Everything You Need to Know for a Vacation to La Jolla, California

La Jolla, CA will now forever be a special place for our family. We just wrapped up over a month there, and even though I knew I’d like it, I fell way more in love with the area than I expected. It’s such an incredible part of the country and one of the only places I’ve been to where beautiful scenery, near-perfect daily weather, outdoor activities, and amazing food/drink collide.

Below, I’m recapping everything you need to know for a vacation to La Jolla, including what I wore, what we did, the best restaurants in La Jolla, etc. If you’re planning a trip to the area soon, be sure to save or pin this post to reference later! I also have a post on what I packed for California.

What to Wear on a Trip to La Jolla, California

La Jolla is a beach town, so everyone is dressed casually 99% of the time. The only exception is in the evenings, especially on the weekends, when people dress up for dinner or drinks in town. Since I knew we’d be working as usual during our month there, I brought a mix of athleisure, comfortable daytime looks, and dressier pieces (skirts, blouses, dresses) that I could mix and match for date night.

The weather was hotter than I expected during the day, especially once the marine layer (fog) “burned off” in the afternoon. However, nights could get cool quickly, so I’m thankful I packed a ton of layers. In the summer, the temperatures only vary by about 10 degrees and typically range between 62 and 75. When I wasn’t in direct sunlight, I felt like I could be wearing either a sweatshirt and leggings or shorts and a tank top and feel fine either way. Below are some of the outfits I wore during our summer trip to La Jolla.

Where to Stay in La Jolla

Beach Bungalows

We originally booked a place in downtown San Diego, but after a long weekend trip to check them out in April, I am so happy that we switched to this VRBO in La Jolla Shores. There are four bungalows side by side—ours is the two story with the patio—and they’re 3 blocks from the beach, walking distance from great restaurants, and driving distance to all the quintessential things in the area (shopping in downtown La Jolla, great grocery stores, Torrey Pines park, and more). They also have A/C, which was a huge plus for the area.

Estancia La Jolla

This is our #1 hotel choice to stay when visiting La Jolla. This family-friendly hotel is located a little north of La Jolla proper along the coast. Since it’s not directly in in downtown or on the beach, you have more privacy and quiet than otherwise. The property is lush, luxurious yet warm, family-friendly, and dog-friendly. There are amazing on-site amenities including a coffee shop, restaurants, a pool, a spa, a garden with a board game library, and more. If you want to have a beautiful garden like this in your home, then you may consider reaching out to professionals from sites like gardencabincompany.uk to help you.

What to Do in La Jolla

Mount Soledad Hike

This coastal hike is one of La Jolla’s best-kept secrets. It’s tucked away on a small side street, but any local can guide you to it. It’s just a little over a mile there and back, and on a clear day, you can get 360-degree views of the entire San Diego area.

Torrey Pines State Reserve

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is a 2,000-acre state park located north of downtown La Jolla and La Jolla Shores, and it is beautiful. Not only is well-known Torrey Pines Golf Course there (where the U.S. Open was hosted in 2021), there are several hiking trails along the cliffs that overlook the Pacific. You can find find everything from a short stroll (.1 mile) to a 2-hour trek.

Surf, Kayak, or Dive at La Jolla Shores

Our rental came with surf boards and paddle boards, but you can rent those as well as kayaks and snorkel gear at several spots along Avenida De La Playa in La Jolla Shores. David had fun taking the surfboard out on a few occasions, and we rented Kayaks one afternoon to explore the shoreline and some of the caves along the coastline of downtown La Jolla. The experience was fantastic! By the way, these sunglasses are made for surfing – you should try them!

Calumet Park Sunset

This is a favorite sunset spot for locals to pack a picnic-style dinner or a bottle of wine with solo cups and enjoy the evening. The view is absolutely breathtaking on a clear night, and it usually isn’t overly crowded. There are a couple of benches you can sit on if you get there early enough, but I recommend bringing a blanket or chair.

