La Jolla, From the Sea to the Clouds

Our TravelMuse editor recalls her favorite activities from her visits to La Jolla, from kayaking to flying over the city in a 1920s biplane.


As someone with friends in both San Diego to the south and Carlsbad to the north, I usually end up in La Jolla for one reason or another whenever I’m in Southern California. Each time I visit, I enjoy a new aspect of the resort town. Here are a few of my favorite experiences.

Hotel Lobby Drinks

My first time in La Jolla, a friend insisted we have drinks in the lobby of the historic La Valencia Hotel in downtown La Jolla to watch the sunset over La Jolla Cove. The hotel, also known as the Pink Lady for its many shades of pink, opened in 1926 with a Mediterranean-inspired architecture and features gorgeous Spanish tiles throughout. This is a must for anyone visiting La Jolla.

Next door is the equally historic Grande Colonial Hotel La Jolla, which also has a lovely lobby and is a good spot for drinks while watching the sunset. It’s tougher to get a good view though, but another lovely option if visiting in winter is to try to snag seats next to the fireplace.

Fans of California Craftsman architecture will appreciate sinking into leather and wood comfort in front of the fireplace in the lobby of the Lodge at Torrey Pines, with its Stickley-style furniture and reproductions of Tiffany lamps.

Kayaking La Jolla Cove

For a great upper-body workout while spotting sea birds, sea lions, seals and the occasional dolphin, nothing beats a kayak jaunt on the Pacific Ocean. Hike Bike Kayak is a reputable outfit with quality guides. The day we ventured out the water was choppy, and two kayaks in our group flipped over a couple times each. It was unfortunately too rough to venture toward the La Jolla caves—which are a highlight of all the best kayak tours—but simply being on the water and taking in the dramatic cliffs on the coast from the sea was well worth the adventure.

Hike Bike Kayak is located a few blocks from the beach, so you get into your wetsuits there (the locker rooms are sparse, so it’s best to wear your swimsuit before arriving), then head down the sidewalk toward the beach. Wetsuits, kayaks (either single or tandem), paddles and life vests are provided. Children must be at least 6 years old and able to swim. Prices vary.

Architecture Walk at the Salk Institute

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies was established in the 1960s by Jonas Salk, who developed the polio vaccine, and designed by world-renowned architect Louis I. Kahn. If you like sleek, modern, minimal design, you’ll love touring the Institute. Natural light floods the campus, including the stories that are built underground. Smooth marble, concrete, teak, lead, glass, steel and water materials all work together for a calming feel and clean aesthetic.

The Salk Institute offers a free guided architectural tour Monday through Friday at noon. Reservations are required two days in advance of date requested and can be made by registering online as

A true adrenaline rush is to take a ride in a restored 1920s-era biplane with Barnstorming Adventures, located at the Montgomery Field Airport in San Diego (the operation relocated from the Palomar Airport in Carlsbad on July 1, 2008). There’s nothing quite like the feel of the wind in your hair, goggles and headset donned, sailing above the Pacific coastline with its bevy of surfers below. It’s also fun to get a group together in multiple planes and race each other in the air. Though the ride can be as smooth or as daring as desired, this activity is not for those with any fear of flying. Rides in air combat and warbirds  from WWI and WWII also are available. There are no minimum age limits, and prices start at $199.

Destinations: La Jolla

Activities: Kayaking, Sightseeing

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