Standing on its dramatic cliffs, palm trees overhead and waves crashing in the blue-green waters below, it becomes very clear why La Jolla (from the Spanish word joya, meaning “jewel”) got its name. The beach is one of the most stunning in San Diego and is a favorite of CISL San Diego students and locals.

Grabbing a towel and relaxing on the beach is always a great way to spend the day in La Jolla, but those not happy with simply watching the beautiful waters from its soft sand beaches have an exciting option: kayaking in La Jolla Cove. Enjoy our insider tips on how to make this an incredible experience!

What you will see

La Jolla Cove provides plenty of opportunities to see marine and wildlife. While kayaking through the waters, it is common to see manta rays, schools of fish, and bright orange Garibaldi, whose bright color is a beautiful contrast to the blue sea water.

The Garibaldi gets its name from the Italian military figure and politician, Giuseppe Garibaldi. His followers often wore bright red shirts. The fish can be found from Monterey down to Baja and is the official California state fish.

The cove is also home to dozens of leopard sharks that mate during the warmer months. Of course, as with all of San Diego’s waters, it is always possible to see dolphins frolicking in the waves!

Carved into the dramatic cliffs of the La Jolla Cove are caves that are only accessible by water. Seagulls, doves, pelicans, and other birds make their home on these cliffs. Just north of the Cove is a former children’s pool that has been taken over by seals. Although it is not the children’s pool that the city has intended, it is a much-loved attraction for tourists and locals. Kayaks provide an up close and personal view of the seals as they play in the waters.

Kayaking in La Jolla is more than just paddling through the ocean: the Cove has incredible caves that are only accessible by water.
La Jolla’s seals, which have taken over the children’s pool, are now a fixture of the beach.

How to rent a kayak or book a guided tour 

Several tour companies offer guided and self-guided kayak tours.

1.   La Jolla Kayak

La Jolla Kayak offers fully guided kayak tours of the famous Seven Sea Caves of La Jolla‎. In addition, the company offers rentals and guided tours on bicycle or by snorkeling. They also offer paddle board rentals.

2199 Avenida De La Playa, La Jolla, CA

(858) 459-1114


2.   Kayak La Jolla Caves‎

Kayak La Jolla Caves also offers bike, kayaking, and snorkeling rentals and tours; in addition, the company offers two ways for you to get the best pictures of your excursion. With their “Capture” program, customers can hire a professional photographer to take the best photos of their adventure. Guests can also rent one of the company’s waterproof digital cameras or Go Pro video cameras to document the trip.

2158 Avenida De La Playa, La Jolla, CA 92037

(858) 454 1010


3.   La Jolla Kayak Tours‎

La Jolla Kayak Tours boasts some of the smaller guided group tours available in La Jolla. Guests are guided by experienced biologists and ecologists, making the tour a very educational one! Each tour comes with a free photo.

2222 Avenida de la Playa, La Jolla, CA 92037

(858) 551 9510


4. La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks

La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks promises no more than a 1:6 guide-to-guest ratio during their tours. The company’s ten years of experience ensure that you will have a safe, informative tour!

2164 Avenida de la Playa La Jolla, CA 92037



Insider tips

Your experience will depend on the time of year that you go kayaking. Those who really want to catch a glimpse of the leopard sharks should keep in mind that the shark mating season is from May to November. The warmer waters of August and September bring out more marine life, including manta rays and jellyfish, and also make for a more pleasant swim off the kayak.

It is important to note that the caves are only accessible with guided tours. Students who are set on seeing these caves should make sure to book a guided tour rather than a self-guided one.

Even during days of calm waters, an unexpected wave can overturn  a kayak. Leave your cell phone at home and take advantage of the camera rentals that some of the above-mentioned companies offer, or invest in a cheap waterproof camera: they take great photos and can be developed in an hour at any local Rite Aid or CVS (and the proofs come with a CD so you can upload your photos to Facebook).

Have you been kayaking in La Jolla? Post your pics on our Facebook page!


Expressions with “paddle”

When you use a kayak, you must paddle using an oar. “Paddle” is also used in several expressions that are very useful in English. Have you heard these expressions before?

To paddle your own canoe

Definition: to decide your own fate; to be in charge of yourself and be independent

Example: He’s almost 17. He’ll move out of the house in a year when he goes to college and he will have to paddle his own canoe.


To be up the creek without a paddle

Definition: to be in big trouble

Example: If you don’t start studying now for your test, you’re going to be up the creek without a paddle.


Dog(gy) paddle

Definition: a simple swim where the swimmer, who is on his/her stomach, moves their arms and kicks their legs so that they swim like a dog

Example: I don’t really know how to swim. I only know how to doggy paddle.