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Summertime Thrills: Sea Cave Kayaking in La Jolla, CA

Tandem kayakers get ready to enter the mouth of "The Clam Cave." Photo is courtesy of La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks

As the blistering hot summer sun smiles at us, the nearby Pacific Ocean – whether we’re in it or on it – becomes an outlet to cool off and enjoy the optimal scenery. And, suffice it to say, the city of San Diego is as prime a choice as any to do so, especially in the sparkling community of La Jolla.

Tandem kayakers exit “The Clam Cave” about a quarter of a mile out from the La Jolla shoreline. Photo courtesy of La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks

Perhaps the best way to experience the aqua blue expanse of the La Jolla shoreline is via the tranquility offered by a kayak. Having reputedly been around for more than 4,000 years, kayaks are still as effective as ever in traversing the ocean water. They are a very personal interface between the kayakers and the waves of water only inches underneath, which undoubtedly demand a healthy respect. Not to mention, kayaks provide some welcomed physical exertion, remaining an effective way to get around using a double-bladed paddle.

One tour agency that combines a love of kayaking with the ambiance of La Jolla is called La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks, merely steps away from the breathtaking La Jolla Shores. Upon booking with the company, one receives an email that comprehensively lays out exactly what to bring and be prepared for. The top of the list includes must-dos like arriving one hour before a scheduled tour, wearing ample sunscreen, bringing a towel, and if applicable, attaching a loss-prevention retainer strap to eyeglasses. It is wise advice, accumulated over years of experience, that is conducive to a joyous itinerary that curves through La Jolla Bay, which runs parallel to seven limestone-lined caves older than the dinosaurs. The most senior of them is the 74 million-year-old “Clam Cave.”

The manager, Dominick, is a very nice, mild-mannered man, whose calm disposition puts everyone at ease before the 90-minute tour. Two of the knowledgeable and personable guides (out of roughly 15) to look out for are Marlie, an affable woman in her early 20s, who is well-versed in marine ecology, and Brad, whose assuredly confident demeanor conveys to the tour-goers that they’re in safe and reliable hands.

Those who sign up for a tour through La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks will be fitted with protective equipment and have lockers available to them prior to the start of their journey.

Once the attendees have stored their items in spacious lockers and are fitted with life vests and helmets, the guides gather around the group for introductions to break the ice and get everyone smiling and laughing as commonalities are shared. After the processional walk to the beach, paddling tips are patiently taught, whereupon the tour guides demonstrate how participants are to correctly hold their paddles (at a ninety-degree angle) and efficiently grip them at chest-level for the purpose of swiveling them left to right for forward motion; how to paddle backwards to slow momentum; and how to paddle on the opposite side of the desired direction the kayak is to be turned (e.g., paddle on the left side to turn right). Engaging and helpful metaphors, like one offered by Marlie, who might say, “Imagine you’re scooping ice cream in the water,” facilitate the learning curve for even the most inexperienced of beginners.

Upon being seated in the kayak and guided over the wave-breaking white wash is when the adventure commences, as one guide stays in front of the pack and the other behind — an ideal way to stay vigilant of everybody’s safety. Certainly, there’s a marked difference between the single and the tandem kayak, with the latter particularly demanding a synchronous teamwork between its occupants, who are oftentimes romantic pairs. As Brad might incisively quip, “It [the tandem kayak] is the perfect test to gauge the long-term success of a relationship or marriage.”

During the trip, the guides may point out any combination of leopard sharks, bright-orange Garibaldi (known as California’s state fish), and charming sea lions just lounging about. The main attraction, however, is the caves, and the guides do a terrific job of pointing out compelling fun facts about each one. For instance, there is the “Shopping Cart Cave,” named as such because several shopping carts were pushed over the cliff at some point; now there is the remnant of only one, which has been turned into a little dwelling for and by resident lobsters.

Pictured are La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks Manager, Dominick, and tour guide, Marlie, on June 18th at the tour company’s place of business in La Jolla, CA.

In addition, the “Sunny Jim Cave,” purportedly given its moniker by “Wizard of Oz” scribe Frank Baum because of its cartoony wide-open “mouth,” became a Prohibition-era channel from Mexico whereby alcohol would be funneled through. For the sake of exploration, however, “The Clam Cave” is the widest of the caves and most suitable for kayaks. Following safety protocol to the utmost, one guide stays behind as a buffer in the cave, while the other orchestrates – in impressively organized fashion – the opportunity for each kayak to enter. This way the marvelously primordial and wondrously haunting cave can be fully enjoyed and taken in.

Conclusively, it’s not difficult to understand why La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks is so well-received across various social media platforms. Led by its compassionate manager, Dominick, and boasting an accomplished team of tour guides who are as skilled as they are devoted to safety, the agency is smoothly run. Anyone — singles or couples, and regardless of experience level — will have a memorable time. And, it all starts by endeavoring the journey that will take one out a fair distance from the resplendent La Jolla Shores, where astonishing caves await.

For more information about La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks, please visit or call (858) 454-0111


2164 Avenida de la Playa (Upstairs)

La Jolla, CA 92037


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