What's great in wine, beer, fine dining,
places to stay, & places to visit
in California State

Wednesday, 26 July 2017 10:52

Camping with Awesome Sunset Views

By Suzie Rodriguez

Has Sonoma County got great sunsets?

sea lion PicmonkeyCalifornia sea lions often seen on North Coast

TASTE News Servicer July 24, 2015 - With the addition of another 2,769 square miles of ocean and coastline to two national marine sanctuaries, a much larger section of sea life along the Sonoma Coast is permanently protected from oil drilling.

In the works for decades and made official on June 9, 2015, the expansion more than doubles the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (established in 1981), taking it from 1,282 square miles to 3,295 square miles of ocean and coastal waters.

Now renamed the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, this protected area stretches from Bodega Head in southern Sonoma County to just north of Point Arena in Mendocino County, protecting critical habitat along the entire Sonoma County coastline.

Plus, the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary (established in 1989) increased from 529 square miles to 1,286 square miles, covering an area of ocean waters from Bodega Bay south toward San Francisco.

The marine sanctuaries contribute to ocean and coastal management by creating public outreach and education, promoting stewardship, conducting scientific and applied research, and developing and supporting programs to strengthen the long-term health of the region.

Editor’s note: If you’re planning to do any touring in this beautiful part of California, we suggest you visit the North Coast listings in Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. There you’ll find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to Wineries and Craft Beer specialists.

Monday, 08 September 2014 12:31

A Coastal Option to the Bustle of LA

Santa Monica Pier PicmonkeySanta Monica Pier offers many activities

TASTE News Service September 8, 2014 - Santa Monica is a charming seaside town with aspects of the culture, events and urban amenities of a metropolis. The blend of natural beauty with quality hotels, restaurants and shopping options creates an attractive seaside destination. National Geographic ranked Santa Monica as one of the “Top Ten Beach Cities in the World” – putting it in a class with Barcelona, Sydney and Rio de Janerio.

Perched on the Pacific Ocean at the crossroads of Pacific Coast Highway and California Interstate Highway 10, this city of 94,000 is bordered by the smaller seaside communities of Malibu and Venice. Santa Monica is just eight miles from Los Angeles International Airport and 13 miles from Union Station, the Los Angeles Amtrak terminal.

Broad, glistening beaches stretch for 26 miles along the scenic Santa Monica Bay, with 3.5 of those miles falling within city boundaries. Primary beaches include Santa Monica State Beach and Will Rogers State Beach, both of which are popular for swimming, surfing, running and beach volleyball.


Santa Monica is home to some of the most unique, celebrated hotels in Southern California. Thirty-six properties, ranging from high-style boutique hideaways to oceanfront resorts, provide more than 3,500 hotel rooms. Many of the hotels offer ocean views and are within walking distance from the beaches, pier, shopping, as well as dining and leisure activities.

DiningLa Vecchia Cucina PicmonkeyLa Vecchia Cucina is a fixture on Main

Santa Monica emerged as an international culinary destination in the 1980s and has remained in the top echelon of American dining thanks to its many celebrity chefs and the new generation of culinary innovators who continue to invigorate the city's dining scene. In the vanguard of the local foods movement long before it became mainstream, Santa Monica embraces use of sustainable, organic ingredients.


A collection of global retail brands, haute boutiques and unique local offerings has turned the beachside city into an internationally celebrated shopping destination. From Downtown's Third Street Promenade and Santa Monica Place, to upscale boutiques along the celebrity-filled Montana Avenue and the eclectic retail mix on Main Street, a day of shopping in Santa Monica immerses the visitor in the diverse character of the city.

Among the Area's Attractions

Santa Monica Pier: This Southern California icon was built in 1909 and is one of Santa Monica's most well-known landmarks. It is home to an amusement park and the Santa Monica Aquarium, in addition to dining options that range from gourmet fare to cotton candy and ice cream cones.

Pacific Park: Pacific Park is located on the Pier with rides and attractions such as the five-story West Coaster roller coaster, the nine-story Pacific Plunge tower ride, and the nine-story Pacific Wheel, the only over-water ferris wheel in California.

Pacific Wheel: Pacific Park's 13-story Pacific Wheel is the world's first and only solar-powered ferris wheel. The ferris wheel's 160,000 energy efficient LED lights create an 85-foot high computer generated light show for nighttime beach-goers to enjoy. It also provides riders with spectacular views of the Santa Monica coastline and is a central focal point on the Santa Monica Pier.

