Visiting the Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego

 Visiting the Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego

Whenever we travel in the United States, we always look for opportunities to visit national parks and monuments. We love being outdoors and our family goal of visiting as many national parks as we can before the kids leave home is still going strong. So when I was planning our trip to San Diego, the first thing I researched was whether there was a national park nearby. That is how I found Cabrillo National Monument. It’s a monument as well as a park. On top of that, there’s a lighthouse and stellar views, meaning that Cabrillo National Monument really has something for everyone.

Visiting the Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego


Cabrillo National Monument is located near the Point Loma Naval Base. In fact, in order to reach the entrance to the park, you will need to drive through the outer border of the base. There is a $15 entrance fee per vehicle that you will pay when you reach the gate. This fee is waived for active and retired military personnel.



When visiting the Cabrillo National Monument,

 your first stop should be the visitor’s center. Here you will learn about the significance behind the monument. Artifacts and informational placards tell the tale of the first European expedition- led by Spaniard Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo- to arrive at the California coast. Cabrillo’s party arrived in 1542- over 200 years before San Diego was even founded.


I wish that I was able to read more about the history while we were there. But with two little ones pulling me in opposite directions, I had to settle on just getting the basic facts. However, even if you’re like me and can’t take in all the details, there is still much to appreciate about the area.

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Once you’ve finished at the visitor’s center,

 make sure to stop by the gift shop. If you participate in the National Parks Service passport program, you can get yours stamped with the date you visited. There are several different logos to choose from. You can also pick up the most recent set of official region stamps. While you’re there, you can find many souvenirs and books devoted to the monument and San Diego in general.


Now it’s time to get to the monument. When you leave the gift shop, make sure to stop and take in the incredible views of San Diego across the bay. Though we visited on a fairly smoggy morning, I overheard someone mention that on a clear day visibility can reach all the way to Mexico. You also have a good view of the navy ships in the harbor below.


To get to the monument, you will have to walk back towards the parking lot. There is a short path off to the left that leads to the monument. We didn’t spend long at the monument since much of the informational aspects of it are located in the visitor’s center. We spent a few minutes admiring the monument and taking in the views and then turned our attention to the lighthouse on the hill.

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Up a steep, but short hill, stands the Point Loma lighthouse.

 Built in 1855, the lighthouse is not functional anymore. Today it operates as a museum. Admission is included in the entrance fee to the park. Take a walk through the lighthouse and peek into rooms as they would appear back when the lighthouse was functioning. Although the ladder that leads up to the light was closed, it was still fun to climb the steep stairs to the top floor of the lighthouse. The staircase and top floor are both tight spaces so make sure to be aware of people going up and down.

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The second part of the museum is a converted assistant keeper’s house located next door to the actual lighthouse. Inside, you will learn about the responsibilities of the lighthouse keeper and his assistant. You can also read about life in Point Loma in the 1800s. As someone who has a fascination with lighthouses, I loved peeking inside and discovering what it was like to be a keeper or a member of his family. Because of the distance between Point Loma and San Diego, the family of the lighthouse keeper back in the 1800s didn’t receive many visitors so life could be quite lonely. But someone had to do it.

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In addition to the monument and the lighthouse,

 there are also multiple hiking trails and some tide pools to discover. We, unfortunately, ran out of time so we weren’t able to explore any of them so I cannot say how difficult the trails are. We hope to one day go back to explore the area further.


I highly recommend Cabrillo National Monument for anyone who loves history, national parks and being outside. It is the perfect destination for families looking to spend a few hours learning about the history of the early days of San Diego and Point Loma.


Have you been to the Cabrillo National Monument and park?

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