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. 

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 when you visit

  • Start at the Visitor Center (Cabrillo has its own recommendations on the billboard when you enter!)
  • Visit the Bookstore: You can also buy souvenirs here; check out the views outside too!
  • 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”
  • Visit the Cabrillo Exhibit Room: Between the auditorium and bookstore
  • Explore the Statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and take in the breathtaking views
  • Visit Old Point Loma Lighthouse: Walk through the rooms where the lightkeeper and his family live
  • Check out Assistant Keepers Quarters: it is now a little museum and where the big lens is held now.
  • Walk to the Kelp Forest and Whale Overlook and take in the views (It’s absolutely breathtaking. The scenery is just gorgeous)
  • Visit the Military History Exhibit Room: Learn about how World War II played a role here
  • Bayside Trail Hike: A 2.5mile hike. The last hike ends at 4 pm. There is only one way in and out.
  • Pack a lunch and eat at the picnic tables behind the auditorium
  • Visit the Tide Pools: During low tide, you can explore the sea creatures found in the Rocky Intertidal zone.
  • Walk the Coast Trail for a much easier and shorter Hike
  • 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)
  • Visit Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery

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. 

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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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