1325 Cave Street, La Jolla, CA 92037.
In La Jolla, at the northern coast of the peninsula. Cave entrance is in the La Jolla Cave and Curio Shop.
All year daily 9-16:30.
Adults USD 10, Children (3-17) USD 6.
|Classification:||sea cave, Sandstone Cave|
|Guided tours:||self guided, D=15 min, Max=20.|
|Address:||Sunny Jim Cave, La Jolla Cave and Curio Shop, 1325 Cave Street, La Jolla, CA 92037, Tel: +1-858-459-0746, Tel: +1-858-459-1886. E-mail:|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|03-NOV-1902||petition to run a tunnel starting on his property at a 30-degree angle to the caves by Thomas Diamond filed, which was denied.|
|1902-1903||entrance tunnel built by Gustav Schultz.|
|1903||cave opened as a show cave.|
The steep cliffs of southern California's coast contain numerous caves, formed by the continuous work of the sea. At La Jolla Cove seven sea caves are found close together, from west to east they are named Clam's Cave, Sunny Jim Cave, Arch Cave, Sea Surprize, Shopping Cart, Little Sister, and White Lady. Togeteher they are also known as Seven Sister Caves. The biggest and most interesting one is accessible by an artificial tunnel from land. The other caves are accessible only by boat, for example with one of the kayak trips which are offered.
Sunny Jim Cave is accessible by land via a hand-dug tunnel, leading down from the Cave Store, a historical landmark. It was named after W. W. Denslow's cartoon character Sunny Jim, a mascot for British Force Wheat Flakes, a cereal company of the 1920s. The outline of the entrance of the cave - seen from inside - looks like the profile of Sunny Jim. The name was given to the cave by Lyman Frank Baum, the author of the original 14 Wizard of Oz books. L. Frank Baum visited the cave when he was in Hollywood for the filming of the Wizard of Oz movie. Somewhere over the rainbow, not in Kansas anymore, you remember? The cave is closely connected to Hollywood, as it is colourful and easy to access, so was used as location for numerous movies. Most of them where pirate movies.
The entrance tunnel was built 1902-1903 by two Chinese laborers hired by Gustav Schultz. The tunnel is lighted and goes down 145 steps into the cave. However, they delight in telling the story that it was "a century-old bootlegger's tunnel". Probably it was used during the Prohibition (1920–1933) by bootleggers (alcohol smugglers) for transporting alcohol or even opium from the sea to the house for San Diego distributors. As they were never caught, this is just another legend. After the Prohibition it was used by illegal immigrants, mostly Chinese, to enter the country. There are two huge chambers, both about 50 m long and 15 m wide. One chamber has direct access to the sea, through the cave portal looking like Sunny Jim.
Another weird detail is the fact that the entrance tunnel was built as a ramp for unknown reasons. The stairs were cut into the ramp many years later. Early visitors needed a rope to get to the cave and back to the surface. We have no idea why, and unfortunately, while this fact is mentioned again and again, there is never any meaningful explanation. Even for the workers digging the tunnel it would have been easier with a staircase. The only guess we have is that they probably intended to install a wooden staircase, though this never happened.
The house at the cave entrance was home and studio of Gustav Schultz. He was a German professor and mining engineer, so he was able to plan and execute the mining. He deliberately purchased this house after he had become fascinated with the caves along La Jolla’s coast. From the beginning he had the plan to construct a tunnel to Sunny Jim Cave as a tourist attraction. He used the building for living and also as a studio, as he also was a painter. The next building, only 3 m to the north, was the Crescent Café, a restaurant and café in a convex-shaped building offering snacks and beverages combined with an incredible view from the terrace on the roof. It was burned to the ground in 1915 by the arsonist William Peck, who also who burned Ellen Browning Scripps’ South Moulton Villa on Prospect Street a few years earlier. It was never rebuilt, but the cave entrance and ticket office became a café and shop, selling beach items like sun cream, bathing suits and beverages. The building is also the start of the Coast Walk Trail a sort of pedestrian "highway" on top of the cliffs with the Seven Sister Caves.
Gustav Schultz was actually not the only one who had this idea. On 03-NOV-1902 Thomas Diamond, who owned property along Cave Street, petitioned to run a tunnel starting on his property at a 30-degree angle to the caves. He also planned another tunnel running under Cave Street which would connect all the caves with a tram. The two apparently had difficulties with each other, and it came to violence. The incident led to the arrest of Diamond on charges of battery. His petition to tunnel from the street was denied, and Schultz started his tunnel while Diamond was in jail.