California, Travels, USA

Befriending Seals in La Jolla

I’ve come by the nickname “Snow White” honestly. It’s fitting for me, a girl who won’t turn down the opportunity to befriend or help an animal, who has two husky mutts who own my heart and also a terrible cat I found in my backyard when she was just a wee two-week old kitten. I squee at all critters and scream or mumble “hello, pup-pup,” to every dog I encounter and I can’t pick up dog food without also stopping to say hello to the ferrets, frogs, snakes and lizards at the pet store.

And the feeling is mutual. Critters seem to love me too. There have been bat, possum, raccoon and bird adventures in the past few years and then there’s the neighborhood stray cats – all spayed and neutered – who I’ve been feeding for a handful of years and who, really, I count as good friends.

So, really, I like critters. I love them. They are my friends. And that’s why it shouldn’t be any sort of surprise that visiting the seals of La Jolla during a trip to San Diego was on the top of my to-do list, right next to “EAT ALL THE TACOS.”

I know there are people from places where seals just live, but I am not from one of those places. I am an East Coast cat, Virginia born and bred, and we don’t have seals just chilling on a city beach doing their seal thing. That is not real life for me and so, upon meeting the seals of La Jolla and upon seeing that there were seals EVERYWHERE, I freaked the fuck out.


Also, there were seal pups. So it was seals and seal pups and the beautiful and perfect California coast and that was enough for this Virginia girl to smile so hard my face hurt by the end of the day.

That you can get so close to these wild creatures, these goofy and amazing sea creatures, is amazing to me. You just walk down some stairs and there they are. Seals.


  • The seals hang out all around the San Diego coast, but the easiest place to see them is in La Jolla, all along Coast Boulevard from the Children’s Pool up to the area near the Cave Store. You can walk down to the beaches or overlook them if getting super close to wildlife is not your thing. Sometimes, when the pups are around, the beaches are closed for the safety of the seals and the visiting humans. When we were there, we found some open and some closed, and it mostly seemed to depend on how many seals there were hanging out on the beach, as the most seal-laden beaches were closed to humans.
  • For parking, your best bet is to go in the morning and find a spot on the street. We were there around 10 a.m. and had no problem finding a spot. Street parking is limited to 2-3 hours, but that should be more than enough time to say hello to seal friends and do a little wandering.
  • Always remember that seals are wild animals. While they tend to be pretty chill and tolerant of the people scampering around their beach, and definitely look super soft and cuddly, they’re still wild and should be treated as such, which means giving them space and respecting their environment. I was hunkered down a few feet from a mom seal and her pup taking some pictures when a woman near me reached out and touched another seal to my left. There were kids nearby and the seal barked at her, as did the mother of the children. I promise, they’re both bigger and stronger than you and the beaches of La Jolla are not a petting zoo.

Until I went to California, I had a hard time identifying what was a seal and what was a sea lion. Turns out, sea lions have external ears and big flippers and they tend to be louder than seals. Seals have little holes for ears, and have smaller flippers and tend to be quieter and more solitary.

The Seal Conservancy is a great resource for the latest news on the La Jolla seal population.

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