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Visiting the Amazing Sunset Cliff Caves, San Diego

These stunning cliffs perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean in San Diego are the perfect place to watch the sunset. Explore this incredible destination at low tide to explore the Sunset Cliff Caves. This is a great place to explore a series of small and large caves right along the edge of the cliff and tide pool in the large pools in the rocks as low tide.

Safety Note:

Note that caution should be used when visiting the caves as the tide can come in suddenly and trap you on the shore. Only visit the caves as low tide and don’t remain on the beach for too long. There are several caves at sunset cliffs, but these can quickly become filled with water and you may not be able to get back up the cliffside. The best time to visit the caves is when there is a below normal low tide (or a negative tide). Visit 30-60 minutes below low tide and leave before the tide begins to come in.

Also note that current weather conditions can impact the level of the water. Also note that rocks can fall off the cliffs, so avoid spending too much time right at the base of the cliffs. The cliffs themselves are also unstable and every year people fall and die here. Be smart!

If you are looking for more hiking areas around San Diego, check out Torrey Pines.

Sunset Cliff Caves
Sunset Cliff Caves

Overview of the Sunset Cliff Caves

The Sunset Cliffs area just north of San Diego is a 68 acre park that protects the steep cliffs that plummet into the Pacific Ocean. The seaside cliffs are home to a naturally carved coastline with arches and coastlines. At the base of these cliffs, a flat beach area is home to an amazing series of tidepools you can explore at low tide.

Many people visit the Sunset Cliffs to take in the sunset, but at low tide you can descend to the base of the cliffs and explore the caves and tidepools

Sunset Cliff Caves
Sunset Cliff Caves

How to Get to the Sunset Cliff Caves

The Sunset Cliffs are located in San Diego along the Point Loma coastline north of the city. The cliffs extend over a long area and there are several areas where you can access shoreline below. Some of these areas are a bit sketchy so use extreme caution getting down to the water. Note in the photo below you can see how tall the cliffs are and how steep the edge is.

Sunset Cliff Caves
Sunset Cliff Caves

The easiest way to get down to the base of the cliffs is by taking the stairs that can be found at the end of Ladera Street and just north of Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. This gives you easy access to the base and you can walk along the shoreline in either direction to explore several of the different caves.

There is another access to the shore just on the south side of the park. We saw several surfers going up and down the cliff here and found it easy to scramble up the rocks.

If you want to visit the larger Sunset Cliff Cave with the opening in the roof, you will want to go further north toward Swordfish Point. You can reach this cave by walking along the shoreline, or descend down the edge of the cliff. Descend right next to the fencing near the cave – this seemed very steep to us and not worth the risk. If you want to see some photos of this descent, this article is useful.

Sunset Cliff Caves

Map of Sunset Cliffs

Things to Know About Visiting Sunset Cliff and the Caves

When is the best time to visit the Sunset Cliff Caves

The best time to visit the Sunset Cliff caves (and the only time to do so safely) is during low tide. For better viewing and access, choose a below average low tide. Look specifically for a negative low tide. Plan your visit to the cliffs for 30-60 minutes before low tide and finish your exploring around low tide so you have plenty of time to climb back up before the tide comes in.

You can find the tide predictions online at sites like this one.

*Note that only on some occasions does sunset coincide with low tide.

Are the Sunset Cliff Caves Safe?

The quick answer is yes . . . and no. People die here mostly by falling off the unstable cliff edge. As long as you stay back from the edge and use caution with the tides, you can safely visit the caves.

Does it cost Money to Visit Sunset Cliff Caves?

No – visiting this park is free.

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