The Scoop: The Cave Store marks the entrance to an underground stairway leading down to a famous sea cove in La Jolla. Throughout history, the tunnel offered safe passage to pirates and bootleggers, and now it welcomes individuals, couples, and families to explore its mysteries. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cave Store has required guests to make a reservation at CaveStore.com before their visit, which means daters can have the sea cave to themselves and enjoy a private moment and memorable outing in La Jolla.

The Sunny Jim Sea Cave is a historic landmark that’s tucked away on the coast of La Jolla, California. Author L. Frank Baum gave it the name “Sunny Jim” because the shape of the cave’s opening roughly resembles a cartoon character found on cereal boxes at the turn of the 20th century.

The cereal is no longer on grocery store shelves, but the Sunny Jim Sea Cave continues to capture the imagination of visitors from all walks of life.

Photo of the Sunny Jim Sea Cave

The Sunny Jim Sea Cave offers a beautiful view of the water.

The Cave Store offers the unique opportunity to access the Sunny Jim Sea Cave by land through a 144-step stairway leading down to the water’s edge.

Two Chinese laborers dug the underground tunnel in 1902, and a German mining engineer named Gustav Schulz established his residence at its entrance. Rumor has it that the tunnel was used by smugglers carrying bootlegged alcohol and opium into San Diego.

Today, the original Schulz residence has been refurbished into The Cave Store, a low-key tourist destination for adventure seekers in the area. The store is open every day from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

The Cave Store invites visitors to enter the underground entrance, descend the stairway, and see Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave from a different perspective. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for children between 3 and 17 years old. Couples can book a reservation online to enjoy an affordable, socially distant, and unique daytime date excursion.

“Inside the infamous Cave Store, a century-old bootlegger’s tunnel leads through the sandstone cliffs of La Jolla Cove into Sunny Jim’s sea cave,” according to the website. “Tours are private, self-guided, and approximately 15 to 20 minutes in duration.”

Take a Self-Guided Tour of Sunny Jim Sea Cave

La Jolla is famous for its picturesque coves and cliffs, and it has long attracted couples seeking beauty and adventure. The Cave Store offers a glimpse of the beauty of the area with self-guided tours through a man-made tunnel to the water’s edge.

The Cave Store has an ideal location on Coast Boulevard and was created for the express purpose of running tours to the mouth of Sunny Jim Sea Cave. This is the only sea cave in California that’s accessible by land, so it’s well worth a trip to check it out.

Photo inside the tunnel

The Cave Store tunnel provides an intimate setting for a date.

A trip to the interior of the Sunny Jim Sea Cave requires going down 144 stairs — typically it takes about five minutes — and visitors sometimes have to crouch to get under the low ceiling. Once they’ve reached the opening, visitors can linger on the platform overlooking the sea and take pictures. Until they’re ready to climb the 144 stairs back up to the Cave Store.

The stairs can be damp, and the pathway can get slippery with sea spray, so visitors must always watch their step and take care not to overexert themselves. Visitors can go at their own pace, and the Cave Store has seen people ranging in age from toddlers to seniors successfully make the trip.

Couples can get close to one another by walking hand in hand down the tunnel’s stairs. The intimate setting gives them quality time together, and the platform overlooking the water can inspire wonder, laughter, and romance.

Parking is notoriously challenging in this area. Fortunately, the Cave Store website has some friendly parking tips to help newcomers find a spot within walking distance.

In addition to running tours, the Cave Store has a fully stocked gift store with everything from postcards to handmade jewelry on sale. The ice cream is a particular favorite of visitors with a sweet tooth. Couples grab a souvenir or an ice cream cone and create lasting memories of their date in a sea cave.

A Socially Distant Excursion During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Cave Store has long provided a safe and friendly space for people of varying ages and backgrounds. The team is committed to showcasing the wonders of La Jolla, and it has made adjustments in 2020 to keep its doors open and meet public health guidelines.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cave Store requires a reservation for all tours to the cave opening. There is a limit of up to six guests who must be cohabiting or part of the same household. Only one group is allowed into the tunnel and sea cave at a time. All visitors must also wear masks while on Cave Store property.

Photo of the Cave Store

The Cave Store has offered tours to the sea cave since 1905.

The Sunny Jim Sea Cave can be a breath of sea-salty air for people feeling run-down by their lockdown routines. The Cave Store has become a popular option for couples seeking a private moment in an outdoor date spot.

A couple visited the Cave Store in September 2020 and recommended it on TripAdvisor as an inexpensive and socially distant date activity. “We made a reservation and had the tunnel and cave all to ourselves during our time slot,” the couple said. “The platform inside the cave at the end of the tunnel was very secure and provided a great setting for taking photos.”

“Now these are the types of places I like when I’m out sightseeing,” said Mark B. on TripAdvisor. “I like the odd and peculiar. This definitely fits the bill.”

Whether they’re interested in the history, the views, or the adventure of the sea caves, visitors can’t seem to get enough of this attraction and return year after year to take more pictures and make more memories.

“It’s beautiful inside, and we saw a few sea lions swimming by!” said Wendy K. on Facebook. “It was totally worth it! Since I hang out in La Jolla very often, I’d definitely go back! Another awesome adventure in the books.”

The Cave Store has been making waves in the local tourist scene by allowing visitors to get away from it all and find a secluded underground hideaway with an oceanfront view.

The Cave Store: Where History & Romance Come Alive

For over a century, the Sunny Jim Sea Cave has sheltered locals and travelers alike — and kept their secrets. The Cave Store offers people a unique vantage point of one of La Jolla’s famous coastal landmarks, and it’s a fun date activity for couples who are open to new experiences.

While in the Cave Store’s tunnel, couples can follow the footsteps of Prohibition-era smugglers and enjoy a view that can’t be found anywhere else.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cave Store has remained open and limited its capacity to six people. Such an intimate atmosphere is ideal for couples and families who want to escape their routines and savor the beauty of the La Jolla coastline.

“How many sea caves can you enter from land, down steps, to an amazing opening on the ocean, that looks like a face? One. This one,” said Eddie W. on the Cave Store Facebook page. “It’s an experience for anyone who is in the area looking for a little adventure.”