The 11 Amazing Caves In Southern California 2023

Caves in Southern California are the most mysterious place that you can visit. Whether you are a spelunker or someone who loves exploring caves, you should see the list of best caves in Southern California as of 2023.

Particularly, the regions of Southern California have a variety of beach caves where you can make unforgettable memories with your family.

Most caverns of Southern California, especially sea caves, are easy to explore because they are shallow, so no special tools and technology will be required.

In this article, I’m going to show you every cave in Southern California with maps, addresses and some tips to explore. So, let’s dive right in.

Caves In Southern California

caves in southern california
Caves In Southern California

Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves, Cave of Munits, Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave, Dana Point Caves, Mitchell Caverns, Bronson Caves, and Little Treasure Cove are the most popular caves in Southern California.

Best caves in Southern California in 2023:

  1. Painted Cave
  2. Mitchell Caverns
  3. Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave
  4. Cave of Munits
  5. Bronson Caves
  6. Mojave Desert Lava Tube
  7. Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves
  8. Vanalden Cave
  9. Dana Point Caves
  10. Thousand Steps Sea Cave
  11. Little Treasure Cove

1. Painted Cave

painted cave
Painted Cave, Santa Barbara, CA

Painted Cave is the cave that won’t reach you to the end of your wonder. As of today, Painted Cave is the most popular and also the best cave to visit in Southern California.

The color of the cave wall and the depth make Painted Cave a hidden gem of SoCal. Painted Cave is a sea cave that is located on Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park.

Painted Cave is the largest sea cave in the state of California, and this is the world’s 4th largest sea cave by length.

The dimension of the Painted Cave proved how gigantic this cave is. The cave is over 1227 feet long, the entrance is over 160 feet above the water level, and this cave is more than a hundred feet wide.

The Name “Painted” comes from the diverse color of the cave walls. With that said, Phill C. Orr painted some areas of the Painted Cave in 1954.

To access the Painted Cave, you must book the boat because this cave is located on the island. And a boat is the only way to get to the cave.

As you know, the Painted Cave is over 100 feet wide. That’s why any boat can easily go inside the cave without hustle. I thought this large boat could not enter the cave, seen far from away, but the closer I got to the entrance, the bigger it got.

You must explore the Painted Cave from your boat; you cannot land anywhere because the cave is full of nothing but water.

Some cave enthusiasts explore Painted Cave with a kayak because you need a smaller boat or kayak to get deeper. I visited the cave in the rainy season; the rainy season is the best time to visit the Painted Cave.

If you want to explore a sea cave in Southern California, I must recommend you Painted Cave first because the cave seems painted with colors and is so deep that you will continue to wander on the bed in your home.


  • Location: CA-154, Santa Barbara, CA 93105, United States
  • Hours: Open 24 hours
  • Parking: Channel Islands National Park lot
  • Entrance Fee: Free
  • Boat Per Seat Cost: Adult (13-54) – $82.00, Senior (55 and up) – $75.00, Child (3-12) – $60.00, and Infant (under 3) – $0.00

Related: Ghost Towns In Southern California

2. Mitchell Caverns

mitchell caverns
Mitchell Caverns, Essex, CA

Mitchell Caverns is a hidden cave in Southern California that is worth visiting for everyone. I can tell you haven’t seen a cave like Mitchell Caverns anywhere in the state of California.

Mitchell Caverns is located in Providence Mountains State Recreation Area in the Mojave Desert. There are two more caves that are also located in Providence Mountains State Recreation Area, but only Mitchell Caverns and another cave are open to the public.

Jack Mitchell first discovered this cave back in the years around 1930. Jack Mitchell and his wife Ida won the Mitchell Caverns. And then, they started a resort that included tours of the cave.

Back in the day, access to the Mitchell Caverns was hard for the big rocks, so he improved roads and renovated this cave for more visitors.

