La Jolla is located twelve miles north of downtown San Diego and is a California postcard-perfect town with cascading bluffs, beaches, and boutiques. This is a trendy, upscale neighborhood but the vibe here is casual with a few classic surfer-dudes. If you’re traveling to San Diego with kids and want a family-friendly beach scene bustling with activity, La Jolla makes a great home base. Our top hotel pick in this area for families is La Jolla Shores Hotel. Here’s why:
Gorgeous sunsets are included in the room price
The hotel is located in La Jolla Shores,less than a ten minute drive from downtown La Jolla, and popular with locals and tourists year round. It’s easily accessible off the freeway and every type of water and beach activity imaginable is going on here – scuba diving, kayaking, nighttime bonfires, beach barbecues and best of all, just plain relaxing. There is also a large playground and public park next door. You decide how much or how little you want to do but it’s an area that works well with toddlers as well as teens.
Parking is very challenging all over La Jolla, particularly on weekends; if you don’t need a car leave it at the hotel. La Jolla Shores has a compact downtown three blocks from the hotel with several streets of surf and beach shops, restaurants and my kids’ favorite, a frozen yogurt shop.
Variety of Room Options for Families
The hotel offers several types of rooms with views and kitchenettes. The coastal view rooms are remodeled; renovations are ongoing in the garden view rooms. We stayed in a Beachfront Deluxe room with a patio large enough for kids to play on — a dream for toddlers and little kids.
Beachfront deluxe room with a huge patio
While there isn’t a “bad room” at La Jolla Shores given that the beach is so close, the location of your room can be important depending on you plan on putting the kids to bed. Our first floor room (one flight above the ground level beach boardwalk) was next to the pool and restaurant where parties are hosted. It may be load on event nights although per the hotel’s policy, the pool and party area must shut down at 10p.
One Restaurant, Several Areas to Dine
The Shores restaurant has inside and outside dining and is casual during the day and upscale at night. It has large floor-to-ceiling windows that provide excellent views of the ocean and is particularly beautiful for breakfast. Go figure but our kids loved the fresh juices here with kale and cactus.
Breakfast with a view
If you want something even more casual, try the popular beach barbeque. Tables are set up in the sand and guests can have all the food prepared and served picnic-style on paper plates. Or for a fee, the hotel staff will set up a grill and table and chairs for up to ten people and you provide the food.
Kayak the La Jolla Ecological Reserve | Swim with Leopard Sharks
The La Jolla Ecological Reserve and nearby reefs, which minimize onshore waves, make the area in front of La Jolla Shores Hotel ideal for kayaking and snorkeling. Since there is no fishing in the reserve the area is teaming with marine life and sea birds. Kayaking to the nearby sea caves is a hugely popular activity on the weekends.
We chose to go on a sea cave kayaking tour with OEX La Jolla. These ninety-minute tours work well with small children because they are short and end just before the whining might begin.
Our guide pointed out landmarks like Dr. Seuss’ house and helped us search for marine life. We saw bright orange Garibaldi fish darting in and out of the kelp beds, a group of California sea lions lazily sunning themselves, bat rays and other little fish. It’s common to see dolphins and in the summer, leopard sharks hang out here.
We didn’t see them on our tour but afterwards we went swimming in front of the Marine Room restaurant at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club and saw hundreds. This was clearly exciting for all the kids around as they shrieked “shark!” knowing that these guys have no teeth and are harmless. Bring snorkel gear as it’s an unforgettable experience to see a six or eight foot shark swimming by you.
Harmless leopard sharks cruise around La Jolla Shores during summer
The sea cave itself can feel like rush hour on the weekends as kayakers queue up to enter the small cave and it was not very exciting until a large male sea lion swam past our kayak and jumped up onto the rocks. You never know what you’ll see and that’s what makes this activity so fun.
If you‘ve ever wanted to try tennis this is the place to do it. The hotel has two courts located on the grounds of their sister property next door, The La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, a private tennis club that has been hosting national championships for over 75 years. I’d highly recommend a lesson for kids. Instructors use the USTA Quickstart program for kids ten and under which makes learning tennis easier and more fun. We’re avid tennis players and our kids regularly take tennis lessons; these ranked high on the list as the instructors know how to work with kids and siblings.
Editorial Note: Kristi and her family received complimentary accommodations, some meals and tennis lessons from La Jolla Shores Hotel and complimentary kayak tours from OEX La Jolla but as always, Kristi’s opinions are her own. Photos by Kristi Marcelle and OEX La Jolla.
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We Love La Jolla! We’ve got family in San Diego, and while it’s a very short drive it feels like it is a world away.