Third Street Promenade: The sprawling Third Street Promenade is the hub of Downtown Santa Monica. This pedestrian-only, open-air shopping destination is only two blocks from the city's popular beaches and is noted for its weekly farmers' market, terrific shopping, street performers, ample dining options, and of course, people watching.

Farmers' Markets: Santa Monica offers four weekly farmers' markets where the city's residents and chefs pick up the country's freshest produce, flowers, meats, cheeses, nuts, fish, and more. Travel + Leisure even named Santa Monica's Downtown Farmers' Market as the top farmers' market in the United States!

Tongva Park: A brand-new, seven-acre park in the heart of Santa Monica. Designed by James Corner Field Operations, the team behind New York's celebrated High Line, Tongva Park was inspired by the Southern California arroyo landscape of washes and ravines that once defined the site. The urban landscape features an abundant and ambitious plant scheme, contemplative walking paths, soothing water elements, and two viewing platforms offering majestic views of the Pacific Ocean.

South Bay Bicycle Trail: At 22 miles long, the South Bay Bicycle Trail is the world's longest oceanfront bike path. It begins at Will Rogers State Beach, the northernmost point of Santa Monica, then scenically winds its way past Santa Monica State Beach, the famous Santa Monica Pier, through the Venice Boardwalk and past the Venice Pier, all the way through Hermosa and Redondo Beaches to end at Torrance County Beach.

Santa Monica Place: Santa Monica Place reopened in 2010 after an extensive remodel as a three-story, entirely outdoor shopping complex, located just two blocks from the beach and steps away from the famous Third Street Promenade. Anchored by Bloomingdales and Nordstrom, Santa Monica Place also features a wide range of luxury and specialty shops such as Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Michael Kors, and Emporio Armani. A third floor rooftop deck features gorgeous ocean views and an entire floor of dining, including 'The Market”, where diners will find artisanal cheese, wines, chocolates, olive oils, fresh produce and flowers, and more.


Wednesday, 12 September 2012 18:15

La Jolla The Jewel of San Diego

La Jolla beach scene PicmonkeyShoreside at La Jolla.

There are many treasures of this Mediterranean-style village that make La Jolla one of the most sought-after vacation destinations in Southern California: luxurious and historic hotels and resorts; fine dining with breathtaking ocean views; retail shopping that rivals northern neighbors Rodeo Drive and South Coast Plaza; sophisticated, world-class arts and culture, and a strikingly beautiful setting complemented by endless outdoor recreational activities. Add to this extraordinary mix a rich history with numerous famous residents, from Gregory Peck to Ted Giesel (aka Dr. Seuss), and some of the nation's leading scientific research centers, including the internationally renowned Salk Institute and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and visitors can experience an unparalleled leisure holiday. The following are just some of the diverse offerings of La Jolla (pronounced "La Hoya"; translated from Spanish as "the jewel") that guests can experience throughout the year.


Beaches and Water ActivitiesLa Jolla's beaches and coastline are considered to be some of the most beautiful settings in the world; its aqua waters provide endless options for fun and relaxation.

Lifeguards watch over families splashing in the rocky shallows off La Jolla Cove, a small patch of sand tucked between weather-sculpted sandstone cliffs. This area's breathtaking views are a favorite subject of photographers and painters from around the world.

The Children's Pool, a small picturesque beach with a panoramic view that is partially protected by a large seawall, is just south of La Jolla Cove. The Pool's original intent was to be a protected swimming area for children, but sand has filled in much of the area inside the wall. Today, the beach is a popular home for hundreds of seals, and Seal Rock, a reserve for these marine mammals, is located just offshore.

South of La Jolla Village, Windansea Beach is best known for its beautiful scenery and hard-breaking surf due to huge underwater reefs. Sunbathing is popular here, as large sandstone rocks create a secluded setting. Windansea is also home to a legendary Polynesian-style surf hut, built in 1947 by pioneer Windansea surfers and registered as a San Diego Historic Site. Today, the hut provides an excellent vantage point for watching the surfers and sunbathers below.

North of La Jolla Village, La Jolla Shores was once recognized by the Travel Channel as one of the most family-friendly beaches in San Diego County. A wide boardwalk, which separates the beach from a large grassy park ideal for picnicking and volleyball games, parallels its mile-long sandy shore.

