While office workers in comparative towering infernos were sweltering through the first day of officially decreed 78-degree temperatures, others found relief yesterday in cool-as-a-cucumber supermarkets, subway cars and a subterranean spot with its own natural air conditioning.

"It's pretty comfortable here today," said Kermit Cavedo, spokesman for Luray Caverns in Luray, Va. "The temperature (in the caverns) is 54 degrees year-round."

The mile-and-one-half of underground caves is chilled by natural air circulation. Cavedo said he couldn't think of cooler spot to be "unless you're under water."

Or on it. "Right now, I'd say the temperature out on the rink is 40 degrees," said George Moore, Fairfax Ice Arena office manager. The building has no air conditioning, he said, but the lobby is usually a comfortable 70 degrees. "I'm wearing a suit and tie, and the skaters normally have to wear jackets and leg warmers," Moore said.

For construction workers digging Metro tunnels, the 78-degree edict was no sweat. "It is 60 degrees in the tunnels being excavated," Metro spokesman Cody Pfanstiehl said yesterday. "And it's cool in the Metro trains."

Subway cars were a comfortable 72 degrees yesterday. But the Metro offices were not. "We're thinking of moving all the desks and typewriters into the trains," Pfanstiehl joked. "Today is the first day we've turned up the temperature to 78 degrees, and we're cooking inside this building."

Unless you worked in a wine cellar or a wind tunnel yesterday, grocery shopping was a bone-chilling delight.

"It sure feels good in here," said Bob Scott, assistant manager of a Giant supermarket in Alexandria. Scott said the temperature was 65 degrees and pointed to a newly issued company notice that reads: "It is cold in here . . . But that's how we use the least amount of energy."

Scott explained that the open refrigerated produce cases would break down if the temperature was higher. Asked if Giant might consider outfitting the cases with doors, Scott said that would be worse. "Then we'd have people complaining that they couldn't get the door open, or it closed on their fingers," he said.

Scott said yesterday that so far, no one has been found loitering near the frozen foods. "But everyone does comment on how cool it is," he said.

Art lovers found the National Gallery of Art a comfortable 72 degrees yesterday, and the National Zoo's pandas were bearing the heat in a 68-degree, glassed-in enclosure.

The coolest spot at King's Dominion amusement park in Doswell, Va., yesterday was the "Voyage to Atlantis," according to spokesman Jack Yager.

"It's like a tunnel of love, a boat ride with waterfalls," he said.The temperature is usually in the high 60s or low 70s, Yager said. Not to mention the spray. "You can get very wet in there," he said.

A Smithsonian Institution spokesman said yesterday that the museum was "complying wherever we can." The coolest Smithsonian spot is the musical instruments display, with 400-year-old artifacts preserved by temperatures in the 60s. For employes the Smithsonian's musical instrument storage building in Suitland, Md. is the coolest spot to work.

Ironically, many who tried to escape the 92-degree heat yesterday wound up in a hot spot. According to a spokesman for Lakeview Swim Club in Fairfax, Va., the pool's temperature was 87 degrees.

"We've got more than a hundred people in the pool," the spokesman said.