10 Best Things to Do in Point Loma, California

San Diego skyline in magic hour
ekash / Getty Images

Rich in nature, people, and history, Point Loma is one of the oldest communities in San Diego and one of the area's most-visited neighborhoods, featuring some of the best activities and outdoor adventures around.

With spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, the San Diego Bay, the downtown skyline, and Coronado, the sights in Point Loma are unparalleled. However, there's more to do and see than just gorgeous views, including some popular and lesser-known activities like the Lighthouse or the Fort Rosecrans Cemetary.

Whether you prefer active adventures or quietly discovering the history and culture of the region, there's plenty to do and see on your trip to San Diego, especially if you visit the Point Loma neighborhood.

01 of 10

Discover the Old Point Loma Lighthouse

Cabrillo Lighthouse during sunset

TripSavvy / Sharyn Umaña-Angers

Old Point Loma Lighthouse, Cabrillo National Monument, 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr, San Diego, CA 92106, USA

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.

Standing 462 feet above sea level, the old lighthouse was at one point the highest in the world. It remained the loftiest still operating in the U.S. until 1891, when it was discontinued in favor of a new, lower lighthouse closer to the shoreline. The Old Point Loma Lighthouse had been at such a high altitude, that 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 beloved landmark of San Diego. It now operates as a museum and is located within the Cabrillo National Monument, where millions of visitors take in the spectacular, panoramic view of the city and ocean on clear days.

02 of 10

Learn About Sea Life at the Point Loma Tide Pools

Waves hitting the rocks at the tide pools

TripSavvy / Sharyn Umaña-Angers 

Lands End Road, San Diego, CA 92106, USA
Phone +1 619-557-5450

Because of their protected status, some of the best tide pools in California can be found right at Cabrillo National Monument. After your visit to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, head to the southern tip of the Point Loma Peninsula, where a rocky intertidal zone offers a window into the ocean ecosystem that lies along San Diego's coast. During low tide, children and adults will see how fragile and vital this ecosystem can be, as marine creatures like sea anemones, starfish, sea cucumbers, crabs, and sea urchins show up in these rocky depressions. The best time to go is during late fall or winter, when low tide takes place during the daytime.

03 of 10

Enjoy the View at the Sunset Cliffs

View of birds flying over Sunset Cliffs

TripSavvy / Makito Umekita

Sunset Cliffs, San Diego, CA 92107, USA

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park—a 68-acre park with 400-foot sea cliff formations, sea caves, and native coastal sage scrub—offers a setting found in very few places around the world. It's a lovely place to visit any time of day, but it's particularly so during sunset, as the sky turns stunning shades of orange, yellow, and pink while waves crash below. 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. For those visiting from December to early April, be on the lookout for gray whales as they migrate up the coast.

04 of 10

Tour Shelter Island

Harbor and city viewed from Point Loma, Shelter Island Yacht Basin, San Diego, California, USA
Panoramic Images / Getty Images
Shelter Island, San Diego, CA 92106, USA

Since it's connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land, the 1.2-mile-long Shelter Island is technically an isthmus, but it's also the most popular neighborhood of Point Loma for tourists and locals alike to enjoy recreational activities and outdoor fun.

Shelter Island is home to a busy public boat launch, and tour operators like Sail San Diego and Next Level Sailing offer sailing and whale-watching tours that embark from here. There are relaxing picnic areas along Shoreline Par, too, which is an ideal spot to catch spectacular skyline views. Shelter Island also features a fishing pier, where locals cast their lines and luck, hoping for a big bite. For those looking to spend the night, Shelter Island offers tourist-oriented, Polynesian-themed hotels, such as Kona Kai Resort & Spa and the Humphreys Half Moon Inn.

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05 of 10

Relax at Ocean Beach

Marine layer over Ocean Beach
Image by Patrick W. Zimmerman / Getty Images
1850 Ocean Front St, San Diego, CA 92107, USA

Of all San Diego's beach communities, perhaps none exemplifies 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.

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. Where other beach communities have embraced commercialism, Ocean Beach remains fiercely independent and skeptical of wholesale change. Swing by on Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., when the Ocean Beach Farmers Market sets up shop to proffer everything from flowers to freshly baked bread and kombucha. In the fall, the neighborhood hosts the annual Oktoberfest, which features a beer garden and live music. OB is also home to one of the country's first leash-free beaches, Dog Beach, meaning that you can let your furry friend roam free while you soak up the sun.

