From the family beaches most often preferred by vacationers to the more secluded coves and crannies desired by surfers, divers, and swimmers, La Jolla beaches offer something exciting for everyone. From Blacks Beach to the north and Windansea Beach to the south, La Jolla’s shoreline consists of steep sandstone cliffs separated by coves and sandy beaches.
The sunny beauty, gentle breezes, and picture-postcard views are a vacation haven for tourists and a water recreation highlight for local residents. La Jolla, pronounced “la hoya” means “the jewel” in Spanish and indeed, it is. Several unique beaches dot the seven miles of coastline against a backdrop of exclusive real estate, resorts, cliffs, tall palms, and lush greenery.
Downtown La Jolla is conveniently located near most of its beaches which not only provides parking for beach visitors but an abundance of fine restaurants, intimate cafes, cultural destinations, art galleries, and other commercial convenience.
Crowds at La Jolla beaches can be quite sizable between mid-day to 4:00 p.m. when traffic seeking parting places can slow to a crawl. The best advice for vacationers and tourists to La Jolla is to come to the beaches early and stay late to enjoy the magical sunsets and dusk views across the ocean horizons.
Each La Jolla Beach offers something unique with distinctively different ways to enjoy vacation pleasure. La Jolla Shores is the most popular family beach with the largest expansion of relatively flat, sandy beaches. If you like people watching, sunbathing and a lazy day at the beach, the Shores is the one.
La Jolla Cove is a paradise of sparkling blue water and steep sandstone cliffs that offer amazing views. The Cove is a swimmer’s dream because of gentle water and its “no surfing allowed” policy. Along with Children’s Pool, the Cove is rich with reefs that attract scuba divers and snorkelers to an abundance of underwater marine life.
Just off La Jolla Cove in La Jolla Submarine Canyon, a very popular place for diving classes and serious diving just north of Scripps Pier.
There are several La Jolla Caves carved by nature into the sandstone cliffs between La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores that attract ocean kayakers from around the world to see what it took nature millions of years to create. One cave, in particular, known as “ Sunny Jim Cave” can be entered through a man-made tunnel that leads to a steep descent through a narrow underground tube to a wooden deck.
Boomer Beach is great for bodysurfing. No surfing there. Shell Beach at the south end of Scripps Park is a steep, sloping beach for secluded sunbathing. Hospitals Beach is popular for local surfers. Horseshoes Beach is a great surfing beach along with Windansea.
La Jolla Cove Beach
A Vacation Experience By Itself
La Jolla Cove is an ocean paradise with picture-postcard views. Nestled between steep sandstone cliffs and accented by tall flowing palms, soft sandy beach, gentle waves, and stunning sunsets makes the Cove a popular subject of scenic photographers. Swim, scuba dive, snorkel, picnic, or just sunbathe in tranquility. Or if you’re the romantic type, moonlit walks will surely set the mood. The whole experience combines to make La Jolla a pleasurable vacation attraction.
The Cove is an ocean swimmer’s dream. No surfing permitted here. In fact, motor craft, kayaks, surfboards, boogie boards, flotation devices, and inflatable water recreation toys are prohibited at La Jolla Cove Beach. The Cove’s swimming area extends outward about a half-mile to form a defined path for long-distance swimming. The Cove attracts serious open-water swimmers and is a selected site for several competitive swimming events.
Clear water visibility, gentle rolling waves, kelp beds, underwater caves, and an abundance of reserve-protected underwater sea life attracts scuba divers and snorkelers. Frolic among marine nature where you’ll often come face-to-face with colorful fish, sea bass, moray eels, stingrays, bat rays, sand sharks, leopard sharks, and some of the largest lobsters you’ll ever see. But be aware that disturbing or removing sea life is prohibited. If you’re not familiar with diving at the Cove, ask the lifeguard about daily conditions and the best points of entry to maximize your enjoyment and safety.
Sightseeing and just plain people-watching can be a relaxing experience. Scripps Park with rolling green grass sitting at cliff-top is an ideal place for picnics and events. The park also includes public restrooms and showers for visitor convenience. Two sets of steep concrete stairs lead down to the beach on either end of the Cove. The steep inclines are not wheelchair accessible.
La Jolla Cove sits between La Jolla Shores Beach and Children’s Pool. It’s also nearby La Jolla Caves, a very popular spot among ocean shoreline kayakers. All La Jolla Beaches are connected making it convenient to walk from one to another. Combined with its abundance of fine hotels and resorts and close proximity to downtown La Jolla, The Coves is an ideal La Jolla attraction.
