15 things to do when you visit Cabrillo National Monument

If you haven’t visited Cabrillo National Monument, then you should definitely make it a goal to get out there. 

When my sister and I went for the first time, we were astounded by the beauty and history that Cabrillo National Monument provides. We took our time hiking and visiting everything in under 4 hours.

Other times we spent an hour taking in the relaxing views. 

So whether you’re visiting San Diego for a short time or here much longer, you definitely don’t want to miss visiting this gorgeous place. 

Just imagine learning how this historical place is the same one that early european explorers landed on.

Visiting Cabrillo National Monument not only opened our eyes of the gorgeous beauty in San Diego, but the fact that places like these are not being protected. With people trespassing in areas where they are not supposed to (i.e the sea cave) it makes it harder and harder to protect places like these. 

It’s important to bring awareness to this issue. Not only can human interference impact places like these negatively, but also positively. If we become more aware of what is going on, then we can also help protect them. 

Read along as we explore what things you can do at Cabrillo National Monument while protecting it all at the same time.

What is Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument, located in Point Loma California, is known as the landmark where Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first set foot in 1542. Cabrillo, a spanish conquistador, led what was known as the first European expedition according to source. 

His long three month voyage landed him here, in what today is known as San Diego Bay.

You can definitely learn more about the history and his voyage at the auditorium near the visitor place. 

What can you do at Cabrillo National Monument

There are plenty of things you can do at Cabrillo National Monument.

Trust me, you won’t get bored and especially on a nice bright sunny day, you can really enjoy these activities. 

Here are our Top 15 things you need to do when you visit.

  • Take in the views- It’s absolutely breathtaking. The scenery is just gorgeous, so be sure you bring your camera!
  • You can visit the tide pools of Cabrillo National Monument. There is so much to learn from the sea creatures found in the Rocky Intertidal zone.
  • Visit the auditorium and watch all three of the short films offered. The earliest starts at 10am and is called “In Search of Cabrillo” followed by “On the edge of Land and Sea” and finally “Whales”
  • Visit Cabrillo National Monument Lighthouse- Walk through the lighthouse where the lightkeeper and his family lived. 
  • Walk to the backyard and see where they would grow their crops.
  • Visit the assistant keepers quarters; it is now a little museum and where the big lense is held now.
  • Find the  Statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and take in the breathtaking views
  • Look for whales migrating by walking over to the kelp forest and whale overlook
  • Visit the museum where you can learn about Cabrillo expansion
  • Pier through the telescopes and admire the gorgeous views of the San Diego Bay
  • Ride a bicycle through Cabrillo National Monument; some people actually bike there (you would have to bring your own bike)
  • Educate yourself by talking to friendly volunteers on how you help protect these places and learn more about the sea creatures
  • Read all the informational exhibits of Cabrillo; you’ll learn so much about the plants, animals, and history
  • Do the 2.5 mile hike called the Bayside Trail. You will see lots of native coastal sage scrub 
  • Buy a year pass. If you buy a daily parking pass, it is good for 7 days after you purchase it so you can always come back (if your a california resident you can buy a yearly pass for $35)

Tips to remember when visiting Cabrillo National Monument

  • DO NOT trespass in areas where your not suppose to (i.e the Sea Cave)
  • DO NOT feed the wildlife- it actually does more harm because they become dependent on humans feeding them rather than foraging food on their own
  • DO NOT get too close to the edge of the sandstone cliffs; they can break off and be fatal.
  • Dogs are ONLY allowed in the tide pool areas and must be leashed at all times.
  • Cabrillo National Monument Hours: 9am-5pm
  • Cabrillo National Monument Fee is $15 per vehicle; you can also buy a yearly pass
  • Learn how you can help protect gorgeous places like these
  • There are porta potties near the tide pool parking lot, if you don’t like these then be sure you use the bathrooms at the visitor center
  • Bring a lunch and eat it in your car; you will get hungry; especially if you go hiking
  • If you want to really learn about the marine life at low tides be sure to check out Cabrillo’s Tide calendar when the tides are at the lowest so you can explore the place
  • Make sure you arrive early, as the tide pool parking lot can get filled pretty quickly. The sea cave parking is also available to park, but you do have to do some walking back to the tide pools.
  • If you are checking out the tide pools, make sure you give yourself a 3 hour window. 


As you well have learned by now, there are a ton of reasons why you should visit Cabrillo National Monument. There are endless things you can do and learn when visiting. 

After all, Cabrillo National Monument is one of the most popular places in almost all of San Diego to visit. You will experience gorgeous panoramic views of waves splashing against the coastal seabluffs. 

If you are a photographer then definitely make sure you bring your camera!

An iphone will also do. Or any phone that takes really good shots.

You can learn about Juan Cabrillo Rodriguez’s journey and how he landed here. Check out the visitor center which is open daily and is located at the entrance of the park. 

They provide films such as Cabrillo’s exploration, the wale migration, and even the tide pools. You can also visit the exhibits and see the gorgeous panoramic harbor views. 

There are things that you should always remember when visiting a place like this and that is being aware how your presence can positively or negatively impact it. Remember to practice responsible traveling, learn more about it in our blog here. Little things you do can help protect the ecosystem. 

Cabrillo National Monument is still one of my favorite areas I visit often!

You can learn and experience so much. 

If you want to spot a grey whale during their migration, be sure you go anywhere between January and February. Don’t forget your binoculars. The Kelp Forest  and the Whale Overlook are the best places to see. 

So tell me… have you ever been to Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego?

unseenbeaches about us pic

Hi! This is Jess and Jeanette. Two sisters & beach travelers. We built this blog to share our travels in hopes of helping you plan your next beach vacation. Cheers! ❤️



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