From 2012 to 2017, Mitchell Caverns was closed to the public but now reopened to the public. I visited Mitchell Caverns at the beginning of this year, and everyone is welcome to this cave now.

On a car, you will need around an hour to get to the Mitchell Caverns from the city of Barstow. In the middle of the road toward the cave, you will find no gas, water or food; that’s why I recommend you bring the essentials from Barstow before beginning the journey.

You need to book your seat on tour, so call them before you bring your family here. Without guided tours, nobody is allowed into the Mitchell Caverns.

Mitchell Caverns’ tour is approximately two hours long, and the guided tour will guide you along the way. And the tour time starts at 11 am and ends at 2 pm from Friday to Sunday.

Inside the Mitchell Caverns is well-organized and full of action lights, so visitors can see all formations inside that cave, which is why you will not need any extra lights.

This is the unique cave that you can only find in Southern California. So, don’t miss the chance to visit Mitchell Caverns when you are in Southern California.


  • Location: 38200 Essex Rd, Essex, CA 92332, United States
  • Hours: 8 am to 5 pm (Friday-Sunday)
  • Parking: $10 per vehicle
  • Entrance Fee: $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $5 for children

3. Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave

sunny jim's sea cave
Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave, La Jolla, CA

Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave is a must-see place to visit when you are in La Jolla. Compared to other caves in Southern California, Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave is not that deep, but this cave has a unique view that is worth seeing.

The reason why Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave is one of the best Southern California cave is because this cave is also a popular snorkeling spot in San Diego.

In the early 1900s, a German engineer started digging the tunnel with the help of two laborers. After digging the tunnel, people started visiting, and more facilities were added here to attract more guests.

Since that time, this cave has been open to the public still today. And the good thing about Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave is that you are welcome here any time of the year and any season.

Inside the cave, it’s very different from outside of the La Jolla seaside area because the cave is so old and dark.

Another good thing about the cave is you don’t need a boat to access Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave. I saw the ocean views from the top of the cave, which made me speechless for a moment.

It will take around twenty to half an hour to see everything inside the cave. Therefore, you should see this cave when you visit the Ja Lulla neighborhood.

To see the unique Pacific Ocean views on the West Coast in Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave, you have to climb 140 steps of stairs. To be honest, climbing this many stairs won’t be hard for anyone who is active.

But, you need to also be careful about your kids because the stairs are wet and slippery too. Please hold on to the rails with both hands and ensure your kids do the same to avoid injury during happy times.

And, if you are over 6 feet, then keep your head down; otherwise, you might hit the tunnel’s upper surface by your head.


  • Location: 1325 Coast Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037, United States
  • Hours: 9 am to 4:30 pm
  • Parking: Street parking along Coast Blvd
  • Entrance Fee: Kids (ages 16 and under) – $7 and adults – $10

See Also: Best Fruit Picking In Southern California

4. Cave of Munits

cave of munits
Cave of Munits, West Hills, CA

Cave of Munits is located in El Escorpión Park. To get to the beautiful Cave of Munits, hiking is required, but you won’t worry because it’s an easy and short hike.

You need to hike about 1.7 miles to reach the entrance of the Cave of Munits. But I can assure you this short hike will be worth the view from inside the cave. The enormous structure of the cavern will give you a unique perspective.

To make the inside of the cave, you need to use your hands and legs properly. Because just entering the cave requires some decent rock scrambling, but no ropes or other essentials are needed.

From far from the cave, I thought there would not be enough room, but when I entered the cave, I was wrong. But I was shocked when I looked up.

The ceiling of the cave is so tall that you can’t even see it with your bare eyes. Once you are inside the cave, don’t miss seeing the outside view from inside the cave.

Some areas of the cave are quite dark, and the surface is full of small rocks. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to wear a headlamp and proactive boots when you explore the Cave of Munits.