Kayaking is popular along La Jolla Shores, as guests can paddle during low tide to La Jolla Caves to the south and Scripps Pier to the north. Rentals are available and daily guided tours are provided by a number of companies including Hike Bike Kayak Inc and OEX Dive and Kayak. www.hikebikekayak.com, www.oeexpress.com

The world's first all women's surf school, Surf Diva promotes, teaches and supports surfing for women (and men) of all ages with surf camps and private and coed lessons. www.surfdiva.com

La Jolla Underwater Park and Ecological Preserve is a popular recreational area for scuba divers and snorkelers who can encounter the protected marine life in some of California's clearest coastal waters with visibility often exceeding 30 feet.

Blacks Beach, a two-mile long, sandy strip situated at the base of majestic cliffs, is north of La Jolla Shores and part of Torrey Pines State Beach. Because the cliffs tower up to 300 feet high, access to the beach is limited and difficult. The beauty and privacy of Blacks Beach have made it popular for nude sunbathing, a practice that is not officially sanctioned but prevalent.

For more information on La Jolla's beaches, visit: www.lajollabythesea.com/beaches.


Recreational ActivitiesTorrey Pines 2011 Farmers Ins Open PicmonkeyAt Torrey Pines 2011 Farmers Ins Open

Recreational enthusiasts can enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities in La Jolla, from paragliding above the blue Pacific to golf on an internationally recognized golf course.

Twelve championship tennis courts are available to visitors at The La Jolla Tennis Club, nestled in the village of La Jolla and host to tournament play since 1917. Also, the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club resort offers championship tennis courts available to guests and members. www.ljbtc.com

Set above Blacks Beach to the north of the Village, the Torrey Pines Gliderport has been the learning place for aviation greats including the Lindberghs, Boyles and many more. The Gliderport was first established as a soaring site in 1928 and has defined the history of motorless flight. Today, the Gliderport offers hang gliding, paragliding, scale models and sailplane flight. www.flytorrey.com

At Torrey Pines Golf Course, home of the 2008 U.S. Open, golfers marvel at the views of the coastline atop cliffs towering above the Pacific Ocean just north of La Jolla. Long recognized as one of the nation's foremost municipal golf facilities, it is truly a golfer's paradise. Torrey Pines hosts the annual Famers Insurance Open every January. www.torreypinesgolfcourse.com

Torrey Pines State Reserve is a 2,000-acre reserve dedicated to preserving its namesake, the Torrey Pine tree, and other indigenous wildlife in its native environment. Visitors hike the 8 miles of trails encountering native chaparral plants, wildflowers, birds, reptiles and butterflies. The reserve includes a visitor center and is host to guided nature walks on weekends and holidays to a vista point overlooking Peñasquitos Lagoon and the ocean. www.torreypines.org

Visitors and locals alike enjoy a walk through the Village of La Jolla any time of day. A car is not required to experience different aspects of this enchanting coastal community. Shopping, galleries, dining, museums, hotels, beach activities and breathtaking natural beauty can all be found within the five-mile radius of the Village proper. Guided, historic tours and hikes are available from local companies.


Resorts and Hotels

La Jolla is home to world-class resorts, luxurious boutique properties and historic hotels and inns.

Set on six-and-a-half acres in La Jolla overlooking the Pacific Ocean and adjacent to the 18th green of the world-renowned Torrey Pines Golf Course, the Lodge at Torrey Pines is a AAA Five Diamond luxury resort that combines the elegance of Craftsman-style design with exceptional amenities, such as guaranteed tee times for guests, which are almost impossible to secure otherwise. The resort features 175 luxury guestrooms, a full service spa, the acclaimed A.R. Valentien restaurant and an outdoor swimming pool with trellised cabanas. www.lodgetorreypines.com

Nestled on the coastal cliffs of La Jolla, Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa boasts 210 luxuriously appointed rooms tucked away on a secluded estate. The spa's lush features include a sanctuary garden of eucalyptus, lavender and citrus trees, which create a peaceful environment to stimulate the senses, as well as an outdoor fireplace, salt-water Jacuzzi and moisturizing eucalyptus steam room. Three ranch-inspired restaurant and lounge options offer farm-fresh menus, hand-crafted cocktails and an extensive wine library of California wines. www.estancialajolla.com

Often called "The Jewel of La Jolla," the historic La Valencia Hotel overlooks La Jolla Cove and the Pacific Ocean. Designed with European flair, the hotel's 113 rooms and ocean villas are richly appointed and provide spectacular ocean views. La Valencia is a member of Preferred Hotels Worldwide and features an outdoor heated pool, fitness center and three popular restaurants, including the award-winning Sky Room, La Valencia's intimate fine dining restaurant. www.lavalencia.com

