Visiting the La Jolla Seals and Sea Lions at Children’s Pool Beach

la jolla seals

La Jolla Seals and Sea Lions at Children’s Pool Beach and La Jolla Cove
Location: La Jolla, California (850 Coast Boulevard)
When to visit: Daylight hours
Cost: Free
Time needed: 15-45 minutes
Website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children%27s_Pool_Beach (unofficial)

The San Diego neighborhood of La Jolla has some nice stretches of beach along the Pacific Ocean. One particular cove was so pretty and isolated that they decided to turn it into a Children’s Pool some years back.

But the harbor seals and sea lions who live in the area weren’t down with that. They gradually took over, forcing the kids and families out!

Now, tourists come to see the aquatic mammals as they lie in the sun and waddle around the beach.

la jolla seals beach

Curious about seering the La Jolla seals and sea lions? Read on to learn where and when to see them, and how to tell the seals and sea lions apart.

La Jolla Cove Map – Where to See the Seals

Children’s Pool Beach and La Jolla Cove are both good spots to see the seals and sea lions.

Here’s a La Jolla seal map showing the two main beach locations:

la jolla map cove beach seals
A map of Children’s Pool Beach and La Jolla Cove, the best places to see seals and sea lions in La Jolla.

These two spots are easily walkable. It’s about a 10-minute trek (0.5 miles) from one to the other, and it’s a pleasant walk, passing by Scripps Park.

The seals are usually in this area all day, from early morning to later at night. There is not necessarily a “best time” to see them, although you will often see fewer animals around lunchtime, as they’re off hunting in the water then.

You may have to park on Coast Boulevard and walk over since there isn’t a ton of parking in La Jolla, a small residential beach community.

harbor seal
A harbor seal wriggles ashore at Children’s Pool Beach.

Point La Jolla and Boomer Beach, located between Children’s Pool and La Jolla Cove, are also good places to see seals and sea lions. But the city officially closed Point La Jolla and Boomer Beach to the public due to consistent harrassment of the animals.

Note that Children’s Pool Beach is closed to the public between December 15 and May 15 every year.

That measure was taken to protect seal pups, who are born during this time. You can still come by and view them from a distance, however. La Jolla Cove, meanwhile, is open year-round.

Does La Jolla Have Seals or Sea Lions?

You may see references to the La Jolla sea lions, rather than seals. The truth is that both are present here!

How can you tell them apart? The easiest difference: California sea lions have external ears that are clearly visible, while Pacific harbor seals do not.

sea lion la jolla cove
See that little ear flap on this sea lion at La Jolla Cove?

Another difference? Sea lions are bigger and can shuffle or walk upright using their large flippers, while seals are smaller and tend to wriggle on their bellies.

Seals tend to congregate more often at Children’s Pool, while sea lions are seen more often at La Jolla Cove.

Both of these animals can be cute to see in the cove, but keep your distance. As these signs indicate, seals and sea lions can be dangerous. They will not hesitate to bite people who try to come close. So just watch from afar.

la jolla seals bite sign - la jolla sea lions

The Seal Conservancy has a ton of additional information and research about the seals in this area.

Seeing the La Jolla Seals at Children’s Pool Beach

A couple hundred seals and sea lions hang out here. People come all day long to take pictures of them.

seals la jolla beach

For midwesterners like me, who have never seen seals in the wild, it’s a cool thrill to check them out up close, even if they don’t do much but lay there, or occasionally waddle into the water.

Children’s Pool Beach has showers and bathrooms, and a long seawall that is similar to a pier, allowing visitors to walk out around the beach and view it from the ocean side.

children's pool seawall

There’s been some legal wrangling in recent years, as some folks attempted to have the seals removed so humans could return to the beach, but it now seems that the seals have won the legal right to stay.

Score one for the aquatic mammal community!

The first time I visited Children’s Pool Beach, I saw more than a hundred seals lying around in the sand. It was awesome to witness.

la jolla cove seals sea lions

On my most recent visit, I saw only three seals. Sometimes, it really is the luck of the draw.

Whether there are seals here or not, Children’s Pool is still a great place to take in a sunset.

children's pool san diego sunset

Seeing the Sea Lions at La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove is a great place to see not just sea lions, but thousands of sea birds that also reside on these cliffs.

Prepare yourself: The smell here is quite foul. I’m not sure which animals give off the most odor, but it’s definitely not a pleasant scent.

birds sea lions cliff

La Jolla Cove also has viewing platforms where you can look down on the animals, plus stairs that go right down to the sand.

On my first visit to La Jolla years ago, visitors were respectful and kept their distance from these creatures. But on my return visit a couple months back, that had gone completely out the window.

At La Jolla Cove, tourists were walking right on the sand next to loud and seemingly angry sea lions. They were getting within a few feet of the animals to take selfies. It was appalling.

I took these pics from a safe distance away, up on the stairs.

sea lion selfies
tourists sea lions

I was disappointed there were no rangers or authorities to force people to keep their distance, but evidently they’ve given up. People can now get as close as they want to the sea lions. And that’s very unfortunate.

So by all means, come and visit these fascinating animals. Just stay off the beach when they are around, and enjoy them from a respectful distance.

If you want another vantage point, try the very popular Sea Caves Kayak Tour, a guided tour in which guests kayak along the shore near La Jolla Cove, passing through a sea cave.

la jolla kayak tour

Children’s Pool and La Jolla Cove appear on our list of the best beaches in San Diego. While neither has much sand for sunbathing or swimming, both are quality snorkeling spots.

La Jolla is actually not its own city – it’s a part of San Diego. While you’re visiting La Jolla, head down to central San Diego to see the Kissing Sailor statue and the San Diego Zoo!

The seals and sea lions at La Jolla Cove make the list of my favorite animal encounters in the U.S.!

Have you ever been to La Jolla to see the seals?