  • Location: 24501 Vanowen St, West Hills, CA 91307, United States
  • Hours: 24 hours open
  • Parking: Vanowen Street
  • Entrance Fee: Free

5. Bronson Caves

bronson caves
Bronson Caves, Los Angeles, CA

Bronson Caves is a famous location that the people of Los Angeles know well, particularly people who live in the Hollywood neighborhood.

Bronson Caves is also known as Bronson Canyon because this place was originally named Brush Canyon.

Tourists are visiting Bronson Caves to get a solid view of the Hollywood Sign because the Bronson Caves is located in Griffith Park.

Bronson Caves has often been seen in various TV shows, movies, and documentaries, especially in 90s movies.

Going to Bronson Caves requires an easy hike and a short hike that everyone is able to do. You need to begin hiking from Canyon Drive on the south side of Griffith Park. After a quarter mile of hiking, Bronson Caves will appear ahead of you. 

In 1903, the Union Rock Company formed the Bronson Caves, which is why this is a man-made tunnel.

Bronson Caves does not offer too much to see; it’s just a tunnel carved into the rock wall. The tunnel is really short that you can pass in a minute or two. So, no lights or any caving equipment is necessary.

As I said, people are visiting Bronson Caves to see the best view of the Hollywood Sign. Also, this place is not crowded like other spots around Hollywood.


  • Location: 3200 Canyon Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90068, United States
  • Hours: Open 24 hours
  • Parking: Griffith Observatory Lot or Canyon Drive Lot
  • Entrance Fee: Free

6. Mojave Desert Lava Tube

mojave desert lava tube
Mojave Desert Lava Tube, Mojave National Preserve, CA

Lava Tube is a cave that is worth visiting no matter what you are coming to see in the Mojave Desert. The natural sunlight going inside the cave makes it illuminate.

The lava Tube is located in Mojave National Preserve, but hiking is required to access this cave.

The small and narrow entrance of the Lava Tube can make you scared, but you should not be because the entrance is not too long.

But, the Lava Tube entrance is dark, so I recommend you turn on the flashlight to avoid getting stumbled into a rock. And. There is no need for helmed, actually.

Once you enter the Lava Tube, you can see a small area where the light cascades beautifully into the cave floor, and this is the most beautiful scenery and special about the Lava Tube.

The beam of sunlight enlightened the whole Lava Tube cave; therefore, visiting this cave during summer or sunny days is necessary.

The best time to see the maximum beauty of the Lava Tube is midday between 11 am to 2 pm. And keep in mind if the beam of sunlight makes this cave attractive, that’s why without the sun in the sky, you can not experience the uniqueness of the cave.

As of today, the Lava Tube cave floor is clean and neutral so keep that as it is now by not throwing any plastics or papers.

The cave is around 500 feet long and about 10 feet wide, so moving inside the cave should not be so uncomfortable.


  • Location: Mojave National Preserve, California, United States
  • Hours: Open 24 hours
  • Parking: Mojave National Preserve small parking lot
  • Entrance Fee: Free

7. Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves

arroyo tapiado mud caves
Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves, Anza Borrego State Park, CA

Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves are one of my favorite and easy-to-access caves in Southern California. The more I come to this cave, the more I fall in love with its beauty of this cave.

The “Arroyo Tapiado” is a Spanish word that means “Walled Wash”. The reason behind the name of this cave is its location. These caves are formed by erosion caused by heavy rainfall.

Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves are situated deep in the southern section of Anza Borrego State Park. This cave is another major attraction of this park.

Getting to the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves is a little tricky because this cave is far from the main road. And you need to drive about 8 miles off the road on a 4×4 drive to get there.

As I said, Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves are a popular place which is why you can use Google Maps to find this cave. The road to the cave is sandy and earthen, so it would be ideal for bringing any high-ground clearance vehicle.

Once you get to the cave’s exact location, you will be amazed at how big Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves are.

As of today, over 22 caves and 9 slot canyons have been found here. The Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves are about a thousand feet long and more than 80 feet high.

From the humongous entrance of the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves, you will start seeing varieties of unique scenarios that can only be found here.

