Top 20 San Diego attractions

Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument

The Cabrillo National Monument is one of the most breathtaking viewpoints in San Diego.

It’s located on San Diego’s southwest peninsula, with incredible views of the Bay.

The Cabrillo National Monument depicts Spanish Explorer Juan Rodrigues Cabrillo, the first European to set foot in California on September 28, 1542. 

His flotilla of three ships sheltered in San Diego’s Bay for six days, before heading north up the coast to Los Angeles. 

The expedition’s objective was to claim new territory for the King of Spain.  Explorer Juan Rodrigues Cabrillo perished just three months later in unknown circumstances, and never returned to Spain. 

Check fees & hours to visit the Cabrillo National Monument, located at at 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive.

10 BEST things to do at the Cabrillo National Monument

1. See San Diego's best views.

The Overlook at the Cabrillo National Monument is a few steps from the Visitor Center, and features a magnificent limestone statue of explorer Juan Rodrigues Cabrillo created in 1913.

The views across the Coronado Peninsula from the Overlook are incredible, putting you in a bird's eye position to observe the bustling Coronado Naval Base, and passing submarines and helicopters.

2.  Tour the Old Point Loma Lighthouse.

The beautiful, cape cod building that houses the Old Point Loma Lighthouse is open for self guided tours. You can view the 1880s furnishings inside the main living quarters and bedrooms, or walk part of the way up to the Lantern Room. Learn more about the Old Point Loma Lighthouse.

The Assistant Keeper's Quarters houses the original Fresnel lens from the Old Point Loma Lighthouse.  There are other fascinating exhibits.

Enjoy incredible views from the front garden of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse.

3. Spot migrating whales at the Whale Overlook.

The Whale Overlook is a short walk from the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. 

From Late December through March, observe whales making their annual migration from the Arctic to Baja California.  Learn more about the Whale Overlook.

4. Peer down at the New Point Loma Lighthouse.

The New Point Loma Lighthouse is visible from the Whale Overlook.  Unfortunately it's not open to visitors.  Some scenes from the movie Top Gun were filmed here.

5. Learn about how San Diego was first discovered.

Stop by the free Visitor Center to learn the history of the Cabrillo National Monument in the fascinating “Age of Exploration” exhibit. This exhibit details the travels of explorer Juan Rodrigues Cabrillo who explored the West Coast of America from 1542-1543.

6. Watch free movies at the Visitor Center.

Check out the free movies at the Visitor Center Theater;  On the Edge of Land and SeaIn Search of Cabrillo, and First Breath: Gray Whales.

7. Take a stunning 1.2 mile bluff-top walk.

The magnificent Bayside Trail is a 1.2 bluff-top walk with soaring views across the Coronado Peninsula.  Learn more about hte Bayside Trail.

8. Explore the enchanting tide pools.

The Tide Pools are best visited in Late Fall and Winter, when low tide occurs during the day.   Don't forget to bring appropriate footwear with a strong grip, as the rocks get slippery.  Groups of over ten people require a permit.  

9. Find a fun Junior Ranger Activity for Kids.

Check in at the Visitor Center for the latest Junior Ranger Activity, to keep your kids happy.

10. Book a Guided Ranger Walk.

The Visitor Center also offers Guided Ranger Walks on the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, the local nature, and 16th century navigation devices.

Know before you go

  • Address:  1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr, San Diego, CA 92106
  • Entrance fees:  check here
  • Hours:  check here
  • Restrooms:  Visitor Center
  • Parking:  Parking lot just outside the Visitor Center.

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