Kayaking into the La Jolla Sea Caves in an Underwater Park ⋆ Middle Journey (2022)

The La Jolla sea caves In California, are part of an underwater park with a kelp forest and breeding ground for all sorts of sea creatures. They’re accessible to anyone from water, but a few can be reached by land too.

Along the Pacific California coast, there is a different little beach town every 25 miles. Each is unique, but perhaps none more remarkable than La Jolla. In La Jolla (Hoy ya), there’s an underwater park made up of 6,000 acres and four different habitats. There’s a rocky reef, kelp bed, sand flats, and submarine canyon.

I can’t resist a reason to get in a kayak and explore, so I headed right over.

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Beach Trail

If you don’t like kayaking, in La Jolla, there’s also a 2.5-mile, paved beach trail. It takes you along the coastline and cliffs and allows you to view a few of the caves and sea life from the shore. There are food and drink trucks, jewelry vendors set up under little tents, and even places to rent snorkel and beach equipment on the trail.

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I walked the trail and it was a great experience. Seals and sea lions lay right off the shore and if you venture down the stairs on the beaches, you can get close to them – just be careful! They’ll bark loudly to let you know if you’ve gotten too close, so give them their space to relax – don’t make them bark. There’s also a fascinating assortment of pelicans and other sea birds fishing off the shoreline. Snorkelers and scuba divers filled the water exploring the underwater world.

Underwater Park

San Diego created the underwater park in 1970. Within it are the reef, kelp forest, sand flats and canyons. Part of the park is an Ecological Reserve, and some is also Marine Life Refuge. No fishing or scavenging is permitted within the reserve, making it a haven for all sorts of animals who might not otherwise hang around.

Two artificial reefs keep the waves minimal and attract all sorts of wildlife while creating an environment for them to thrive. This makes it a hotbed of sea life activity you can’t see anyplace else.

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The La Jolla Canyon reaches 600 feet below the surface and the sharp drop combined with the abundance of marine life are a reason why you’re also more likely to see migrating whales in the area. The canyons here are among the most studied submarine canyons in the world.

Kayaking to the Sea Caves

I’ll use any excuse to get out on the water, so when I heard there were sea caves you could only access from a kayak, well, I booked my tour.

The area is so popular for kayaking, snorkeling and scuba diving that there are many shops lining the main street heading toward the beach. On Avenida de la Playa, you can rent any sort of water equipment, book a tour, grab lunch, or enjoy the street entertainment. I did it all with a watermelon Fresca.

After obtaining my gear, with a life jacket and helmet in tow, I made my way down to the beach. I was surprised that they gave me a helmet for my kayak tour, but they explained waves in the caves can’t be controlled and they may toss you into a cave wall. Maybe headfirst if they rise just right. Ouch.

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On the beach, multiple companies have kayaks and paddleboards and other equipment lined up and ready to go, I spotted mine and a group of about 10 of us headed out on the water together.

You can see the cliffs from the shore and can even walk on top of them from the popular beach cliff hike, which I did earlier in the day. But the best way to access the caves is from the water.

Inside the Sea Caves

The park has seven sea caves carved from 75-million-year-old sandstone. These seven cave openings are in a narrow cliff wall between La Jolla Beach and La Jolla Cove. They each have names: The Clam’s Cave, Sunny Jim’s Cave, Arch Cave, Sea Surprize, Shopping Cart, Little Sister, and White Lady. Which is exactly what I would have named them, too, obviously.

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Most of the caves are small and just big enough for a few people, but others are large enough to hold several kayaks at once. We went into Arch Cave, where we could fit multiple kayaks in the cave at one time.

Unlike the other caves, Arch Cave is open on both ends, so you could go through it into a tiny cove. Inside, it was dark, but we could see from the opening on the other end about 60 feet away. I was startled when in the middle of the cave we spotted a big Sea Lion sitting on a perch halfway up the wall. He watched us lazily but seemed indifferent to our presence. These are wild animals though, so you never know when the day comes that might decide they’re tired of tourists.

