Majesty and Mystery of the La Jolla Caves
Mention the La Jolla Caves to any San Diego native and their eyes immediately light up. A true majestic natural wonder in our backyard, the La Jolla Caves are a fantastic escape from the hustle and bustle of Southern California, and a step backwards in time to a pre-developed natural landscape. Located just to the north of the La Jolla Cove, seven caves decorate the sandstone coastline of La Jolla, demonstrating the relentless power and unforgiving nature of the Pacific Ocean.
Over thousands of years, beating waves carved the La Jolla Caves out of the sandstone bluffs that make up the La Jolla bluff, a geographical feature resulting from erosion from the mountains to the east over 70 million years ago.
Over thousands of years’ strong winter and summer swells relentlessly pounded the coastline creating fractures in the rock face. Over time, seawater continued to open these fractures and wear away at the coastline from the inside creating the magnificent caves we see today.
La Jolla Caves: What’s in a Name?
Widely accepted as the English translation from Spanish, La Jolla - joya meaning “Jewel”
- was coined by the Spanish in the 16th
century. However, many historians dispute the term, claiming its name is actually derived from the Luiseno Indian word
, “Woholle,” meaning “hole in the mountains.” Whatever the case, the beauty and mystery that surrounds this portion of the San Diego coastline have proved useful and lucrative or for many years.
It’s claimed that those on the wrong side of the law used the hidden nature of the caves
to smuggle everything from whisky during prohibition to migrant workers from China to narcotics during the 18th
The dangerous yet secluded nature of the caves also led to various daredevil acts to attract visitors to the area. From divers jumping off the cliff faces into the depths to a professor dousing himself in oil, lighting himself on fire and diving off the sandstone cliffs into the cove. Legend has it he survived.
On a lighter note, the beauty of the caves soon attracted visitors from all over the country. Providing entrepreneurs like Gustav Shultz an opportunity to capitalize on this interest.
Shultz pioneered the first tours of the caves, engineering a way for visitors to actually step down into one of the caves he had hollowed out with this bare hands! Now known as Sunny Jim’s Cave
, visitors continue to marvel at the spectacle of our beautiful coastline.
Anyone gifted with the chance to visit the La Jolla Caves will awe at the vibrant colors found within the cave walls, alongside the rich and musty ocean smell from the abundant vegetation that grows beneath the surface of the nutrient-rich Pacific.
Color palates of the cave walls range from dark reds of iron oxides to greys, yellows and purples from the iodine in the kelp.
There’s also no shortage of life that takes sanctuary here. And you’d be hard pressed to find any marine life lying dormant within the caves. Witness the majesty of the La Jolla Caves for yourself on one of our tours! We offer daily trips and snorkel tours to the caves, and our expert guides will show you everything there is to see in these majestic dwellings.
Check out our availability today