La Jolla Ecological Reserve

    download-1Without a ride, escaping UCSD for a little slice of the natural world is a daunting and exhausting task. But if you man up, flash your Free Bus Zone sticker and ride the MTS bus route 30 a mere five stops south of campus, you’ll find yourself dumped breezily into the famed La Jolla Ecological Reserve. Established in the 1970s, the reserve spans 6,000 underwater acres off of La Jolla Shores — ripe with sandy flats, kelp beds and underwater canyons.

    A far cheaper alternative to Sea World, the reserve is teeming with sea life ranging from guitarfish and stingrays to dolphins and sharks. It’s even home to a series of caves — a main attraction for snorkelers brave enough to flipper through a dark grotto or two.

    The less daring, however, can try their hand at kayaking or paddleboarding. You might encounter a scary wave or two on the way out, but they’ll make for some excellent surf on the way back. Feel free to get creative: Take a blow-up floaty or scramble down the cliff side and jump right into the water.

    La Jolla’s seven caves — dubbed the White Lady, Little Sister, Shopping Cart, Sea Surprise, Arch Cave, Sunny Jim’s Cave and Clam’s Cave are hidden within a 75-million-year-old sandstone sea cliff. Poke around a little and you might even stumble upon some treasure — those pesky out-of-towners have been known to forget a digital camera or two.

    Take advantage of these last few rays of sunshine before finals strike: Water visibility peaks at over 30 feet down, where sea animals are hankering for some swimming buddies. You’ll find leopard sharks hanging out by the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club and sea lions guarding the entrance to the caves. And with the rush of tourist season coming to a close, you might just get them all to yourself.

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