Translated literally as “the jewel,” La Jolla is a gem. The upscale village is known for its luxe specialty boutiques, art galleries and fine-dining venues that offer jaw-dropping views of the La Jolla coastline and the many stunning homes overlooking it. Nearby, hike at Torrey Pines and shop in the Golden Triangle.
Boutiques and Galleries
La Jolla’s stylish streets are lined with high-end boutiques, antique stores and art galleries. Prospect Street and Girard Avenue form the spines of the village shopping district, but don’t be afraid to venture off onto side streets, where hidden gems await, including The Salt Room La Jolla (7509 Draper Ave.), a salt-therapy lounge; the boutique stationery shop Sweet Paper (7660 Fay Ave.); Las Manos del Artesano (7940 Herschel Ave.), a gallery with Latin American folk art; and Tijon Fragrance Lab & Boutique (7853 Herschel Ave.), where you can customize your own perfume.
On Girard, amid national brands like Banana Republic (7841 Girard Ave.), we love women’s apparel boutique Kerut (7944 Girard Ave.), a well-appointed spot run by a stylist. It’s not uncommon to find cupcakes and bubbly awaiting your arrival. Farther down Girard is Adelaide’s (7766 Girard Ave.), a fabulous floral shop that also sells candles, skincare and home accessories; as well as independent bookseller D.G. Wills (7461 Girard Ave.) stocking that rare first-edition.
Back on Prospect Street, a slew of female-friendly stores welcome shoppers, including locally designed swimwear shop Sauvage (1025 Prospect St.) andRobina (1261 Prospect St.), with chic women’s apparel and accessories. There’s also Westime (1227 Prospect St.), offering high-end designer watches for both men and women. Also be sure to check out We Olive (1158 Prospect St.), a wine and olive bar featuring olive oil tastings, unique gift ideas and an ocean-view back patio.
The village is also home to many well-respected art galleries, whose collections range from landscape photography to Picasso canvases. A handful are clustered close together on Girard Avenue, making it easy to hop between them on nights when they all have coordinated opening receptions. Quint Gallery (7547 Girard Ave.) showcases edgy work by national artists like Ryan McGinness, while Scott White Contemporary Art (7655 Girard St.) represents emerging and mid-career artists, as well as collections that include work by the likes of Willem de Kooning and Alexander Calder. Joseph Bellows Gallery (7661 Girard Ave.) mounts regular exhibitions of stunning black-and-white photography.
La Jolla Boulevard heads south out of the village toward Bird Rock, where worthwhile boutiques for women include Capricorn (5544 La Jolla Blvd.) and Mimi & Red (5630 La Jolla Blvd.), with threads from cutting-edge designers. Break for coffee at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters (5627 La Jolla Blvd.), whose sought-after beans are served at cafés throughout the city, or pick up a loaf of gluten-free bread at the charming Julian Bakery (5621 La Jolla Blvd.).
The neighborhood of La Jolla Shores, just a short drive up Torrey Pines Road, is also worth a visit. The wide, flat beach is perfect for swimming and sunning, while the main drag, Avenida de la Playa, is lined with eateries and rental shops with surf and kayak gear.
Arts & Science
The University of California, San Diego (9500 Gilman Drive) is home to one of the best theaters in the region: La Jolla Playhouse. The theater was founded in 1947 by actors Mel Ferrer, Dorothy McGuire and La Jolla native Gregory Peck.
The Stuart Collection, a group of site-specific outdoor sculptures, adds to the artistic setting at UCSD. A 24-foot giant teddy bear made of boulders and a 560-foot-long “Snake Path” are among the artworks placed throughout the 1,200-acre campus.
Just north of campus is the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (10010 N. Torrey Pines Road), an architectural masterpiece designed by Louis Kahn. The scientific research complex was named in honor of Dr. Jonas Salk, who discovered a vaccine for polio and later lived in La Jolla. Tours of campus architecture are available to the public (858.453.4100).
Southwest of campus sits Scripps Institution of Oceanography (8622 Kennel Way) and Birch Aquarium, both among the world’s best ocean-life learning centers.
In La Jolla Village, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego examines the boundaries of art created since 1950. Housed in the former home of Ellen Browning Scripps, the museum’s galleries boast an unparalleled ocean view, while Nancy Rubins’ stunning large-scale, nautical-inspired artwork adorns the museum’s west side.
The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library (1008 Wall St.) features year-round art exhibitions, jazz and chamber music concerts, and a treasure trove of books and records.
La Jolla is paradise for outdoorsy types. The Cove (1100 Coast Blvd.) hosts swimmers, snorkelers and kayakers—try La Jolla Kayak (2199 Avenida de la Playa) for rentals and tours. La Jolla Shores (8200 Camino del Oro) has easy access for scuba divers. Windansea (6800 Neptune Place), immortalized in Tom Wolfe’s The Pump House Gang, is a great surfing break.
Children’s Pool, a small cove next to Ellen Browning Scripps Park, is a place to observe wildlife, particularly the harbor seals that have taken over the area. The seals’ encampment has caused an ongoing community debate: Some residents want to reclaim the cove for a children’s pool; others advocate for the seals.
For a quick bite, oceanview restaurants line Prospect Street and Coast Boulevard.
Torrey Pines is just north of La Jolla Village. There, you’ll find the 2,000-acre Torrey Pines State Reserve, which offers eight miles of hiking trails winding through wind-sculpted pines and wildflowers. Located off Coast Highway 101 between La Jolla and Del Mar, the reserve was established to protect the nation’s rarest pine tree, the Pinus torreyan.
One of the reserve’s trails leads directly to Torrey Pines State Beach, located on North Torrey Pines Road. The beach, which spans 4.5 miles from Del Mar to the cliffs at Torrey Pines Mesa, is a great place for swimming, boating and fishing. You can also catch these amazing ocean views from up high, via a hang glider or paraglider. The Torrey Pines Gliderport (2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Drive) offers flights (tandem, too) for novices and extreme adventure seekers.
Adjacent Black’s Beach is a remote, two-mile sandy strip known for great surfing—and nude sunbathing (“not officially sanctioned”). Nearby, Torrey Pines Golf Course gives golfers the ultimate indulgence: two courses with stunning ocean views. In 2008, the landmark became one of the only public courses to host a U.S. Open; it’s also the site of the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open.
The area east of La Jolla Village is known as the Golden Triangle, bordered by Interstate 5 on the west, Interstate 805 on the east and State Route 52 on the south. This triangular area includes upscale hotels and fine dining. The shopping district revolves around Westfield University Towne Centre, which locals shorten to “UTC.” This recently renovated outdoor mall features dozens of eateries, shops and department stores.
Click HERE for a detailed map of La Jolla.