Inside the cave, the water was crystal clear and I saw the California fish – an Orange Garibaldi. It looks like an oversized goldfish. After a few minutes, we exited the cave and paddled around the other six caves, which were all smaller.

Open Water

As I paddled around, there were various seals and sea lions lounging nearby and swimming in the water. They swam around our boats and perched on the cliffs. They’d give off a loud bark to anyone who got too close.

The water is a haven for many large sea creatures, including Leopard Sharks. Because of the reserve and ecosystem, the largest annual meeting of leopard sharks worldwide happens on these shores. Pregnant females give birth to large numbers of baby sharks between July and December. But we didn’t see any and they’re not fearful sharks in any case.

Snorkeling and Diving

The area is so popular for underwater sports they rent the gear right on the beach. You’ll see many people snorkeling and swimming out at the reef. Some take boats or paddleboards, but the majority just start on the shore. You’ll see people gearing up, carrying fins or oxygen tanks from the shores into the water.

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But many people preferred to see it all from the shore. You can see a few caves, many seals and sea lions and even part of the kelp forest from shore along the two-mile coastline. If you don’t want to get in the water but would like to go inside a cave, you can do that too. You can access Sunny Jim’s Cave from the Cave Store perched on top of the cliffs. For about $10, you enter the store and take a tunnel down into the cave. There, you’ll find a sort of water balcony where you can explore a few feet inside the cave.

Back to Shore

As the sun was setting, the dolphins came out to swim alongside us. They arched gracefully in the water as we made our way back to shore. We stopped halfway back and jumped in the water for a swim, dolphins, and sea lions swimming nearby. We didn’t see any sharks, sea turtles, or the thousands of fish species unique to the area, but each day is different.

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There were small waves as we paddled to the beach. They tossed my kayak like it was nothing and sped me to shore like I was surfing.

After, soaking wet, I walked back down the main strip with my newly made kayak friends to return my gear. I had avocado tacos at a restaurant next door and watched the sunset.

Save the Oceans

The San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve provides protection to marine life, safeguards the ecology, and preserves the shoreline. Find ways to help do your part via WorldWildLife.org.

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See other stories about California here.

Related

FAQs

Can you kayak into La Jolla sea caves? ›

The La Jolla Sea Caves are one of the most popular attractions for kayakers. There are various sea caves in La Jolla–some are easy to access and kayak, while some are strenuous to get to due to their depth and steepness. If you're undecided on whether to do it or not, I'd say yes, do it!

Can you kayak La Jolla caves without a guide? ›

yes you can go in on your own. the company rentals down there won't allow you to go in without a guide because they want to make more money.

Can you explore La Jolla caves without a tour? ›

Six of the seven caves can only be accessed from the water. Booking one of the La Jolla kayaking and/or boat tours is the best way to see those caves. The seventh cave, Sunny Jimmy's Cave, is the only one accessible from land.

What are the 7 Caves of La Jolla? ›

The Seven Sea Caves
  • Clam Cave. The Westernmost cave of the La Jolla Cove is the Clam Cave, which is a cavern with multiple entrances and exits. ...
  • Sunny Jim's. The most famous of our 7 sea caves is Sunny Jim's Cave. ...
  • Arches. ...
  • Shopping Cart. ...
  • White Lady. ...
  • Little Sister. ...
  • Sea Surprize.

How long is the La Jolla kayak Tour? ›

Tour Duration - 2 Hours

The La Jolla kayak tour is a favorite of both locals and San Diego visitors alike. Explore beautiful sea cliffs and caves as you glide through the La Jolla Ecological Reserve filled with marine life.

Do you need a wetsuit to kayak in San Diego? ›

Ideal Kayaking Conditions

Summer and fall are prime time for kayaking in San Diego, but even on the best days, a full wetsuit may be in order and swell and wind conditions should be taken into consideration.

