The mystery and danger of La Jolla’s sea caves have cast a spell of fascination over the local community and foreign visitors alike for many generations. The White Lady, Shopping Cart, Clam’s Cave, Sunny Jim’s Cave, Little Sister, Sea Surprise, and Arch Cave are the seven grotto's that, together, create the infamous La Jolla Caves in sunny San Diego, California. Only one is accessible by land, and the others, tucked into the side of a 75 million year old sea cliff, can only be reached with a knowledgeable tour guide in tow. Each cave has its own unique story, dramatic history, and hidden secrets waiting to be unfurled.
The White Lady: named after the newlywed bride that was swept up in the fast-moving current and never seen again. It is said she can still be seen in the cave, wearing her white gown and flowers in her hair, calling for her lost lover.
Little Sister: is the hidden gem of the caves, often overlooked by passersby. Little Sister is the smallest of the caves and is trivial compared to her neighboring White Lady.
Sea Surprise: numerous wonders await the daring kayaker bold enough to brave the rising tides.
Sunny Jim: the only cave accessible by land, thanks to Gustav Schulz and his laborers that dug and carved tunnels, opening it for public admittance. There are three stories associated with the name “Sunny Jim” and how it earned the title. We will leave it up to you to decide for yourselves which is true. One thing is for certain, this cave allows for an entirely new perspective of the San Diego coastline.
Shopping Cart: removal of any marine life, artifacts, or other archeological materials from the caves is strictly prohibited. Lobster-trapping is the only commercial activity allowed and the collection of spiny lobster is controlled by permits during certain times of year. The cost for this high-end commodity, on the market, can bring in a pretty penny, earning the cave the name Shopping Cart.
Arch Cave: the largest and, debatably, most impressive of the seven caves. There are separate entrances that lead to numerous passages and should only be navigated by an expert or guide at extreme low tides.
The Clam: this cave, named after the bivalve, is open on both ends.
DISCLAIMERS: **While it may be tempting for some swimmers and kayakers to traverse through these unique caverns by themselves, for a thrill, please be aware the tides, current, and waves are constantly changing and you should never attempt any of these activities alone. **
The source of La Jolla’s name is frequently debated. With some believing the nomenclature originated from the Spaniards’ arrival in the 16th Century (“joya” translating to jewel in Spanish). According to James A. Leftwich, however, the town’s name comes from the Indian word meaning the cave place, “mut-lah-hoyyah”. The word was eventually shortened and the spelling changed to reflect the strong Spanish influence of the time. Leftwich states, the community owes its namesake to the perilous bluff, Devil’s Slide.
La Jolla Historical Society has photographs of stunts and performances to try and draw tourists into San Diego. High Divers were paid $25.00 to jump off the 140 foot sea cliffs, some even setting themselves on fire to attract onlookers. Sadly, many people (and animals) were injured in such attempts and after the San Diego mayor’s son died from his daredevil act, similar antics were discouraged. In the following years, many visitors were lowered down off the edge of Devil’s Slide by rope to view the treacherous cave from above, this may have inspired the tunnels to be built within the seaside. The new tunnels and passageways were a perfect spot for smuggling whiskey into the town during Prohibition, opium dealers storing their stashes before trading their goods to the Chinese immigrants, and adventurers looking for the next big thrill.
These caves can still be explored today and while they are breathtaking and enchanting, they are extremely dangerous! Surf You to the Moon’s La Jolla Cave Tour will become available for booking March 2017! Be sure to schedule a tour with us and we can help you check one more adventure off your bucket list!