La Jolla [Southern California’s Riviera]

A visit to La Jolla, California, is what vacation dreams are made of: sandy beaches next to jagged cliffs; ideal surfing conditions year-round; sunsets that inspire investments in paparazzi-grade cameras; fine dining establishments; luxury hotels and spas; and plenty of arts, culture and outdoor activity options to fill a stay of any length. Located within the city of San Diego and situated just 10 miles north of its downtown, the 46,000-person seaside community serves as the ideal jumping off point to explore the area, both south to Mexico’s border and north into even smaller beach communities.

La Jolla is famously a place to splurge, be it on a round at Torrey Pines Golf Course —site of the 2021 U.S. Open; a day of pampering at the Mediterranean-inspired Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa; or a shopping trip along Prospect Street or Girard Avenue. The options are limitless for those looking for a postcard-perfect experience.

While the locale has long been known for its mature clientele, La Jolla is attracting younger generations these days with new restaurant offerings and plenty of outdoor adventure. Want to explore a sea cave in the morning and then enjoy lunch at a taco joint touted by The Wall Street Journal? No problem! What about a seaside hike in the afternoon and then a show at The Comedy Store in the evening? All of this — and much more — is possible in La Jolla.

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The Lodge at Torrey Pines, a triple-A Five Diamond property with craftsman-style architecture and views of the Pacific Ocean, is a crowd favorite in La Jolla. Don’t leave without enjoying a butter-poached Maine lobster at the on-site restaurant A.R. Valentien and a relaxing Shiatsu massage at the spa.

Just 5 miles south, right in La Jolla Cove, consider booking a stay at La Valencia Hotel, which is known as “The Pink Lady” for its rosy exterior. The hillside hotel is incredibly romantic; make sure to have a cocktail on the seventh-floor terrace at The Med, one of its restaurant offerings.

Wood-fired pizza lovers are smart to check out Girard Avenue’s Isola Pizza Bar, a loftlike spot with an open kitchen, modern decor and pies that trick your mouth into thinking it’s been transported to Italy. Over on Prospect Street, The Hake is a newly renovated seafood bistro with fabulous ocean views and happy hour specials — $8 cocktails, $5 wines, $1 clams — to die for. In La Jolla Shores, which is located just a few miles from the main Village, you can find a mean fish taco in a bright, airy space at Galaxy Taco, a spot recommended by The WSJ.

Outdoor enthusiasts fall in love with La Jolla for its plethora of activity options, starting with hiking at the 2,000-acre Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. For just a few bucks, you can spend the day snaking through well-marked trails along the oceanfront. Pro tip: Bring your binoculars, and keep an eye out for eagles. In the mood to kayak? Check out seaside caves with companies like Everyday California and learn how to stand up on a board with the help of Surf Diva Surf School. Not thrilling enough? Sign up to go hang gliding over the cliffs at Torrey Pines Gliderport. Your friends, or skittish spouse, can wave from the Cliffhanger Café while you share height with local birds.

La Jolla’s art scene is incredibly impressive for a town of its size. For those interested in the performing arts, the Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse is the spot to take in straight-to-Broadway performances. Visual art fans are wise to tour the Murals of La Jolla — check out the site for a walking map of each one — and Legends Gallery where you won’t want to miss the exhibit on hometown visionary Dr. Seuss. Architecture tours at the Salk Institute are also a must-see.