Checkout Boomer Beach, just around the point west of La Jolla Cove is a “body surfing only” beach that bans flotation devices. This is an uncrowded area that’s also ideal for sunbathing.
For Your Safety
Lifeguard towers at the Cove are generally staffed from 9:00 a.m. to about dusk.
Services, Guidelines, and Notes
Public restrooms and shower facilities are located in Scripps Park above the beach. Because of its steep inclines, the beach is not wheelchair accessible, but the ocean view walking at Scripps Park is handicap friendly. Fires on the beach are prohibited. Alcohol is only permitted between 12:00 noon and 8:00 p.m. Spears of any type are not allowed. Marine life is reserve protected and strictly enforced.
La Jolla Beach Cove is located at 1100 Coast Boulevard in La Jolla.
From the north. Take Interstate 5 southbound to La Jolla Village Drive, westbound. Turn left on Torrey Pines Road to Prospect Street. Turn right on Prospect, watch for signs, and bear right on Coast Blvd. Begin looking for on-street parking.
From the south. Take Interstate 5 northbound to Ardath Road. Continue westbound on Ardath as it becomes Torrey Pines Road. Follow Torrey Pines Rd. to Prospect street. Turn right on Prospect, watch for signs, and bear right on Coast Blvd. Begin looking for on-street parking.
Parking at La Jolla Cove
There is no public parking lot at the Cove. On-street parking is your only free option and is limited to 3 hours on weekdays with no time limit on weekends. Paid parking is available at several locations within short walking distance to the beach.
La Jolla Shores Beach
The Prime Family Beach in La Jolla
Wide and expansive, Shores is the largest beach in La Jolla with some of the most picturesque views of the Pacific Ocean. It’s a mile-long sitting next to some of the most sought-after real estate in California including luxury oceanfront homes and world-class resorts and hotels.
La Jolla Shores offers as much ocean recreation as you can handle. Its gentle waves are ideal for swimming, inexperienced surfers, beginning scuba divers, sunbathing or just plain old people-watching. It’s the most popular beach in La Jolla and gets most crowded between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on most summer days attracting both vacationers and local residents. If you’re after a bit more solitude and tranquility visit the Shores in the late afternoon and hang around for some spectacular sunsets.
A wide cement boardwalk parallels a portion of the beach making it ideal for strolling, jogging and bicycling, and rollerblading. La Jolla Shores is relatively flat without the steep cliff inclines found at La Jolla Cove. It is more conducive for families with young children and provides handicap accessibility. Kellogg Park lies behind the main lifeguard station and its grassy picnic area is the perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely day amidst the views.
The Shores at La Jolla lies next to the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Ecological Reserve and just north is Scripps Institute of Oceanography where its aquarium of live marine life is open to the public.
Rich underwater marine life and calm waters make scuba diving particularly popular at the south end of La Jolla Shores. The offshore caves attract ocean-kayaking enthusiasts from around the world.
The Shores have conveniently located a short distance from downtown La Jolla where you’ll find an abundance of restaurants, services, shopping, and full-service hotels. Combined with its mild waters, splendid views, cultural experience and a plethora of water recreation the Shores is the perfect vacation destination for the whole family.
For Your Beach Safety
Lifeguard towers at the Shores are generally staffed from 9:00 a.m. to about dusk.
Services, Guidelines, and Notes
Public restrooms and showers are available about 100 yards north and south of the main lifeguard tower. The beach has separate areas for swimming and surfing. Beach fire containers are provided during the summer months and are available on a first-come basis. Only wood, paper products or charcoal may be used. Fires cannot exceed a height of 12 inches above the container and must be extinguished before leaving the beach. Fires outside containers are prohibited. Alcoholic beverages are not allowed. Free beach wheelchairs are available during service hours on a first-come basis. The boardwalk is accessible to the disabled. Dogs on leashes are permitted from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
La Jolla Shores is located at 8200 Camino del Oro
From the north. Take Interstate 5 southbound. Exit at La Jolla Village Drive westbound. Turn left at Torrey Pines Road and follow the signs to La Jolla Shores Drive.
From the South. Take Interstate 5 Northbound. Exit at Ardath Road westbound. Turn right at La Jolla Shores Drive. Turn left at Avenida de la Playa, then turn right on Camino del Oro.