You will see dark holes and cracks in the wall over the mud walls inside the cave. Hidden entrances can also be found if you look closely.

Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves are formed by mud, so avoid visiting this place on rainy days. May through October would be the best time to visit Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves.


Here are some tips for visiting Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves:

  • Avoid walking on the top of the caves because these caves are made out of mud, which is why it’s unstable and can collapse at any time.
  • I always recommend you visit caves with your partner.
  • Bring flashlights because some areas are so dark you will see nothing.
  • Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves are over 1000 feet long, so bring enough water. 
  • Location: Arroyo Tapiado, Anza Borrego State Park, California, United States
  • Hours: Open 24 hours
  • Parking: Park near the cave entrance
  • Entrance Fee: Free

8. Vanalden Cave

vanalden cave
Vanalden Cave, Tarzana, CA

Vanalden Cave is a hidden cave in Southern California that not every tourist knows about. Vanalden Cave is located at the end of Vanalden Avenue in the Tarzana neighborhood, Los Angeles.

Access to the Vanalden Cave is pretty simple. No off-road riding or long hike is required to go to this cave.

Bring your car and park on the street at the dead end of Vanalden Avenue, and you can see the signboard of the trailhead on the big tree.

Begin the hike by the narrow trail surrounded by bushes. After about 800 ft of short incline, you will find the unmarked dirt trail on your left-hand side that is the way to the Vanalden Cave.

You have to be aware of the unmarked dirt trail; otherwise, it’s easy to pass through. The short dirt trail will bring you in front of the Vanalden Cave.

The graffiti around the wall of the cave and trees makes the atmosphere quite amazing. The cave looked small from far away, but it was large enough when I got too close.

Inside the Vanalden Cave, you can see graffiti too. There is enough room inside the cave, and the cave’s ceiling is high. You will not use the flashlights to see the cave’s inside because the skylights that pass from the ceiling enlighten the whole cave.

Explore the Vanalden Cave completely; it takes me over fifteen to twenty minutes. But, you spend more time watching oak trees and green grasses around the cave.

No hiking and caving essentials are needed to explore the Vanalden Cave, but I recommend you put a flashlight into your bag to see the inside of the cave in detail.

Tips: Vanalden Cave is just twelve miles from another popular Southern California cave, the Cave of Munits. Therefore, you can visit both caves on the same day if you want to.


  • Location: Vanalden Cave Trail, Tarzana, CA 91356, United States
  • Hours: Open 24 hours
  • Parking: Park on the street
  • Entrance Fee: Free

9. Dana Point Caves

dana point caves
Dana Point Caves, Dana Point, CA

Dana Point Caves or Dana Point Sea Caves are in the same spot. Dana Point Caves is a beach cave in Southern California. Along the way to see Dana Point Caves, you can also see tide pools, so this cave is famous for all.

A short hike will surprise you with the beauty of the cave and sea view. Dana Point Sea Caves is situated in the Dana Point State Marine Conservation Area.

Dana Point Caves is a popular attraction of Dana Point, so you can find other people who are also going to the same destination.

Head over to the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, where you will find parking. You will also find a grated walkway with stairs that take you close to the sea.

Start hiking but take every step carefully because the rocks are slippery and easy to stumble with the rock. So, don’t rush and take time to see the steps.

As I mentioned, Dana Point Sea Caves is a beach cave which is why you need to be aware of the sea tide. You can only get to the Dana Point Caves during low tide because hiking becomes hard for seawater in high tide.

When you make it to the Dana Point Caves, go inside and see the breathtaking sea view inside the cave. The cave stays full of water in high tide, so to explore the Dana Point Caves, low tide is always the best.

Dana Point Caves are not as large as I expected. But, this cave has a uniqueness that attracts tourists from all over the state of California.

Flashlights, helmets, gloves or other caving essentials won’t be necessary to explore Dana Point Sea Caves. But I recommend you wear boots that are good for rocky terrain since the hike to the cave is completely rocky.


