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Both a private club and a public resort with rooms available by the night, this 22-acre oceanfront property is among the most desirable destinations around if you want to dig your toes in the sand and wear your swimsuit all day long. Rooms set right along the beach are downright basic-—but the sea views above La Jolla Shores are irresistible. Among the many types of units available are small studios (some with beds facing sea views), and multi- bedroom suites with kitchens. The least-expensive rooms face gardens and parking lots, but guests still have easy access to the beach and can hear waves crashing at night. Members of this exclusive club book the best rooms far in advance in summer; some families vacation with friends in the same adjacent rooms annually. It is possible to get an ocean front room in summer, though--but stay away from major holidays like July fourth.

Staff members are genial and helpful, setting up barbecues and picnic tables for family dinners (extra fee), setting up lounge chairs and striped umbrellas on the beach, and booking sunset dinner reservations at the famed Marine Room, a few steps down the beach. Tennis is hugely important here, and professional players partake in competitions on 12 championship hard courses. The long pool beside the courts is geared more toward exercise than lounging, especially in the early morning when members stop by to swim laps each morning.

The La Jolla Shores Hotel (www.ljshoreshotel.com) next door is run by the same management. It's not directly on the beach and is constructed in a hacienda style with many rooms facing a central courtyard. Rooms have newer furnishings than at the club, but the hotel feels more like a standard property rather than the sand in your toes, summer vacation home style of the club. The properties do not share facilities.