Sea Lions in San Diego – 7 Best Viewpoints
Checking out the sea lions in San Diego is a must for every visitor. In La Jolla, the scenic sea lion path has many excellent viewing spots. This route is a beautiful 30-minute walk along the top of the stunning sandstone cliffs. Whether playing in the waves or napping on the rocks, these adorable critters are easy to see from the shore.
Here we list the best sites to view the sea lions in San Diego and what to look for in each area. Don’t forget your camera, the beauty of La Jolla’s coastline is breathtaking!
Top Sea Lion Sites
San Diego, California
#1 Children’s Pool
Your first stop is the Children’s pool where the overwhelming cuteness of the harbor seals is in full view! The iconic wall, constructed in 1931, was to protect the small beach from the incoming surf. The internal waters and beach were going to be a safe spot for children to swim. Over the years, the calm waters have also proved to be an excellent haulout for sea lions and seals in San Diego.
The walking path along the top of the cement breakwater is open to the public. When the ocean is calm, the wall is an excellent spot for viewing the pinnipeds. There is often a rope barrier limiting access to the sand. The limited access is to protect the seals, especially during pupping months. Please keep in mind that it is against the law to disturb these animals.
#2 Shell Beach
Next, head north from the Children’s Pool on the paved sidewalk. You will pass an offshore rocky outcropping, Seal Rock. Below is an excellent site to see both seals and sea lions frolicking in the surf. Continuing north and you will reach the south end of Ellen Browning Scripps Park. Here is a staircase leading to down to Shell Beach. This bit of the coast is fantastic for tide pooling at low tide when the ocean is calm.
#3 Boomers Point
At the north end of the park is the La Jolla Cove Bridge Club. Yes, we play cards at the beach in San Diego! Across the footpath are the cliffs under Boomers Point. All sea lions must come to the shore to rest. These guys need to be on land, relaxing for at least eight hours a day. Look below; the rocky cliffs are a favorite lounging spot for the sea lions.
Boomers is an excellent spot for photos but be careful. Climbing over the low wall to access the rocks and tide pools can be quite dangerous with high surf. For safety, please keep a safe distance when viewing or taking photos. Remember these animals will bite when frightened.
#4 La Jolla Cove
Following the walk around Boomer’s Point, you will soon arrive at La Jolla Cove. This stunning beach area is sea lion central! The ocean here is part of the protected La Jolla Ecological Reserve and marine park. These adorable animals love lounging on the cliffs framing the north and south ends of the beach.
The Cove is also the best spot in San Diego to jump in and go snorkeling with the sea lions. The energetic pinnipeds love to swim and play in the surrounding waters. There is also a variety of beautiful fish in the area. A staircase next to the lifeguard tower leads down to the sand. Early mornings you may even find moms with pups right on the sand.
#5 Clam Cave & Sea Lions Haulout
Continue walking past the lifeguard tower following the sidewalk up the hill. Down on your left is the giant Clam Cave, a favorite swim through for sea lions. The ocean inlet below is Emerald Cove. The area’s name comes from the bright green grass growing under the shallow waters. Sea lions prefer heights. The rocky ledges along the lower cliffs are very popular haul-outs for these guys. Here is a great spot to get some cute pictures.
Around the next bend is the Cave Store. Inside the store, you can walk down a tunnel to Sunny Jim’s, the only land accessible ocean cave on the west coast. If you listen, you may be able to hear some of the large males barking below!
Behind the store, the path turns to dirt. Take the wooden staircase down to the observation deck for incredible views of La Jolla.
#6 The Seven Sea Caves
Past the observation deck, and open to the public, is the rocky topside of The Clam. The sandstone rock is unstable so be careful to stay away from the edges. The ocean area past the northern tip of the cave is Goldfish Point. Named for the hundreds of orange Garibaldi fish swimming in the waters below. The lower rocks are a favorite hangout for sea lion pups. These little cuties are full of energy, quite social with each other and are often found laying in big piles.
To the east, you can see the rest of the seven ancient sea caves carved into the giant cliffs.
#7 San Diego Coastal Overlook
Next, reverse your steps and walk back up the wooden staircase. At the top of the stairs take the dirt path on the left. From this point on it may be difficult to see the sea lions below but you will most likely hear them. Sea lions love to bark, very loud, and they do it a lot! The trail wanders another few blocks along the top of La Jolla’s majestic cliffs. Get ready for some stunning ocean views in San Diego.
The path ends at the dead end of the street called Coast Walk. Following the street up to Torrey Pines Road, it is a quick walk back to the La Jolla Village area.