Located twenty minutes from the Overleaf Lodge & Spa, Sea Lion Caves
is America’s largest sea cave and well worth the excursion.
The caves were formed 25 million years ago, and run the length of a football field and the height of a twelve story building (125 feet). The caves house a wide array of marine life, such as the Steller sea lions, orcas, grey whales, osprey, killdeer birds and gulls. Inside the caves, lichen, algae and mineral stains paint colorful images on the walls.
Originally, the caves were accessible only by a treacherous trail and steep stairs. In 1961, after an arduous series of engineering innovations that lasted three years, an elevator was installed. In 2016 a brand new state-of-the-art elevator was installed and replaced the old one. The elevator is capable of transporting twenty-three passengers into the cave, 208 feet below, in less than a minute and can accommodate 400 people every hour.
The sea level portion of the cave has become known as the home of the Steller Sea Lions, part of the Otariid (eared sea lion) family. As of 2009, the sea lion cave has been one of the few places where the Steller sea lion population has increased.
Steller’s are colonial breeders, meaning they establish territories called rookeries to mate with females. The Steller sea lions have made Sea Lion Caves one of these rookeries.
There are other sea lions that occupy the caves on infrequent schedules, such as the California Sea Lion. Steller sea lions can be identified by their growl rather than the California Sea Lion’s bark. Steller sea pups can be spotted in the caves as well, they are identifiable by their dark brown to black hair that fades as they age. It takes two years for pups hair to resemble an adults.
The caves are open every day of the year, except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, weather permitting. The cave’s hours vary by season. Check their website for specific times. Tickets are sold until closing time. Ticket prices range from $14 for adults, $13 for Seniors 60 years and above to $8 for children. The caves are accessible to anyone capable of walking on stairs.