5 Best Spots to See the Sea Lions and Seals in La Jolla

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The La Jolla area is home to a wide variety of marine wildlife, especially seals and sea lions. For centuries, the seals and sea lions have called this area home and there’s evidence of their presence along the shoreline here dating back to 4000 BC, if you can imagine it!

La Jolla is a great place to see sea lions and seals in their natural habitat. We always stop by the cove to see them whenever we’re in the area, and that’s clearly a big draw for visitors in La Jolla. In this post, we’ll share with you the best spots to see the sea lions and seals in La Jolla.

Seals and sea lions at children's beach in La Jolla, Spots to see the sea lions and seal in la jolla
Children’s Beach (Photo by GTC)

It’s always good to remember that the seals and sea lions also play an important role ecologically, helping keep fish stocks healthy by controlling prey populations like sardines, herring, anchovies, etc.

They are also integral in maintaining balance within the local food chain, since they eat predators such as sharks and barracudas that could otherwise overfish some of the other species that call this area home, like salmon and halibut.

So it’s important that we always follow some basic rules when viewing these awesome creatures, so we don’t disturb their habitat. You can find a list of those basic rules at the end of this post. Be sure to observe them at all times.

Torrey Pines State Beach
Torrey Pines State Beach (Photo by GTC)

What is the Difference Between Sea Lions & Seals?

The La Jolla seal colony consists primarily of California sea lions and harbor seals.

The harbor seals tend to be smaller than the sea lions and they have mottled silver-gray fur and a white underside. They are known for their low grunting noises that are different from the barks of the sea lions. They move around by flopping on their stomachs, because they don’t have strong flippers.

The California sea lion is much larger than the seals. They can even weigh up to 800 pounds! They have a brownish-tan colored coat, long bodies, ear flaps, and a distinctive set of whiskers. They tend to pile up on each other on the rocks and beach.

Seals, sea lions, and pelicans in La Jolla, spots to see the sea lions and seals in La Jolla
Wildlife in La Jolla (Photo by GTC)

They also have large flipper-like front feet which they use to propel themselves through the water at incredibly fast speeds and they bark quite loudly. These noisy creatures can often be heard across the whole bay.

These two species coexist peacefully in the La Jolla area, so you can often see both of them at once when they’re out. They breed seasonally and raise their little ones both on nearby beaches and inside the La Jolla Cove and other protected bays nearby.

From time to time, you might even catch these guys hanging out on boat ramps or docks, where they rest like big lumps of clay until someone comes to shoo them way. It might look cute, but they actually cause quite a disturbance with their loud barks.

Where to See the Seals & Sea Lions

La Jolla seals
La Jolla (Photo by GTC)

Some of the best places to see them include:

  1. La Jolla Cove: This is one of the most popular spots for observing seals and sea lions. The cove is located near the Children’s Pool and is a popular spot for snorkeling, diving, and seal watching.
  2. La Jolla Children’s Pool: This is a man-made cove that has become a popular haul-out spot for seals and sea lions. There is a viewing area and a walkway that provides excellent views of the animals.
  3. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve: This park is located just north of La Jolla and is a great place to observe seals and sea lions from a distance. It’s also a popular spot for hiking and bird-watching.
  4. La Jolla Shores: This is a long stretch of beach located near the La Jolla Cove and is another popular spot for observing seals and sea lions.
  5. Boomer Beach: The beach here is quite small without much sand so it doesn’t attract as many people, but it’s great for the seals and sea lions that stretch out along the rocks. You can walk out onto the rocks to see them, but be sure to stay far enough away.

Keep in mind that seals and sea lions are wild animals, so it’s important to observe them from a safe distance and to not disturb them in any way.

La Jolla Cove Beach
La Jolla Cove Beach (Photo by GTC)

When is the Best Time to See the La Jolla Seals & Sea Lions?

The best time to see the seals and sea lions in La Jolla is typically during the daytime, when they are most active. They are generally less active at night and during the early morning hours. The best time of year to see them is from mid-January to mid-March, because of their pupping season. They can be seen all year, but are in larger groups in the early part of the year.

In terms of specific times of day, the seals and sea lions tend to be most active around high tide, when they come ashore to rest and sun themselves. High tide times vary, so it’s best to check local tide charts to determine the best time to visit.

Seal and sea lions at Point La Jolla
La Jolla Point (Photo by GTC)

Another good time to see the seals and sea lions is during the late morning or early afternoon, when they are most likely to be basking in the sun. This is also a good time to observe their playful behavior, as they may be seen frolicking in the water or resting on the rocks.

Remember that the seals and sea lions in La Jolla are wild animals and their behavior can vary depending on a variety of factors, including weather, food availability, and the presence of predators. So while there are general patterns to their behavior, there is no guarantee that they will be visible or active at a specific time of day.

Tips For Viewing Seals & Sea Lions

Boomer beach
Boomer Beach (Photo by GTC)

Here are some tips and recommendations for viewing sea lions and seals in the wild:

  1. Observe them from a safe distance: Keep a safe distance of at least 50 yards (150 feet) from seals and sea lions in the wild. This will help to minimize stress on the animals and prevent disturbance to their natural behavior.
  2. Do not feed or touch the animals: Seals and sea lions are wild animals and should never be fed or touched. Doing so can harm the animals and is also illegal.
  3. Keep noise to a minimum: Loud noise can be stressful for seals and sea lions, so it’s best to keep talking and other noises to a minimum when observing them.
  4. Respect their habitat: Seals and sea lions use certain areas for resting, birthing, and nursing their young, and it’s important to respect these areas and not disturb the animals.
  5. Follow the rules: If visiting a specific viewing area, be sure to follow any posted rules or guidelines for observing the animals. This may include restrictions on access to certain areas, guidelines for keeping a safe distance, and other rules for minimizing disturbance to the animals.
  6. Be aware of the tides: Seals and sea lions are most active around high tide, when they come ashore to rest and sun themselves. Be aware of the tides and check local tide charts to determine the best time to visit.
  7. Use binoculars: Binoculars are a great way to observe seals and sea lions from a safe distance and to get a closer look at their behavior and physical features.

Remember, seals and sea lions are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and it’s illegal to harass, harm, or kill them. By following these guidelines, you can help to ensure that these magnificent animals remain protected and that their populations remain healthy and thriving for future generations to enjoy.

La Jolla Cove
La Jolla Cove (Photo by GTC)

Beach Etiquette & Tips

To make the most of your time at the beach and ensure that you and your family have a wonderful time, without any snags along the way, we recommend following these easy tips:

  • Lifeguards are staffed year-round at the permanent lifeguard stations in San Diego. They are there from 9am to dusk. However, avoid being too reliant on lifeguards. Always watch your kids and be aware of the tide.
  • When going to a beach with your family, always watch out for signs that indicate if the area is meant for swimming or surfing.
  • Glass containers are not allowed on the beach and dogs are not allowed between 9 am and 4 pm from Nov 1 through March 31, 9 am and 6 pm from April 1 through Oct 31.
  • Keep your kids close and bring your own beach gear to save some time and avoid hassle. 

La Jolla Tours to Book

» Looking for more inspiration along the route? Check out all our guides to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Diego. Find the best beaches in Monterey, waterfalls in Southern California, and national parks.

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Wildlife at La Jolla Point
5 Best Spots to See the Sea Lions and Seals in La Jolla

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