6 Facts You May Not Know About La Jolla Caves

La Jolla Cave - 6 Facts You May Not Know About La Jolla Caves

Have you ever been to La Jolla before? La Jolla, San Diego is famous for showcasing radiant views of the Pacific, majestic rocky cliffs, and diverse sea life. However, a different type of beauty has caught the attention of visitors, and it’s the wondrous sister caves of La Jolla. The unique attractions have piqued the interest of curious onlookers since 1902 when the Sunny Jim cave was first discovered. Each cave has distinctive features and surprising facts that have awed all who have visited them. In today’s blog, we will cover 6 facts you may not know about La Jolla Caves.

1. The Caves Were Originally Used by Pirates

Did you know that the La Jolla caves were originally used by pirates for human smuggling? After an influx of immigrants in the 1800s (more than 12,000 Asian workers came across the Pacific to work on the railroad in 1868 alone), rising prejudice led to stringent immigration laws. These harsh restrictions started what came to be the first commercial smuggling cargo event in San Diego and throughout the United States. La Jolla caves were the ultimate hideout and shelter for local pirates who were looking to make money off of cheap labor. However, today seals and sea lions are the primary visitors of these caves rather than pirates!

2. Each Cave Has a Their Own Name

All of the seven caves are named—mostly so that lifeguards can easily identify them. From the east to west, the seven sister caves are known as:

  • White Lady
  • Little Sister
  • Shopping Cart
  • Sea Surprize
  • Arch Cave
  • Sunny Jim
  • Clam’s Cave

Out of all seven caves, Sunny Jim is the only one that can be reached by foot. You can access it via the Cave Store for a small entrance fee. While it may be 145 steps down, it will be worth the walk as there is an incredible view at the end.

3. The Caves are Nearly 74 Million Years Old

Did you know that La Jolla Caves were carved out of a 200-foot-high cliff of Cretaceous-age sandstone? They’re about 75 million years old and are one of the oldest geographical landmarks in La Jolla. The high tides and forceful waves helped mold the caves into what they are today.

4. It Took 2 Years for the Sunny Jim Cave to Tunnel Through

The Sunny Jim cave didn’t naturally tunnel through—it was man-made. In 1902, German professor Gustav Shulz became fascinated with the cave and decided to construct a tunnel to enable visitors to witness the one-of-a-kind view. It took him about a year and a half to tunnel through the Sunny Jim cave using a pick and shovel. After a few more months, he built the 145 wooden steps that led to the cave’s beautiful view.

5. Sea Surprize Contains Fossilized Marine Life

Sea Surprize may look small on the outside, but it actually offers quite a bit to see. It is said to cover an additional 80 feet of walking passage beyond the entrance. Several explorers mention the sight of orange streaks on the walls above a gorgeous pool of water that contains what is believed to be calcite-coated anemones.

6. White Lady is Named After a Tragic Happening

The White Lady cave is said to be named after the bride that was swept to her death near the entrance of the cave. The story goes that in the 1800s, she and her new husband went to La Jolla for their honeymoon. One day, the woman went shell hunting near the caves and was swallowed by the waves when the tide kicked in. She was quickly swept into the water before anyone could do anything to save her. Her body was never found. Today, there are stories of visitors that claim to see the white lady roaming the cave after dark.

Explore the Caves Via Snorkeling/Scuba Diving

The La Jolla caves are a major attraction for visitors and locals alike. While only one of the seven caves can be accessed by foot, you can explore the rest by snorkeling or scuba diving. If you’d like to explore the caves via water, contact San Diego Scuba Guide for a scuba or snorkel tour in La Jolla Shores. Call or text (858) 397-8213 or click here to book your dive!

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