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Family-friendlySan Diego County

Explore La Jolla's Sunny Jim Cave by tunnel or kayak

 (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Why: It'll make you feel like a pirate. Or a sea lion.

What: Back in the first years of the 20th century, somebody hatched a nutty idea and hired two guys to start digging through this sandstone bluff top toward a sea cave below. And they made it. Nowadays, this neighborhood's real estate prices are enough to chase mere millionaires away, but if you enter the modest-looking Cave Store and head for the rustic-looking stairwell, the tunnel remains.

Its 145 steps will take you down to where waves crash and sea lions sometimes bellow. Chances are you'll also see kayakers through the opening as they make their own approach to the same cave. (The store also stocks jewelry, art and souvenirs.) By the way, all the digging was done with picks and shovels in 1902 and 1903 by two laborers from China, names unknown.

Also, the cave was nicknamed "Sunny Jim" by Frank Baum (author of "The Wizard Oz") because the outline of the opening looks like a cartoon character called Sunny Jim who was used in advertisements for British Force Wheat cereal products in the early 20th century. (Sunny Jim had unruly hair toward the back of his head.)

What's that? Want to see it by kayak? Bike & Kayak Tours offers rentals and tours of the seven sea caves in the area, as do La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks and La Jolla Kayak.

Where: 1325 Coast Blvd., La Jolla, 115 miles southeast of downtown L.A.

How much: $5 for adults, $5 for kids 16 and younger. Open daily. Kayak tours of the caves start at about $40.

Info: Cave Store

 (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

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