The Three Best Places to Spot Sea Lions in San Diego


Silly, loud, ultra-lovable, and a little smelly, the resident sea lions of San Diego are sure to bring a toothy smile to your face. Sea lions are often compared to being the dogs of the sea for good reason. After all, they're smart, playful, and newborns are even called pups. They capitalize on San Diego's unique coastline as prime real estate, colonizing rocky areas year round or sandy beaches during nesting season.

Here are the three best ways to catch your own sight of sea lions in La Jolla, San Diego.

Rent a kayak or SUP and paddle to the sea lions

On the main street of La Jolla Shores, Avenida De La Playa, you can rent standup paddleboards and kayaks for the day. From the beach, paddle south until you hit the La Jolla Cove and sea caves. Here, you can get a close-up of sea lions clamoring over one another, barking, and diving into the water in search of delicious anchovies. Escape the heat by going into a dark, cool cave or jumping into the sea.

Snorkel at the La Jolla Caves

If you're more of an aqua addict, consider bringing a snorkel and swimming to the La Jolla Caves from the beach access trail off of Coast Blvd. Though the sea lions are clumsy on land, they're surprisingly graceful underwater. Snorkeling around their hangout spot will give you an exclusive sight to sea lions in their own element. The sea lions are mischievously known for swimming alongside divers and snorkelers, as if challenging them to a race. Expect to see neon orange Garibaldis, the California state fish, as a bonus.

Walk along the sea wall at the Children's Pool

Children's Pool has been a controversial beach for San Diegans over the past few years, with pinnipeds and humans competing for seaside territory. Locals are divided on the issue, with some thinking that the beach should be reserved solely for the seals and sea lions, and others arguing that it should be shared between species. At the end of Jenner St., you can walk along the sea wall and get an aerial view of the sea lions lounging on the sand. Many of them the animals have pups, so avoid making loud noises that could startle them.

Other essential information

Seals are often also spotted in close proximity to sea lions, and these pinnipeds sport a similar appearance. The easiest way to tell the difference is by checking their flippers. Sea lions walk using their flippers, while seals scoot on their bellies.

Seals and sea lions, like all wild animals, can be territorial and aggressive if provoked. The best way to enjoy their blubbery company is from a safe distance. Never feed, touch, or shout at them. The last thing you want is a bite from a few-hundred-pound sea lion to go home with as a souvenir.

Chantae Reden is a native San Diegan and adventure-obsessed travel writer. You can find more of her writing on her blog, Chantae.com.