The Grande Colonial, a 2011 AAA Four Diamond winner, is an elegant European-style boutique hotel with 93 rooms and suites located one block from the ocean on renowned Prospect Street. Amenities include an outdoor, ocean-view swimming pool surrounded by gardens and terraces, a rooftop deck with a library and board-room and the award-winning Nine-Ten Restaurant. www.thegrandecolonial.com

The 29-suite boutique Hotel Parisi in the heart of La Jolla is a health-conscious getaway with Feng Shui design, Zen décor and Pacific Ocean views. Guests can also enjoy a diverse spa menu, featuring 40 holistic treatments performed in the privacy of each guest's room. www.thegrandecolonial.com

The La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club is an oceanfront resort located on La Jolla Shores that combines the charm of Old World Mexico with modern day luxuries. The property offers a private beach, championship tennis courts, par three golf course, massage services and world-class dining at its seaside Marine Room restaurant. www.ljbtc.com

The 108-room Hotel La Jolla features contemporary design with state-of-the-art amenities, a fitness center, in-room spa services, pool area and pet-friendly accommodations. On the hotel's 11th floor, guests can dine at Clay's La Jolla where Chef Clay Bordan serves upscale Continental and New American cuisine. www.hotellajolla.com



La Jolla is one of San Diego's most desirable shopping districts known for sophisticated, designer apparel boutiques; original jewelry shops featuring exquisite gems, and galleries offering luxury rugs and artwork from around the world.

Sometimes called the "Rodeo Drive" of San Diego, La Jolla's Prospect Street overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is lined with small specialty shops, boutiques, antique emporiums and art galleries. In addition to offering elegant, designer fashions in sophisticated apparel shops, La Jolla is also known for its exquisite and original fine jewelry of magnificent and brilliant gems.

Girard Avenue, intersecting with Prospect Street, features everything from Armani to Meanley & Son Hardware. Stores like MOS (My Own Space) feature ultra-modern original furniture and funky, affordable accessories, while mainstays like Warwicks Stationers offer the finest in pens, stationary and literature, since 1896. Hipster clothing boutiques like Let's Go make Girard Avenue appealing to every shopper's tastes and interests.

Along Girard Avenue, the Upper Girard Design District offers numerous home furnishing boutiques ideal for shoppers seeking unique luxury home décor items.

Bird Rock, located at the south end of La Jolla along La Jolla Blvd., offers an upscale, eco-friendly environment for posh shopping. The recently revitalized merchant district boasts everything from an organic coffee shop and green nail salon, to designer boutiques adorned with fashionable shoes, bags and bikinis, and upscale children's clothing boutiques. www.birdrock.org


DiningCombining spectacular ocean views with award-winning menus that focus on farm-fresh organic ingredients, La Jolla's chefs offer some of San Diego's most exciting and unique fine dining experiences.

The award-winning A.R. Valentien, located in the Lodge at Torrey Pines, serves a menu of seasonal provisions from local farmers' markets, small growers, ranchers and fishermen. Chef Jeff Jackson emphasizes basic ingredients, minimal handling and simple flavors. www.arvalentien.com

Set in the heart of La Jolla, Whisknladle takes a back-to-the future approach to food, making most items from scratch. Executive chef/partner Ryan Johnston's philosophy is reflected in a diverse menu of upscale comfort foods on plates made to share. Everything is baked, churned, smoked, aged, cured and pickled in-house; Johnston also purchases ingredients from local growers such as Chino Farms. www.whisknladle.com

The award-winning Nine-Ten restaurant, located in the historic Grande Colonial hotel, is one of the neighborhood's hottest bistros. Chef Jason Knibb, a 2010 Rising Star Chef winner, presents market fresh, evolving California cuisine in a casually elegant atmosphere. www.nine-ten.com

Overlooking scenic La Jolla Cove, George's at the Cove features executive chef Trey Foshee's creative regional cuisine in an atmosphere of modern elegance. Foshee's cutting edge and ever-changing menu can be enjoyed in three of the restaurant's settings: the first-story California Modern featuring an elegant dining room, the bistro-styled George's Bar and the rooftop Ocean Terrace, spanning spectacular ocean views. www.georgesathecove.com

A local landmark since 1941, The Marine Room is nestled along the sand of La Jolla Shores. The changing tides and dramatic waves crashing against the restaurant's windows provide the perfect backdrop for executive chef Bernard Guillas' sophisticated dishes like maple smoked bison carpaccio, thyme-rubbed free range veal tenderloin and lemon verbena lobster tail. Chef Guillas was recently inducted into the Maîtres Cuisiniers de France, becoming the first chef in San Diego to join the ranks of the 204 Master Chefs from around the world.  www.marineroom.com

