La Jolla, the San Diego Neighborhood that’s home to the University of California at San Diego, is on a point on the Pacific Ocean just north of the city. If you’re not from Southern California, and you’re not sure why so many people want to live here, a quick trip to La Jolla’s stunning waterfront may answer a lot of your questions. If it’s a nice day (and it probably will be) you’ll likely see locals playing, exercising, or chilling out in a lush park overlooking a picturesque beach. Only steps away, you may see seals or sea lions relaxing with their pups. If you have 24 hours in San Diego, you only get to watch the sunset over the Pacific once, so be sure you find a gorgeous place like this one to do it. The combination of happy people, happy animals, and breathtaking views offers a snapshot of the best of California.
You can get a quick view of La Jolla Point driving along Ocean Boulevard. For a closer look, park and take a walkout to the tip of the point or along the waterfront trail. The beach near the point, La Jolla Cove, is open to the public for swimming. The rocks around the point and cove are also a great place to see seals, sea lions, and an impressive variety of seabirds, and if your timing’s right, explore tide pools.
The nearby neighborhood is also a great place to explore, known for small cafés and Mexican restaurants. It’s also home to the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego.
At 834 Coast Blvd., there’s another small but picturesque beach called the Children’s Pool. It’s had that name since 1931 when local philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps sponsored a concrete barrier to create a protected area for kids to swim.
In 1992, people started seeing harbor seals on the beach. By 1997, seals were coming here to have pups and the beach had to be closed due to concerns about bacteria from seal feces. This led to a multi-decade controversy and legal battle between those who wanted to protect the seals and those who wanted to protect its original use aa a kids’ beach, which would require removing the seals. In recent years, the beach has been open to humans, but swimming is not always recommended and the areas where the seals raise their pups are roped off. Depending on when you visit the situation may be different. During the controversy, the seal population has continued to grow and has attracted tourists (a boon to local businesses) and many locals now call this “Seal Beach.”
Despite conflicts like this one, the seals are good news in a time when there’s plenty of bad news about the environment. La Jolla is now one of many places on the California coast where you can regularly see seals, sea lions, sea otters, dolphins, or whales. That was not the case in the early 1970s when many species had been hunted nearly to extinction. In 1972 the US Congress passed the Marine Mammals Protection Act and it seems to have done its job. Large populations of sea mammals can now be found in places that had none only a few decades ago.
Cover image: Dan Croft