Built in the 1930s behind a wave-cutting seawall, La Jolla’s Children’s Pool was created as a family beach but has since been invaded by herds of seals and sea lions. Tourists come in droves to see them larking around, swimming, fighting and mating, viewed from the plaza above the cove. The pinnipeds don't seem to mind – but there's strictly no touching, feeding or selfies to be taken with the residents.
The future of the seals remains in debate: divers and swimmers claim the mammals' presence increases bacteria levels in the water; animal-rights groups want to protect the cove and make it an official seal rookery. Except during pupping season (December 15 to May 15) swimming is technically allowed but not recommended because of the water quality and potentially aggressive animals.
The idea of the Children’s Pool was first mooted in 1921 by the local journalist and philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps. A strong cross current along La Jolla’s coastline had caused a spate of drownings in the area and Scripps – who also founded the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and built the La Jolla Public Library – wanted to create a safe haven where families, and in particular children, could swim safely.
Scripps funded the Pool herself and asked Hiram Newton Savage to design and build the breakwater. The project took 10 years to come to fruition but on the day of its grand unveiling, Scripps was too unwell to see it officially open.
For decades, the Children’s Pool was used as intended – it even got a brief cameo in the 1977 Peter O’Toole movie, The Stunt Man, where the beach was repurposed as a WWI battlefield – but in 1992, concerns began to be raised about the number of seals to take up residence on the sands.
The Children’s Pool became a Marine Mammal Reserve in 1994 and the first seal pups were born on the beach five years later. It is estimated that around 200 seals now call the Pool home.
In 2013, a 'Seal Cam' was installed at the beach. It was meant to promote tourism by allowing people to watch the seals live on the internet. However, some locals complained that the webcam was filming people in areas where there were never any no seals.
The camera was removed the same year, but in 2021 the La Jolla Village Merchants Association was said to be exploring it returning.
Gourmets and gourmands alike love Whisknladle's ‘slow food’ preparations of local, farm-fresh ingredients, served on a breezy covered patio and meant for sharing.
Else head to the fabulous Puesto La Jolla, a colorful warehouse-style restaurant doused in Californian spray-paint artist Chor Boogie designs, that serves Mexican street food in the form of tacos, freshly made guacamole (in three varieties) plus Baja fish, lime-marinated shrimp ceviche and carnitas.
How to get to La Jolla’s Children’s Pool
The stairway down to the Pool is next to 850 Coast Blvd.
The Children’s Pool is free to visit and is open 24 hours a day.