Adventure Beyond the Beach
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.
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.
Explore the Caves
For those who don’t want to kayak, there is an observation platform in the largest La Jolla cave, called Sunny Jim Sea Cave, that can be reached by going through a tunnel that starts in The Cave Store.
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.