This Hidden Gem Historic Sea Cave Offers Some Of The Prettiest Ocean Views In California

In contrast to its next-door neighbor, San Diego is the laid-back cousin of Los Angeles County — a true coastal dream with more dogs and less traffic. As a top-five vacation spot in the U.S., San Diego is the quintessential beach getaway, with 70 miles of scenic coastline to explore. This West Coast city boasts a perfect blend of urban oasis and relaxed surf culture, catering to big city dwellers and beachcombers. La Jolla, in particular, is a sight to behold — marked by striking ocean-view mansions, the best beaches in California, and tidal pools teeming with exotic marine life. According to San Diego Real Estate Hunter, La Jolla is one of the city's top five wealthiest neighborhoods, making it a coveted area in San Diego County. Prestigious neighborhoods, coastal promenades, and surf-shack-style coffee shops provide a much-needed escape from the bustling avenues along San Diego's downtown district.

It's not just the million-dollar manors that give this affluent area its charm — it's also rich in hidden gems that have been deemed the "locals' spots." A crowned jewel among these underrated hot spots, Sunny Jim's Sea Cave is a La Jolla essential. One of seven sea caves in San Diego, Sunny Jim's sea cave is the only one accessible on foot and easily boasts the most exciting story. Hidden in plain sight, the view from the mouth of this sea cave might be the most picturesque in La Jolla — a title hard to match in this part of town!

Explore La Jolla's cave of wonder

It's safe to say that locals know best! Every city has its treasure chest of hidden gems, and Sunny Jim's Sea Cave is a prized possession among La Jolla natives. Popular attractions, like Balboa Park and Mission Beach Boardwalk, are a glamorous experience for first-timer guests in this beach city. Yet, they lack the historical charm and elusive nature of this beautiful sea cave. Stumbling upon this local relic by accident is nearly impossible, as detailed directions are almost essential for finding the entrance to this cave. Tucked between the trendy art galleries and bougie brunch spots in the heart of La Jolla, make your way to the Cave Store, wedged along the shoreline on Coast Blvd.

Once inside this maritime boutique and gift shop, visitors can peruse the Bali-inspired décor and artisan pieces that set the ambiance for this ocean-themed outing. Self-guided tours are offered daily and are well worth the small admission fee. Entering this cave requires a steep descent of 145 stairs, which guides visitors down a long, narrow tunnel with nothing but dimly lit glowing lamp posts as a visual aid. Light from the sea cave cuts through the darkness and floods the staircase, signaling visitors they've reached the bottom. The mouth of the cave opens up to captivating views of the Pacific Ocean, but guests are restricted from snorkeling or swimming near the viewing platform. Save the urge for swimming with marine life for La Jolla Shores!

Spend an idyllic day in La Jolla

The tunnel leading to Sunny Jim Sea Cave was originally commissioned in 1902 by German engineer Gustav Shultz. Stretching from his private residence in La Jolla down to the sea floor of the cave, Shultz intended to capitalize on the private tunnel by charging a small entrance fee to the public in exchange for admission. Following Gustav's death, it's rumored the cave became a secret hideout along California's coastline during the Prohibition era of the 1920s. To this day, the cave remains a historical landmark and an integral part of San Diego's heritage.

While visiting this sea cave might be short and sweet, don't let that cut your La Jolla trip short — this coastal village is teeming with picturesque lookout points, sun-soaked beaches, and some of San Diego's finest dining establishments. A five-minute stroll from the Cave Store, La Jolla Cove is an iconic sea lion hot spot and forms part of the city's protected marine reserve. Morning cave tours should be paired alongside brunch with the famous Coast Toast from Brockton VillaWarwick's, the country's oldest independently-owned bookstore, is another must-see sight in this dreamy village. Of course, an evening affair wouldn't be complete without dinner at Duke's La Jolla. Consider making reservations in advance, though, as this Hawaiian-style seafood restaurant is a popular pick for a beachfront nightcap! Just don't forget to save room for the Hula Pie — after all, it's what the sailors swam to shore for!