Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer. If a beach vacation is in your plans, head to San Diego’s “jewel,” La Jolla. Although it has an upscale reputation, there are lots of ways to enjoy inexpensive meals and free things to do. I’ve lived in La Jolla for more than 45 years, so I’ve shopped around plenty to find my favorites.
Where to stay
The 5-star, ocean-front Pantai Inn has earned a prestigious No. 1 ranking for La Jolla hotels on TripAdvisor. Perched fittingly on the corner of Coast and Ocean Streets, this small gem sits amid beautifully landscaped gardens and patios overlooking the Pacific. The Pantai Inn pays homage to Balinese art with its furnishings and design.
Included in the rate is parking, buffet breakfast and high-speed Internet. Coffee, tea, bottled water, plus freshly baked cookies are available throughout the day. Turndown service includes chocolates at night. It’s easy to understand how the Pantai Inn received such high rankings with its little touches and attention to detail.
Stroll north from the Pantai Inn along the bluff to The Cove, then double back to the Children’s Pool. The latter is populated by seals and sea lions, which have become a bitter issue with residents, business owners and environmentalists.
Wander through the shops and art galleries on Prospect and Girard. Grab your swim/surf gear and drive to the Shores Beach. At low tide, take a long walk north past Scripps Pier to Black’s Beach (bathing suit optional).
A day at the University of California San Diego
Stop first at the Birch Aquarium. It’s part of the internationally famous Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Don’t miss the newly opened “Seadragons & Seahorses” exhibit.
Wander on campus to see the Geisel Library (thanks, Dr. Seuss) and the outdoor Stuart Collection, especially Fallen Star, Sun God and The Wind Garden.
The Theater District features the Mandell Weiss Center for Performing Arts and the historic La Jolla Playhouse. The latter was founded in 1947 by Hollywood stars Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer. Over the years, it has won 35 Tony Awards for productions that have gone on to Broadway.
Take a hike through Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve (only one of 14 California State Parks so designated). Six trails loop through the park. There are free public guided tours on weekends and holidays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Golfers, take note: the world-famous Torrey Pines golf course is open to the public.
Want the amenities of a first-rate country club for free? Head to the La Jolla YMCA. You can receive two complimentary day passes to use the facilities: two pools, splash area for kids, weight and workout rooms, yoga and exercise classes, plus sauna, steam room and lockers. If you are a YMCA member in any other city, you have reciprocity. It’s the best deal in town.
Where to eat
Here are my choices in the food category; none budget breakers.
Italian – Regents Pizza’s has a complete menu featuring pizza, pasta, salads, plus craft beers galore.
Burgers – The Melt is tucked away in the Shops of La Jolla Village center and dishes out everything imaginable grilled with cheese.
Sandwiches – Mendocino Farms serves unique “farm fresh artisan sandwiches,” plus soups and salads.
Mexican – Puesto is my go-to place for intriguing takes on Mexican fare. Don’t miss their award-winning tacos.
Seafood – El Pescador Fish Market and Restaurant has been around for 40 years and features an extensive menu. Their calamari sandwich is my favorite.
Hawaiian – Poki One n Half offers a choice of four of bases, seven types of seafood, 10-plus toppings and various sauces.
New summer travel products
Chico Bag – Travel Zip is a trio of small, medium, and large pouches for storing everything from your toiletries, electronic chargers/cords and wallet to anything loose you want to keep handy. Order online at Amazon or at www.ChicoBag.com.
Kleen Kanteen – The new thermal, vacuum insulated TKWide line represents another innovation in travel bottles. There is a choice of nine colors and four different tops (three with swivel loops). The TKWide can be found at sporting goods stores, REI, Whole Foods or shop directly at www.KleenKanteen.com.