This view is what you might see from Ellen Browning Scripps Park, on the clifftops above the sea. You can walk along a path that overlooks the rocks below. It's only a block or two from downtown La Jolla and is clean and well maintained.
La Jolla Shores
I think La Jolla Shores is one of the prettiest beaches in the San Diego area. It's a wide, flat beach that great for walking, running or playing with the kids. It's highly rated for romantic strolls and when it's quiet, wading birds like these enjoy it, too.
Located across a small bay from downtown La Jolla, it has a nice view of town, the cliffs and La Jolla Cove.
The Scripps Pier is owned by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and it's one of the world's longest private research piers. It's used to launch boats and for experiments, which means it's off limits for visitors to walk on.
You can see the pier from lots of places in La Jolla and you can also walk beneath it like this photographer did.
Salk Institute Architecture
The Salk Institute was founded by Jonas Salk, who discovered the polio vaccine. Today, the Institute does research in molecular biology and genetics, neurosciences, and plant biology, looking for new therapies and treatments for a range of diseases.
There's not a lot to see at Salk Institute in terms of scientists at work, but it is a great place to go because of its outstanding architecture.
The creator of all these gorgeous buildings was world-renowned architect Louis I. Kahn. Salk asked Kahn to create something that would be easy to maintain and adapt to the changing needs of science. The result is two, 6-story-tall, mirror-image structures that face this grand courtyard. One of the best descriptions I've seen is that it's where concrete meets calm.
In 1992, the Salk Institute structures were featured in the AIA exhibit Structures of Our Time: 31 Buildings That Changed Modern Life. The San Diego Union-Tribune says it's the single most significant architectural site in San Diego.
They offer weekly architecture tours - and a "Meet a Scientist" program. Details are at their website.
La Jolla's oceanside setting can make for some fantastic sunsets. La Jolla Cove, La Jolla Shores, Ellen Browning Scripps Park are great places to catch the sun's last rays. So is Windansea Beach, a little south of downtown.
Or you can rent a kayak or longboard in town for a sunset paddle.
Baby Harbor Seals
In the 1930s, the citizens of La Jolla built a seawall to protect the shore from incoming waves, creating an ideal spot for local children to swim in safety.
Humans aren't the only ones who liked the tranquil spot: It's also perfect for harbor seals and sea lions. Every year, hundreds of harbor seals turn the area into a nursery, giving birth to and nursing adorable babies like this one. They're so cute that I dare you to resist saying "a-a-w!" at least once.
Leafy Sea Dragons at Birch Aquarium
These aren't the only creatures at the Birch Aquarium, but they could easily be voted the oddest-looking and they're my personal favorites. You could easily spend a half day or more at the aquarium, checking out all the sea critters and getting hands-on at the touch pools.