ll find the Cliffhanger Cafe, which sells some good, to-go sandwiches.
Parking and how to get there: Black’s Beach can be difficult to access due to its location (directly below the Torrey Pines bluffs), though currently, there are four access routes to Black’s Beach. You can park in the La Jolla Shores neighborhood, enter the beach, and keep walking north until you find it, but the most popular is the Gliderport Trail.
Torrey Pines Gliderport Trail: The Gliderport Trail is located between the Torrey Pines Gliderport and the Salk Institute. This steep trail down the 300-foot cliffs is usually well maintained by locals, but do take care to stay on the designated trail at all times. It can get pretty slippery otherwise.
5. Marine Street Beach
Why go: To experience a quiet, local favorite and to surf.
Marine Street is one of the best La Jolla beaches because it’s a wide, white sand beach that sits just between two rock reef points, Little Point and Horseshoe. The surf here is famous for being rough and unpredictable, making it popular with surfers and bodyboarders but not advisable for inexperienced swimmers. Unfortunately, due to that, it’s also been the site of countless injuries and rescues.
Marine Street has a long history of being a strictly locals-only beach. Though not as bad as some beaches in the area, fierce hometown loyalty is alive and well here. Years ago, surfers wrote the words “Locals Only” on the center wall at the beach. It isn’t always visible, but locals will occasionally rewrite it from time to time.
Keep an eye out for the two oversized beach chairs just to the left as you walk down the stairs. They’ve been there for years and make for a great photo op. There is also a volleyball net that my daughter and her friends use.
Fun fact: It’s a popular spot for photographers, and many famous ocean photographers have shot here, most notably Clark Little.
Activities: Surfing, sunbathing, beach volleyball, photography, dog walks (during permitted hours).
Nearby dining: Walk up Marine Street to Verdes el Ranchero for delicious Mexican. You could keep walking down the block toward Pearl Street where Pizza on Pearl, Taco Stand (fast-casual and in the Michelin guide), and El Pescador (fish sandwiches and salads — so good), await, to name a few.
Parking and how to get there: Just follow Marine Street down until you reach the shoreline. Street parking is available on both cross streets. Many locals tend to park just in front of the barriers before the stairs down to the beach (technically, the curbs are red, and you should know that our parking enforcement is aggressive, so I don’t recommend this). There are no public restrooms here.
6. Windansea Beach
Why go: You’re an expert surfer in search of killer waves or looking for a scenic place to lay out or watch the sunset.
Windansea Beach—most well known for its surfing—is a stretch of coastline in the heart of La Jolla. This La Jolla beach has a colorful history and has been a storied favorite of surfers since the 1960s.
Its name comes from the oceanfront Windansea Hotel, which was originally built in 1909 when it was simply called the Strand Hotel. Sadly, it burned down in 1943, but the beach maintained its title.
The surf here is mostly shore break. It can be pretty severe and unpredictable. Many rescues happen here, too. That’s why you would never let your kids play at the shoreline, and many La Jolla parents like me don’t let kids enter the water there at all.
That being said, our kids do go there because they like that it’s typically less crowded and has small jagged sandstone cliffs that provide a bit of privacy and shade. It’s really pretty.
Fun fact: The distinguishing landmark at Windansea is a palm-covered shack that was originally constructed in 1946 by three surfers: Woody Ekstrom, Fred Kenyon, and Don Okey. The San Diego Historical Resources Board officially designated the Surf Shack as a historical landmark in May of 1998. The shack was destroyed by a high tide in 2015 but was rebuilt by locals.
Activities: Surfing (experts only), sunbathing, photography, sunset gazing — no swimming advised.
Nearby dining: Walk a few short blocks up Westbourne Street to eat like a La Jolla teen at Rigoberto’s taco shop (carne asada burritos). Next door is the Promiscuous Fork (burgers, tacos, salads) and then the Valley Farm gourmet market, a few steps down. The Shack dive bar is across the street, which is kind of fun if you want a burger and a super casual patio dining experience.
Parking and how to get there: The Windansea parking lot is located along Neptune Place, between Nautilus and Bonair Streets. Although recently upgraded by the City, it offers only a handful of parking spaces. Luckily, street parking is almost always available. There are no drinking fountains, showers, or public restrooms.
7. Shell Beach
Why go: For winter tide pooling and a quick walk along a small beach.
Shell Beach is a small beach located just south of Ellen Browning Scripps Park (right across the grass from La Jolla Cove) and north of Children’s Pool. It can be accessed only by a flight of concrete stairs. Look for the engraved “Shell Beach” sign on the concrete wall.
The beach is more commonly known as a hidden gem tide pooling spot. An incredible variety of marine life is showcased on the southern end during low and minus tides—just look for the rocky, flat area.
A pathway along the bluff goes north through the park and continues to the Coast Walk Trail. Seal Rock is just offshore, and Children’s Pool Beach is visible beyond that to the south.
Fun fact: Between La Jolla Cove and Shell Beach, you’ll see several green huts that are called belvederes. These are a great place to watch sunsets and take photos. There are also a couple of picnic tables and benches in this area.
Activities: Shelling, tide pooling (winter), swimming (tide permitting), sunbathing
Nearby dining: Since it’s next door to La Jolla Cove, I’d still recommend Brockton Villa, Cove House and Bobboi Gelato as closest and really good.
Parking and how to get there: Shell Beach parking can be challenging, but it is allowed all along Coast Blvd. and in designated spaces.
