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La Jolla Shores Beach is my family’s favorite beach in San Diego. The mile-long crescent-shaped shoreline stretches about a mile from Black’s Beach to the north and to where the sand meets the sea caves in the south.

The La Jolla Underwater Park is just offshore which means that sea life and water sports are easily accessible and abundant. While there are many reasons to visit this lovely beach, here are my top things to do and amenities I appreciate.

1. Beautiful Sand

Let’s start with the basics. La Jolla Shores Beach has an abundance of lovely (mostly) clean and soft sand that you can (and probably will) comfortably park yourself on for a day. I’ll say it again, it’s one of the best places in town to enjoy a quintessential Southern California beach day.

The shoreline doesn’t make any twists or turns which means the vast sandy beach is always in view. There’s a lovely feeling of openness.

2. Dogs Love It

things to do with dogs la jollaMy smiling boy loved this beach.

We walk our dog on La Jolla Shores Beach year-round. Dogs are not allowed on the beach during the hours of 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. between November 1 – March 31 as well as 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. between April 1 – October 31.

We absolutely adore early morning walks on this dog-friendly San Diego beach. If you feel like socializing with other dogs and owners, that’s great. But if you want to walk virtually alone, there’s plenty of space so that you can avoid four-legged meet-and-greets.

Also, people around here tend to be quite courteous with their dogs so even though dogs are permitted, it doesn’t impact reason number one above (nice, clean sand).

3. It’s an Ideal Spot for Surfing and Surf Lessons

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is la-jolla-shores-beach-surfers-1024x702.jpgLots of surfers on a sunny morning.

Long story short, because of the underwater park, waves here can break rather gently which makes it an excellent spot for beginner surfers. However, during winter when swells peak, expect to see a number of surfers of all levels catching waves. The ocean bottom here is sandy which also makes learning here more comfortable. The beach is divided into surfing and swimming zones.

Surf Diva, located in the La Jolla Shores business district (and an advocate for the local community there), offers San Diego surfing lessons for men, women, and children. You can also rent boards, wetsuits, chairs, and umbrellas through them. Many local kids take advantage of their summer camps, too.

4. The Adjacent Kellogg Park Playground

Kellogg Park playground for kids at La Jolla Shores Beach.Scootering toward La Jolla Shores Hotel

Kellogg Park borders the beach and has a huge grassy area (also called La Jolla Shores Park) that is perfect for picnics (there are a few picnic tables), kite flying, and games. There is also a lovely playground geared toward younger kids with a jungle gym, swings, and more fun.

Many people come here to just hang out and skip beach-going activities because it’s pretty much like being at the beach but without getting too sandy.

5. Free Parking

La Jolla Shores Beach has a fairly sizable parking lot that is free to use. Street parking is also free (though may be subject to hourly limits so pay attention).

During peak times, this lot will fill up so it is advisable to get to the beach as early as you can rally. Or, consider taking an Uber so that you don’t have to worry about difficult La Jolla Shores Beach parking during weekends, summer, and school holidays.

6. Fire Pits for S’mores and More

Public fire pits smoke in the morning on La Jolla Shores Beach.Fire pits are first come, first served.

A handful of fire pits are available at La Jolla Shores Beach for all-day and evening use, with the exception of between midnight and 5 a.m.

Bring s’mores, hot dogs, and wood to burn (just don’t stack it high… 12″ above the pit is the maximum allowed at this time). This is a very fun evening activity, though like parking you’d better stake a claim on your fire pit early. It is required that you extinguish the fire before leaving, too.

7. Lifeguards on Duty

Lifeguards are staffed here year-round between 9 a.m. and dusk in a high tech tower near Kellogg Park. The easiest place for families to base themselves is more or less in front of this main lifeguard station. Lifeguard trucks drive up and down the beach to patrol while seasonal towers are staffed along the beach during the summer.

8. Bathrooms and Showers

Bathrooms and showers are both conveniently located near the parking lot and Kellogg Park. While they aren’t akin to a five-star hotel, they’re pretty nice for a public beach and your car will be grateful that’s you’re bringing less sand into it by washing off first.

9. Jogging and Other Exercise

I absolutely love running on La Jolla Shores Beach. Near the water’s edge, the sand is compact so that you can even run barefoot without your feet sinking too far into the sand. The breeze usually isn’t too strong either and your view in all directions is spectacular. You can even see La Jolla Cove and the sea caves, out into the Pacific Ocean, and then some.

A number of boot camps meet at Kellogg Park should you want a full-body workout amid ocean breezes. In the early mornings, I’ve even seen people even doing pull-ups on the kids’ jungle gym.

