A trip to see the La Jolla Cove seals and sea lions is a fantastic way to get out and about and see nature! Whether you’re shooting for a family beach trip or peaceful lunch break, you’ll get the most out of the experience if you know a few things going in. Here’s what you need to know before visiting the La Jolla Cove Seals.
- Plan your trip
Firstly, try to find out what parts of the beach are open. While La Jolla Cove is open year-round, the Children’s Pool (Cava Beach) is closed from December 15 to May 15 to protect the newly-born seal pups. You can still watch from a distance and might even see a birth!
- Respect, respect, respect
Both locals and tourists have a tendency to take the Cove for granted and forget its natural residents when going swimming or visiting the beach. Don’t leave trash on the beach or try to feed the seals and sea lions, as both of these activities can harm the animals. If you’re swimming in an area where seals are, keep an eye out so you’re not surprised if one shows up, and stay some distance away.
- Keep your distance
Whether in the water or on the shore, don’t get too close or take photos with the animals, wave selfie sticks in their faces, or yell at them. Sea lions and seals deserve their space. Additionally, the group at the Cove is better socialized than most groups of seals and sea lions, but they will still bite if they feel threatened. If you have small children, keep an eye on them to prevent them from interacting with the seals.
- Expect a smell from (very important!) poop
La Jolla Cove may naturally be a little stinky from seal and sea lion poop, but visitors adjust to the smell very quickly. However unappealing it might be to human noses, poop actually serves a vital role in the ocean ecosystem! When seals poop, the nutrients and nitrogen from their deep ocean diet are made available to feed planktons and algae that other animals eat. Without seals, these plants would not get enough nutrients and would die, along with many other species.
- Seals or sea lions?
La Jolla Cove has both seals and sea lions—how do you tell the difference between them? Firstly, you’re way more likely to see seals at the Children’s Pool, whereas the sea lions live next door near the cliffs at the Cove. Seals are much more quiet than the vocal sea lions and only move on land by wiggling on their bellies, where sea lions are able to “walk” using their flippers.
- Don’t say goodbye
The presence of the La Jolla Cove seals and sea lions is being threatened by local litigation that sees the seal odor as hurting nearby commercial interests. If you enjoy getting to witness nature outside of a zoo, consider donating to the Seal Conservatory at sealconservatory.org or contributing your voice to this ongoing political issue.
Park early in the day, or park a little further away from the Cove on Girard or Prospect and walk. La Jolla Boulevard fills up very quickly. There should be handicap parking and reliable sidewalks along La Jolla Boulevard. Depending on your disability going all the way down to the Children’s Beach, etc. may not be possible because of sandy walkways.
- Just in case
While the beach promises fun in the sun, once in a blue moon a problem may arise. If you see a sick or injured seal or sea lion, call the Sea World Mammal Rescue at (800) 541-7325. This group is much more capable of helping than Animal Control. Likewise, if you see an animal being abused, call the San Diego Police Department at (619) 531-2000 or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Enforcement hotline at (800) 853-1964.