Take This Century-Old Bootlegger’s Tunnel To See Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave In La Jolla

Secret San Diego Secret San Diego

Take This Century-Old Bootlegger’s Tunnel To See Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave In La Jolla

Need a little adventure?

La Jolla, San Diego’s ‘jewel’, certainly lives up to its name. Surrounded on three sides by the ocean, its seven mile stretch of beautiful coastline is reason enough to attract swimmers, surfers, snorkelers and kayakers. Even aside from the beaches, La Jolla offers an abundance of activities and attractions to fill the day.

If you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path, head to the Cave Store. This shop, located on Coast Boulevard, offers access to Sunny Jim’s Cave through an old man-made tunnel. In fact, it’s the only sea cave that you can visit in La Jolla without traveling over water. That’s not to say this attraction won’t cater to your adventurous side. After entering the store, visitors must descend 144 stairs through an old tunnel carved into the cliffs over a century ago in order to reach the famous cave.

The tunnel dates back to 1902, when German professor, engineer and entrepreneur Gustav Schultz hired two Chinese laborers to dig a tunnel from his residence to the sea cave below. His plan was to give residents a unique vantage point to marvel at one of the famous La Jolla sea caves, and it’s safe to say his plan was a success.

[Image: The Cave Store]
Sunny Jim’s Cave has been fascinating curious tourists since. And the stairs weren’t always there. When the attraction first opened, tourists had to descend the tunnel by rope. Not quite as much of an adrenaline rush nowadays, nonetheless this quirky spot still offers visitors a unique experience with breathtaking views. Not to mention interesting insight into La Jolla’s history. Rumor has it that the tunnel quickly caught the attention of bootleggers during the Prohibition era, who used the tunnel to smuggle alcohol and opium into San Diego. 

So why Sunny Jim? No one knows for sure, but some say that the cave was given the name by L. Frank Baum, creator of The Wizard of Oz, who thought the opening of the cave resembled the head of the cartoon character from British cereal Force Wheat Flakes.

With spectacular views and so much history to offer, it’s no wonder that this attraction has been frequented for so long. The cave is a great spot to visit for locals and tourists alike, and is the perfect activity for those with an eclectic taste in adventure.

Tours are private, self-guided, and last about 15 to 20 minutes. The 144 stairs leading into the cave take most people around 5 minutes to climb. Due to the pandemic, tours are currently on a reservation basis, with walk-ins only available on Tuesdays (and Thursdays starting November 2). Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for kids aged 3-17.

Where: 1325 Coast Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037

Hours: 9 am – 5 pm daily


[Featured image: The Cave Store]

See also: Make Date Night Fun With This Mystery Foodie Adventure Through San Diego

Things To Do Wellness & Nature