Are La Jolla caves free? ›

A small admission fee is required. Along the way to The Cave Store, you'll pass Clam's Cave, another of La Jolla's seven sea caves, which is the only sea cave in California that you can see from land. There is no need to plan a ton of time for this side adventure.

How much does it cost to kayak in San Diego? ›

1-Hour: $25 (single), $30 (tandem) 2-Hour: $45 (single), $50 (tandem) 3-Hour $65 (single, $65 (tandem) 4-Hour: $70 (single), $80 (tandem)

Can you launch a kayak from La Jolla Cove? ›

The La Jolla Shores Boat Launch is the only public beachfront boat launch within city limits. Both private and commercial boaters can use this area to launch their vessels. The boat launch entrance is located at the west end of Avenida de la Playa, on the south end of La Jolla Shores.

Can you swim in La Jolla sea caves? ›

Because of its extraordinary beauty, La Jolla Cove is one of the most photographed beaches in Southern California. With small surf in the summer months, the north facing La Jolla Cove is ideal for swimmers, snorkelers and scuba divers. Water visibility at the Cove can sometimes exceed 30 feet.

What is there to do at La Jolla cave? ›

Experience the Seven Caves of La Jolla

View Clam's Cave from Coast Blvd. Walk into Sunny Jim Cave via The Cave Store (also on Coast Blvd.) Take a kayak tour or snorkeling/kayak tour to the sea caves. Rent kayaks or an SUP and paddle over on your own.

Can you snorkel in La Jolla Cove? ›

You can snorkel through some pretty magical sea caves.

La Jolla Cove is home to seven caves, the biggest of which is Clam Cave (just offshore from Goldfish Point Cafe); when the tide allows, visitors can delight in snorkeling or kayaking through it to the other side.

How was La Jolla sea caves formed? ›

The La Jolla Sea Caves are made up of compacted sandstone and are naturally formed. Over the years, the sandstone slowly eroded by wind, water and rain, creating seven caves that have been an attraction for over 100 years.

How do you get to sea cave San Diego? ›

To get to the sea cave, you will need to walk to the end of Luscomb's Point, where the surfers go down and scramble the roughly hewn steps down to the water. From here, you can walk along the rocks for about 100 yards before you have to get your feet wet to proceed on.

Is kayaking in La Jolla worth it? ›

Kayaking in La Jolla is one of the best things to do in San Diego because of the La Jolla Underwater Park, a marine sanctuary full of sea life and usually clear water. Whales can be seen during seasonal migrations and our leopard sharks and state fish, the Garibaldi.

Why is La Jolla so popular? ›

La Jolla beaches are famous for their surf, white sand, and La Jolla tide pools during low tides. People come to see the sea lions and seals. Outside of beachgoing, people visit because they want to see these top attractions and landmarks: La Jolla Cove.

Can you paddle board at La Jolla Cove? ›

La Jolla Cove is easily the most beautiful paddle board spot on our list. Paddle along towering rocky cliffs and witness the cove's prosperous marine life. Watch seals sunbath on the cliffs and birds gracefully fly in packs along the shoreline.

Do you need a wetsuit in La Jolla? ›

#4 Should I Wear A Wetsuit? Trust us, if you plan on snorkeling, grab a wetsuit before you head over to La Jolla. Neoprene can help maintain your body's warmth as well as provide a bit of extra buoyancy. During the cold winter months, we would suggest wearing a 7mm wetsuit.

What should a beginner wear kayaking? ›

The better choice is a dry suit.

Any clothing that is waterproof is the right way to go. A kayaking dry suit is ideal, but if you are a beginner, you can still find suitable clothing right at home.

Do you need a wetsuit in San Diego? ›

The short answer is no, you don't. There are lots of options to wear while surfing like board shorts, swim suits, jammers, dry suits, wetsuits and more. The most important things are that you are comfortable, confident, and appropriately dressed for the temperature of the water.