Parking at La Jolla Shores Beach
A 350-space lot with disabled spaces is located at the foot of Calle Fescota next to the lifeguard tower. During peak months, the lot fills by mid-day. There is limited free on-street parking and paid parking is located nearby.
Children’s Pool (Casa Beach)
Children’s Beach, affectionately known as “Casa Beach” by the locals, is a small cove beach created years ago for the children of La Jolla and visitors to experience the beach in an enclosed section within the La Jolla cliffs. What became a safe-haven for children also became a natural attraction to seals and sea lions that frolic in La Jolla Bay. Seals and sea lions come here to rest, sunbathe and even have pups.
Public controversy set-in. Some people felt the seals should be displaced, while others maintained the beach should exclusively become a preserved spot for seals and that swimming and typical beach recreation activities should be prohibited. The controversy often becomes verbally heated between animal rights activists and beach-goers.
Children’s Beach. A Fun, Beautiful Place.
In spite of the controversy, Children’s Beach is a beautiful place and a must-visit for tourists vacationing in the La Jolla and San Diego area. It’s conveniently located just below downtown La Jolla Village and its wide collection of boutiques, art galleries, fine restaurants, active nightlife, and lodging options.
Children’s beach is a fun place where on any given day you can watch the seals and sea lions “shoot” from the waves and waddle to their favorite places to sunbathe on the beach. They enjoy the attention they get but do not like to be approached.
Children’s Beach boasts some of the most strikingly beautiful sunsets you’ll ever experience. Couples find it romantic to watch the sunset in the evening as it gradually creates bursts of infinite color as it slowly disappears beyond the ocean horizon.
A curved concrete barrier-wall with iron rails that juts out into the bay is a popular walk for those that jaunt-out to get a closer look at the seals and wider views of coastal beauty along La Jolla. Many get a thrill out of waiting for the larger waves to break and crash over the top of the barrier. When big waves come, hang-on tight and expect to get wet.
Children’s Pool is a fabulous place for sunbathing, picnicking on grassy park areas to the north and south of the Pool, and still offers great views of ocean horizons. The seal-watching feature attracts over 80,000 annual visitors. The area below Scripps Park is a popular tide pool with other tide pools along the La Jolla shoreline.
Children’s Pool lies between La Jolla Cove to its north and Windansea Beach to its south. If you enjoy walking and people watching, the trails next to Coast Boulevard high above the beach provide panoramic views along the sandstone cliffs on the ocean’s edge. The steep inclines are not handicapped friendly.
This is a popular beach for scuba divers because of the reefs just offshore. These same reefs can create very strong currents and other hazards, particularly in high surf conditions. Telephone the lifeguard beach information line at (619) 221-8884 and ask about diving conditions and always check with lifeguards before diving.
Services and Guidelines
Lifeguards staff the beach daily from 9:00 AM to about dusk but are subject to change. Public restrooms and showers are located near the lifeguard station. Because of steep cliff inclines, Children’s Pool is not wheelchair accessible but wheelchairs can be used on its narrow seawall. Open fires are prohibited. Alcohol is not permitted and dogs on leashes are allowed from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m.
Directions To Children’s Pool
Children’s Pool (Casa Beach) is located at 850 Coast Boulevard in La Jolla CA.
From the north. Take Interstate 5 southbound to La Jolla Village Drive westbound. Turn left on Torrey Pines Road, then turn right on Prospect Street. Look for signs and bear right on Coast Boulevard.
From the south. Take Interstate 5 northbound to Ardath Road westbound., Ardath becomes Torrey Pines Road. Turn right on Prospect Street. Look for signs and bear right on Coast Boulevard.
Parking at Children’s Pool
Free on-street parking is available and is limited to 3 hours on weekdays, and unlimited on weekends. Paid parking is available within short walking distance to the beach.
Marine Street Beach in La Jolla
Although one of the prettiest beaches in the San Diego area, Marine Beach is not a family-oriented beach. It is popular with local body surfers and bodyboarders because of its wicked shore-break that delivers an adventurous ride. Inexperienced body surfers are advised to be very careful in dealing with the rough waves.
With its gorgeous white sand, spectacular views, and relative privacy, Marine Beach makes for perfect sunbathing. However, there are no public restrooms or picnic spots and the rough surf is not safe for children. Lifeguards are at the beach during the summer months and some peak weekends during the spring and fall. The popular Windansea Beach is just to the south of Marine Street Beach. Early morning is a great time to take a stroll along the beach where you will be rewarded with awesome scenic views.
