Visiting La Jolla
on a Budget
By Ann Nelson
Photos by George Glen Parker



The artist is usually the first to discover a beautiful place. Typically the vacationer, like the artist, is lured by the beauty too — the rolling breakers, peaceful coves and long stretches of beach. La Jolla  gained a reputation as an artists’ colony shortly after the turn of the century and it has remained a haven for those who paint, sculpt, or work on other creative projects.

Artifacts found in the area actually indicate the presence of the Native Americans in a settlement near the shores over 3,000 years ago. The first general merchandise store is said to have opened on Girard Street over 100 years ago. Though La Jolla’s population has radically increased over the years, it still holds a unique and special charm.

Visually dramatic, La Jolla is defined by its rugged coastline of beaches, ocean bluffs, and sea caves. It’s easy to understand why La Jolla has gained a reputation as one of the most beautiful resort destinations in the world. La Jolla, the “jewel by the sea”, is 14 miles north of downtown San Diego, and renowned for its posh resorts, upscale shops, galleries, and fine restaurants.

It would be easy to spend a fortune while vacationing here, but you don’t have to! Budget-conscious travelers may be relieved to know there are economical and beautiful places to stay within walking distance to The Village or La Jolla Shores. In addition, it’s easy to discover fun and free, or low-cost activities, to fill your days. Walking is one of my favorites.

One of the most beautiful walks in La Jolla is a wild nature walk on a dirt path hugging the edge of the cliffs from the La Jolla Caves to Torrey Pines Road. The jagged cliffs, pounding surf,  and thick, semi-tropical vegetation combine to produce a feeling of what La Jolla must have been like many years ago.

From the vantage point of this cliff you feel the ocean. It touches you in the air. You catch glimpses of ocean swimmers headed out to the one-mile buoy markers. I’ve been lucky enough to swim from La Jolla Cove out to the markers for almost twenty years. It’s like a moving meditation for me. Keep breathing, moving and relaxing is what I tell myself over and over. Ocean swimming is exhilarating. It’s a little scary. That’s part of its mystique.

La Jolla Cove is the perfect place to snorkel, and the water stays warm well into October. Strands of green eel grass wave luxuriously in the surge. A school of tiny smelt swim past, moving as one unit. Orange garibaldi move in and out of the rocks. The Cove is part of a 533-acre ecological reserve in which all marine life is protected. Because of this, abalone, lobster, and game fish, which have been nearly wiped out in other accessible areas along the coast, are abundant here.

The outdoor activities here are endless. It’s too beautiful to stay indoors.

Other suggestions for how to spend your days
Drive to Mt. Soledad:
The summit is situated about 800 feet above sea level, and is one of San Diego’s best view points. From La Jolla Blvd., take Nautilus Street to La Jolla Scenic Drive South. Go left to the entrance of Soledad Natural Park and continue to the memorial cross at the summit. FREE

Take a wild ride: Bicycle from the top of Mt. Soledad  for a thrilling 3.5 mile descent. A guide will transport your bikes to the top. Afterwards, tour the quaint local neighborhoods. All gear, including the bicycle is furnished. The 3 hour tour costs $40.00. The hike bike kayak company of San Diego offers all types of excellent tours. Phone (858) 551-9510 or e-mail :

Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego: Features gallery viewing on two levels as well as a sculpture garden. Rotating exhibitions of paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings and more are presented throughout the year. Located at 700 Prospect Street. Phone (858) 454-3541. $6.00 for adults, under 12, FREE

Tour the Salk Institute for Biological Studies: The institute is one of the world’s foremost centers for conducting biomedical research. The 26-acre campus overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The buildings were designed by modernist architect Louis Kahn. Guided tours are given that showcase the architecture. Located at 10010 N. Torrey Pines Road.  Phone (858) 453-4100. FREE

Visit the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography: Located on hillside above Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the aquarium features marine life from the cold northern waters and the warm tropical seas of the Pacific Ocean. Interactive exhibits and changing displays explore the latest developments in oceanography. Located at 2300 Expedition Way. Phone (858) 534-3474. Admission is $9.50 for adults, $6.00 for age 16 and under.

Tour the Stuart Collection at UCSD: For a guide to the outdoor sculptures, enter at Gilman Drive (off La Jolla Village Drive) and stop at the information kiosk for a brochure. Phone (858) 534-2117. FREE

Visit Sunny Jim Cave (La Jolla Cave): This natural sea cave is accessible via a tunnel dug in 1902. Located at 1325 Coast Blvd. Phone (858) 459-0746. $4.00 entrance fee.

Watch the hang gliders and paragliders at Torrey Pines Gliderport: Great close-up views of gliders cruising the updraft above the beach. Located at the end of Torrey Pines Scenic Drive, behind the Salk Institute. Phone (858) 452-9858. Watching is FREE.

Economical Places to stay  
(Off season rates begin after Labor Day)

Andrea Villa Inn: Located with convenient access to the village, and close to UCSD. Located at 2402 Torrey Pines Road. (858) 459-3311, or (800) 411-2141. Pet Friendly. $109.00/night.

La Jolla Riviera Apartments:  Located in a quiet neighborhood directly across from the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. Located at 031 Paseo Dorado. (858) 454-0437. $120.00/night.

La Jolla Village Lodge: Surrounded by beaches, galleries, shopping and fine restaurants. Located at 1141 Silverado Street at Herschel. (858) 551-2001. $89.00/ night.

Redwood Hollow La Jolla Cottages: These historic mountain-style cottages are located in a garden oasis in a quiet residential neighborhood. Located at 256 Prospect Street. Phone (858) 459-8747. $139.00/night.
Shell Beach Apartment Motel: Fronting the ocean at Scripps Park, two blocks from the center of the village. Located at 981 Coast Blvd. (858) 459-4306. $154.00/night.

Economical Places to eat
The Cottage: Breakfast, lunch and bakery. Dine indoors, or on the sunny outdoor patio. The Cottage was featured in the book  “Roadfoods, a guide to great, regional food.”  Located at 7702 Fay Ave. (858) 454-8409.

Harry’s Coffee Shop: Friendly family restaurant serving La Jolla for over 32 years. Breakfast served all day. Located at 7545 Girard Ave. (858) 454-7381.

Jose’s Court Room: Mexican cuisine and cocktails. A local favorite featuring daily specials, and happy hour. Located at 1037 Prospect Street. (858) 454-1891.

Pericano’s Pizza House: This modestly-priced Italian restaurant has been in business for over 40 years. Located at 711 Turquoise Street. (858) 488-2900.

Brockton Villa Restaurant: My personal favorite is dining in this 1894 historic beach cottage with a perfect view of the cove. If your budget is truly limited, plan on dining at breakfast or lunchtime. Located at 1235 Coast Blvd. (858) 454-7393.

For other specific questions regarding your visit to La Jolla, call the La Jolla Town Council at (858) 454-1444.

Ann Nelson is a freelance writer, presently residing in San Diego, CA.

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