Cabrillo National Monument

About half an hour from downtown San Diego, and accessible by public transportation, lies Cabrillo National Monument—a gem of a national park with something for everyone.

The park is named for Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the first European to set foot on the California coast. Cabrillo left Europe with Cortez, and spent time in Mexico before exploring San Diego Bay, and traveling as far north as the Channel Islands. A museum exhibition explores Cabrillo's life and explorations, as well as early California native peoples and industries.

But those visiting the park expecting only an early American history lesson will be pleasantly surprised. 

The site is also the home of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, which is open to the public and tells the visitor a little about the lonely life of the 19th century light keepers. For those who prefer their history a little more modern, a tiny exhibit tucked into the hillside share information about the vital role of the land now occupied by the national monument in American homeland defense during World War II.

Beauty abounds throughout the site for the nature-lover—hillsides covered with flowers, birds nesting in the trees, and lizards darting across every pathway. Additionally, a lookout point near the lighthouse provides one of the best places on land anywhere—to observe migrating gray whales. And no visitor to the park should pass on the chance to explore the Pacific Ocean tide pools for an up close view of the fascinating animals that inhabit them.

Any visitor to Cabrillo should plan to spend at least half a day at the park—add in some hiking, sunbathing, and a picnic lunch, and stretch it to a whole day. You won’t be disappointed!

—Laura Connors, NPCA

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