Cabrillo National Monument

Whale watching and stunning views make this historic monument a great option for a relaxing day out.

Stand atop the cliffs of Point Loma and you are standing on the first land that the Spanish sailor Juan Cabrillo would have seen before he landed in San Diego Bay on Sept. 28, 1542. The impressive, 14-foot (four-meter) high limestone sculpture here commemorates Cabrillo’s significance as the first European to set foot on the West Coast of America.

Cabrillo's story is told in the Visitor Center, where exhibitions such as The Age of Exploration take you through the trials and tribulations of life at sea in the 16th century. A festival is held each year around the date Cabrillo arrived. See a reenactment of his landing during the weekend-long event.

The historical importance of the location is easily matched by the area’s beauty. There are majestic views of San Diego, and on a clear winter’s day, you will see all the way into Mexico. Winter is the best time to catch a glimpse of the migrating whales that pass by each year. Fix your eyes on the horizon and you may well see a breaching tail or a flume of spray. 

The monument is surrounded by a larger national park, and the short walks here are worth the effort. Take a stroll to the Point Loma lighthouse – one of the oldest on the West Coast – and you’ll find a lovingly-restored replica of the 1880s structure, complete with information on how the keeper and his family lived. Other walking options include a self-guided two-hour stroll around the cliff tops. 

On a hot day, be sure to visit the tidal pools on the western side of the park. These can make an excellent place to cool off. The beach here is a pleasant place to enjoy a spot of isolation. This area is only accessible by car. 

Cabrillo National Monument is open every day of the year, except Christmas Day.

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