Marine Beach is located near the downtown La Jolla Village area so it is convenient to boutique shopping, fine restaurants, and an active nightlife. There is no public parking at the beach, so you should plan to get there early to find the most convenient street parking.
Directions To Marine Street Beach
From The North. Take I-5 south. Exit at Genessee Avenue, head west, and make a left on Torrey Pines Road. Head down the hill into downtown La Jolla, turning left on Girard Avenue and right on Pearl Street. Turn Left at La Jolla Boulevard and then right on Marine Street.
From The South. Take I-5 north to Torrey Pines Road. Exit at Genessee Avenue, head west, and make a left on Torrey Pines Road. Head down the hill into downtown La Jolla, turning left on Girard Avenue and right on Pearl Street. Turn Left at La Jolla Boulevard and then right on Marine Street.
Serious Surfing, Sunbathing & Sunsets
This is a serious surfer beach also known for beautiful ocean views with strikingly brilliant romantic sunsets. The secluded atmosphere of Windansea downhill from luxury homes, oceanfront hotels, and commercial shopping make this beach ideal for sunbathers that prefer more solitude. The smooth sandstone rocks above the beach are perfect seats to enjoy the skilled surfing performances below.
The shore break, a steep beach condition combined with its underwater reef creates hard-breaking surf right to the shoreline. This makes Windansea a popular gathering place for the serious surfing culture. “The Shack”, originally built by surfers in WWII has been replicated several times and is now a San Diego Historic Site. Often called the “sugar shack” named for its abundance of romantic encounters that took place within its “lack of walls”.
The heavy partying by the surfer crowd in the sixties was the subject of Tom Wolfe’s “The Pumphouse Gang” written in 1968. Today it’s a much toned-down version of its hey-days. Alcohol is only permitted from noon to 8:00 p.m. and not at all in parking lots, walkways or grassy picnic areas. Fires of any kind on or around the beach are prohibited.
Windansea is also a great area for body surfing and offers some okay snorkeling conditions. The north end of the beach is quite rocky and you’ll find the south much sandier with nice strolling conditions along the shoreline. Windansea has separate surfing and swimming areas but is not recommended for children because of rough surf. Novice surfers should consider the milder waves found at La Jolla Shores.
For Your Beach Safety
Lifeguard stations are only staffed on weekends during the spring months, daily in the summer, and weekends during September beginning at 9:00 a.m. to dusk. There are no lifeguards during other periods.
Services, Guidelines and Notes
There are no public restrooms or showers at Windansea. The beach has separate areas for surfing and swimming. There are numerous sandstone cliff formations that make the beach inaccessible to wheelchairs, but the adjacent sidewalks are handicap friendly with excellent views of the beach. Beach fires are prohibited and alcohol is only permitted on the beach from 12:00 noon to 8:00 p.m.
Windansea Beach is located at 6800 Neptune Place, La Jolla
From the north. Take Interstate 5 southbound. Exit La Jolla Village Drive westbound. Turn left on Torrey Pines Road then right on Pearl Street. Turn left on La Jolla Boulevard, then right on Nautilus.
From the south. Take Interstate 5 northbound. Exit on Ardath Road westbound as it becomes Torrey Pines Road. Turn right on Pearl Street. Turn left on La Jolla Boulevard, then right on Nautilus.
Parking at Windansea Beach
There are only 18 spaces in the public parking lot and there is limited on-street parking in a residential area.
Black’s Beach in La Jolla-Del Mar
An amazing slice of coastline, located directly below the sandstone cliffs of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, Black’s Beach has been a La Jolla/Del Mar icon for decades. Black’s Beach is technically a misnomer though, as the beach is officially known as Torrey Pines City Beach and is under the jurisdiction of the City of San Diego. Ask any local, however, about the best place to surf, watch the whales in winter, or sunbathe amidst the warm sand of Southern California, and the answer will undoubtedly be Black’s Beach.
The natural scenery of Black’s Beach is part of its attraction. The cliffs jut precipitously out of the coastline toward the sky, and the hiking trail that leads down to the beach from the Reserve are some of the most challenging in the area. The trail is steep with little chaparral, and on occasion is subject to slides and instability. However the State and City of San Diego do an outstanding job of repairing this highly utilized access point, and for the athletically minded visitor, the trail from the Reserve can be the fastest way to get to Black’s Beach.
