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Children’s Pool Beach in La Jolla — History, Seals, and How to Visit

A free way to get outside, take a walk, view wildlife, and grab a bite to eat

Paying a visit to Children’s Pool Beach (also known as Casa Beach) is one of the top things to do in La Jolla and there are several reasons for this. The main draw for tourists and many locals is to catch a glimpse of the La Jolla seals who hang out on this prized beach especially during pupping season.

You can walk on to the seawall for an even better view of the water and the seals. Do you know why we have a seawall, to begin with? Do you know how to visit Children’s Pool Beach? I’ll tell you — knowing its interesting history and what you can do nearby will add value to your visit.

What to Do at the Children’s Pool La Jolla

The main reason why people visit is to see the seals. They are usually always there unless it has been raining or very windy, but you can very easily make a half-day or full-day out of your visit.

Watch the Seals

A baby seal perks its head up while others slumber on the sand around it.
Baby seal season is adorable.

There are people who sit on the benches or lean on the wall above the Children’s Pool along Coast Boulevard and watch our seals (some for hours) as they flop around the sand, swim, and talk to each other. There is something rather Zen about the entire scene with birds flying above and movement of the ocean in the background.

The key word though is “watch” as you should keep a respectful distance. They are just as cute from afar and I typically bring a zoom lens for my camera.

Walk on the Seawall

If you walk toward the ocean, just past the lifeguard station, you’ll find the entrance to the seawall. Unless the surf is really big, you can walk on it for a better view of the seals and ocean.

Seals lay on the beach next to the sea wall at the Children's Pool.
Be careful when walking on the seawall.

I do recommend a walk on the seawall because the views are lovely but I have some tips.

  • The seawall is nearly 100 years old and it’s an uneven path so unsteady walkers should take heed.
  • While you gaze at the seals, be mindful of the ocean behind you as it’s not uncommon for the surf to pound the sea wall and startle you with a splash. Be mindful of what you are hand-carrying because it would be easy to drop your phone if this happened.
  • Don’t wear a backpack or carry a bulky bag as it will be hard to pass by others on the seawall as the walkway is narrow.
  • Keep an eye on young children as the fence slats are wide.
A man walks on the Children's Pool seawall with the ocean in the background.

What to Know About Swimming and Beachgoing

Construction on the lifeguard station at Children’s Pool Beach started in 2013 and was completed in 2016, after a $3 million spend and some delays. Now fully operational, this permanent lifeguard station (one of three in La Jolla) watches over nine blocks of our coastline. This includes beaches that still can have some hazardous currents along the San Diego coastline — the very same problem that Ellen Browning Scripps sought to ameliorate 100 years ago with the Children’s Pool (more on this below).

Now, while you technically can swim at the Children’s Pool, it’s discouraged due to high bacteria counts because of the harbor seals that live here.

A rope barrier prevents people from walking on the beach closer to the shoreline during seal pupping season, roughly December 15–May 15, so during this time it would be hard to access the water anyway.

In the summer, there is a roped-off area to protect the seals but most of the beach is open for recreational use. People do set up towels and umbrellas but again, don’t typically swim here. Lifeguards make sure that the seals are not disturbed by people.

South Casa Beach

Behind the Children’s Pool lifeguard tower, there is access to a small beach called South Casa Beach. Due to currents and rocks out in the ocean, it’s not a great place for swimming but you can certainly lay a towel out to soak up some sun. During low tides, this is a great place for La Jolla tide pools.

South Casa Beach at Golden Hour

Walk Along Coast Boulevard

If you are at the Children’s Pool, plan to walk a few minutes along Coast Boulevard from there to La Jolla Cove where our sea lions live. It’s a very pretty, easy, and paved walk.

Along the way, you can take a walk down to Shell Beach where there also may be tide pools and occasionally shells. Or, take a seat in one of our green huts.