Coast Walk Trail

Coast Walk Trail starts in a neighborhood cul-de-sac, where you’ll find a parking lot with about ten spots (you can park curbside in the nearby neighborhoods if it’s full), and it’s only about .6 miles. This is a coastal trail that goes along the bluffs behind private La Jolla homes, and it has incredible views. We loved doing this one before or after brunch on Saturday/Sunday morning, since it’s so short. Bring sunscreen and a hat as the sun can be intense, and there are cute lookouts/beaches to stop along the way, see wildlife (sea lions! birds!), and take in the scenery.

Best La Jolla Restaurants & Coffee Shops

Duke’s La Jolla

This Hawaii-inspired restaurant gets over 12,000 Google searches monthly for a reason! It’s named in honor of an Olympic swimmer also known as the “father of modern surfing.” Tiki torches line the entrance and the beachy vibe extends indoors and out onto the upper and lower patio, which both have incredible views of the entire coastline of La Jolla. I recommend making a reservation 1-2 weeks in advance so that you can grab a table during sunset. The macadamia-encrusted fish, cocktails, and Hula Cake are incredible!

Herringbone

We stumbled on this restaurant during our first weekend in La Jolla, and I can’t believe it isn’t slammed all the time. Their menu is designed to be “Fish Meats Field,” so there’s a little something for everyone regardless of what your preferences are. David loved the oysters and the salads/a la carte vegetables were incredibly fresh. We split the Halibut, which I highly recommend (the dishes are fairly large), and our server was so attentive and helpful in our wine/drink selections.

Catania

This was hands-down our favorite spot for date night! This restaurant is situated upstairs off one of the main drags in downtown La Jolla but has an open-air design and an intimate feel. The pastas are handmade in house and the pizzas have a wood-fired, authentic Italian flavor. Our favorite dishes were the pizza focaccia, farmer’s market salad, and duck sugo orecchiette.

Puesto

I can’t count on one hand the number of times we went to Puesto La Jolla during our month visit—safe to say we love this spot! It’s a popular Mexican restaurant with a casual vibe and coastal take on tacos, bowls, and salads. The spicy margarita is excellent and my favorite dish was the grilled shrimp bowl. The herb lime rice and salsa are delicious!

Buona Forchetta

You won’t find a Buona Forchetta in La Jolla proper, but this now multi-location Italian restaurant started in South Park as a tiny, family-owned establishment and is worth the drive. We had fun meeting friends for dinner at dog beach on Coronado Island and picked up pizzas, salads, and a calzone to eat on the beach, but we’ve also been to the other Buona Forchettas around town dine in and loved it.

Sugar & Scribe Bakery

We came here for brunch twice on Saturday mornings because the popular spot across the street, The Cottage, was booked for 2+ hours. The process for getting a table here can be a little hectic, as the waiting area is limited, but the second time we went, we put our name in, grabbed coffees from the to-go cafe inside, and took a stroll while we waited for our table. If anything, grab a pastry or a baked good from here—the ginger cookies are to die for. Worth a visit!

Wayfarer Bread & Pastry

This is the best pastry stop in the larger San Diego area by a long shot. My parents visited us during our stay and their AirBnB was close by, so they picked up 6 assorted pastries for us to share—I honestly couldn’t even choose a favorite. Everything was fresh, soft yet crispy, not too sweet. The line is usually out the door, but it moves quickly. They also do specialty pizza nights Thursday—Saturday if you get your order in by 3pm—we want to try them on our next visit!

Philz Coffee

We’ve known about Philz coffee since living in Northern California, and it was literally our first stop on our first morning here. I thought we’d find a better local coffee shop in La Jolla, but honestly, nothing compares. The Iced Mint Mojito (ask for light, light—you’ll know what I mean when you get there!) is a crowd favorite that I recommend if you’ve never been to a Philz before. My go-to now is a hot Tesora with a splash of cream, but they’ll customize anything on the menu to your tastes and preferences, and every coffee is handmade to order.

Better Buzz Coffee

This is a super cute, aesthetically pleasing coffee shop in downtown La Jolla with open-air bar and table seating. If you want Instagrammable, this is where you need to go. The coffee was okay, but if you’re particular about your drinks, just know that they aren’t the highlight at this shop. I still recommend it for a quick afternoon pick-me-up if you’re shopping in downtown La Jolla or need a place with reliable Wi-Fi to work for an afternoon.