La Jolla may only be a short half-hour drive from San Diego, but a day trip to La Jolla is perfect for those looking to trade the busy city for a slow-paced, sleepy, swanky seaside town. 

Even if you only have one day in La Jolla during a weekend trip to San Diego, you can still see and experience the best this town has to offer. From fabulous eateries and boutique shopping to water adventures and sea lions (yes, seriously!), one day in La Jolla won’t disappoint. 

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One Day in La Jolla Itinerary

If you’re looking for a one day in La Jolla itinerary to follow — I’ve got you covered! Follow these suggestions (or at least as many as you can squeeze in) for an awesome day trip to La Jolla. 

Coffee – Better Buzz 

First things first — coffee, am I right? If you didn’t already pick up coffee in San Diego, head straight to Better Buzz on Prospect Street when you get into town for a morning pick-me-up. 

Better Buzz is a Southern California coffee chain that is known for its delicious coffees, yummy pastries, and acai bowls. If it’s your first time, I recommend trying the “Best Drink Ever” (yes, it’s really called that). It’s a Vanilla Americano, but way better than any you’ve ever tasted before — you’ll have to try it and let me know what you think! 

La Jolla Cove 

Once you have your coffee, head down to La Jolla Cove — the home of the famous seals and sea lions! La Jolla is home to tons of sea lions (seriously, hundreds!), and they love to lounge on the sand surrounding the beach or on the rocks of the cove. 

La Jolla Cove is a small and popular beach, so arriving early will help you to beat the crowds. It’s also one of the best snorkeling sites in La Jolla or the San Diego area in general. If you’re looking for more places to say “hello” to sea lions and their pups later, check out the famous Seven Sea Caves, Boomer Beach, Shell Beach, and the Children’s Pool. 

La Jolla Tide Pools 

After breakfast, take a walk along the coast (heading south) to the La Jolla Tide Pools. You’ll pass noteworthy landmarks, like Shell Beach and the Children’s Pool, along the way — and you’ll maybe even see more seals and sea lions. 

The La Jolla Tide Pools are a spectacular place to observe sea life, like hermit crabs and anemones, and even the occasional seal. Just be careful — the mossy rocks are slick and slippery, so watch your footing. Trust me, I know from experience! 

Brunch – The Cottage 

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head over to The Cottage for breakfast. This quaint brunch spot, built in an old house, serves delicious sweet and savory breakfast items, and they have a lovely porch and great indoor seating, as well. We ordered the Monterrey Scramble and the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, which were delicious. 

It’s smart to put your name in at The Cottage before going to La Jolla Cove, as they can have a long wait, especially on the weekends. If you are looking for somewhere else to check out during your one day in La Jolla, Cove House and Brockton Villa are two other popular breakfast spots. 

Water Adventures 

You can enjoy plenty of fun water activities during your one day in La Jolla — from snorkeling and surfing to kayaking and paddleboarding. La Jolla Underwater Park and La Jolla Shores Beach, north of La Jolla Cove, are some of the best places for enjoying water sports like these. 

Chances are, you’ll only have time for one water sport during your one day in La Jolla. You can choose from this list of highly-rated tours that include lessons, equipment rentals, and other perks for a hassle-free experience: 

  • La Jolla: 90-Minute Surfing Lesson — Learn how to surf in the calm waters of La Jolla Shores Beach! With this experience, an expert instructor will teach you how to surf (no experience or equipment is required), and you can begin to ride the waves! 
  • La Jolla Underwater Park: Kayak and Snorkel Tour — Kayak out to the best spot for snorkeling in La Jolla, and observe sea lions, bat rays, fish, dolphins, sea turtles, and other incredible marine animals during this two-hour experience. 
  • La Jolla: Sea Cave Kayaking Tour with Guide — Paddle your kayak into La Jolla’s Ecological Reserve and Seven Sea Caves with an expert guide, and be amazed by this thriving ecosystem with one of the state’s highest concentrations of marine life. 

Birch Aquarium at Scripps 

If you don’t see enough aquatic life while snorkeling, kayaking, or surfing, or maybe you just prefer to check out wildlife from a dry vantage point on land — no problem! Just hop in your car and head to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. 

Birch Aquarium features more than 5,000 animals in 60+ habitats, including seahorses, penguins, eels, sharks, and more. Visitors can interact with sea stars, lobsters, hermit crabs, and other creatures in the Tidepool Plaza, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and can learn about cutting-edge research by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. 

