Take a Selfie at the Beautiful Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

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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 www.caves.org 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.

California is known for beautiful beaches and sunsets, and for good reason. The sun just shines differently here, doesn’t it? Sunset Cliffs Natural Park in San Diego features several beautiful sea caves for surfers, hikers, and cavers alike, and we’re going to take a closer look at the caves here.

Picture yourself relaxing to the soothing sounds of the Pacific, feeling the sea wind on your face, and watching the sunset over a landscape studded with breathtaking natural features. This sanctuary spans sixty-eight acres within the Point Loma neighborhood.

The most popular and breathtaking is an eighteen-acre stretch between Ocean Beach, Point Loma, and Cabrillo National Monument. Once you spend some time here, you will surely never forget it.

An image shows an arch and walkway above, from the inside of a cave at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park.

The Coastal Tapestry of San Diego

With more than 70 sea caves dotting its immaculate coastline, San Diego County stretches over 70 miles. These caves have seen many historical events, including tourism and bootlegging. Sunset Cliffs Natural Park stands out among these seaside marvels as a haven of beauty and discovery, and the view from the caves is something special.

In one of San Diego’s most cherished public areas, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park encourages you to explore the enchantment of sea caves. However, some tunnels are inaccessible without a boat, or are closed for safety. Don’t worry though, there’s plenty still available to the public. Let’s take a closer look at some of the Sunset Cliffs Caves’ most notable features.

The famous Arch found at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park.


At the base of the cliff, a level stretch of sand reveals tidepools full of underwater treasures. At low tide, explore these pools for a close-up of the local marine species.

Beautiful Shoreline and The Arch

The cliffs are home to an intriguing coastline with organically carved arches.

There is a widely known swimming hole called “The Arch”, found at Pappy’s Point. At this rock formation, you can sit and enjoy the sunset with a friend or two.

The height is about 20 feet above sea level, so you can enjoy the ocean breeze without getting too wet. It’s a very popular spot for wedding and proposal photos.

However, keep in mind that it can be unpredictable and dangerous during different times of the year. If you plan on going swimming, you must take extra precaution and plan accordingly.

Navigating Your Sunset Cliffs Cave Experience

Even though Sunset Cliffs and its sea caverns are irresistibly beautiful, you must proceed with caution and alertness on your adventure.

Timing is Key

For safe cave exploration, schedule your visit during a negative low tide. 30 to 60 minutes below low tide is the ideal time to enter the cave and leave before the tide rises. To help you on your journey, have a tidal chart on hand.

An image shows the beautiful shoreline found at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park.

Prioritising Safety

Although the Sunset Cliffs Sea Cave is fascinating, security must always come first. Observe the instructions, stay on solid ground, and exercise caution near the precarious cliff edge. Take the usual responsibilities like with any wild cave, and make sure you have some dry socks and extra shoes.

Admission Cost

Good news! There is no cost to enter Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. You can also find free parking on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard and surrounding residential streets like Hill Street and Monaco Street.

A beautiful sunset shown from the inside of one of the sea caves at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park.

Route to the Cave

It is best to attempt the cave passage only during low or negative tide. This region is well-known for its unique, small, hidden beaches (when low tide), eroded sandstone cliffs, rock formations, and excellent surfing breaks.

Over time, numerous cliffs have been worn by wind, sea, and rain, creating small and enormous sea caves. Many of these caves are easily explorable at low tide, even though some have collapsed (sandstone, a sedimentary rock, is naturally unstable), and some caverns resemble miniature tunnels.

Many, if not all, of these caverns flood with seawater during high tide, making it dangerous to enter them by boat, surfboard, or kayak.

Low tide unveils the park’s hidden treasures for caving or adventure enthusiasts. Even while each cave has a distinct appeal, one cave has gained enormous popularity over the past ten years because of its special qualities.

See the map below for a glimpse of some of the various caves to choose from, and where to find them.

An image shows a map of the various sea caves of Sunset Cliffs in San Diego, California.

A Word of Warning

Even though it’s a quick walk or climb, significant risk is involved, particularly in unfavorable weather (not low tide). The cliffs and rocks will still be slippery from the sea or marine vegetation, even at low tide. At all times, parties should be aware of their footing.

Lastly, tourists should be informed that sea cave caving and spelunking entail a significant level of risk due to the unstable nature of the terrain. Cave-ins can happen anytime (that’s how the ceiling vanished, after all).

Sadly, over the years, many people have either fallen and perished at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. A sign says that jumping or diving from the cliffs is forbidden, and for your safety, please don’t break this rule. In 2019, a high school boy jumped into the waters off of the cliff, and drowned. Just in 2022, an unidentified body was found among the rocks at Sunset Cliffs.

Feel free to take great photos of your memories and explore the caves, but don’t underestimate the waters. Stay with a group that can provide help if you need it, and if you aren’t sure about a particular path or location, don’t risk it.

Read about more California caves here.

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