“Some people seemed to get all sunshine, and some all shadow.”

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

La Jolla, San Diego, California

A Day In La Jolla

We were getting ALL sunshine during our San Diego family vacation: Day 3 – La Jolla! Known as “The Jewel of San Diego,” La Jolla is a beautiful hilly seaside community within the city limits of San Diego, California.

You could really spend a whole weekend here, but we narrowed it down to just one (very full) day. Before our trip, I spent a lot of time reading La Jolla Mom. It is full of super detailed information about San Diego–along with hotel recommendations.

We made La Jolla our home base thanks to a beautiful condo rental on Home Away. Check out more about the condo we stayed in on my previous post: San Diego Family Vacation: Day 1–Travel Day.

The Schedule

  • 8:00 am  – Breakfast at The Cottage
  • 9:00 am – La Jolla Cove (Sea Lions)
  • 9:30 am – The Cave Store
  • 10:30 am – Birch Aquarium
  • 11:30 pm – La Jolla Shores
  • 2:00 pm – Lunch @ Shore Rider
  • 4:00 pm – Windansea Condo
  • 8:00 pm – Dinner Pizza Delivery


The Cottage

7702 Fay Avenue, La Jolla, San Diego, CA 92037

To start the day off, we had breakfast at The Cottage. This is a hot spot on the weekends in La Jolla, so be sure to plan ahead. Known for its storied brunch house and great patio, The Cottage is a perfect place to fill your tummies before a long day!

Open daily, The Cottage serves breakfast from 7:30am to 3:00pm and lunch from 11:30am to 3:00pm.

They do not take reservations. The Cottage is a first come first serve kind of place. However, they do have a wait list you can join on Saturday and Sunday (the busiest days). Download the No Wait app from your iPhone or Android device, and add your name to the list. You will be able to monitor your status before arriving at the restaurant. You can also join the wait list on Yelp here.

Plan to sit on the patio. The patio is great for enjoying the nice San Diego weather, and it is especially good if you have a big party like us (family of 6), since the inside is pretty cozy.

If you are a breakfast/brunch-er, this is the place for you. The portions are generous, and the food is good! If you order coffee, you will get a warm pot on the table for refills at your convenience. I enjoyed the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, and the big hit with the kids was the French Toast with strawberries and bananas–as seen below.

Seals & Sea Lions

La Jolla Cove

1100 Coast Blvd., La Jolla, San Diego, CA 92037

Next stop: the seals and sea lions! After finishing our breakfast we headed to see the sea lions at La Jolla Cove. Parking can be tricky, but once you finally land a spot, walk on over to the Cove to check out these playful creatures.

Surprisingly, or not, I found them to be a little smelly. 🙂 But that certainly didn’t take away from their cuteness! They were a lot of fun to watch, especially to see how they interact with each other. We saw babies playing and splashing in the water. My girls found the babies most entertaining.

Spotting the difference in seals and sea lions is a fun challenge too. I’m not an expert, but I think their posture and coloring are the main clues as to which is which. Sea lions are brown, bark loudly, and “walk” on land using their large flippers. Seals have small flippers and wriggle on their bellies on land.

Sea lions on the cliff at La Jolla Cove in San Diego, California

The Cave Store

Sunny Jim Cave

1325 Cave Street, La Jolla, San Diego, CA 92037

When you’re done admiring the marine mammals, walk over to The Cave Store. Upon entering the store, you will see a gift shop and a door leading down to the Sunny Jim Cave. The cost is $5/adult and $3/kids under 17.

The Cave Store is one of the oldest businesses in La Jolla. It tunnels down by 144 stair steps to the Sunny Jim Sea Cave. Although this seems like a lot of stairs, it really isn’t a bad climb, and it gives visitors the opportunity to visit the cave by land. Up until the tunnel was built in 1902-1903, the only entry point to the cave was by water.

The Sunny Jim Sea Cave experience is so cool that it is noted as one of the “must” see places in Southern California by Encyclopedia Americana. Another interesting fact is how the cave got its name. “Sunny Jim” was the name given by Frank Baum who wrote ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Pretty neat huh?

Marine Life

Birch Aquarium

2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, San Diego, CA 92037

So you have seen sea lions, seals, and a cave. Now its time to check out some aquatic life! You will need to drive to the next stop, but it will only get you closer to the final destination of the day–La Jolla Shores.

Head up north to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps. This aquarium is built toward engaging its audience–especially the kids. There are countless hands on activities for young minds to explore. I was even fascinated by a lot of the exhibits!

The Aquarium is a nice break from the sun as well. Since the beach is the next stop, enjoy the indoors for a couple hours. You will get a nice view of La Jolla Shore from the Tide Pool Plaza in the back of the aquarium.

Beach Time

La Jolla Shores

8110 Camino del Oro, La Jolla, San Diego, CA 92037

La Jolla Shores is not far from the aquarium. By this time my kids were chomping at the bit to get in the water. Parking is another issue here, but just be patient because people are coming and going all through the day. We packed a cooler of snacks and waters, brought sand toys, chairs and a bodyboard. Oh and don’t forget the umbrella and sunscreen!

Once my kids got used to the chilly water, they had a blast bodyboarding. They didn’t have prior experience, but there were plenty of people to learn from. They jumped in with the other kids and off they went! Eventually they got the hang of it, and I had to watch them even closer to make sure they didn’t drift too far away!

The big kids alternated between bodyboarding and building sand castles. While my youngest stuck close to us and ran back and forth into the small waves with dad. I mostly worked on adding freckles and calling it a tan. Ha!


Shore Rider

2168 Avenida De La Playa, La Jolla, San Diego, CA 92037

For lunch we walked to Shore Rider near the beach. It’s a cool little beachy place with an open air patio setting. They offer cold drinks and good food that keeps you in the beach mode. Swimsuits are acceptable attire, and you can even catch a nap on the table if the beach wears you out.

What I wanted to eat was The “One Pound” Burrito, but I was also wearing a swimsuit. So what I actually got was the So Cal Salad. It did not disappoint. The kids all had cheeseburgers, and we finished the meal off with Churros a la Mode. I highly recommend the dessert. It was a nice cold treat after being on the hot beach.

Did I mention we were there in 90 degree, record breaking, San Diego temperatures? I think I mentioned it in San Diego Family Vacation: Day 2 – Zoo Day.

Evening Time

Condo and Dinner

After our late lunch, we headed back to the condo. We showered the sand off and settled in for the rest of the day. A lot of ground was covered, and the little legs (actually all the legs) in our family were tired. Again, we opened the windows and let the sea breeze cool down the condo.

The girls played cards on the dining room table, and we sat and watched the evening surfers. Later in the evening we ordered pizza delivery and called it a day. La Jolla day was a success!

La Jolla Cove, Seals and Sea Lions

Stay tuned for San Diego Family Vacation: Day 4 – Coronado Beach

Also check out:

San Diego Family Vacation: Day 1 – Travel Day

San Diego Family Vacation: Day 2 – Zoo Day

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