The village of La Jolla, around 1.5 hours from Newport, transcends the sleepy subtlety of its descriptor. A mashup of vintage California and Mediterranean ambience, the neighborhood boasts world-class beaches, arts and culture along with trendy shopping and eclectic eateries.
Where to Stay
Perched above the rugged cliffs of the Pacific, the majestic The Lodge at Torrey Pines presides at the far north end of La Jolla and acts as a dramatic gateway into town for those driving south on Pacific Coast Highway. The Craftsman-inspired, AAA Five Diamond resort has 169 generously-sized guest rooms, most with views of either the ocean or the famed Torrey Pines Golf Course, one of the nation’s foremost municipal golf facilities and home to the annual Farmers Insurance Open every January. Taking inspiration from a different era when craftsmanship was of utmost importance, furnishings throughout the property feature Stickley-esque pieces of fine woods, fabrics and leathers.
Adjacent to The Lodge is Torrey Pines State Reserve. Rustic footpaths meander throughout the approximately 2,000 acres of golden cliffs and forests of Torrey pine—the most rare of native pine in the country. Guided walking tours are available daily at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. from The Lodge.
For more family-friendly beach experiences, head south to La Jolla Shores. On the way—perched on a bluff—is the popular Birch Aquarium. As the public exploration center for the world-renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the aquarium features more than 60 habitats of marine life, five dozen interactive elements and three outdoor tide pools.
Continue your southern trek to the scenic La Jolla Cove, part of the La Jolla Underwater Park; it’s walking distance to the village and nearby Scripps Park. While no surfers or bodyboarders are allowed, the park features 6,000 acres of ocean floor and tidelands and is a haven for families and snorkelers looking to experience the myriad marine life above and below the water’s surface. La Jolla Cove is also home to Seven Sea Caves, which can be accessed via kayak, swimming or snorkeling; for landlubbers, Sunny Jim Cave is the only known land-access sea cave on the California coast (from right in the heart of La Jolla Village through the Cave Store).
Shopping and Dining
When you’re done with the day’s exploration, Prospect Street and the handful of cross roads in the village serve as the main epicenter for shopping and dining, with small specialty boutiques, antique stores and art galleries. Even with a small-town feel, the diversity of shops is impressive and includes things for every wallet and mood. To experience a local’s favorite, check out Warwick’s bookstore on Girard Avenue.
La Jolla’s dining scene can’t be mentioned without including George’s at the Cove. Make a stop here on your way back to The Lodge for views of scenic La Jolla Cove and regional cuisine in three distinct settings: a first floor elegant dining room, a bistro-style bar and the ever-popular rooftop terrace. Another local landmark, The Marine Room, is about as close to the Pacific as you can get while enjoying a great meal. This iconic dining destination above the sand of La Jolla Shores is known for its sophisticated dishes and award-winning chef, Bernard Guillas. For fresh and savory seafood in a chic environment, try The Med restaurant at the landmark “Pink Lady” of La Jolla, the La Valencia Hotel. On your last day in town, A.R. Valentien, the signature restaurant at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, provides the ideal final meal, with seasonal ingredients from local farmers markets, small growers, local ranchers and fishermen.
—Written by Steve Zepezauer