Cabrillo National Monument

View of San Diego from Cabrillo National Monument
View of San Diego from Cabrillo National Monument. Jasperdo/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Cabrillo National Monument is one of the best places in San Diego to get a bird's-eye view of the entire city.

The National Monument commemorates explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo's first landing at San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542. Cabrillo was the first European to visit what is now the West Coast of the United States. Situated on a high hilltop on the west side of the San Diego Bay, the property is popular for its city views, hiking, and tide pools.

Visit in winter for the clearest skies. Visit late in the day to see the sunset. Whale-watching is best in winter, and tide pools are at their best November through March. In early summer, especially in June, the point may be shrouded in fog all day.

Things to Do at Cabrillo National Monument

You won't find any places to eat at the monument. Bring a snack if you think you'll get hungry before you're done. There are a limited amount of trash cans, so they asked for you to please take your trash with you.

  • Views: On a clear, winter day you can see downtown San Diego, into Mexico and far out to sea.
  • History: Learn more about Juan Cabrillo and visit the nearby historic military building to learn about the area's military history.
  • Visitor's Center: Daily auditorium programs, chat with a ranger, look through the bulls-eye of a lighthouse lens, or get a hands-on feel for 16th-century armor and navigational instruments inside the Visitor's Center. Here you can find out when low tide is so you know exactly when to visit the tide pools.
  • Living History: See the history of Cabrillo National Monument come to life with the interactive programs giving by reenactors who show what life at the lighthouse or time spent in the military here was like.
  • Old Point Loma Lighthouse: San Diego's first lighthouse, restored to its 1880's appearance.
  • Whale Watching: Whale Overlook, near the lighthouse, is a popular whale-watching spot, especially in January and February.
  • Hiking: A self-guided two-mile walk begins near the lighthouse. This trail is particularly pleasant during the spring wildflower bloom.
  • Tide Pools: On the west side of the park, accessible by car only. Best during extreme low tides, typically occur during the winter months, in the afternoon, when the moon is new or full.

Tips for Visiting Cabrillo National Monument

  • Save your parking pass. Passes are valid for 7 days after purchase so in case you missed anything, or just want to go for the spectacular view again.
  • Check their calendar of events to see what is happening when you plan to visit.
  • Don't expect good cell phone service. Even if you think you have the best network, most likely you won't have service. So your social media post will have to wait.
  • If you or a member of your party are unable to walk uphill to the lighthouse, disabled parking passes are issued at the visitor's center. These passes will allow you to drive to the lighthouse.
  • Leave Fido at home. The Cabrillo National Monument is a natural wildlife preserve, and companion/comfort or emotional support pets are not allowed in the park except in the tidepool area, along the trail. They must be on a leash at all times. 

What You Need to Know About the Cabrillo National Monument

Admission is charged by vehicle. Check hours and admission prices at their website. Allow at least half an hour to take a quick walk through the visitor center and snap a few photos. Give yourself more time if you plan to watch a demonstration, tour the lighthouse, watch whales or visit tide pools.

Getting to Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument
1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive
San Diego, CA
Cabrillo National Monument Website

Cabrillo National Monument is located in Point Loma, on the west side of San Diego Bay.

Take Harbor Drive northwest past the airport. Get detailed directions at their website including information about getting there by public transportation.