Cabrillo National Monument

The Cabrillo National Monument is located at the Southern side of Point Loma in San Diego. It is one of the city’s most scenic attractions, and provides a breathtaking view of the bay and the San Diego skyline.

The monument honors the arrival of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in 1542 to San Diego Bay in what is known today as the first European expedition to the West Coast of the United States. The Portuguese explorer, Cabrillo departed from Mexico in June 1542 and arrived at the San Diego Bay three months later. He called the bay a “a closed and very good port,” upon arrival and proceeded to name it San Miguel which was changed to San Diego 60 years later by Sebastian Vizcaino, another voyager.

President Woodrow Wilson ordered the building of a monument dedicated to Cabrillo almost 400 years after this expedition in 1913. However, the actual statue of the explorer wasn’t constructed until 1939 when sculptor Alvaro de Bree made it for the Portuguese government who in turn donated it to the United States.

The Cabrillo National Monument is both a US National Monument and a US Historic District. It was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. If you are visiting this important San Diego attraction, you should definitely enjoy the gently rolling topography on your way over there and the gorgeous panoramic scenery.

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo

The statue of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo is fourteen feet tall, weighs 14,000 pounds, and overlooks the monument area which provides some of the most beautiful views of the Bay, the harbor but also downtown San Diego. On very clear days, you can see surrounding mountains and as far as Tijuana, Mexico.

Statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo
Statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo; IMAGE VIA nps.gov

Besides the statue, the monument area also has a museum that you can check out which holds many interesting artifacts such as navigational instruments, models of 16th Century-era ships. There are also a lot of historical facts about the tribes that inhabited the San Diego Bay area at the time of Cabrillo and many exhibits dedicated to his explorations. In the visitor center’s auditorium, you can enjoy a film screening about Cabrillo and his travels.

Old Point Loma Lighthouse

The Old Point Loma Lighthouse is located in the National Cabrillo Monument on the top of Point Loma. It is a popular attraction in San Diego, and people love to come here to discover the one of the eight original lighthousesbuilt on the Pacific Coast.

Old Point Loma Lighthouse in Spring
Old Point Loma Lighthouse; IMAGE VIA nps.gov

In 1851, one year after California joined the union, the heights of Point Loma were chosen as the place to build a lighthouse to help sailing ships navigate. Construction on the Old Point Loma Lighthouse began three years later in 1854, and finished later that year. The lighthouse was first lit in November of 1955 because the Fresnel lens, which is a lighting apparatus, took some time to arrive from France. The lighthouse was run and kept by David and Jeanne Israel who lived there and had their family and children growing up there as well.

The Lighthouse was thought to be ideally located at 462 feet above sea level, but it was quickly discovered that it had a flaw and the elevation was more of a burden than an advantage. The light beam which could ordinarily be seen for 28miles was easily obscured by fog and low clouds which sometimes made it difficult to see by ships. Because of this, the old Point Loma lighthouse was only operational for 36 years. A new lighthouse was built a hundred yards lower from the old one in 1981, and only 88 feet above sea level. The new lighthouse is still operational and can easily be seen, but does not offer tours and is not open to visitors.

Today, Old Point Loma Lighthouse is a great place to go to revisit history. When you get there, you will sometimes be welcomed by guides dressed up in costumes and embodying characters of the era such as Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who was the first European explorer to discover San Diego Bay and his crew, but also David Israel, the lighthouse’s keeper.

Visitors can check out the lighthouse by going up the stairs and looking through the peep hole, and the living spaces located inside of it where the Israel family lived. Make sure to visit the Assistant Keeper’s living quarters where there are many exhibits telling the story of the lighthouse. You should also make some time to watch a film screening about the Old Point Loma Lighthouse history, and learn all about it. You can also participate in a ranger-led talk about the lighthouse.

While visiting the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, you will get to see some of the most beautiful views in all of San Diego. You can see San Diego Bay, the downtown area, and many gorgeous cliffs. You can also hike down to the small beach with the tide pools, where you search for incredible sea life. From the lighthouse, you can also take a self-guided two-mile walk through the forest, this is especially recommended in the springtime.

The Old Point Loma Lighthouse is open 364 days a year, 9 am to 5 pm, except on Christmas day. Tickets to the Cabrillo National Monument where the lighthouse is located costs $5 for car, or $3 per bicycle or person, and the pass is good for an entire week.

The Old Point Loma Lighthouse is located in the Point Loma Peninsula in San Diego.

Things to do at Cabrillo

The Cabrillo National Monument is a great place to come at one with nature. You can sit around, relax and reflect while watching the surrounding wildlife. You can also hike down to the rocky intertidal coastline and experience the tide pools. Here you can see some great marine life such as crabs, fish and more. You can find out when there’s a low tide pool from the Visitor Center.
If you’re in the San Diego area in October, you should find out if the annual Cabrillo Festival is going on. This event commemorates and reenacts the first landing on Cabrillo in San Diego Bay, at the Ballast Point. There is also a lot of folk dancing and singing, food and entertainment for kids.

The Cabrillo National Monument is a must see if you’re in the San Diego area. It is open 354 days a yearfrom 9 am to 5 pm, except for Christmas day. It costs $5 per car to get into the monument and $3 per person or bicycle. The ticket is good for a week so you can always come back and explore this fascinating landmark again during your trip.

The Cabrillo National Monument is located west of San Diego on the southern tip of the Point Loma Peninsula.

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