If you or someone you are traveling with is an architecture buff, you will be captivated by a visit to Point Loma Lighthouse. However, you will soon discover that Cabrillo National Monument is so much more than a lighthouse once you arrive.
Located on a southward-jutting finger of Point Loma, the small park is an oasis of nature and military history established in 1913. It commemorates the landing of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay in 1542. In 1939, the Portuguese government donated the 14-foot-tall statue of Cabrillo that sits at the end of the point.
This is one of the most spectacular views in San Diego on a clear day.
From the same vantage point, you can see: the Pacific Ocean, Coronado, San Diego-Coronado Bridge, North Island, Shelter Island, Harbor Island, San Diego Airport, Downtown San Diego, San Diego Bay, the mountains, and Mexico.
The quaint lighthouse is the beacon of the Cabrillo National Monument and sits on dramatic cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It is furnished with historically accurate furniture.
You are not allowed to go to the top of the building, but the Fresnel lens is still kept up there.
When the newer lighthouse was built back in 1891, the original lighthouse was boarded up, so it was well preserved when it was opened back up to the public.
Ranger-led talks, displays, and brochures are available to explain the lighthouse’s fascinating past and a self-guided two-mile walk through a coastal sage scrub forest that begins adjacent to the Lighthouse.
On the bluffs is a vista called Whaler’s Overlook. It’s a great spot to watch for passing pods of dolphins. There’s even a telescope you can drop quarters into to spot the occasional migrating gray whales. There is also a small museum on-site that displays models and explanatory pictures of ships like those that Cabrillo commanded in the first half of the 16th Century.
In addition, it includes replicas of navigational instruments of the day and information on the Neolithic tribes that once inhabited the area. Inside the museum is an auditorium with scheduled, free, explanatory videos, restrooms, vending machines, and a gift shop.
Hiking Trails & Tide Pools
Several short hiking and biking trails lead to and from the tide pools full of many intriguing forms of sea life.
The Bay Side trail, which is off to the side of the main walkway, is a great way to get away from the bulk of the visitors and enjoy some quiet time while taking in some appealing views. Canine companions are allowed on the trails as long as they are on a leash. So bring your pup.
Aside from the lighthouse, museum, and tide pools, there is the Coast Defense Exhibit, another tiny museum covering the history of Fort Rosecrans, which encompasses the park. Several remaining remnants of the WWII facility, including the circular gun batteries.
The exhibit shows the pictures of the massive guns that could fire 2,300-pound bullets 30 miles out to sea. They were made to sink Japanese ships if they ever tried to invade San Diego. They never did, so it must have been incredibly dull but safe to be stationed here during WWII.
Where is the Cabrillo National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument is at the end of Point Loma in San Diego. Directions from downtown Take Harbor Drive past the airport. Turn left onto Rosecrans Street, Turn right onto Canon Street, Turn left onto Catalina Blvd. (also known as Cabrillo Memorial Drive),
Follow Catalina Blvd. to the end. Catalina Boulevard is part of San Diego’s 59-mile Scenic Drive. A modest entrance fee is charged to enter the monument.
Cabrillo National Monument is open 365 days a year, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.