Other visitors enter from the north, through Torrey Pines State Beach, a distinctly separate beach that is set apart from Black’s Beach by cliff formations that reach from the bluffs to the water line at extremely high tide. This access point can be the easiest way to reach Black’s Beach, however, and many visitors plan their entrance to coincide with the tides so they can walk casually and leisurely along the sandy shore.
The allure of Black’s Beach is legendary. In addition to extremely powerful surf drawing worldwide champions and novices alike, the scenery of Black’s is breathtaking. The beach is virtually ensconced by the rock formations and bluffs that rise nearly 300 feet from the sea, creating a quiet and secluded area to enjoy the water. Although not officially sanctioned, many beachgoers at Black’s enjoy this seclusion by removing their clothes and frolicking nude through the waves. To many Black’s Beach is considered a nude beach, however, there are signs that recommend specific areas for sunbathing and the atmosphere at Black’s is one of cooperation and understanding.
There are several areas of the beach that are beyond the line of sight of sunbathers, and visitors are likely to see families splashing in the waves are just as they are the occasional nude surfer. There are no lifeguards, restrooms, or showers at Black’s Beach, however and access can be limited during periods of excessively high tide. Access from Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve can be affected by trail conditions as well, making Black’s Beach a destination that is often uncrowded and worth waiting for.
Directions To Black’s Beach
Exit Interstate 5 at Carmel Valley Road, heading west to Torrey Pines Road (Pacific Coast Highway or Highway 101). Enter Torrey Pine State Beach and park in the paved lot. Walk south from Torrey Pines State Beach approximately one mile, aware that tidal conditions make it difficult to access Black’s Beach during high tide.
Torrey Pines State Beach
Cruising south on Pacific Coast Highway out of Del Mar, beach revelers will be delighted and amazed at the natural beauty of Torrey Pines State Beach. Named for the famed Torrey Pine, an evergreen that grows only in this naturally beautiful pocket of the planet, Torrey Pines State Beach offers traditional beachgoers swimming, surfing, boarding, and of course, casual strolls through the soft sandy shoreline and a wide collection of shells for the avid collector.
The beach runs for three miles between the Glider Ports found at Torrey Pines State Reserve and Carmel Valley Road and is directly adjacent to the highway, which goes by the name Torrey Pines Road along this section of coastline. Because of its convenient location and easy access, Torrey Pines State Beach is one of the most desirable beach destinations in Southern California.
The sandstone cliffs found at Torrey Pines Mesa provide a stunning backdrop for the clear blue waters of the Pacific and the beach here is breathtaking. On any given day families can be found frolicking in the waves, collecting shells along the shore, or picnicking in the warm Southern California climate. Anglers will find the natural configuration of coves and bays near Torrey Pines perfect for fishing and surfers claim the tide at Torrey Pines is exceptional in both winter and summer. Children love to collect starfish near the lagoon, and there are all kinds of sea creatures to entertain and excite every member of the family.
The amenities at Torrey Pines State Beach are also part of its charm. Unlike other beaches that dot the southern coastline, Torrey Pines offers clean restrooms, showers, convenient parking directly off the highway, a food concessionaire offering both hot food and delicious snacks, even surfboard rentals for visitors or locals trying the surf for the first time. For those that just can’t leave the real world behind, there is even Wi-Fi service along all but the most southern portion of the beach, provided by the Visitor’s Lodge located above the beach at Torrey Pines State Reserve.
This scenic wonderland is accessible year-round and the length of the beach fully accessed at all but the highest tides. Lifeguards patrol the beach areas however visitors should take note there are no permanent lifeguard stations at Torrey Pines. The surf can be powerful at times, exciting surfers from all over the world. No matter whether you are hitting the waves like or a pro or simply wading with the kids in the coves and lowlands, Torrey Pines State Beach delivers first-class fun and world-class beauty.
Directions To Torrey Pines State Beach.
Located one mile south of Del Mar on North Torrey Pines Road (Pacific Coast Highway), access the beach by exiting Interstate 5 at Carmel Valley Road, traveling west to Torrey Pines Road. Turn south on Torrey Pines Road and enter either the large capacity lot on the left, park alongside Pacific Coast Highway, or enter the State Reserve and use the beach level lot that is just beyond the entrance gate. There is an entrance fee for the State Reserve; however, you will enjoy the closest proximity to the beach and access to the showers and restrooms directly from your car.