06 of 10

Shop Among History at Liberty Station

USS Abraham Lincoln Arrives Home From Persian Gulf
U.S. Navy / Getty Images
2455 Cushing Rd, San Diego, CA 92106, USA
Phone +1 619-531-1534

From 1923 to 1997, Liberty Station acted as San Diego's Naval Training Center (NTC). In the years since, the 361-acre property has transformed into a planned residential community, with mixed-use retail, commercial, and cultural tenants incorporated into many of the preserved historical buildings. Here you will find an expansive 46-acre green space that fronts the boat channel, making it a great place to explore, stroll, shop, dine, and play—right in the middle of the city. To learn more about Liberty Station's history, consider taking a self-guided walking tour of the area, stopping by the NTC's former Commissary/Mess Hall and Luce Auditorium, which saw the likes of Nat King Cole, Bob Hope, and Lawrence Welk.

Throughout the year, Liberty Station also hosts a number of classes, events, and festivals, including an outdoor summer music series and a First Friday public art experience in the Arts District. Be sure to check the events calendar before your visit to see what's on.

07 of 10

Play a Round at the Loma Club

Sail Ho Golf Course

 Sail Ho Golf Course

2960 Truxtun Rd, San Diego, CA 92106-6115, USA
Phone +1 619-222-4653

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. The Loma Club is one of the oldest courses in the county, having been around since the 1920s. Located at the north end of Liberty Station, the new and improved Loma Club features redesigned fairways, greens, and practice facilities designed by renowned San Diego architect Cary Bickler. It offers two courses to choose from, a par-3 course and mini golf, the latter of which does not require a reservation.

08 of 10

Visit Point Loma Bunkers

Point Loma Bunkers

 Point Loma Bunkers

San Diego, CA 92106, USA

Even though Point Loma and the surrounding area have a prominent military presence (Fort Rosecrans Cemetery, Naval Submarine Base), many people don't realize that Point Loma was at one point a major military outpost. From 1918 and 1943, the U.S. army built coastal defenses—including searchlight bunkers, fire control stations, and gun batteries—to protect San Diego Bay against attack during both World Wars. The remains can still be seen at Cabrillo National Monument, where you can learn more about the military's defensive strategies at the "They Stood the Watch" exhibit, housed inside an old radio station. The bunkers, which date back to World War II, are open on the fourth Saturday of every month.

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09 of 10

Wander Around Point Loma Nazarene University

Nazarene University

 Nazarene University

3900 Lomaland Dr, San Diego, CA 92106, USA
Phone +1 619-849-2200

It's probably the one place on Point Loma that most San Diegans haven't 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. Before PLNU moved to this site in 1973, the area was home to California Western University. Before then, the site had some academic buildings in place, including the Greek Amphitheater, which was the first built in North America in 1901.

10 of 10

Visit Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery

Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery
Federico Scotto / Getty Images
1700 Cabrillo Memorial Dr, San Diego, CA 92106-3601, USA
Phone +1 619-553-2084

As you drive along the Cabrillo Memorial Drive heading towards Cabrillo National Monument, you'll notice a grave site of thousands of identical headstones all in uniform rows. This is Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, which was once known as the Bennington National Cemetery before the Veterans Administration National Cemetery System took it over in 1973.

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's a solemn memorial for those who served this country and is a tranquil setting to reflect.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Does Point Loma have a beach?

    There are no beaches on Point Loma, although some may argue that Ocean Beach is geographically within the neighborhood's boundaries. However, you can still get incredible ocean views from Sunset Cliffs Natural Park and Cabrillo National Monument, which offers access to some of California's best tide pools.

  • Is Point Loma its own city?

    No, Point Loma is a neighborhood within San Diego, California.

  • How do you get to the Point Loma Tide Pools?

    The Point Loma Tide Pools can be found within Cabrillo National Monument. It's recommended that you drive rather than walk, as the road to the tide pools is narrow and doesn't have shoulders. From the parking area, a short, dirt path will take you right down to the tide pools.

Article Sources
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  1. San Diego History Center. "The Old Point Loma Light." Accessed September 11, 2022.

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10 Best Things to Do in Point Loma, California