Though it’s only 15 miles north of downtown San Diego, La Jolla (pronounced “La HOY-ya”) shuns the big city’s trendy trappings. Instead, this Mediterranean-style seaside community nourishes long-lasting creativity. Broadway-bound playwrights test their work at the La Jolla Playhouse, founded by San Diego native son Gregory Peck in 1947. Nobel laureates conjure theorems while surfing at La Jolla Shores. Amusing sculptures are scattered about the campus of the University of California, San Diego in Torrey Pines, high atop a bluff overlooking La Jolla’s coastline.
Though part of San Diego County, the city of La Jolla is most definitely a separate entity. It’s grown in the past few decades as a hub for technology and research, home to Qualcomm, the telecommunications research company, as well as the Salk and Neurosciences institutes. But at its core La Jolla is about natural beauty, culture and art.
Queen palms by the hundreds pop up into blue skies at this community on the shores of a long, broad beach. The La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club claims 14 acres at the beach’s southern end, fronting the 6,000-acre San Diego–La Jolla Underwater Park. The club is open to the public only during tennis tournaments (except for guests of the on-site hotel), but you can walk on the beach past the club to reach the venerable Marine Room restaurant, where waves crash against the reinforced windows as they have since 1941. During high tides, reservations are a must. When the tide is low, sea anemones, starfish and crabs hide in tide pools in the rocks fronting the restaurant.
The Shores’ main attraction is the beach, with plenty of room for divers, kayakers, surfers and swimmers. If you’re seeking culture, don’t miss the La Jolla Art Association Gallery, a few blocks from the beach. The association, formed in 1918, supports local artists by displaying their watercolors, oil paintings and photographs, many depicting La Jolla scenes, at the gallery. These reasonably priced works make lasting souvenirs.
To the north, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) commands prime sea views above La Jolla Shores. SIO began as the Marine Biological Association of San Diego in 1903, and is now the largest and oldest oceanographic institution in the United States. It sprawls along both sides of La Jolla Shores Drive, including an original 1910 Irving Gill building and the sweeping 2009 Robert Paine Scripps Seaside Forum for Science, Society & the Environment. Safdie Rabines Architects, a San Diego firm, incorporated the site’s oceanfront setting for the LEED-certified conference center that houses multi-national scientific meetings and private events. The easiest way to reach the buildings is to walk north on La Jolla Shores beach, then climb the trail beside the pier. On the inland side of the drive, seahorses and sharks make their home at the Birch Aquarium, another good place to hear rock, jazz and classical concerts.
La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club: 2000 Spindrift Dr.; 858.412.2036
La Jolla Underwater Park: 1100 Coast Blvd
Marine Room: 2000 Spindrift Dr.; 858.459.7222
La Jolla Art Association Gallery: 858.459.1196; lajollaart.org
Scripps Institution of Oceanography: 8622 Kennel Way; 858.534.3624; scripps.ucsd.edu
Birch Aquarium: 2300 Expedition Way; 858.534.3474; aquarium.ucsd.edu