How many steps are there in La Jolla Cave? ›

Come prepared to both descend and climb the original 144 stairs (roughly a five minute ascent at a gentle pace). Experience a real piece of San Diego history at the Cave Store. More questions?

Is La Jolla worth visiting? ›

Visiting La Jolla is an awesome way to see some of San Diego's rich history and culture, as well as its beautiful coastal beauty! Between its beaches, the wildlife, the numerous restaurants, and the shops, La Jolla is a great place to visit for a day or weekend.

Can you see sea lions in San Diego? ›

You can spot sea lions anywhere along the San Diego coastline, but you'll find the largest number of them at La Jolla Cove. La Jolla Cove is famous for its sea lions, and it's the best place to go if you want to see them in their natural habitat.

Where is La Jolla Beach? ›

La Jolla Cove is a small cove with a beach that is surrounded by cliffs in La Jolla, San Diego, California. Point La Jolla forms the south side of the cove. The area is protected as part of a marine reserve and is popular with snorkelers, swimmers and scuba divers.

How do I start a kayak in La Jolla? ›

How To Land Your Kayak In La Jolla When It's not calm - YouTube

Where do you launch the paddle board in La Jolla Cove? ›

The boat launch address is 2053 Avenida De La Playa La Jolla, CA 92037.

Can you kayak in the ocean? ›

Ocean kayaking is one of the most popular recreation opportunities for visitors to the Outer Banks. Some people prefer riding the great surf that the Outer Banks is known for, while others prefer paddling up and down the beach with the dolphins on the calmer days.

Does La Jolla have great white sharks? ›

PB native Nico Gibbons and a couple fishing buddies were aboard about 100 yards off La Jolla Cove on the Winnegabo, their Cuddy Cabin, when they spotted a great white shark nearly as long as their boat.

Does it get cold in La Jolla? ›

Climate and Average Weather Year Round in La Jolla California, United States. In La Jolla, the summers are short, warm, arid, and clear and the winters are long, cool, and partly cloudy. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 50°F to 77°F and is rarely below 44°F or above 85°F.

What is the water temperature at La Jolla Cove? ›

Today's La Jolla Cove sea temperature is 71 °F.

Do you have to pay to go to La Jolla Cove? ›

La Jolla Cove is free to explore and open 24 hours per day, though swimming is never recommended without a lifeguard present. The cove has showers and bathrooms on-site and there are parking lots nearby.

What is La Jolla Cove known for? ›

San Diego's most desirable spot for swimming, diving and snorkeling. The water is calm and the cove is ecologically protected. There is also a world famous dive site that is located in the La Jolla ecological preserve.

Do I need a wetsuit to snorkel in La Jolla? ›

If you're bringing your own gear, a mask, snorkel, and fins are a must – but do you need a wetsuit to snorkel at La Jolla Cove? If you're going snorkeling in the summer, you can probably do just fine without a wetsuit. However, they really do help you stay warm, and I like to wear one anyway!

What time of day is best to snorkel? ›

Advantages of snorkeling in the morning

You want calm and clear conditions for snorkeling, and morning is the best time to get them. The ocean usually is the smoothest in the early hours unless weather conditions are generally bad.

How much does it cost to snorkel in La Jolla? ›

The La Jolla Ecological Reserve is one of California's premier snorkeling locations, and our Kayak & Snorkel Tour is an awesome way to see the marine life living in La Jolla.
...
LA JOLLA KAYAK & SNORKEL TOUR.
When:Everyday
Price:Starting at $64
Group Size:10 Person Max
Ages:5+
3 more rows

Are La Jolla caves free? ›

A small admission fee is required. Along the way to The Cave Store, you'll pass Clam's Cave, another of La Jolla's seven sea caves, which is the only sea cave in California that you can see from land. There is no need to plan a ton of time for this side adventure.

