A boutique seaside village in San Diego’s north, La Jolla (pronounced ‘La Hoya’) is distinct from the city in style and sensibility.
Steve Madgwick shares his five favourite things to do in this cute little Neverland.
1. Green eggs and… the home of Dr Suess
The Village of La Jolla (pronounced La Hoya) is the antithesis of California’s mega-mall mentality, perhaps helped by its artist-colony legacy. So while Porsches and exclusive specialty stores catch your eye on Prospect Street, it’s the boutique galleries such as Legends Gallery that glue this place together. Legend focuses on the most famous creative to have walked these sunny streets (in his pyjamas apparently): Theodor Seuss Geisel, A.K.A. Dr. Seuss. On display is a selection of the doc’s classic books, drawings and a series of locally inspired paintings of ‘La Jolla Birdwomen’, an artful teasing of his fashionable neighbours’ charity-ball lifestyles.
2. The High Tide Dinner: The Marine Room
San Diego’s food scene has been enlightened by the likes of Bernard Guillas. The French executive chef took over local institution The Marine Room (circa 1941) a couple of decades ago, bringing with him fresh fusion seafood fare, like the exquisite cashew blue crab cakes. The High Tide Dinner takes the ocean-to-restaurant philosophy literally: the Pacific’s waves break on the (tightly sealed) windows of the beachfront eatery. You might see a pod of dolphins as the sun sets on your dinner too.
3. A Star Wars-esque walk through Torrey Pines
Like many cosmopolitan capitals, activewear is ‘in’ in La Jolla, but unlike many places they actually use it for its intended purpose. Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve offers surreal hikes through a strange desert-looking landscape replete with pines, cacti and birdlife galore, from brown pelicans to woodpeckers. Walk down to the beach for a dip and look up to reveal the Star Wars-like striated sandstone mesa in all its glory. Near La Jolla’s centre, local fave the Cove is a more convenient place for a snorkel, kayak or to watch the seals of the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve.
4. The hacienda highlight: Estancia La Jolla
Just how much La Jolla’s architecture has progressed from its beach-cottage heritage is seen by how seamlessly three-storey rancho-style Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa blends in to the cityscape. The 210-roomed hacienda-style hotel quietly exudes grandeur, helped by 10 acres of shade-throwing gardens. Pull up an oversized rocking chair or laze in a saltwater-poolside cabana then detox in the spa’s eucalyptus steam room.
5. Hanging five on a Surf Museum safari
Just north of La Jolla, San Diego exhales into a sequence of boutique beach towns like Del Mar and Encinitas. California Surf Museum (in Oceanside, 35 minutes’ drive) is the secret temple of California’s halcyon surf culture with a fun collection of old-school ‘rhino chasers’ and insightful exhibitions such as Surfing during the Vietnam War. The tiger shark teeth marks in Bethany Hamilton’s board will make you gasp (the young pro surfer’s arm was bitten clean off) while the pre-loved vintage Aloha shirts may tempt you.