La Jolla Caves Beach

La Jolla Caves attracts adventure lovers from across the globe. The rugged coastline is home to seven unique caves at the base of sandstone cliffs.
Why you'll love this beach
Why you'll love this beach
Explore the Seven Unique Sea Caves at La Jolla Caves Beach
La Jolla Caves Beach
Overview
Save on Gear
Things to Do
Popular Activities
Get There & Parking
Featured Activity
Know Before You Go
Stay Nearby
Similar Beaches

Highlights

Things to Do
Tips
How to get there
Parking
Things to Do
Tips
How to get there
Parking

Overview

Beach Near the La Jolla CavesLa Jolla Sea Cave Inside to Ocean

La Jolla Caves Beach is tucked between La Jolla Shores beach and La Jolla Cove. This rocky sliver of beach, hidden at the bottom of the craggy ridges, attracts visitors from around the world. Unlike the nearby sand beaches that appeal to sunbathers, the draw here is the sea caves.

The caves were used by pirates for human smuggling in the 1800s, and whiskey smuggling during prohibition. The series of seven massive caves are the result of 75 million years of surf relentlessly pounding the sandstone at the base of the 200-foot high cliffs. Each cave is uniquely named.

Save on Paddle Boarding!

2-Hour Stand Up Paddleboard Rental
Stand Up Paddle Board Rental
Using your Go Pass, head out for a 2-Hour Stand Up Paddle board Rental. Paddle around Harbor Island and keep an eye out for dolphins and other local wildlife. No matter your skill level, you will enjoy a beautiful day out on the water.
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Local Tips
What activities does the Go Pass include?

There’s a variety of activities included with the Go San Diego Pass such as: The San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, LEGOLAND, SeaWorld, Hiking Tours, Whale Watching, Snorkel Rentals, Museum Tours, Speed Boat Adventures and more!

For the most popular attractions and water-sport rentals as well as the biggest discounts, consider the All-Inclusive Pass.

Things to Do

Kayaking
Kayaking
Paddle Boarding
Paddle Boarding
Snorkeling
Snorkeling

Adventure Beyond the Beach

Clam Cave

Named for its unusual double-sided entrance, it is the only one of the seven visible from land. You can see it from Coast Blvd and the Coast Walk Trail.

In addition, kayakers and snorkelers often see a variety of sea creatures while traveling from La Jolla Shores beach toward the caves and La Jolla Cove. Sea lions sun themselves on the nearby rocks while bright orange garibaldi fish and spotted leopard sharks dash through the clear water.

Sunny Jim Cave

The largest of the seven caves, it is accessible from land thanks to Professor Gustav Shulz. He and two workers began tunneling up through the roof, using only pickaxes and shovels in 1902. After two years of backbreaking work, they emerged above the cliffs. Once complete, he began charging admission.

There are several rumors about how the cave got its name. Some suggest the cavern was named after “Sunny Jim” Rolf, a California Governor. Another claims Frank Baum, the Wizard of Oz creator, named the cave as its outline looked like a character of the same name on a box of British cereal at the time.

Today you can access the cave via the Cave Store for a small fee. The small wood-shingled building along the coastline houses a gift shop. Descend into the cave by a set of 145 wooden steps. A viewing platform at the base allows visitors to take advantage of unique ocean views, watching the water ebb and flow, echoing throughout the cave.

Arch Cave

At 680 feet deep, this is the second deepest sea cave along the California coast. At one time, it was two of the original seven caves. However, as the result of constant battering from tidal waters, only an arch remains between the two. It’s narrow passages and corridors attract those looking for adventure. Due to the active erosion, the area can be hazardous, and caution is needed.

Sea Surprise Cave

What looks like a small, unobtrusive little hollow in the rocks opens up into a cavern with about 80 feet of walking passages. What makes this cave unite are its orange walls. They are the result of the calcite-coated sea anemones that live in pools of water deep in the cave.

Shopping Cart Cave

If you want to see Spiny Lobsters and other bottom-hugging creatures, the west-facing Shopping Cart Cave is the best place to be from October to March. Although trapping is no longer allowed within the Protected Marine area, you may find some nearby during lobster season.

The local currents also bring lost items to this vicinity. Divers typically find a variety of items, from cameras to sunglasses strewn along the seabed.

Little Sister & White Lady Caves

A tragic event gave the White Lady Cave its name. A young lady, newlywed and on her honeymoon, was collecting seashells. She wandered into the cave and was swept out to sea when the incoming tide caught her unaware.

The shape of the opening has changed over the years. When it was named, the entrance to the cave looked very much like a woman in a gown. Little Sister, the smallest of the seven caves, is situated next to its big sister, White Lady. It’s often hard to find and best viewed on the water.

How to Get There & Parking

Free Parking
Free Parking
Street Parking
Street Parking

Driving There

From I-5, you can take La Jolla Parkway to Torrey Pines Rd. Turn onto Prospect Place to access Prospect St and The Cave Store. Alternately, if you are following the coast, La Jolla Blvd runs parallel to the shoreline and takes you to Coast Blvd and Prospect Place.

Swimming, Kayaking & SUP

While you can access the beach on foot at low tide from La Jolla Shores Beach, most people get there by stand up paddle boarding, kayaking or using other water-based transportation from La Jolla Cove to get here.

Limited Free Street Parking

There is limited free street parking in the area, timed at two to three hours, depending on the street. The hotel lot across the street has pay-for parking, and kayak tours typically take about two hours. Arriving early can help ensure you can get parking and avoid the lines.

Featured Activity

La Jolla Underwater Park: Kayak and Snorkel Tour
La Jolla Kayak & Snorkel Tour
Jump on a kayak and follow an experienced guide to find the best snorkeling spot in the La Jolla Ecological Reserve! On this 2-hour tour, you can expect to see a variety of fish and other marine animals!
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Know Before You Go & Tips

No Alcohol
No Alcohol
No Camping
No Camping
No Glass Containers
No Glass Containers
No Motorized Vehicles
No Motorized Vehicles
No Smoking
No Smoking
No Trash Cans
No Trash Cans

What to Know

Kayaks & SUP are the best way to explore the La Jolla Caves

While you can walk to the La Caves at low tide from La Jolla Shores and you can access the Sunny Jim Cave from a set of stairs. The best way to explore the caves is via Kayak or SUP. So, if you want to really explore the caves make sure you can get your hands on a kayak or a SUP.

The San Diego Go Card is a great way to get a Kayak in La Jolla while saving money on other popular activities, like going to the San Diego Zoo. This pass offers a discount while coupling many activities into one price.

Gets Cold & Damp at Sunny Jim Cave

You probably won’t get soaked in Sunny Jim Cave if you go down the tunnel through the store, but it’s going to be damp and the stairs slick. Bring a sweater or light jacket and make sure you wear shoes that have a good tread and can withstand the water, as there may be puddles. There are also opportunities for geocaching.

While you can snorkel into the cave from the outside, getting into the water from the platform below the cave store is prohibited. The admission fee depends on the cave, so you’ll want to check the current rates to ensure you are not surprised when you get there.

La Jolla Caves Beach
is Known For:
Kayaking
Kayaking
Know This:
Boat Access Only
Boat Access Only
This Month's Forecast
67℉ / 79℉
Sunny in September
Oct
63℉ / 78℉
Sunny in October
Nov
56℉ / 73℉
Sunny in November
Dec
51℉ / 68℉
Sunny in December

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