Where can you launch a kayak in La Jolla? ›

The La Jolla Shores Boat Launch is the only public beachfront boat launch within city limits. Both private and commercial boaters can use this area to launch their vessels. The boat launch entrance is located at the west end of Avenida de la Playa, on the south end of La Jolla Shores.

How do you get to sea cave San Diego? ›

To get to the sea cave, you will need to walk to the end of Luscomb's Point, where the surfers go down and scramble the roughly hewn steps down to the water. From here, you can walk along the rocks for about 100 yards before you have to get your feet wet to proceed on.

Can you paddle board at La Jolla Cove? ›

La Jolla Cove is easily the most beautiful paddle board spot on our list. Paddle along towering rocky cliffs and witness the cove's prosperous marine life. Watch seals sunbath on the cliffs and birds gracefully fly in packs along the shoreline.

Can you swim in La Jolla sea caves? ›

Because of its extraordinary beauty, La Jolla Cove is one of the most photographed beaches in Southern California. With small surf in the summer months, the north facing La Jolla Cove is ideal for swimmers, snorkelers and scuba divers. Water visibility at the Cove can sometimes exceed 30 feet.

How much does it cost to kayak in San Diego? ›

1-Hour: $25 (single), $30 (tandem) 2-Hour: $45 (single), $50 (tandem) 3-Hour $65 (single, $65 (tandem) 4-Hour: $70 (single), $80 (tandem)

What is there to do at La Jolla Cave? ›

Experience the Seven Caves of La Jolla

View Clam's Cave from Coast Blvd. Walk into Sunny Jim Cave via The Cave Store (also on Coast Blvd.) Take a kayak tour or snorkeling/kayak tour to the sea caves. Rent kayaks or an SUP and paddle over on your own.

Can you bring your own kayak to La Jolla? ›

Kayaking La Jolla Shores is very popular, especially to kayak the La Jolla Sea Caves. Several companies offer kayak tours and rentals for single and double kayaks, or you can bring your own. Reservations for kayaking tours are required, and should be made early during summer season, as these will sell out.

Can you snorkel in La Jolla Cove? ›

You can snorkel through some pretty magical sea caves.

La Jolla Cove is home to seven caves, the biggest of which is Clam Cave (just offshore from Goldfish Point Cafe); when the tide allows, visitors can delight in snorkeling or kayaking through it to the other side.

Where do you launch the paddle board in La Jolla Cove? ›

The boat launch address is 2053 Avenida De La Playa La Jolla, CA 92037.

What is the best time to go to Sunset Cliffs? ›

Best time to visit:

Sunset Cliffs tends to be busiest in the mornings and just before and after sunset. Some of the beaches are more accessible at or near low tide. When the surf is good the area is generally packed with surfers and spectators as it gets some amazing waves.

Does it cost money to go to Sunset Cliffs? ›

The Sunset Cliffs Natural Area in San Diego is free to visit, with a stunning 1.4 mile clifftop path.

How hard is paddle boarding? ›

Not to be worried, stand up paddle boarding is an incredibly easy water sport to learn, and you can become an expert paddle boarder in no time. People of all ages and fitness levels are capable of learning to paddle board in just a few hours with proper instruction.

How do you paddle board in the ocean? ›

SUP Surf Instruction - How to Paddle Through Breaking Waves - YouTube

Learn why the La Jolla Underwater Park is one of San Diego's best attractions, how to explore it on land or by tour, and what sea life might be visible.

View over La Jolla Cove into the underwater park.The full name for the La Jolla Underwater Park is actually San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park.. The San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve spans from La Jolla Cove to roughly midway down La Jolla Shores Beach and includes the rocky shores and sea caves in between.. Coast Walk Trail One of the most scenic ways to enjoy the La Jolla Underwater Park from land is on a walk along Coast Walk Trail between The Cave Store and La Jolla Shores.. La Jolla Shores Beach Look out into the Ecological Reserve when standing on La Jolla Shores Beach .. Whatever mode of exploration you choose, the La Jolla Underwater Park and Ecological Reserve is one of the best things to do in La Jolla .