  • Location: Dana Point State Marine Conservation Area, Dana Point, CA 92629, United States
  • Hours: Open 24 hours
  • Parking: Dana Point State Marine Conservation Area parking lot
  • Entrance Fee: Free

10. Thousand Steps Sea Cave

thousand steps sea cave
Thousand Steps Sea Cave, Laguna Beach, CA

Thousand Steps Sea Cave needed to be on the Southern California Caves list because the easier access to the cave brings many visitors each year. This cave is not crowded as other caves because many tourists don’t know about the cave yet.

Thousand Steps Sea Cave is located in Laguna Beach city of Orange County, Southern California. Laguna Beach is near Dana Point, around 8 miles distance.

So, exploring both Thousand Steps Sea Cave and Dana Point Sea Caves on the same day won’t be so hard. Although both caves are sea caves, I suggest you visit both of them if you have time.

When you are on Thousand Steps Beach, start walking towards the south. After walking about ⅓ of a mile, you will make it to the Thousand Steps Sea Cave entrance.

The ideal time to visit Thousand Steps Sea Cave is during low tide, and this is not true for this but for exploring any sea cave.

You can see many tide pools at the entrance of Thousand Steps Sea Cave, especially if you are visiting the cave during low tide.

Thousand Steps Sea Cave is not as famous as other sea caves in Southern California and not even popular as Dana Point Sea Caves. So, finding no one near the cave is totally normal.

You cannot bring your dogs to the Thousand Steps Sea Cave because the city prohibits it.

No special caving or hiking essentials are required to visit Thousand Steps Sea Cave; just make sure to wear a boot that protects your feet from the rocks.


  • Location: Coast Highway and 9th Avenue, Laguna Beach, CA, United States
  • Hours: Open 24 hours
  • Parking: Street parking
  • Entrance Fee: Free

11. Little Treasure Cove

little treasure cove
Little Treasure Cove, Newport Beach, California

Little Treasure Cove is located in the city of Newport Beach, California. The Little Treasure Cove is another beach cave in Southern California.

After parking your vehicle in the Pelican Point and Treasure Cove parking lot, you can get to the beach by hiking the trail or accessing the beach by walking on the paved path.

To explore Little Treasure Cove, you must get to the beach first. I got to Crystal Cove State Park by walking and avoiding hiking.

Little Treasure Cove is situated at the northwestern end of Crystal Cove State Park. You are also able to visit two more caves if you are in Crystal Cove State Park in addition to Little Treasure Cove.

Even though the entrance of Little Treasure Cove is quite large, the cave gets narrow inside, which is why you need to be aware before you start exploring.

Also, inside the cave, the low-hanging ledge of rocks and little rocks around your feet make you injured real quickly.

As I mentioned earlier, Little Treasure Cove is quite narrow; as a matter of course, you will get limited sunlight. So, bringing a flashlight would be a useful option for exploring.

Just like other sea caves, the ideal time to visit Little Treasure Cove is during low tide. Along the way to the cave, you can see small and large size tidepools.


  • Location: Crystal Cove State Park, Newport Beach, California – 92657, United States
  • Hours: Open 24 hours
  • Parking: Pelican Point and Treasure Cove parking lot
  • Entrance Fee: Free

Final Thoughts

Firstly, you might notice the number of sea and beach caves in Southern California is many compared to Northern California. There are more than a hundred beaches available to visit in SoCal.

Some popular California caves are in Southern California, such as Painted Cave, Mojave Desert Lava Tube, Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves, Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave, and many more.

Over the years, travelers and cave enthusiasts discovered many caves in Southern California.

But, no matter which cave you are going to explore, ensure you go with a partner, bring enough water, snacks, caving essentials and take proper caution before leaving home.

That’s all; these are the best caves that you can explore in Southern California. So, I wish you the best and don’t forget to share your wonderful caving experience with us in the comment section.

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