Sea Lions at La Jolla Cove

Visiting the Sea Lions at La Jolla Cove

Sunning, cuddling, napping – I was jealous. The life of a sea lion seemed pretty blissful. What was meant to be a 15-minute detour had turned into an hour-long affair.

After spending a weekend in San Diego, I decided to take a quick side trip to La Jolla, just outside the city, on my way up the Pacific Coast Highway. Dramatic ocean views and the prospect of seeing marine wildlife peaked my interest.

It didn’t take me too long to stake out a parking space on Coast Boulevard at 9:00 on a Monday morning. My mission was to find La Jolla Cove: a famous spot to view sea lions. It wasn’t hard to find them, I just followed the sounds of their resounding barks. Not only were there hoards of lounging sea lions, there were hoards of people scrambling the cliffs to catch a closer glimpse. I joined in (making sure to keep my distance) to admire the playful, flopping sea mammals. Below are some tips on getting the most out of your experience.

The Difference Between Sea Lions and Seals

Sea lions hang out more at the cove, the harbor seals at Children’s Pool (1o-minutes south of the cove). You can tell a sea lion from a seal by recognizing some distinct features:

  • sea lions have visible, outer ear flaps
  • sea lions bark
  • sea lions use their flippers to move on land, seals tend to wriggle on their bellies since theirs are smaller
  • harbor seals tend to have darker, speckled skin

Sea Lions at La Jolla Cove, CASea Lions at La Jolla Cove, CA


  • Keep your distance. The sea lions and seals are wild creatures and don’t need the stress of tourists yelling at them or waving selfie sticks in their faces. Though socialized enough to be seen fairly close, they will bite or charge at you if they feel threatened. Use your camera’s zoom lens and give them some space. Be aware of your full surroundings, I discovered some sea lions crept up just behind me while I was photographing their friends.
  • Don’t leave trash or feed them. Once again, these animals are wild. Leave nothing behind, especially any trash that could harm or choke the wildlife. These critters are just fine finding food on their own in their natural habitat. Feeding them is not only illegal, it could be hazardous to their health – or yours – should they decide to bite and pull you over.
  • Beware of brown puddles. What seems like a pool of ocean water may actually be sea lion poop! Avoid walking in anything brown and stinky.
  • Wear closed-toe shoes.This tip will protect you from the brown puddles. Also, the cove and surrounding area are pretty slick and rocky makes it tricky to maneuver in flimsy flip-flops.

Sea Lions at La Jolla Cove, CA

Parking at La Jolla Cove

The Cove is walking distance to La Jolla’s main Village shopping district. There is free 2-3 hour street parking along Prospect Street and Coast Boulevard. The best way to find a spot is to arrive early, scout side streets, or park a little further away on the outskirts of downtown. There are also several parking garages that charge hourly rates, check out this guide for more information.

Sea Lions at La Jolla Cove, CASea Lion at La Jolla Cove, CA

Where have you witnessed seals or sea lions in action? Share your experiences, tips, and questions for other travelers below.

Lara Dalinsky

Lara DalinskyLara was infected with the travel bug at an early age. Her mother’s job as a flight attendant enabled a childhood of discovering the world. She recently relocated to Seoul, South Korea, for her husband’s job and hopes to explore much of Asia while there. In addition to being the founding editor of En Route Traveler, Lara also works as a freelance graphic designer. In her spare time, she contributes as a Local Expert to AFAR,is an ambassador for FIG Clothing, enjoys vegetarian cuisine, instructs Zumba, practices yoga, dabbles in photography, and of course, travels as much as possible. like and share: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail