Day Trip: La Jolla Cave


Have you heard about this cave located in beautiful La Jolla, California? Recently I stumbled upon it while reading about La Jolla. How did I not know about this place? There are so many neat things to see and do in Southern California and even though I have lived here for nearly 18 years, I am still finding cool little day trips to take.

Here is the background info:

“Even though from the sea you can enter any one of the other seven ocean-carved and fascinating caves, this is the only one you are able to access by land on the California coastline. So unusual is Sunny Jim Sea Cave and so well known that in the Encyclopedia Americana it is noted as one of the “must” sights in Southern California to visit!

This unique cave was named “Sunny Jim” by Frank Baum who wrote ‘The Wizard Oz’. The opening bears a resemblance to a cartoon character Sunny Jim who was a mascot for the British Force Wheat cereal products in the 1920’s.

Fossilized shell and water level marks indicate that the ocean’s might was busy for 200,000 years boring this cave into rock and sandstone. The beautiful colorings are mineral deposits varying from the red of iron oxide, the black, grays and yellows of vegetable matter to the pinkish purple of iodine in the kelp.

The tunnel took two years to dig by two Chinese laborers hired by Gustav Shultz in 1902 and 1903, using pick and shovel. Several years after its completion 145 steps were built into the lighted tunnel where visitors can still descend and enjoy the wonders of Sunny Jim.”

You enter the cave through a gift shop where you pay $5 to walk down what feels like an endless set of steep stairs (145 steps). It’s damp and chilly, like a basement in a haunted house. Dim lights illuminate the way as you descend. I was the only person there when I visited so it was a tiny bit creepy.

At the bottom of the staircase, you walk along a little path which leads you to this craggy opening where you can see the ocean. Keep in mind this cave was created to help sneak booze in during prohibition!

Swirling water moves in and out, sounding like a waterfall.  This particular cave is man made and the only one you can access by land, the other caves are accessible by swimming or kayaking. The other ones include:

  • White Lady
  • Little Sister
  • Shopping Cart
  • Sea Surprise
  • Arch Cave
  • The Clam

Once you gaze at the view and look at the rocky area, head back up the stairs. Follow the path outside the store and go down to the cliffs where you have a wonderful view of the rocky coastline. You can rent kayaks and explore more of the area or take a short hike like I did and see some trees, ocean views and birds.

From  The Cave Store, you can walk to the La Jolla Cove or drive over. Parking is tight, there was work being done when I went and every other parking spot was a utility vehicle and orange cones. I parked on a side street and walked to the cave but it was a long walk on a hot day and I wasn’t feeling like walking much further.

The whole town of La Jolla is beautiful, on a clear sunny day, you enjoy shopping and eating at one of the many restaurants. You can also take a long walk along the coast and play on the beach. There are lots of parks, tide pools, a variety of beaches, La Jolla Murals, Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial and much more.

Have you visited the La Jolla Caves? If you want to learn more, you can visit the official website here. I highly recommend carving out several hours, if not a full day, to explore not only the Sunny Jim Cave, but the rest of the area.

Sunny Jim’s Cave Store
1325 Coast Blvd
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 459-0746

Want more to see and do in La Jolla? Check out the tips on Trip Advisor here! 

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