This complex of marine sanctuaries, including some of the oldest in California, protects habitats ranging from sandy flats and rocky reefs to kelp forests and submarine canyons. Just off the coast of La Jolla, these ocean waters teem with life, and sea lions, dolphins, migrating whales, and safe-to-swim-with leopard sharks come here to feed. The waters also serve as a laboratory; the famed Scripps Institution of Oceanography overlooks La Jolla Shores.
For nature lovers, it’s a saltwater Disneyland. Rent kayaks to nose along the rocky coast and look for sea caves. Local outfitters like La Jolla Kayak lead sea-cave kayaking tours, as well as snorkeling tours. December through April, kayaking here is a great way to look for migratory whales. And if you prefer to stay on solid ground, just hang out on the beach, then walk over to Birch Aquarium (part of the Scripps Institution) for up-close views of marine life—all without getting wet.