La Jolla Cove is the entryway to an underground water park, the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve. This protected area has a very diverse marine habitat. As such it is primarily designed for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Beach Type: Small sandy beach areas protected by cove
Access: Staircase, possibly some rock climbing
Parking: Free street parking
Facilities: Restroom changing at La Jolla Cove facilities
Good For: Laying out in the Sun, scenery, scuba diving, snorkeling, cave exploring, seal viewing
Not Good For: anything else
La Jolla Cove is on the north end of Ellen Browning Scripps Park. As such it is largely protected from the waves coming from the west. The small, crowded beach area is located at the bottom of two steep staircases that lead to the rocky beach. In the park, at the top of the stairs, there are full restroom facilities. Scripps Park has a large grassy area perfect for a picnic.
If you are not snorkeling or scuba diving you can see the scenery of La Jolla Cove from the top of the staircase. If you do venture down the stairs there is a small cave you can enter. Many times there will be seals on the rocks by the cave.
Snorkeling in the cove is the main activity. Scuba divers venture further out, but snorkeling can be down within a few feet of shore in water less than 10 feet deep.
When you go out snorkeling you will see fish right away. You will likely see the bright orange garibaldi, California’s state marine fish. Of course, you will see all kinds of other fish that are harder to identify. You are also likely to come up with seals and sea lions that swim right past you.
Snorkeling equipment and guided tours are available at several nearby locations. Assuming you stay close to shore you are probably okay going on your own. However, if you want to go out further to the seven caves or the legendary kelp beds it is probably best to have a guide. These kelp strands are as high as 100 feet.
La Jolla Cove is a crowded area that many people visit just to take pictures of the scenery. You go by the cove and other beaches on our La Jolla walk. There is free parking but it can be hard to find. We almost always park a few blocks away in central La Jolla village and walk down the hill. However, this also requires walking back up hill. The next door La Jolla Cove hotel offers paid parking at $10 an hour.
In the distance, across the water from La Jolla Cove you will see the La Jolla Shores area. This is a great place for a more traditional family day at the beach. However, it also offers a great snorkeling opportunity. From around July to September this area features hundreds of leopard sharks.