Learn why the La Jolla Underwater Park is one of San Diego's best attractions, how to explore it on land or by tour, and what sea life might be visible.

View over La Jolla Cove into the underwater park.The full name for the La Jolla Underwater Park is actually San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park.. The San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve spans from La Jolla Cove to roughly midway down La Jolla Shores Beach and includes the rocky shores and sea caves in between.. Scripps Pier is used to study ocean conditions and marine biology.The Marine Life Refuge covers the rest of the La Jolla Underwater Park.. Orange Garibaldi (California’s state fish) are easy to spot swimming below the surface from above water as are dark-colored leopard sharks against the sand flats in shallow water.. It is the ocean so, of course, you never know who might swim into view.. I partner with Everyday California to offer kayaking and snorkeling tours of the La Jolla Underwater Park at a discount.. You can read more about my sea cave kayaking tour .. Two lifeguard towers oversee activity in the park: one at La Jolla Shores and the other at La Jolla Cove.. You can walk right in and swim over toward the sea caves passing some rocky reefs and kelp beds along the way.. La Jolla Cove The top La Jolla attraction is not only home to our sea lions and a picturesque beach, but it provides one of the best vantage points.. Coast Walk Trail One of the most scenic ways to enjoy the La Jolla Underwater Park from land is on a walk along Coast Walk Trail between The Cave Store and La Jolla Shores.. You’ll see the kayakers, sea lions, kelp, and even some swimming Garibaldi while getting some exercise and enjoying sea breezes.. La Jolla Shores Beach Look out into the Ecological Reserve when standing on La Jolla Shores Beach .. It’s a lovely walk if you head north toward Scripps Pier along the shoreline.. Whatever mode of exploration you choose, the La Jolla Underwater Park and Ecological Reserve is one of the best things to do in La Jolla .

San Diego is known for its water sports! What better way to explore San Diego than by kayaking the La Jolla caves?

Kayaking in San Diego is one of the best ways you can explore this beautiful city and what better place to go than in La Jolla.. Kayaking the La Jolla Caves is a once in a lifetime experience.. There are multiple kayak rental locations in La Jolla; however, I recommend going with Everyday California.. My mom and I personally chose to go on the La Jolla sea cave kayak tour.. So, let’s get to the details of kayaking the La Jolla caves with Everyday California.. 2261 Avenida de la Playa, La Jolla, CA 92037. Your La Jolla sea caves kayak tour begins right at the ocean where the water meets the sand.. You will get to enjoy 3 of them on this La Jolla sea caves kayak tour.. You will begin to make your way over to the la jolla sea caves.. After completing the sea cave tours you will then head over to the kelp forest before making your way back in.. Whale watching tours : The grey whales migrate into San Diego between December and March, so hop on a kayak and get to see them up close and personal.. Our tour guide, Al, was wonderful and gave us tons of recommendations as to where to replenish after the tour.. The city of La Jolla decided to shut down the street Avenida De La Playa to cars and make it a pedestrian only area.

Before booking a kayak tour through the Jean Lafitte National Park bayou, I worried about alligators. After, I knew that fear was sensible.

As we boarded the boat and Captain Julien used a long stick to push us out into the water, he explained that we only might see alligators.. His people used to be gator hunters, back when it was more lucrative, but now independent people can’t make much of a living catching gator for more than personal needs.. Baby gator, photo by Rene CizioAfter a minute, not sensing any danger, she sunk back under the water to the sleep she’d been enjoying.. Most of the gators in this Jean Lafitte National Park area are between six and eight feet long.. Once the swamps were turned into state parks, new regulations were put in place and feeding the gators from tourist boats were deemed unsafe.

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