Top 20 San Diego attractions

Point Loma Lighthouse

The Point Loma Lighthouse overlooks the entrance to San Diego Bay.

The Point Loma Lighthouse is is part of the Cabrillo National Monument, on the dramatic southwestern peninsula of San Diego, at 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive (check hours).

You need to pay an entrance fee to the Cabrillo National Monument, which gives you access to the Point Loma Lighthouse, visitor center, trails, overlooks and tide-pools. The lighthouse is just a short walk up the hill from the visitor center.

5 best things about Point Loma Lighthouse

1. Unlike other lighthouses, the living quarters were directly integrated into the Point Loma Lighthouse.

The Point Loma Lighthouse is a two story Cape Cod building with an octagonal, black tower. The living quarters were integrated into the lighthouse design, so the Lighthouse Keeper wouldn't need to step outside on cold nights.

Do a self guided tour of these quarters, including the kitchen, parlor and bedrooms decorated in 1880’s furnishings. Walk part of the way up the spiral staircase that leads to the lantern room, and peer through a glass barrier into the lantern room.

2. The light was extinguished in 1891 and replaced by a new lighthouse at a lower elevation.

The Point Loma Lighthouse was commissioned in 1855 and operated for 36 years until 1891, when it was replaced by the New Point Loma Lighthouse at a lower elevation closer to sea level (see photo below).

The original Point Loma Lighthouse was 422 feet above sea level and was often obscured by fog, rendering it ineffective. During thick fog, the lighthouse keeper often had to shoot his rifle to warn passing ships of the imminent danger.

#1 GUIDE to Point Loma Lighthouse

3. The Assistant Keeper’s Quarters is adjacent to the lighthouse.

The Assistant Keeper's Quarters is a few steps from the Point Loma Lighthouse (on the right below). It includes a spectacular Fresnel lens, and other exhibits on the lighthouses that served Point Loma. 

4. There was huge staff turnover in the 36 year history of the Point Loma Lighthouse. 

Due to the isolation of this location, there were an astounding 22 assistant keepers and 11 principal keepers in the 36 year history of the Point Loma Lighthouse.

5. The Point Loma Lighthouse was used as an army radio station in WWI, and a navy signaling post in WWII.

During WWI the Point Loma Lighthouse was painted olive green, and used as an army radio statio, and in WWII the navy used the Point Loma Lighthouse as a signaling post. When ships entered the harbor they had to flash the correct code for the anti-submarine net to be raised. 

The Point Loma Lighthouse eventually became part of the Cabrillo National Monument in 1933, but gradually fell into disrepair, and was finally rehabilitated by the National Park Service.

Things to do near the Point Loma Lighthouse.

The Cabrillo National Monument Overlook is just down the hill from the Point Loma Lighthouse. Enjoy soaring views over the Coronado Peninsula, including activity from the bustling Naval Base at Coronado. 

The Cabrillo National Monument was constructed in honor of Spanish Explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who explored the West Coast of America between 1542 to 1543.

There are incredible views of San Diego Bay from the monument.

The Visitor Center is adjacent to the Monument. It has fascinating exhibits on Juan Rodrigues Cabrillo's explorations and navigation devices.  Sign up for guided walking tours here, or stop by the theater for a rotating schedule of movies on the history of the area.

The Whale Overlook is popular with visitors. Peer through telescopes to observe the annual gray whale migration from the Arctic to Baja California, from December to April.

The New Point Loma Lighthouse is also visible from the Whale Overlook, but not open for tours.

If you're up for a dramatic walk, take the 1.2 mile bluff-top Bayside Trail with incredible views across the peninsula. Pass WWII military bunkers and installations, once used as a defence system for San Diego.

Know before you go

  • Address:  1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr, San Diego, CA 92106.
  • Entrance fees:  check here
  • Hours:  check here
  • Restrooms:  visitor center.
  • Parking:  visitor center.

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