15 things to do when you visit Cabrillo National Monument

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

The first time we went, 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!

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

Top 15 things to do At Cabrillo

1. Start at the Visitor Center

(Cabrillo has its own recommendations on the billboard when you enter!)

2. Visit the Bookstore

You can also buy souvenirs here; check out the views outside too!

3. Visit the Auditorium

Watch the short films (may be closed due to COVID). The earliest starts at 10 am and is called “In Search of Cabrillo” followed by “On the Edge of Land and Sea” and finally “Whales”

4. Visit the Cabrillo Exhibit Room

It is located between the auditorium and bookstore

5. Explore the Statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo

The Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo statue is located at the top of the visitor center. You can find it near the bathrooms and souvenir shop.

6. Visit Old Point Loma Lighthouse:

Walk through the rooms where the lightkeeper and his family live

7. Check out Assistant Keepers Quarters

it is now a little museum and where the big lens is held now.

8. Walk to the Kelp Forest and Whale Overlook

and take in the views (It’s absolutely breathtaking. The scenery is just gorgeous)

9. Visit the Military History Exhibit Room

Learn about how World War II played a role here

10. Hike The Bayside Trail Hike

A 2.5mile hike. The last hike ends at 4 pm. There is only one way in and out.

11. Walk the Coast Trail

for a much easier and shorter Hike

12. Pack a lunch

You can find picnic tables behind the auditorium. You will definitely get hungry and this is something I will often do especially if I plan on doing some hiking. You will get hungry. Even if you bring snacks with you, it will definitely help those hunger pans.

13. Visit the Tide Pools

During low tide, you can explore the sea creatures found in the Rocky Intertidal zone. The best time to go, according to the park rangers is February.

14. Buy an Annual 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 you are a California resident you can buy a yearly pass for $35)

15. Visit Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery

The Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery is located outside Cabrillo National Monument and its free to look inside and pay respect to those lives lost at war. As a personal side story, my uncle memory is there after serving his who life in the Vietnam War.

Cabrillo National Monument History

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 the 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’s place. 

Where to Park Cabrillo National Monument

  • There is parking at the visitor center
  • There is parking near the tide pools (a bit more limited)

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 at the picnic tables; 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 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 sea bluffs

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

Any phone will do. Or any smart 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 whale 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 of 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 its 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. 


Jess & Jeanette

Jess and Jeanette, two sisters who founded Unseen Beaches, were inspired by their family’s beach vacations while growing up.

Their passion lies in guiding you toward the most remarkable beach destinations across the U.S., while also protecting and preserving these beautiful coastal treasures! 🌊❤️

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