10. Kid-Friendly Boardwalk

My daughter rides a little scooter on the La Jolla Shores Beach boardwalk.The main lifeguard tower and boardwalk

The La Jolla Shores Beach boardwalk is not that long but if you have kids that want to test out roller skates or scooters (at a moderate pace), go early in the morning before the crowds.

11. Snorkeling with Leopard Sharks

La Jolla leopard shark sightings happen between roughly July and December at La Jolla Shores Beach with peak viewing between August and September. It’s the largest annual aggregation of leopard sharks in the world when female leopard sharks hang out in the warmer water closer to shore to incubate their babies, right before giving birth.

These sharks have smaller mouths and teeth as they feed on crustaceans and while, of course, they could bite, I haven’t heard of it happening to anyone. So, you can see them via kayaking, snorkeling, or by sometimes standing in the water near The Marine Room restaurant.

12. Kayak Tours

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It’s easy to launch a kayak into the ocean from here. You can rent one and go it on your own or take a guided tour of our sea caves and underwater park with a company like La Jolla Kayak or site partner, Everyday California. I recommend the tours whether you’re a tourist or a local.

13. Stand-Up Paddleboarding

Likewise, you will also see a number of people enjoying stand-up paddleboarding here. Surf Diva offers lessons and gear rentals. If you are looking for some fun exercise outdoors, I would highly recommend SUP because you also may see some sea life below you like the bright orange Garibaldi fish.

14. Scuba Diving

You can go scuba diving in the ecological reserve on your own or with a tour. If you go on your own, you’re encouraged to first call the lifeguard beach information line at (619) 221-8824. For tours and lessons, you can contact La Jolla Dive a few blocks away in the La Jolla Shores business district. It’s one of the best beaches in San Diego County for scuba divers (and snorkelers).

15. Scripps Pier

If facing the ocean from the La Jolla Shores parking lot, head right on the beach and you’ll hit the pier within minutes.

The Ellen Browning Scripps Pier is one of the world’s largest research pier that is used for a variety of Scripps Institution of Oceanography (a graduate school and research center for the University of California, San Diego) experiments and data collection noting changes in ocean and then some. You can check out awesome live footage from the Pier Cam and La Jolla Shores cam directly on the Scripps website.

16. Photography

My daughter and dog walk beneath the pylons of Scripps Pier on La Jolla Shores Beach.Beneath Scripps Pier

Popular with Instagrammers, a photo underneath the pier looking directly out to the ocean between the pylons is sure to gain multiple likes. It is one of the most popular places to take photos in La Jolla. Twice per year, the sun aligns perfectly in between the Scripps Pier pylons at sunset. The dates vary but you will see a crowd of photographers trying to capture this perfect moment.

At golden hour, you may see families with photographers next to the pier taking holiday card photos and couples snapping wedding photos. Between the surfers, the birds, the ocean, and general beach activity, I argue that any time is a good time to practice your skills here.

17. Tide Pool Fun

View of La Jolla from the Dike Rock tide pools near Scripps Pier.Dike Rock tide pools

Dike Rock just north of Scripps Pier is one of the best La Jolla tide pools with sea anemones, sea urchins, hermit crabs, and some species of fish on view. But, like other San Diego tide pools, the season for tide pooling is usually from late fall to early spring when low tides happen during daylight.

This is where Birch Aquarium at Scripps leads tide pool adventures where you can explore in a group. More eyeballs equal more sea life spottings and you’ll also benefit from a naturalist who can share interesting facts about what you’re seeing.

18. Guided Birch Aquarium Tours

You can explore the natural wonders of La Jolla Shores Beach and the ecological reserve out front with the help of naturalists from Birch Aquarium at Scripps. It’s the public outreach center for the world-famous Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Both overlook La Jolla Shores Beach.

This is one of those unique opportunities that we are so lucky to have in our community and I urge San Diego residents to take advantage of their offerings outside of the aquarium. At La Jolla Shores Beach you can:

  • take a guided tide pool tour at Dike Rock (mentioned above).
  • take a guided snorkeling with leopard sharks tour.
  • explore Scripps Pier by full moon, which isn’t normally open to the public.
  • send the kids to summer camp (yes, edutainment at its finest for ages 4 – 15).

Always check the Birch Aquarium programs to see what’s on the schedule.

19. Hotels on the Beach

Aerial view of beachfront La Jolla Shores Hotel and La Jolla Shores Beach.Aerial view of La Jolla Shores Hotel (courtesy photo)

Those who would like to book a room on the beach have two options. La Jolla Shores Hotel provides excellent value for a beachfront hotel in San Diego. We had a great time staying there and it’s popular with families who want a casual family vacation or staycation.

Alternatively, the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club is another option that is perfect for multigenerational travel and has a private beach (that you can drink adult beverages on, if that matters to you). Overnight guests have access to the private club’s facilities that also include an Olympic-sized pool, tennis courts, and a pitch-and-putt golf course.