If you’re planning to stay in San Diego and La Jolla for a few days, I highly recommend getting a Go City San Diego Pass. For a discounted price, you can gain admission to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, as well as the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Natural History Museum, Full-Day Bike Rental in La Jolla, and more attractions over one, two, three, four, five, or seven days! 

Museum of Contemporary Art – San Diego 

The Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego (MCASD) has two locations — one in Downtown San Diego and another in La Jolla. If you consider yourself an art aficionado, this is a fabulous way to spend your afternoon during your one day in La Jolla. 

The MCASD was founded in La Jolla in 1941 and celebrates the beauty of art and nature in its beautiful locations. While you are here, you can see rotating exhibitions and plenty of artwork on display. They are open Thursday – Sunday from 10 AM – 4 PM, and admission is $25 per adult (but the MCASD is included in the Go City San Diego Pass). 

Bobboi Natural Gelato 

If you need a late afternoon pick-me-up, head over to Bobboi Natural Gelato for some of the best homemade gelatos you have ever tasted during your one day in La Jolla!

Bobboi makes all its gelato flavors in small batches, and the unique flavors are so tasty. Some of the flavors they offer include Stracciatella, Rose Honey, California Pistachio, Charcoal Vanilla, and more. Grab a scoop (or two) to enjoy while walking up and down Prospect Street. If you crave more back in San Diego, they also have two locations in town. 

Shopping on Prospect Street 

There are plenty of adorable boutiques, tourist stops, and other places to go shopping in La Jolla. Most shops in La Jolla are up and down Prospect Street — so once you grab your gelato, meander around to see what you can find! 

Dinner – Duke’s La Jolla 

Before you head back to San Diego, grab a filling dinner at Duke’s La Jolla. This two-story restaurant that overlooks La Jolla Cove serves Hawaiian-inspired food, like Fish Tacos, Korean Sticky Ribs, Macadamia Nut Hummus, and more. 

I actually haven’t eaten at Duke’s La Jolla, but it is one of my favorite places to eat in Oahu, Hawaii, so I can assure you that the food is good! I highly recommend the Hula Pie for dessert (yum) and Duke’s Mai Tai if you want something refreshing to drink. 

FAQs: One Day in La Jolla 

Is La Jolla or Coronado Beach better?

La Jolla and Coronado Beach are both popular day trips from San Diego — but they each have their own unique vibe, and depending on what you’re looking for, you may prefer one over the other. 

Head to Coronado Beach if you want pillowy-soft white-sand beaches, an extremely walkable downtown, and swimmable waves. Go to La Jolla if you want to explore cool coves, enjoy water sports like kayaking and snorkeling, or meet wildlife. Both are great for shopping, dining, and laid-back beach vibes. 

Do you have to pay to go to La Jolla Cove? 

No, you do not have to pay to go to La Jolla Cove. La Jolla Cove is open to the public, and it’s one of the best free things to do in La Jolla! 

Is there free street parking in La Jolla? 

There is limited free street parking in La Jolla, so if you want to snag a spot during your day in La Jolla, be sure to arrive early. Otherwise, you can find parking garages in La Jolla for $10 – $20 per day. Remember, if you visit La Jolla on a Sunday — street parking is always free! 

When is the best time to visit La Jolla?

La Jolla is a beautiful destination to visit during all times of the year, but the best months to visit are July – October, when you can count on warm, sunny days, clear skies, and beautiful blooms all around.

November – March can tend to be rainy, but January – May mark the birthing season for seals, so if you want to see a seal pup in La Jolla — February and March are the best months to visit! 

Enjoy One Day in La Jolla – Then Make Plans to Come Back Again

While spending one day in La Jolla is undoubtedly better than none — I have a feeling that after your day trip to La Jolla from San Diego, you’ll already be planning your next trip back!

So, what sounds the most fun to you on this one day in La Jolla itinerary? Would you love to watch the sea lions and kayak into sea caves? Or enjoy a delicious brunch and shop ’til you drop? No matter what you choose to do during your one day in La Jolla on this list — you honestly can’t go wrong!

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Brit! I'm a writer from Phoenix, AZ who loves coffee, golden retriever puppies, and obviously, travel! I help ordinary women (like me!) dream, plan, and do extraordinary travel experiences.