8. South Casa Beach
Why go: You’re already at the Children’s Pool and would like to step out on the sand to explore a different beach.
South Casa Beach is located directly south of the Children’s Pool (which is also referred to as Casa Beach). In fact, it’s just on the other side of the Children’s Pool lifeguard station, which also services South Casa Beach.
Use the walkway down from the boardwalk to access this La Jolla beach which is a mini cove with excellent tide pools in winter. You’ll see people sunbathing on the sand here during other times of the year. Swimming isn’t recommended thanks to proximity to the sea wall and rocks, but people like to play at the water’s edge.
Activities: Winter tide pooling, sunbathing, watching sunsets.
Nearby dining: It’s behind the Children’s Pool so the same restaurant recommendations apply. You’ll walk back up to the eateries lining the cove or up to Prospect Street.
Parking and how to get there: Use the free parking along Coast Blvd. and surrounding residential areas.
9. Wipeout Beach
Why go: You’re taking a nice long walk along the Village beaches or looking for seclusion.
Wipeout Beach is located on the 700 block of Coast Blvd., and is a sandy stretch of beach just south of South Casa Beach and the Children’s Pool. It’s a great spot for sunbathing but again isn’t recommended for inexperienced swimmers because of the rip current. Low tide is probably the best time to visit this spot, as there’s more sand to walk along, and you’ll be able to see a few shallower exposed tide pools.
There are a few small caves along the shoreline that you can explore from Wipeout, but unfortunately, they’re usually blocked by seaweed and other debris. If you’re lucky enough to see an opening and are feeling adventurous, just be aware of the incoming tide and wave size.
Public restrooms, showers, and a lifeguard station are just up the stairs from this beach. It’s an easy walk to Ellen Browning Scripps Park and other beaches in the area.
Activities: Sunbathing, tide pooling (winter), photography — no swimming
Nearby dining: The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, is steps away. Not only is it a worthwhile place to admire art, the renovated building, and spectacular views, The Kitchen at MCASD serves an internationally-inspired breakfast and lunch complete with wine, beer, and cocktails.
Parking and how to get there: Some free parking is available along Coast Blvd., and a few paid lots are within walking distance of the beach.
10. Boomer Beach
Why go: You’ll pass by as you walk the beach trail sidewalk between Shell Beach and La Jolla Cove.
Boomer Beach is located just to the west of Ellen Browning Scripps Park and south of the Cove. It’s one of the smaller, lesser-known beaches in La Jolla, and its exposure to stronger Pacific Ocean waves and currents makes it less popular than neighboring Cove.
It used to be a popular body surfing spot because of the powerful waves and the fact that surfing and boogie boarding are prohibited. It was for experts and those familiar with the currents and terrain, not for the casual body surfer.
However, the City just voted to close Boomer’s Beach to protect the California sea lions that like to hang out on it. It’s worth a stop because it’s neat to see the groups of sea lions play on the sand and along the water’s edge, especially during pupping season.
Activities: Sea lion watching and photography.
Nearby dining: Same options as Shell Beach and The Cove.
Parking and how to get there: There are no stairs down to this La Jolla beach, plus pending closure in November 2023, you won’t be allowed on it anyway. Like most other spots along Coast Blvd., parking is usually problematic, so plan to circle a few times before you find a spot.
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Tips for Enjoying the Best La Jolla Beaches
Lifeguards are stationed at Black’s Beach, La Jolla Shores, La Jolla Cove, and the Children’s Pool year-round. You’ll also see seasonal lifeguard towers sprinkled in during peak summer beach-going season on these beaches and a few other smaller beaches.
Leashed dogs are allowed at La Jolla beaches during certain hours, depending on the time of year. Dogs, other than service animals, are NOT allowed on the beach, boardwalk, or adjacent parks between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. from November 1 through March 31 and between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. from April 1 through October 31.
Some beaches are divided into swimming and surfing zones. A black and yellow checkered flag serves as the dividing point and usually accompanies signage to indicate where each is allowed.
Beware of our lovely seagulls, as they are known to fly away with paper and plastic bags and whatever is inside of them.
Beachgoers may not smoke, bring glass containers, or drink alcohol on our public beaches. There is one exception to the booze rule in La Jolla, but you must be a member or guest of the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club to drink on their small stretch of private beach.
Wear sunscreen even if there is cloud cover. Also, be mindful of rip currents.
Most of all, have a great time!
La Jolla Beach Map
FAQs About the Best Beaches in La Jolla
What is the best La Jolla Beach for surfing lessons?
Not only is La Jolla Shores Beach one of the best beaches in San Diego, but it is also the best spot in La Jolla for surf lessons.
Numerous surf schools host their lessons on La Jolla Shores, including Surf Diva and Everyday California.
EXCLUSIVE EVERYDAY CALIFORNIA DISCOUNTUse code LJMOM20 for a 20% discount on kayak and snorkeling tours, lessons, and rentals. Book now.
Are there beaches in La Jolla that offer surf rentals?
If you are an experienced surfer and would prefer to rent your gear instead of opting for surf lessons, head to La Jolla Shores Beach. You’ll find several outlets along Avenida de la Playa where you can rent surfboards, beach chairs, umbrellas, and more.
Where can I obtain a La Jolla surf report?
You can find La Jolla surf reports online on websites such as Surf Line.
Which do you think are the best La Jolla beaches?