Just minutes north of San Diego, the community of La Jolla is famous for the challenging links at Torrey Pines Golf Course, the famous stages of La Jolla Playhouse, the renowned expertise of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and the sunswept surfers at Windansea Beach. It’s also famous as an enclave for the rich and sometimes famous. And, it’s an easy place to bring your family and visit luxury La Jolla on a budget.

Our family loves visiting the La Jolla Cove area the best, and we could go back again and again to watch the blue ocean waves, the kites flying above and the harbor seals sunning themselves on nearby rocks.

Seals on the rocks in La Jolla

Seals bundle together on the rocks near La Jolla Cove, basking in the sun and posing for photos.

Here’s a suggested itinerary with ideas on how best to enjoy a family day along La Jolla Cove without breaking the bank.

Visit Luxury La Jolla on a Budget

Start With A Good Breakfast

Depending on what end of the Cove you choose to start, there are two great breakfast spots with menus to please both the younger and older members of your clan. Brockton Villa, perched on the hillside overlooking the cliff and seacaves, offers oceanview seats from almost every table and a menu of treats to die for. Our favorites are the Cinnamon Roll Pancakes with cream cheese frosting, and the breakfast tacos with eggs, chorizo and cheese. On the other side, Richard Walker’s Pancake House is located on Prospect Street and always sports a line of folks waiting for a table. But don’t worry, the line moves quickly and you will soon be enjoying a ridiculously delicious platter of fresh strawberry crepes or the crowd-pleasing German Pancake with lemon and sugar. Our kids loved the silver dollar pancakes, because the plate is heaped with cakes in a massive display of breakfast gluttony.

Address:

Brockton Villa is located at 1235 Coast Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037

Richard Walker’s is located at 909 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037

Cost: Breakfast starts at $10

Visit The Seals At Children’s Pool

Along the coastline and perched on rocks and sand, La Jolla’s seals are a major family draw. During birthing season, the harbor seals gather on the warm sands of Children’s Pool beach to sun themselves. This is a protected area where their pups can learn to swim safely. These seals are so darned cute, and both kids and adults have huge grins on their faces while watching their antics. They have soft coats of mottled brown, cream, grey and white, perfect for photo opps. The seals swim, frolic in the waves, yawn and nap together in large numbers. Others perch along the rocks or swim through the kelp beds nearby. Just don’t go too near and disturb them – they are wild creatures after all.

Seals at Children's Pool in La Jolla

Built as a protected spot for easy swimming, Children’s Pool in La Jolla is now home to dozens of seals and their babies.

Bring your cameras and watch from the many vantage along the cliff, or brave the narrow breakwater walk out into the waves. but beware – the waves sometimes hit the seawall with a dramatic spray, sending drenched visitors running in all directions. (The kids loved this too, and laughed from the sea spray and their soaking wet clothes.)

Address:  850 Coast Boulevard, La Jolla, CA 92037

Cost: FREE

The Shops And Restaurants Along The Prospect Avenue

I guess it’s possible to get bored of the expansive ocean vistas and postcard-perfect California photo opps. If and when that happens, stroll up the road to Prospect Avenue and tour through the shops, boutiques and galleries that line the busy streets. There’s something for everyone along Prospect and the surrounding streets. From California olive oil and wine tastings at WeOlive to trendy fashions at Blue Apparel or Fresh Produce, it’s all there. Impressive galleries along the way feature a variety of well-curated art for all tastes, including window shoppers.

shops on Prospect Street in La Jolla

Dozens of shops dot the La Jolla Cove area, where you can buy myriad things including funky sunglasses.

By now the family will have worked up another appetite. There are so many places to eat, and plenty may be a little pricey for family dining. Still, there are a bunch of great spots to please all ages. For delicious burgers, fries and shakes, try Smashburger – a burger chain but a good one. Our kids like things simple in terms of regular hamburgers, ordering plain with just ketchup or mustard. The parents liked the avocado/bacon/cheese burger and the swiss cheese/mushroom/sauté onions burger.

Address: 1000 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037

Cost: Burgers from $4

Bring a Frisbee

Back down towards the water, there are several great spots to hang out and throw a Frisbee. When the tide is low, a great beach appears to the left of the guard station at Children’s Pool. Called South Casa Beach, this sandy is great for playing, napping and tide pooling.

Another cool spot is Ellen Browning Scripps Park, where families gather to picnic and play Frisbee, volleyball or bocce. People bring their own gear, set up camp and hang out for the day to enjoy the warm sun, soft grass and million dollar vistas.

Scripps Pier in La Jolla at sunset

Scripps Pier near La Jolla Cove is a beautiful spot day or night.

Address: 1100 Coast Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037

Cost: Free (BYO Frisbee)

Visit The Cave Store

Kitschy but fun, the Cave Store is an institution in La Jolla Cove. Inside the shop, you can pay a small fee to walk down stairs to a sea cave located below at the mouth of the roaring ocean. Local lore says the tunnel, which was dug in the early 1900s, was used to smuggle hooch during prohibition. True or not, the fun view of the ocean from the cave is worth the descent and climb.

Address: 1325 Coast Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037

Cost: $5 for adults, $3 for kids for cave entry

Outside the store is one of the best views from the Cove looking north at La Jolla Shores Beach. From this vantage point, you can see over to Scripps Pier and Torrey Pines Golf Course. On a clear day you can also see the parasailers taking off from the cliffs above Blacks Beach. Many a post card depicts this exact view, and you can snap it for free from your fun tour of La Jolla Cove!

Torrey Pines Golf Course at sunset

Sunset at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla is one of the most beautiful times to take in the ocean views.

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