For more than a decade, tourists have been caught off-guard by the sometimes contentious interactions outside Children’s Pool Beach between beach access advocates and animal rights activists. When La Jolla philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps first had the curved concrete wall that creates the protected beach built in the 1930s, it was with a vision of having a safe and comfortable place for children to play in the Pacific Ocean. Curiously, the seals found the new beach equally appealing. Today, Children’s Pool Beach is among the top San Diego attractions as a place to watch the harbor seals and sea lions soak up some rays in the California sunshine, and the legal maneuvering is finally coming to an end.
When Children’s Pool Beach is open to the public, June to November, visitors are allowed onto the sandy beach. The beach, initially built expressly for children, is now shared with harbor seals and sea lions. As the population of marine mammals has grown dramatically, the tide is tipping in their favor at the beach. Swimming is allowed at the Children’s Pool, but due to the numbers of seals and sea lions, the water quality is questionable. Although these mammals enjoy human attention, they don’t like to be approached.
There are strong currents at Children’s Pool Beach, so keep an eye on the little ones. This is an excellent beach to introduce children to the concept of living responsibly on the earth. It also offers amazing photo opportunities, and the surrounding wall with a railed walkway provides visitors with a 360-degree view of La Jolla and the Pacific Ocean. This is a favorite access point for divers too, but they should also check water conditions before heading out for a dive.
SeaWorld’s water rides have nothing on Children’s Pool Beach. Some days large waves crash right over the top of the concrete barrier, and when they do you can expect to get plenty wet. You’ll almost always enjoy the water show as the waves break on the many rock formations surrounding the pool. It makes for fantastic photos too. Evenings, people gather on the wall to watch the sunset; it’s the perfect location to start date night before an enjoyable meal in one of the many restaurants on Prospect Street.
Near to the Beach
There are grassy areas on either side of the Children’s Pool for a picnic or simply lounging on a summer’s day. A walkway stretches in either direction from Windansea Beach to La Jolla Cove. On one end, you can watch the surfers battle the waves at Windansea, on the other, a look over the railing of Scripps Park reveals snorkelers and bright orange Garibaldi fish in the clear waters below. Scripps Park offers a large shaded grassy area where families gather to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. This part of La Jolla is also a great place for people watching.
La Jolla Village is just up the hill with an array of upscale boutique shops, art galleries, and fine restaurants all along Prospect Street. If you decide to stay in the Village, La Valencia, known affectionately to locals as “the pink lady,” is an excellent hotel choice. Take the kids to Smashburger before heading down to Children’s Pool Beach, or go out for a nice dinner after sunset at George’s at the Cove. Check out a musical or theater performance at any number of venues. La Jolla is known for its Tony award-winning plays, always a good choice.
Children’s Pool Beach Essentials
Children’s Pool Beach is now closed by court order from mid-December to mid-May to allow pregnant seals and their newborns to rest and relax during pupping season without human interference. Visitors can still view the seals from the front sidewalk and wall surrounding the beach; it is only walking on the sandy beach where the seals are that is banned. The City of San Diego ruled in favor of a permanent ban of people on the sandy beach, and the ban was approved by the California Coastal Commission, but beach access advocates continue the legal fight. Even if direct access to the beach is not restored, visitors are within yards of the seals while watching them in their natural habitat from the railed walkway.
This beach is located just down the hill from Prospect Street in La Jolla Village. Street parking near Children’s Pool Beach can be challenging, and there is no designated parking for the beach. However there are several paid lots nearby. There are both restroom and shower facilities at the lifeguard station of the beach area. Smoking is not allowed on the beach or adjacent areas, including the walkway. No alcohol, glass containers, excessive noise, open fires, or litter are allowed on the beach. Lifeguards supervise this beach, when it is open to the public, from 9 a.m. to dusk. The railed walkway is wheelchair accessible.
Children’s Pool Beach – It’s a Wrap
No matter how all the legal wrangling ends, visitors to Children’s Pool Beach will still be able to watch the harbor seals and sea lions lounging on the beach and frolicking in the water. It’s well worth it to make the trip to La Jolla and see these awesome creatures in their natural habitat. Come for the seals, stay for the sunset; Children’s Pool Beach won’t disappoint.