By John Rogers, Senior Editor of Enlightened Explorer
originally published 2013
Snorkeling is one of San Diego’s most popular ocean activities. Last summer it dawned on me: I’ve never explored the undersea world. After years of swimming, body surfing and exploring the beaches it was time to strap on a mask and venture into the ocean.
The family and I jumped in the car and drove to La Jolla Cove, San Diego’s most popular snorkeling spot. We arrived early so parking would be easy. If you visit during the summer, especially weekends, try to arrive before 9:00 am.
After parking we walked to Prospect Street in La Jolla Village and rented all the equipment we needed at World Core Surf Shop for a nominal fee. From Prospect Street we walked to the cove, just a block or two away.
Once we arrived, we were anxious to get into the water. The Cove has a very beautiful but small sandy beach area. We spread out our towels in a comfortable spot near the water, donned our snorkeling gear, and ventured into the ocean. Our efforts were rewarded immediately! Less then 20 feet from shore, a magical undersea world unfolded. Bright orange Garibaldi, rays, and other small fish were abundant and friendly. The undersea plant life is stunning—green sea grasses flowing gently with the currents, anemones patiently waiting for a meal, stately kelp beds looking like tall undersea forests… We were told that seals occasionally swim through the Cove along with harmless shark species.
We snorkeled for hours before tiring. Wearing wetsuits extended snorkeling sessions in the chilly water. People-watching entertained us for another hour on the Cove’s beach. Veteran open-ocean swimmers of all ages come in and out of the water at the Cove—some without wetsuits— burrrr! You’ll even see them in winter with their leathery, well-tanned skin when water temperatures drop below 60 degrees! Also of interest was the cultural diversity of visitors. We heard languages from Europe, Asia, and Africa. Everyone was having a wonderful time and nobody felt unwelcome at La Jolla Cove.
La Jolla Cove is beloved not only for snorkeling but also for scuba diving and kayaking. Kayakers usually start from La Jolla Shores and paddle over to the Cove. For folks who are physically challenged or who simply prefer less activity, La Jolla Cove is a beautiful place to chat, read, walk along the bluff, or take a few pictures. It’s guaranteed to inspire for you for years to come!
Swimming in the ocean makes you very hungry; good thing La Jolla has some of the best eateries in all of San Diego! We took the advice of a local and had sandwiches at a deli located in a small enclave of shops just off Prospect Street . Other “best-bet” restaurants near the Cove are La Dolce Vita (which some folks say has the best latte in La Jolla) and Top of the Cove, which offers ocean-view dining.
We worked off lunch with a stroll around the Village, a shopping and dining area above the Cove that boasts some of the best private art galleries in the world. Also not to be missed is the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, just a few blocks south on Prospect Street.
Next we walked the coastline between the Cove and Children’s Pool. No fooling—this is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in all of California, with intimate sandy beaches, coves that are surprisingly uncrowded… green grassy open areas on the bluff above the water… colorful native and cultivated flowers. Handicapped and physically challenged folks will find this stretch of coast accessible and relatively easy to negotiate.
We ended the day walking back to the car and planning our next trip to La Jolla Cove. I don’t mind saying a good time was had by all.
John Rogers was born and raised in San Diego. He spends much of his free time exploring the beaches and open spaces of California, especially those described in this site.