The Sea Lion Caves in Florence, Oregon: Interesting Facts

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Beware: You should never explore wild caves alone or without proper gear. Consider getting in touch with a Grotto of the National Speleological Society at or a qualified cave club. These groups are skilled and will train you. Without sufficient knowledge, preparation, and equipment, cave exploring can lead to serious injury or death.

Have you ever been to the Sea Lion Caves in Florence, Oregon? With how many caves there are in the world, there’s no way to see them all in one lifetime, but some caves leave you with a lasting memory, and this is one of them. Although it is America’s largest sea cave, this site is not public property. It is privately owned since 1932. People call it the Sea Lion Cave because they have seen the sea lions up and down the coast.

These caves were formed by the waves as they hit the fracture zones in the hard basalt.

Captain William Cox, who was the first non-Native to do it, discovered the sea lion caves in 1880. He learned that they are the year-round home to hundreds of sea lions who relish their time in the rocky interior. In case you are solely interested in watching the sea lions in these caves, visit this place in winter; it is the best time to view the sea lions in them. You will have never-to-be-forgotten unique experiences and share the pictures of sea lions with your family and friends.

Inside the sea lion caves, there is a small island where sea lions gather, as others choose the rocks on the perimeter of the cave.

How to Access the Sea Lion Caves

We love the surprise entry of this cave system. The access to this cave system is through a gift shop building. Since, as we have mentioned before, it is a privately owned property. When you enter inside it, you see it as a natural haven for sea lions, birds, and whales. But the entry is quite unique and increases your curiosity straightaway.

The Sea Lion Cave is almost as big as the size of a football field. Believe it or not, it is the only place or the mainland rockery of the sea lions in the United States. 

It is private property, but the State of Oregon tried to take this property in 1977. It was an unsuccessful attempt as it was proved that the owner of this place protects the natural resources. Even if it is attracting thousands of visitors each year, it still provides a safe environment for sea lions… According to our rough estimate, the sea lion caves are attracting more than 150,000 visitors annually and their gross income is over one million dollars.

Before riding the elevator or taking a steep downhill walk, you can take a video to peek in the gift shop to check the sea lions’ activity. You can see whether they are out playing or hunting inside the sea. Even if they are not present at that time, the cave itself is an adventure. You can enjoy birth watching, whale watching, and spot other marine life as well.

A close up of a sea lion's face.

When To Go to the Sea Lion Caves

Luckily, this cave is open seven days a week (9 am to 5 pm), except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, timing can be changed. Therefore, it is better to call them and reserve your place early. The cost of the ticket is $14 for adults and $8 for children. Children under 4 are free and parking is free of charge also. They have professional employees who provide their guests the safest environment. They maintain the highest standards of sanitation and disinfection. Your safety is their highest priority.

When we first visited this cave, we honestly weren’t really sure what to expect. We visited it just because we read the reviews online and someone simply said it is expensive to visit it. We also felt it is a bit unfair to pay $14 just to see a bunch of sea lions in the cave.

However, we relished the greatest hours of our life.

We saw so many things – hordes of sea lions basking in the sun, different species of birds, and a stunning oceanic view. We wish we’d brought binoculars too.

A statue of a family of sea lions was made in tribute to the Sea Lion Caves.

Keep These Things In Mind

If you are going to visit this cave, you need to keep a few important things in mind.

  • Due to Covid-19, it is pertinent to wear a mask and keep social distance even inside the cave. On some rare occasions, the authorities can require you to wait for your turn, rather than allowing you to enter inside the cave right away. Be prepared for lengthy wait times in case there is a crowd.
  • If you want to enjoy the view from the lighthouse, you need to cross 63 steps.
  • Sea lions aren’t always inside the cave. The sea lion caves aren’t a zoo. So, don’t expect to see wild animals or birds there every time. The wildlife will come and go as they please. The main goal should be to see how the waves form these caves and how they became the resting place for sea lions.
  • In summer, usually, the sea lion stay outside the cave on the rocky ledges for breeding and birthing. The winter season is the prime time in which it is possible to see them inside the cave. So, visiting this cave during the winter and spring season can be the best decision.
  • It is also possible to observe gray whales as they often pass sea lion caves.
  • Some visitors have seen killer whales too, but they are not frequent visitors to this area. Their hunting ground is farther North, along the Washington coast.
  • The seagulls are the most common gulls you see near the sea lion caves.
A large group of sea lions bask in the sun on the rocks by the Sea Lion Caves.


Sea Lion caves probably don’t reveal their history and they are connected more with the wildlife. It is still a heaven for caver lovers because they can see how the caves form when the rough sea and its incredible pounding waves hit the wall of the caves. People who are interested a little bit in storm watching should visit this site during the last 15 days of December. Because the sea is pretty rough in mid to late December; they can enjoy the monstrous waves.

If you are visiting this place from another state, try to check out the events. Cities along the Oregon coast often pack their calendars with interesting events, such as Newport’s Lighted Boat Parade, Florence Winter Music Festival, Shore Acre’s Christmas Lights, etc. These are some of the major events in that area that definitely catches your eyes and attention.

You can also book River House Inn if you are planning to stay in Oregon and planning to travel up and down the Oregon coast. You can book their room directly through their website or by calling their front desk (888-824-2454) to save money and get the most accurate availability.

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