Shell Beach is one of the best La Jolla beaches because of easy access, sea shells and small patch of sand.
The stairway to Shell Beach is just to the left of this green hut.

You can even walk up to the Cave Store and walk into Sunny Jim, the only California sea cave that is accessible by land.

Grab a Bite

This part of La Jolla is just steps from some of the best La Jolla restaurants. Be sure that you’re parked in a place that will allow for enough time to also have a late breakfast or lunch during your visit. A few suggestions:

  • George’s Ocean Terrace: We like the fish tacos and view of the Cove (make a reservation) from the upstairs terrace.
  • Cove House: A good breakfast and lunch spot in between La Jolla Cove and Children’s Pool Beach (up Girard a little bit toward Prospect)
  • Bobboi Natural Gelato: A few steps up from Cove House awaits the best Italian gelato which is made in small batches using 90% organic ingredients, with exotic flavors like charcoal vanilla and banana kiwi.

A Quick History of the Children’s Pool

View of the seawall and harbor seals at Children's Pool beach in La Jolla
Sand washed into the protected area over the years.

Now that you know where the Children’s Pool Beach is and what you can do, here’s why it’s historically significant.

Few today may be aware that, while La Jolla beaches and coastline near the Children’s Pool Beach have attracted visitors since the 1870s, for several decades afterward, it’s coast and surf developed a reputation for danger. By the early 1900s, visitors were being warned not to go into the ocean at La Jolla’s many beaches here because of the hazardous cross currents.

In 1921, Ellen Browning Scripps, a wealthy local resident since 1897, who had focused much of her life and philanthropy on the welfare of children in La Jolla, sought to ameliorate this ongoing problem.

You may recognize her name from some of the many prominent local institutions which still bear her name, including the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Scripps Hospital. She also bought that land that became Torrey Pines State Reserve, with the intent that it be made a public park. And that is just three of many of her works in La Jolla.

She hired a hydraulic engineer named Hiram Savage to conduct a survey for the construction of a proposed breakwater somewhere in La Jolla to create an area where it would be safe for children to go in the ocean. In 1923, Savage submitted his results, proposing that a crescent-shaped breakwater be constructed where the Children’s Pool Beach in La Jolla is today.

For a variety of reasons, including public controversies, permitting, budgeting, and the availability of key personnel, the project then languished in a kind of limbo for seven years until construction finally began in late 1930.

In May 1931, a public celebration was held to commemorate the completion of the new breakwater, and the safe ocean bathing area for children it created, all of which had been gifted by Ms. Scripps to La Jolla. Ms. Scripps was too ill to attend herself, unfortunately, and she died in 1932. But the Children’s Pool remains another lasting legacy of her local philanthropy.

It remained that way for over 60 years. In the mid-1990s harbor seals increasingly began to use the Children’s Pool beach area to give birth to their pups. La Jolla residents to this day have strong opinions about whether the seals should stay or go (I will not argue one way or the other here). A visit to the La Jolla seals is one of the most popular things to do in La Jolla and it is free.

Much of the above a summarized from a much longer, more detailed, and scholarly article written about the Children’s Pool titled ‘Until Kingdom Come,’ The Design and Construction of La Jolla’s Children’s Pool, by Jeremy Hollins, published in the Journal of San Diego History, volume 51, which you can read online.

Children’s Pool La Jolla Address, Directions, and Parking

Address: 850 Coast Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037

Pop the address above into your GPS to find the Children’s Pool. However, if you drive along Coast Boulevard, you can’t miss it.

Parking: It is difficult to find Children’s Pool parking on Coast Boulevard during peak season and weekends unless you arrive before 9 a.m. (the earlier the better). Street parking is marked as two or three hours depending on what part of the street you’re on. There are a few residential streets that run parallel to Coast Blvd that you can try. Alternatively, look out for some of the paid parking lots that are located up on Prospect (there is one at the La Jolla Financial Building) and adjacent streets. Walking down to Coast Blvd from the Village is easy.

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