My coastal community, La Jolla, is known for its rugged coastline, upscale boutiques, and fine dining. We also have one of the most photographed places in San Diego, La Jolla Cove, and the resident seals and sea lions that people drive in specifically to see.

Our location can be a little confusing for tourists planning a vacation or residents driving in for a visit. This is because there are multiple ways to get here, trafficky times that can make your journey much longer than it needs to be, and the downtown area is 15-20 minutes from the I-5 freeway despite the distance being only about four miles.

This guide for how to get to La Jolla covers various transportation options, including driving directions, airport transportation, and public transit, so that you can have a (hopefully) smooth journey to our Jewel on the Pacific Ocean.

The La Jolla Boulevard and Coast Boulvard intersection.

Getting to La Jolla from San Diego International Airport

San Diego International Airport (SAN), located approximately 15 miles south of La Jolla, is the nearest major airport. So, you would fly into SAN and either rent a car or take a taxi, car service, or rideshare to La Jolla. I’ll go over each one quickly, but the drive should take about 25 minutes, depending on where in La Jolla you’re going.

Car Rentals

Upon arriving at the San Diego International Airport, you could take one of the free shuttles from your terminal to the Rental Car Center on the edge of the airport (it’s not within walking distance).

Once you have your rental car, plug your La Jolla destination into your GPS. As you’ll see below, there are multiple routes you can take from here, and the best one will depend on traffic. The Waze app is very good for navigating this.

Taxis

Taxis are usually always waiting at the transportation plazas outside each terminal. As you exit the baggage claim area, follow the signs leading to the transportation plazas across the street from the terminals. A staff member should be there to help you get a taxi.

Rideshare Services (Uber, Lyft)

The airport has designated rideshare pickup locations at each terminal. These are usually marked clearly with signs.

  • Terminal 1: For Terminal 1, the designated pickup area for rideshares is located at the transportation plaza. After collecting your luggage, exit the terminal and follow the signs to the “Rideshare” pickup area.
  • Terminal 2: At Terminal 2, the rideshare pickup location is slightly different. After exiting the baggage claim area, use the pedestrian crosswalk to reach the transportation island. The rideshare pickup area is marked with signs and is separate from the taxi and shuttle areas.

Remember to arrange your ride once you have collected your luggage and are ready to exit the terminal.

Tip: Uber Black can pick you up in one of the lettered zones at the terminal without you going to the transportation plaza.

Public Transportation from SAN Diego Airport to La Jolla

Always check Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) Trip Planner and bus numbers before you go to make sure you are on the fastest route and get on the right bus! You can take public transportation to La Jolla, but it is a multi-stop effort. However, it has gotten easier, especially for UC San Diego students, thanks to the opening of an MTS trolley stop in the UTC area.

  1. MTS Route 992 (Goes from the Airport to Downtown):
    • You can board the MTS Route 992 bus from the San Diego International Airport, which is a direct service connecting the airport to downtown San Diego.
    • This bus stops at several downtown locations, including the Santa Fe Depot, a major transit hub.
  2. Transfer to a La Jolla-bound Bus or the MTS Trolley:
    • Once you arrive downtown, you have a couple of options to continue to La Jolla.
    • Option 1: Take an MTS bus that goes to La Jolla. MTS Route 30 is popular as it travels from downtown San Diego through Old Town and Pacific Beach before reaching La Jolla.
    • Option 2: Use the UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley to get closer to La Jolla. You can board the trolley at the America Plaza Trolley Station (near Santa Fe Depot) and get off at the UTC Transit Center. From there, you can take a short bus ride or a rideshare to reach the downtown area of La Jolla (called The Village).
  3. Final Leg to La Jolla:
    • If you take the bus (like Route 30), it will take you directly into The Village of La Jolla (our downtown area)
    • If you choose the trolley and then a bus from the UTC Transit Center, you might use routes like 201 or 202 to get into various parts of La Jolla.

Driving Directions to the La Jolla Cove Area

Multiple driving routes can get you to La Jolla, and which one you choose depends on traffic. (We chose our house partially because we have three easy ways to get in and out of La Jolla that take about the same amount of time.)

Two major arteries, the 52 Freeway and Torrey Pines Road can get clogged with traffic during weekday evening rush hour and on summer weekends. For the sake of ease, I’ll explain how to get to La Jolla Cove in the downtown area and from here you’ll quickly figure out where the main shops and restaurants are on Prospect and adjacent streets.

