A year ago, the iconic view from inside Sunny Jim Cave graced the cover of the La Jolla Blue Book. It’s one of the hidden gems tucked into our toothy coastline, enjoyed by seals, kayakers and tourists on a daily basis. Yesterday, under clear skies and in 72 degree weather, I decided to take a stroll down there to see it for the first time.
Getting to the Sunny Jim Cave Store from the village is easy enough – no tricky alleyways or hidden roads. Just look for Cave Street and follow your nose. From the roadside that overlooks the water’s edge, you can hear the seals barking and grunting in and around the cave, putting on a show for the people gathered around the sandstone cliffs. Straight away, I knew going there in jeans and flat shoes was a lousy choice. The water was clear and warm; the people snorkeling, swimming and paddling around the cave looked like they were having the most fun out of everyone, including the seals.
The $4 charge to gain land access to the cave goes towards maintaining the tunnel that takes you down there – a worthy investment once you find yourself navigating a pathway the size of a dumpster. There’s a really cool, Goonies-adventure typed atmosphere as you negotiate the 144 steps down and consider the effort that went into carving this trail with picks and shovels. That’s a true story. Gustav Shultz hired people to dig the trail back in 1902. The steps and lights were added a few years later. It’s a fun walk and pretty good exercise for a Monday lunch-hour activity. I’m also pretty claustrophobic and managed to get down there and back without feeling too stressed. You can hear the water and see light pretty quickly from either end of the tunnel, which brings down the anxiety for people scared of small spaces.
At the bottom, the view from inside the cave is pretty fantastic – it looks just like the face of Sunny Jim, the old British Force Wheat mascot, who the cave is named after. I finished up by taking a stroll down the public walking trail atop the sandstone caves. The panorama from up there makes you feel pretty lucky to live and work in La Jolla. My only recommendation would be to pick a nice day and go there prepared to swim. There are masks, snorkels and fins for rent back at the cave store – next time I go I’m ditching the work clothes and renting a set.