One perk that both hotels offer is the ability to enjoy a private beach barbecue or s’mores on the sand. These properties are also good choices for hotels near UCSD.

20. Grunion Running

Spring through summer is grunion running season. Open season is when it’s okay to actually catch grunion (with a fishing license) and the closed season is for observation only.

Either way, beaches across San Diego will experience the little silver fish coming to shore during various dates. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife maintains a grunion run schedule and rules for observation and catch.

The Birch Aquarium at Scripps also leads organized grunion runs on La Jolla Shores Beach during the season (check back for future dates as none are listed at the moment).

21. Sandwiches at the Cheese Shop

Make a pitstop into this mom-and-pop deli for one of La Jolla’s best sandwiches. Take a Cheese Shop sandwich to-go to the beach or if you’re already at the beach, it’s just a few blocks’ walk away (and located across the street from Surf Diva).

I am partial to the turkey, jack cheese, and avocado sandwich but their most noteworthy sandwich is the roasted pork loin. They also have an awesome selection of imported candy and really delicious homemade oatmeal cookies.

22. You Can Walk to La Jolla Shores Shops for Incidentals

Forget your sunscreen? No problem. La Jolla Shores Beach is just a few blocks away from the shops and restaurants on Avenida de la Playa where almost anything you’d need for a beach day can be acquired there.

You can read more about the boutiques and restaurants here in my guide to La Jolla Shores.

23. There’s High Tide Dining

Would you like to enjoy breakfast or dinner with waves crashing on to the windows of your restaurant? You can do this at The Marine Room, one of San Diego’s best restaurants, that is literally on the sand of La Jolla Shores Beach.

Really, you should eat here anyway during sunset (they have an excellent happy hour and ocean views) but high tide dining is an experience that can’t be repeated in many places.

24. Stunning Sunsets

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is la-jolla-shores-beach-sunset-1024x776.jpgSunset in November (note that people are wearing shorts).

25. Cloudy or Sunny… It Doesn’t Matter

There are things to do at La Jolla Shores Beach regardless of whether the sun is shining or not. When people are worried about planning San Diego vacations during the winter, I tell them that we use the beach year-round, but just a bit differently in cooler months. When it’s not super sunny outside, we walk, build sandcastles, watch sunsets, and more — all pretty fantastic.

Address and Directions to La Jolla Shores Beach

The La Jolla Shores Beach address that you would put into your GPS is below.

La Jolla Shores Beach
8200 Camino del Oro, La Jolla, CA 92037

From I-5 South (Carlsbad/Del Mar):

  • Exit on La Jolla Village Drive.
  • Turn right onto La Jolla Village Drive to head west.
  • Turn left onto Torrey Pines Road.
  • Turn right onto La Jolla Shores Drive (at the gas station).
  • Turn left onto Avenida de La Playa (this is the main business district street).
  • Turn right onto Camino Del Oro.
  • Drive two blocks.
  • You’ll see the La Jolla Shores parking lot on the left.

From I-5 North (Downtown San Diego/Coronado):

  • Exit on La Jolla Parkway (52 West)
  • Drive straight as the road briefly turns into Torrey Pines Road.
  • Turn left onto Torrey Pines Road.
  • Turn right onto La Jolla Shores Drive (at the gas station).
  • Turn left onto Avenida de La Playa (this is the main business district street).
  • Turn right onto Camino Del Oro.
  • Drive two blocks.
  • You’ll see the La Jolla Shores parking lot on the left.

Why do you love La Jolla Shores beach?

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8 thoughts on “25 Reasons La Jolla Shores Beach Is One of San Diego’s Best

  1. Love this! I got to spend a short weekend down in La Jolla Shores the other week and feel in love. It still feels like an old school laid back beach city, which is getting harder and harder to find. We stayed at La Jolla Riveria Inn which was perfect with a great rate for a two bedroom spot that slept the whole family. I will also second the Cheese Shop, absolutely loved it. Only downside to my trip was I didn’t stay long enough, looking to get back down there soon. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Well, you’ll just have to come back. Good to know you enjoyed the La Jolla Riviera Inn… great location to base yourself.

  2. Best place for children! I grew up on that beach and return every year! My children learned to surf there, as did I…cheese shop lamb sandwich…fab! Jeff’s burgers…Piatti, LJBTC…stellar!

  3. If facing the ocean from the La Jolla Shores parking lot, head *right* [north] on the beach and you’ll hit the pier within minutes.

  4. I am really happy I found your blog. We just moved to San Diego a year ago and I have been looking for stuff to do with the kids this summer. So now I think we will head to the beach to see some leopard sharks with the kids.

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