  • From the North (Los Angeles, Orange County, and North County San Diego): Make your way to the I-5 South, the main interstate highway connecting LA to San Diego. Take Exit 28 for La Jolla Village Drive. Turn right onto La Jolla Village Drive, then left onto Torrey Pines Road. Follow Torrey Pines Road as it winds down to the coast. Turn right onto Prospect Street, and then veer right on to Coast Blvd. La Jolla Cove will be on your right.
  • From the East (Clairemont and Santee): You’ll primarily use CA-52 West. The freeway will merge into Torrey Pines Road, which will take you straight into the Village. Turn right onto Prospect Street, and then veer right to Coast Blvd. La Jolla Cove will be on your right.
  • From the South (Downtown and Coronado): Find your way to Interstate 5 (I-5) North. Watch for signs for CA-52 West. This will be after you pass the Mission Bay area. Take the exit onto CA-52 West towards La Jolla. The freeway will merge into Torrey Pines Road, which will take you straight into the Village. Turn right onto Prospect Street, and then veer right on to Coast Blvd. La Jolla Cove will be on your right.
Parked cars and streets of La Jolla's downtown area near the Cove.
Some street parking is timed but we have paid parking lots too.

Taking Public Transportation to La Jolla from San Diego County Stops

San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) offers comprehensive bus and trolley services. We already covered how to get to La Jolla from the airport using public transportation so depending on where you’re coming from the steps may be similar. Routes, times and bus numbers change so be sure to use the MTS Trip Planner before you ride.

MTS Trolley to La Jolla

The UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley is a convenient option to arrive near Westfield UTC Mall and UC San Diego from various locations in San Diego, including the downtown area and the Mexico border at San Ysidro.

Exit at the “Voigt Drive” station for closest access to La Jolla. From here, you can take a short bus ride or rideshare to reach the heart of La Jolla.

Bus Services to La Jolla

Yes, you can take the bus to La Jolla. Many people do actually. These are the best options.

  • Route 30: As you can see, this is one of the most popular routes for getting to La Jolla. It travels from Downtown San Diego through Old Town San Diego and Pacific Beach before reaching La Jolla. The route covers key areas in La Jolla, including La Jolla Shores and the UC San Diego campus.
  • Route 41: The 41 bus runs from the Fashion Valley Transit Center through the Hillcrest and Clairemont neighborhoods before reaching UC San Diego in La Jolla.
  • Route 101: Operated by the North County Transit District (NCTD) but connecting with MTS services, Route 101 travels along the coast from Oceanside to UC San Diego, passing through Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, and La Jolla.
  • Route 201/202 SuperLoop: These routes serve the area around the UC San Diego campus and include stops in parts of La Jolla. The SuperLoop is useful for getting around the UCSD area and nearby shopping centers.

Tips for buying bus or trolley tickets: The easiest way to pay for a bus ticket in San Diego is by using PRONTO. PRONTO is the payment system for the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and North County Transit District (NCTD). You can use a PRONTO card or the PRONTO app to pay your fare. Either option allows you to load funds onto the card or app and then tap the card or scan the app when boarding the bus. Otherwise, you need exact change if paying cash. You can use PRONTO on the trolley’s as well. Bus tickets for adults cost $2.50 per way and $6 for an all-day pass!

An aerial view of La Jolla's Bird Rock neighborhood.
Bird Rock in San Diego’s famous La Jolla Neighborhood (Bus 30 stops here).

Coaster Train

For those coming from North County San Diego, the Coaster commuter train is a scenic and cheaper option than Amtrak, which follows a similar route. Plus, you can skip some freeway traffic depending on the time of day.

You can board the Coaster from cities like Oceanside, Carlsbad, and Encinitas, disembarking at the Sorrento Valley station. From Sorrento Valley, take MTS bus routes like 921 or 972 to reach UCSD, then switch to one of the La Jolla-bound buses. Note that the Coaster doesn’t stop at Sorrento Valley all the time so depending on your train or day of the week you may take it to Old Town and use the directions below.

Amtrak Train to La Jolla via Old Town Station

Amtrak business class on the Pacific Surfliner train is worth the upgrade, with a few caveats. See why.
Free WiFi and snacks in Amtrak business class

Traveling by Amtrak to La Jolla is a scenic and convenient option. The closest stop is Old Town Transit Center (yes, it’s adjacent to Old Town San Diego). This is the one we use when we take the train to Disneyland or Los Angeles.

Reaching Old Town Station by Amtrak

Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner service, which runs along the California coast, stops at the Old Town Transit Center in San Diego. (Travelers heading to La Jolla could also use the Solana Beach Station, though it takes a bit longer.) This is where you would get off.

From Old Town Station to La Jolla

Once you arrive at the Old Town Transit Center, you have really two options to reach La Jolla:

  1. MTS Buses: Route 30 provides a direct connection to La Jolla, making stops in key areas including UCSD and La Jolla Shores.
  2. Rideshare or Taxi: The drive from Old Town to La Jolla typically takes about 15-20 minutes, depending on traffic and where you are going. I usually take an Uber, but there are also sometimes taxis hovering around the station.

In summary, most people will self-drive or take Uber to get to La Jolla from San Diego airport and other places around the County. Our MTS public transportation system is getting better and is also a viable option for residents and tourists that takes longer but is inexpensive. You can also check out my 1-Day La Jolla Itinerary, top things to do in La Jolla, and best places stay in La Jolla.

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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