Beach Town Getaway: La Jolla

The ”jewel” of San Diego County is ritzy with a small-town feel and a gorgeous cove for strolling, and it’s only an hour drive from O.C.

GETTING THERE Take the 5 Freeway south toward San Diego. Exit La Jolla Village Drive and make a right, then turn left at Torrey Pines Road and keep going until you get to the village center.

LODGING Stay close to the heart of town at the 102-year-old GrandE Colonial ($229 and up). Its 52 guest rooms and 41 suites are just steps from the shops along Girard Avenue and Prospect Street, and only a couple of blocks from the ocean. Though this boutique hotel has a lot of history (Groucho Marx was a frequent guest), it has modern amenities—flatscreen TVs and Keurig coffee makers in every room. Another great option is La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club ($199 and up), which offers guests towels, umbrellas, and chairs on its private beach. Want to avoid staying downtown? Head up the road to The Lodge at Torrey Pines ($274 and up) for a luxurious resort experience complete with a spa, golf course, and the tranquil setting of nearby Torrey Pines State Reserve.

Cocktails at Georges at the Cove: Ocean Terrace
Cocktails at Georges at the Cove: Ocean Terrace

Photograph by Marshall Williams

DINING Enjoy a rooftop setting overlooking the Pacific at George’s at the cove: Ocean Terrace. Brightly presented dishes such as fat fish tacos with jalepeno-lime mayo ($14) are perfect for midday munching. And don’t miss the house-infused grapefruit, pepper, or strawberry vodka ($10). It’s fantastic with lemonade or in a martini, but be warned—the flavor belies its high alcohol content. For dinner, stop by longtime foodie favorite Whisknladle for Cali-French fare served in a chic bistro setting. The decor is all sleek lines and Edison bulbs, with the majority of seating on the plant-filled covered patio—a nod to the farm-to-table ethos of chef Ryan Johnston. The menu changes seasonally. This month, watch for blue and yellowfin tuna, as well as dorado.

ACTIVE ADVENTURE One of the best ways to see the area is to rent a bicycle. But if you want to take it easy while covering ground, you might want to book an electric bicycle tour. San Diego Fly Rides guides groups down the coast, through the beautiful residential streets, and up the hill to Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial, the highest point in La Jolla. You can either make it a real workout, or turn on the pedal assist and barely break a sweat ($75 to $89).

WORTH A VISIT La Jolla has six sea caves that can be toured by boat or kayak, and one other that’s accessible by land. You can reach Sunny Jim Cave ($3 to $5) by taking a tunnel (built in 1903) that starts under the Cave Store gift shop.

Harbor seals
Harbor seals

Photograph by Amanda Boyd/USFWS

Animal Attraction

For five months of the year, harbor seals kick out human tots and take over the Children’s Pool, a small cove protected by a concrete sea wall. During pupping season (Dec. 15 to May 15) the beach is roped off, but visitors can spy on the sunbathing seals from a short distance away.

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