Old Point Loma Lighthouse

This San Diego Lighthouse is a California Original

Point Loma LIghthouse
••• Point Loma LIghthouse. Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

The Old Point Loma Lighthouse a unique Cape Cod-style structure. It's one of eight built along the California coast to help keep ships safe from crashing on submerged rocks. 

What You Can Do at Point Loma Lighthouse

It's called "old" because it was replaced by a newer one on the same point of land. Old Point Loma Lighthouse is the centerpiece of the Cabrillo National Monument. The monument honors Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo.

He was the first European to discover the San Diego Bay and chart the coast of California.

The National Park Service restored the inside of the lighthouse to its 1880s appearance. Check at the visitor center to find out about ranger-led talks.

You'll find an exhibit about both of the Point Loma lighthouses in the reconstructed assistant keeper’s quarters. Sometimes, volunteers recreate the past. They act as "Captain Israel," who was lighthouse keeper from 1871 to 1892 - or as members of the crew of Cabrillo's ship. The lighthouse tower is open to the public a few times a year. You can find the dates on the Cabrillo National Monument website.

You can see two lighthouses in one trip to Point Cabrillo. Besides this older one on the hilltop, there's a new lighthouse on the ocean side of the point. While you're down there, you can also explore the tidepools, which are best at low tide in the winter.

Point Loma Lighthouse's Fascinating History

The lighthouse at Point Loma did not get off to a good start. Construction costs in 1855 reached more than $30,000 - much higher than the budget. It's hard to believe that the planning was so poor, but the first-order Fresnel lens wouldn't fit it into the tower.

A smaller lens replaced it.

Things went smoother after that. For 36 years, the lighthouse stood at the entrance of the San Diego Bay, but then the site was abandoned. As it turned out, the location at 422 feet above sea level was too far above the water. Ships couldn't see the light because it was shrouded in fog or obscured by low clouds. That's not a good thing for a light that's supposed to be seen when it's foggy and cloudy.

The solution was a new lighthouse closer to the water, built in 1891. 

You can read more about it, including the story of a lightkeeper's family at the Cabrillo National Monument website.

Visiting Point Loma Lighthouse

The lighthouse is inside a National Monument area. You will have to pay an admission fee to visit it. The park is open most days of the year except major holidays, but it closes at 5:00 p.m.

You'll find the "new" Point Loma Lighthouse down the hill toward the ocean from the old one. You can see it from the road, but it is not open for tours.

Where Is Point Loma Lighthouse Located?

Old Point Loma Lighthouse
1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive
San Diego, CA
Cabrillo National Monument Website

Point Loma Lighthouse is at the tip of the Point Loma Peninsula and across the Bay from downtown San Diego.

You'll find driving directions from all the major San Diego freeways at the Cabrillo National Monument website. If you're using a GPS, use the address above.

By public transportation, you can take San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) bus 28 or 84C. They stop hourly at Cabrillo National Monument.

More California Lighthouses

If you're a lighthouse geek, you will enjoy our Guide to Visiting the Lighthouses of California.