Best of San Diego: Top 10 Things to Do in Point Loma

Rich in nature, people, and history, Point Loma is one of the oldest communities of San Diego. Featuring spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean to the west, visitors can also see San Diego Bay, the downtown skyline, and Coronado. Because of this, Point Loma is one of the area's most visited neighborhoods. There's more to do and see than just gorgeous views, though -- including some popular activities and others not so well-known. Here are some of the best places to discover and visit while in Point Loma.

  • 01 of 10
    Point Loma Lighthouse at Cabrillo National Monument
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    The central feature of Cabrillo National Monument atop the Point Loma Peninsula is the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, which was erected by the U.S. Government in 1855. According to the San Diego Historical Society, the old lighthouse is 510 feet above the sea, the highest lighthouse in the world, and remained the loftiest in the United States until 1891, when it was discontinued in favor of a new, lower lighthouse closer to the shoreline. This was necessary because it had been so high it could not be seen by incoming vessels in foggy weather or when low clouds obscured it. Though the lighthouse has long been discontinued, the building has been restored and is now a museum and a beloved landmark of San Diego, where millions of visitors take in the spectacular, panoramic view of the city and ocean.

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    A visit to Point Loma isn't complete without checking out the tide pools.
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    Because of their protected status, some of the best tidepools in California can be found right at Cabrillo National Monument. On the western side of Point Loma lies the rocky intertidal zone, a window into the ocean ecosystem that lies along San Diego's coast. During low tide, pools form along this shore in rocky depressions. The Point Loma tide pools are one of the great natural wonders of the San Diego area and are a fun way to introduce kids to sea life in an entirely natural habitat. It's also a great way to show children -- and adults -- how fragile and important this ecosystem can be.

  • 03 of 10

    Sunset Cliffs

    Well, the name says it all. Sunset Cliffs is the place to just sit and watch the sunset. The sandstone cliffs and crashing waves below make for a setting found in very few places. Just south of Ocean Beach and on the west side of the Point Loma peninsula, Sunset Cliffs isn't a sandy stretch of beach for frolicking, though it is a favorite spot for surfers willing to make their way down the slippery rocks to catch waves. It is the scenic viewing that makes Sunset Cliffs a special place. Plus, if you bring binoculars, you can even sometimes spot gray whales passing through.

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    Shelter Island is an area and neighborhood of Point Loma and literally on San Diego Bay. It is really not an island as it is connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land, technically making it an isthmus. It is one of San Diego's more popular recreational areas when it comes to sea and ocean activities and is popular with both tourists and locals. There are tourist-oriented, Polynesian-themed hotels and there's also a very busy public boat launch where local boat owners head out for a day of sailing or deep-sea fishing. There are also relaxing picnic areas along Shoreline Park where you can enjoy the spectacular skyline view. Shelter Island is also home to a popular fishing pier, where locals cast their lines and luck, hoping for a big bite.

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  • 05 of 10

    Of all San Diego's beach communities, perhaps none exemplify the community and neighborhood ethos better than Ocean Beach (commonly referred to as OB). Some might argue that Ocean Beach is not part of Point Loma, but geographically it anchors the northwest portion of the peninsula. This funky beach town sits between the Pacific Ocean to the west and the more upscale enclave of Point Loma on the hill to the east. It's laid back and less rowdy than its brethren Mission Beach and Pacific Beach a few miles north. Where other beach communities have embraced commercialism, Ocean Beach remains fiercely independent and skeptical of wholesale change. Ocean Beach is fondly looked upon as the neighborhood that time forgot and it still has that hippie vibe -- a carryover from the 1960s and '70s that never really left. This is what makes it OB with a variety of residents from surfers to students to families who are protective of their neighborhood ambiance and where you're more...MORE likely to see a food co-op than a slew of retail chains.

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    Formerly the site of San Diego's Naval Training Center, Liberty Station is rich in history and culture with unique museums and historic buildings. What makes it unique is that the sprawling property has been transformed into a planned urban residential community with mixed-use retail, commercial and cultural tenants incorporated into many of the preserved historical buildings, as well as newer buildings. Liberty Station also has an expansive 46-acre green space that fronts the boat channel. Liberty Station is a great place to explore, stroll, shop, dine and play, right in the middle of the city.

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    Even though Point Loma and the surrounding area has an obvious military presence (Fort Rosecrans Cemetery, Naval Submarine Base), many people don't realize that Point Loma was a major military outpost during wartime. The Point Loma peninsula forms a natural protective barrier at the entrance to San Diego Bay, rising 422 feet to provide strategic views of the harbor and ocean. During World War I and II, military facilities on the Point provided vital coastal and harbor defense systems. Between 1918 and 1943, the Army constructed searchlight bunkers, fire control stations, and gun batteries. Along the paths of Cabrillo National Monument sit the remains of coastal defenses built to protect the approaches to San Diego Bay. While visiting the park, you will find base-end stations, fire control stations, searchlight bunkers, a radio station which now houses an exhibit and other remains of wartime.

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    It's probably the one place on Point Loma that most San Diegans haven't ever set foot upon, much less even know about. However, Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) is arguably the most picturesque college campus in San Diego. The 2,000 student PLNU sits on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and is home to some of the most scenic campuses found anywhere. Before PLNU moved to this site in 1973, the campus site in what's known as the Lomaland area of Point Loma was home to California Western University. Before then, the site had a number of academic buildings in place, including the Greek Amphitheater, which was the first built in North America in 1901. The Greek theater, along with a number of athletic fields, sits right at the doorstep of the Pacific. A visit to the PLNU campus grounds just might persuade you to enroll just so you can come to this beautiful campus every day.

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  • 09 of 10

    You wouldn't know it unless you were looking for it as Sail Ho golf course is found in one of the unlikeliest locations in San Diego. This funky little nine-hole golf course is a remnant of the old Naval Training Center and survived the property's transformation into Liberty Station. Sail Ho is one of the oldest courses in the county, having been around since the 1920s. Sam Snead used to be the Head Golf Professional while he was in the Navy, and both Craig Stadler and Phil Mickelson played lots of junior golf tournaments at Sail Ho Golf Club. Located at the north end of Liberty Station, the new and improved Sail Ho Golf Club features redesigned fairways, greens and practice facilities by renowned San Diego architect Cary Bickler.

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    As you drive along the Cabrillo Memorial Drive heading towards Cabrillo National Monument, you'll notice a solemn site of thousands of identical headstones all in uniform rows. This is Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. A burial ground before 1847, this graveyard became an Army Post cemetery in the 1860s. It is the final resting place for most who fell at San Pasqual in 1846 and for the USS Bennington victims of 1905. At one time, it had been known as Bennington National Cemetery. It became Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in 1934 and was placed under the Veterans Administration National Cemetery System in 1973. It's a solemn memorial for those who served this country and is a tranquil setting to reflect.