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How to Spend 24 Perfect Hours in La Jolla, California

The jewel of Southern California is calling your name.

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La Jolla is what California dreams are made of. The Southern California city sits nestled just north of San Diego and provides guests with gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean no matter where they travel up and down its seven miles of coastline. Though smaller than its neighboring city, there is still plenty to see, do, and explore in La Jolla. From fine dining on the waterfront and the best tacos north of the Mexican border to hiking Torrey Pines and visiting La Jolla Cove, this pristine beach destination caters to nature lovers, beachgoers, and foodies alike. Here’s how to spend 24 perfect hours in the Jewel City.

Start the Day With a Meal at The Cottage

Breakfast at The Cottage is a must for visitors from near and far. The adorable cafe is set within a Southern California-style home, complete with a white picket fence, patio dining, and Victorian-inspired interiors. It serves up tasty home-style meals, including lemon ricotta pancakes, stuffed French toast, wild mushroom omelets, and much more.

Explore La Jolla Cove

After filling up on breakfast, it’s time to explore the area’s most beloved destination: La Jolla Cove. The waters of the cove are part of a protected ecological preserve, which means it’s absolutely teeming with wildlife. One of the best ways to explore La Jolla Cove is by paddling out yourself either on a stand-up paddleboard or on a kayak with companies like Everyday California. Their 90-minute sea cave kayak tour takes visitors around the cove to introduce them to a few seals, dolphins, and maybe even a shark or two if they’re lucky. If you prefer a self-guided exploration of La Jolla Cove, you can also rent stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, snorkeling equipment, or surfboards from Everyday California.

Related: How Orange County Became the Trendiest Beach Destination in California

Walk Through the Birch Aquarium

Want to meet a few more local sea creatures? Pay a visit to the Birch Aquarium. The aquarium, which is part of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California San Diego, is home to more than 5,000 fish across more than 60 habitats. Can’t make it in person? You can still take part in the aquarium’s online experiences including virtual youth programs, activities, and its own kelp cam to view the ocean creatures whenever you’d like.

Snag Lunch at The Taco Stand

La Jolla sits just a few miles north of the U.S./Mexico border. That means there’s plenty of delicious Mexican food to be had around town. However, there’s no place as tasty and as easy for lunch as The Taco Stand. The chefs at The Taco Stand make their own corn tortillas, guacamole, and salsas from scratch daily. Grab à la carte tacos to sample as many as you can (start with the carne asada, al pastor, and shrimp tacos).

Visit the La Jolla Historical Society

Have a little extra time in the afternoon? Pay a visit to the La Jolla Historical Society. The Society is spread across a campus of three historic buildings including the restored 1904 Wisteria Cottage, which houses the society’s gallery space, along with a 1909 cottage that operates as its office and research space, and a 1916 carriage house that’s home to the society’s archival collection.

Hike Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Get out and stretch your legs a little more with a hike around Torrey Pine State Natural Reserve. The coastal park comes with some 2,000 acres to roam, meaning visitors can go for a lengthy hike or a quick jaunt to get a bit more fresh ocean air on vacation. Those in search of a quicker hike to a scenic lookout point can follow the half-mile Razor Point Trail with views of a scenic gorge, half-mile Parry Grove Trail, which brings you to a native plant garden, or 3/4-mile Beach Trail, which brings you to Flat Rock Beach. Want more? Check out the docent-led hikes to get an in-depth look at what’s going on in the reserve.

Related: The Best Weekend Trips From LA to Experience the Best of Southern California

Have Dinner With a View at George’s at the Cove

There are few sights more beautiful than the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. Get the best view of this natural wonder by booking a table at George’s at the Cove for drinks and dinner. The restaurant’s ocean terrace overlooks the beach below, giving diners the absolute prime view of the sun as it dips into the water. Don’t miss George’s signature drinks, including the restaurant’s take on classic margaritas, mojitos, and more.

Check Into The Lodge at Torrey Pines

Travelers can lay their weary heads at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property. The stunning luxury resort not only offers expansive suite options, but it’s also located next to the famed Torrey Pines golf course, where guests can play the two 18-hole courses or take a lesson with the hotel’s pro golf instructors. Then, take a dip in the pool, dine at one of two on-site restaurants, A.R. Valentien or The Grill at Torrey Pines, or just relax the days away on your room’s balcony or patio.

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