Sunny Side Down

Exploring Sunny Jim's Cave in La Jolla

Sunny Jim Cave is anything but sunny. It’s what you want in a cave—cool and dark—and it has a nifty literary connection. It’s also the only sea cave in La Jolla that can be accessed by land. The entrance is the back door of The Cave Store, a California Historical Landmark. Behind the wood shingles of the old storefront are 145 dimly lit steps that lead down to the mouth of the cave at the shoreline.

Sunny Jim Cave got its name from _The Wonderful Wizard of Oz _author L. Frank Baum, who thought the mouth of the cave resembled the profile of a 1920s British breakfast cereal mascot known as Sunny Jim. (Baum wrote several of his Oz novels in Coronado.) Naturally, then, the store sells Wizard of Oz memorabilia along with quirky trinkets, jewelry, and souvenirs.

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Sunny Jim Cave was the retirement vision of German mining engineer and painter Gustav Shultz. He wanted to access one of the La Jolla sea caves by land, and, of course, lure people to the site. So in 1902 he started digging a tunnel down to the natural sea cave. Upon finishing the tunnel a year later, Shultz set up the Sunny Jim Cave Store and charged a few pennies for the privilege of being lowered by rope into the cave. The rope has been replaced by a steep staircase. When you get down to the cave, you’ll see that this wonderful spot is highly endorsed by a colony of sea lions, who always appreciate cool spots on the coast.

Sunny Jim Cave is located at The Cave Store, 1325 Coast Blvd., La Jolla. From the I-5, exit on La Jolla Village Dr. and turn toward the ocean. Turn left on Torrey Pines Rd. for 1 mile. Turn right on Prospect Pl. for 0.2 mile; The Cave Store is on the right. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for kids. No dogs.

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