At Roppongi Restaurant and Sushi Bar on Prospect Street, chef Stephen Window fuses East and West in dramatic and creative ways, including seasonal specialties and Asian-fusion tapas. Roppongi's multiple dining areas include a sushi bar and covered patio with fire pit. www.roppongiusa.com

Tapenade Restaurant on Fay Avenue features award-winning chef Jean-Michele Diot's distinct southern French cuisine. As one of the finest French restaurants in San Diego, Diot's style of French Provencal gastronomy fused with American cuisine creates one-of-a-kind, quality dishes. www.tapenade.com

Overlooking La Jolla Cove, Brockton Villa has been serving award-winning breakfast, lunch and seasonal dinner for 20 years. Using local ingredients and seafood, the menu includes fresh takes on classic American cuisine. Not to be missed is Brockton Villa's world-famous Coast Toast French toast, served throughout the day. www.brocktonvilla.com


Arts, Culrure and Science

From theater bound for Broadway to cutting edge contemporary art and scientific innovations that help change the world, La Jolla entertains and inspires visitors in unexpected ways.

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego on Prospect Street features contemporary paintings, sculptures, photography, drawings and graphic art created since 1945. The permanent collection is displayed concurrently with temporary exhibitions, and the lush garden paths and landscaping at the oceanfront facility provide space for outdoor sculpture and installations. www.mcasd.org

The Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse is one of the most respected and prestigious theaters in the nation. Theater-goers can enjoy innovative productions May through October at the Mandell Weiss Center for the Performing Arts and the state-of-the-art Joan and Irwin Jacobs Center on the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) campus. La Jolla Playhouse productions that have moved to Broadway include the Tony Award-winning musicals Memphis and Jersey Boys, as well as The Who's Tommy, Cry-Baby, Thoroughly Modern Millie and the Pulitzer Prize winner I Am My own Wife. www.lajollaplayhouse.com

Also located on the UCSD campus, the Stuart Collection offers 16 site-specific works by leading artists of our time, including John Baldessari, Jenny Holzer, Robert Irwin, Bruce Nauman, Nikki de Saint Phalle, Alexis Smith and William Wegman. Self-guided walking tour maps are available. www.stuartcollection.ucsd.edu

The La Jolla Music Society presents classical music throughout the year. The Celebrity Series features a dazzling array of the world's most distinguished musicians and orchestras; music concerts are presented during the Revelle Series, featuring performances at the Sherwood Auditorium in the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. The nationally recognized, annual SummerFest program features an array of free enrichment events in addition to a variety of world-class concerts at locations throughout La Jolla. www.lajollamusicsociety.com

The Birch Aquarium at Scripps is situated on a spectacular site overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The aquarium presents undersea creatures in realistic habitats and allows visitors to experience the frontiers of marine science through interactive museum exhibits and participation in exciting educational activities. The aquarium reflects the work of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, world-renowned for its oceanographic research and instruction. www.sio.ucsd.edu

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, adjacent to UCSD, is also world-renowned for its medical research. Public tours, which focus on the institute's unique architecture by Louis I. Kahn, are available. www.salk.edu


Annual Events and Festivals

Throughout the year, La Jolla hosts a number of San Diego's most exciting annual events and festivals.

An internationally recognized golf tournament, the Farmers Insurance Open is played every January on the spectacular Torrey Pines Golf Course. www.buickinvitational.com

The La Jolla Motorcar Classic occurs every spring and lets guests admire timeless autos along the coast. http://lajollamotorcarclassic.com

The La Jolla Half Marathon takes place every April. www.lajollahalfmarathon.com

The Secret Garden Tour in May, sponsored by the La Jolla Historical Society, allows guests to tour some of La Jolla's most beautiful residential gardens. www.ljhs.org

The Annual La Jolla Festival of Arts and Food Fair takes place every June on the UCSD campus with award-winning artists, gourmet cuisine, contemporary music and entertainment. www.lajollaartfestival.org

In August, La Jolla locales provide spectacular settings for the annual SummerFest, a renowned chamber music festival. www.ljms.org

The La Jolla Rough Water Swim, the largest such swimming competition in the nation, takes place at La Jolla Cove every September. www.ljrws.com

In early December, guests get into the holiday spirit during the annual La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival. www.ljparade.com

For more information visit the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau's website at www.sandiego.org


TravMedia sources contributed to this article.


Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as those of many craft beer purveyor are availble at the Resource Directory of Taste California Travel.


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