By Irene Lechowitzky
September 29, 2013
La Jolla is known for its cosmopolitan vibe, high-end shopping and fine dining. For a more down-to-earth, beach-centric experience, head to La Jolla Shores, a compact, laid-back neighborhood across the water from the village center. Popular with locals and families, the beach has fire pits, a park, a playground and sweeping views of La Jolla Cove. It's a busy launch point for water sports; summer and fall weekends draw groups of kayakers and snorkelers. Take the plunge: The area is full of shops where you can rent gear or take a lesson (snorkeling gear rental, $20; kayak tours start at $39). The tab: My husband and I spent $229 for a night at the Hotel La Jolla. Dinner at Cusp was $85; other meals and drinks were $40.
Now part of the Kimpton Hotel Group, the Hotel La Jolla (7955 La Jolla Shores Drive;  459-0261, http://www.hotellajolla.com) recently got a much-needed $4-million face-lift: There's a striking petrified-wood fireplace in the lobby; the outdoor pool, bar and chic lounge area have a tropical ambience. The renovation failed to overcome the building's outdated structure: The hallways are outdoors like a basic motel (though photos of surfers circa 1950s are a nice touch). The rooms are understated and serene, a symphony of neutrals. Voyeurs rejoice: The glass-walled shower is visible from the bedroom (there is a pull-down shade for privacy). Rooms have balconies, many with ocean views.
Cusp, the hotel's restaurant, offers panoramic ocean views. The best dish at dinner was the crispy pork belly appetizer; the stuffed tandoori chicken and duck confit were bland. Choose the happy hour at the bar. There are also good eateries a block away on Avenida de la Playa, with patios ideal for dining when it's warm. We stopped in La Jolla Village to check out celeb chef Brian Malarkey's new restaurant, Herringbone (7837 Herschel Ave.;  459-0221, http://www.herringboneeats.com). It brings the outdoors inside in a converted vintage warehouse filled with olive trees. We had time only for a quick drink; the food looked good, and we'll be back.
Take a hike north along the beach to Scripps Pier. It's a lovely milelong stroll, with a surprise payoff: We discovered Caroline's Seaside Café (8610 Kennel Way;  202-0569, http://www.carolinesseasidecafe.com), a locals' favorite on a bluff overlooking the beach at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and had coffee and croissants. It's a great place to fuel up if you want to continue on to the Birch Aquarium (2300 Expedition Way;  534-3474, http://www.aquarium.ucsd.edu ), which is in the hills above.
Oh, my aching tootsies! Make sure you wear comfortable shoes for the hike. I wore sandals, and my feet were not happy. Another tip: Parking is $28 a night at the hotel, but you can park there all day after checking out. Stay in the lot: Parking spots are hard to find in La Jolla Shores.
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