The La Jolla Cove is one of those places I always bring my out-of-town guests to show off our beautiful city and highlight the variation of terrain we have here. After living in the mountains of North Carolina for several years, the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains still take my breath away and transfix me with their magnitude and ethereality. So when I arrived in San Diego to find out there were mountains AND ocean here, I could not have been more excited. The sea cliffs hovering above our beaches were one of the reasons I fell in love with San Diego during that first trip in 2009. One of the biggest tourist attractions in La Jolla Cove is the Children’s Pool—that spot that has nothing to do with kids. Originally conceived to be a protected area for children to swim, the Children’s Pool is now a place where seals and sea lions like to congregate on the beach. So while there’s an occasional idiot spectator who crosses the line to take a seal selfie, most folks admire the mammals from above the seawall and eventually get jealous of That Sweet Seal Life. The only bad news here is that animals poop, and well, this particular area doesn’t have the best odor. But don’t get La Jollans started on that one—’tis a point of contention.
New to the cove last year, Duke’s La Jolla took over the prime real estate left vacant by Top of the Cove since 2006. Duke’s is a restaurant chain that began in Hawaii (original location on Kauai), named after the late olympian Duke Kahanamoku, known as the father of modern day surfing. The restaurant serves Hawaiian staples like spam fried rice and mac salad, as well as a bevy of fresh fish and non-seafood items. I also like the coconut shrimp croquettes and lilikoi ceviche. In my opinion, they serve the best mai tais in San Diego (because they’re made correctly – with POG juice). Other than being known for their delicious mai tais, Duke’s serves a Hula Pie that people seek out to satisfy their sweet tooth. The Hula Pie has a cookie crust, mac nut ice cream, hot fudge, toasted mac nuts, and lots of whip cream—and it’s a huge, shareable slice. The huge indoor-outdoor space has amazing ocean views that are a perfect backdrop for sunset pau hana (happy hour), offered daily from 4 to 5 p.m.