Side view of the La Jolla Seven Sea Caves and the water is calm with looming sandy cliffs.

What Does La Jolla Mean?

La Jolla is a San Diego seaside community where you can experience water sports, take a walk on the beach, etc. But what does La Jolla mean?

What Does La Jolla Mean?

What does ‘La Jolla’ mean? Well, the exact origin of the name ‘La Jolla’ is debated between a couple meanings. 

One of which is Kumeyaay origin (local Native American population who called this region ‘mat kulaaxuuy’ meaning land of holes) and later transcribed by Spanish settlers as ‘La Jolla’.

The other is the alternative spelling of the Spanish phrase ‘La Joya’ which translated to English means ‘The Jewel’.

‘La Joya’ also means ‘geographic hollow’, which further reinforces the theory that ‘La Jolla’ is derived from the Kumeyaay language. 

Regardless, this geographic area of San Diego is host to numerous gorgeous beaches, excellent weather, parks with tree shade, and a wide variety of water sports. Due to this, it’s one of the most popular places for both tourists and residents in California. 

What is La Jolla?

La Jolla is a seaside special community with around 7 miles of coastline along the Pacific Ocean. There are around 50,000 people living here, as evidenced by the 2010 census. 

Apart from being a popular tourist destination and seaside resort, La Jolla is also home to a rich variety of lodging businesses and education institutions, shopping centers, and more. For instance, the University of California, San Diego (USCD) is also located in La Jolla. 

La Jolla is located around 12 miles north of San Diego and 45 miles south of the Orange County line. After a brisk drive from San Diego, you’ll arrive in one of the most pleasant seaside locations in California, with average daily temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. 

So if you’re looking for some action in the sea or if you just want to stretch your legs and relax, La Jolla is a superb place to do so. Here are a couple of attractions and activities you can experience. 

La Jolla Beaches & Locations

La Jolla Cove

If you’re the adventurous type, La Jolla Cove will prove to be an unforgettable experience. The cove is fairly secluded but well-connected to the La Jolla Village, where you’ll find restaurants, shops, galleries, and cafes for resting after you’ve visited the cove. 

You’ll be able to try your hand at snorkeling, kayaking, and more.

The cove is also safe to swim in because the water is calm and shallow (thus making it an ideal spot for kids as well). The greatest quality of La Jolla Cove is the presence of friendly and funny sea lions who have adjusted to being around humans. 

However, interacting with sea lions is not recommended as they’re best observed from a distance (they’re wild animals, after all). 

one sea lion with it's head up with bright blue skies and other sea lions lying around

We also recommend driving to La Jolla Cove early in the day to guarantee yourself a parking spot because it can get crowded quickly, especially on weekends. 

La Jolla Shores Beach

Welcome to one of the most popular beaches in San Diego! La Jolla Shores is a gorgeous beach with incredible views and plenty of stuff to do. Whether you’re a kayaker or surfer, there’s a little bit of something for everyone. 

If scuba diving is your go-to activity in a seaside resort, then you’ll be happy to know that there are various scuba diving opportunities throughout La Jolla Shores.

There are long stretches of grass, outdoor shower facilities, a large bathroom, and an inviting playground for kids that make La Jolla Shores an excellent choice for families with kids. 

La Jolla Shores is also close to Kellogg Park where you’ll find picnic tables, a playground, bonfire pits, barbecue spots, and more. 

Windansea Beach

man body surfing a ginormous wave with bright yellow fins.

Windansea is primarily frequented by surfers and other water sports enthusiasts due to its great wave potential. While it might not be the best for kids due to the non-calm waters, it is still a nice place to relax and enjoy the show that the surfers put up. 

The best time to visit Windansea Beach, if you want to take in the sights, is at sunset when the colors perform their daily dance in the sky. 

If you want to lie down on the sand and relax, you’ll be able to do so with ease because the sand is nice and soft.

Torrey Pines State Beach

The Torrey Pines State Beach is located right next to the Torrey Pines State Reserve. You can access the beach by hiking down the trail that’s situated north of downtown La Jolla or by taking a car or bike to the parking lot (yes, bike parking is available as well). 

The beach itself is filled with amenities so if you have kids and want to keep them entertained throughout the day - the Torrey Pines State Beach is a great choice. 

Visitors can expect to find amenities such as picnic tables, lifeguards that keep an eye out for swimmers (and kids), restrooms, and more. Also, due to being situated next to a cliff face on the East side, there’ll be some shade during the early morning. 

Tourmaline Surf Park Beach

Tourmaline is a beach that’s specifically used for surfing. It is not suitable for families, children, and people who want to swim around due to more violent waters than on other beaches. By more violent, we don’t mean 10-foot waves, but rather constant waves that can hinder casual swimmers. 

Someone wind surfing with the sail behind them and a big spray of water coming off their board.

This is the place you’ll come to if you want to learn how to swim as well because of slow-rolling waves. However, it’s also an ideal spot for windsurfers, longboarders, and kiteboarders when the wind is high. 

If, on the other hand, you’d like to watch these people participate in adrenaline-inducing water sports, you’ll be able to do that since it’s a beach, after all. If you get there early, you may also find space in the picnic area. 

San Diego Bioluminescence

This is one of those magical experiences that you might not seek but it comes to you naturally. Bioluminescence is when algae (or other animals) exhibit features that illuminate their surroundings.

While the most common forms of bioluminescence take shape in deep-sea creatures and certain species of bugs (such as torch bugs), it can also appear in algae. And one of the best places to watch this phenomenon is in San Diego, specifically Torrey Pines State Beach, Solana Beach, and Sunset Cliffs. 

The phenomenon itself is rare, so don’t expect to see it every time you visit these places (or at all, depending on the time of year you visit), but if you’re lucky to be there when it happens, you will never forget it. 

La Jolla Attractions

La Jolla Surfing

One of the most popular activities in La Jolla is surfing, and for good reason. The waves aren’t too strong or fast for most surfers and there are also very calm waters with green waves that’ll help beginners get a feel for surfing. 

Just make sure to get yourself some good surf clothing (such as a wetsuit) and equipment, and get those surfing foundations down. There are plenty of surfing instructors and surfing lessons available all over La Jolla’s beaches to help you learn how to surf quickly. 

Guy with a half folded down wetsuit walking his foam surfboard down to the beach in San Diego.


The origin of La Jolla’s name might be disputed and a mystery but its beauty is not. You could spend two weeks here and there’d still be something you haven’t done, experienced, or seen. 

The sheer variety and beauty of La Jolla is what makes it stand out from other Californian seaside communities and it’s definitely a place that one should visit at least once in their lifetime.

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