Cabrillo National Monument: both a Historical and Natural Resources Park

September 23, 2007 at 4:55 pm 3 comments

Cabrillo National Monument, located at the tip of Point Loma Peninsula and west of downtown San Diego, was established in 1913. This National Monument is not only a historical park but is also a scenic place to enjoy the diversity of wildlife found on its slopes and shores.

This park commemorates the landing of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay on Sep 28, 1542.


The landing of Cabrillo marked the first time that a European expedition had set foot on what later become the west coast of the United States. (source: Wikipedia) The National Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. Activities in this park are as varied as the cultural and natural resources.

This is another park that I frequently visit year-round for different outdoor and indoor activities here in San Diego. There is a 2-mile bayside trail (for hiking and biking) that affords spectacular views of the San Diego Bay and the city.


The hike provides you comapany from the entertaining flying California brown pelicans,  


sea gulls,


red tail hawks, among others.

The pelicans can often be seen skimming low over the water by the tidepools, or simply resting on top of the rocks.


Even the tidepool area is a good place to have a relaxing walk too, the trail goes up and down to pass through marvelously landscaped coastal bluffs that resulted from erosion.


Our visit to Cabrillo usually starts in this rocky intertidal zone,


not only that I find the hiking up and down the coastal bluff fun and interesting, but I also love to check the weird cliffs of sedimentary rocks which have very distinct layers that provides them colorful display contrasted by the endless horizon of the ocean.


 Aside from hiking the cliffs, another fun thing to do is walking through the algae-coated rocks


on a bed of hard-packed red sand to explore tidepool life. This is a perfect place for educational family excursion, children can view real living eco-system up close.

The walk here requires a lot of balancing. Shoes with very good gripping soles are the best because the rocks are very slippery. Seaweeds provide interesting color displays, from dark green, to yellow green, to yellow, to red, to purple.


These weeds are valuable to the food chain. As you walk through these tidepool rocks, you will notice goose-neck barnacle and mussels clinging tightly to some of the rocks.


 In the crevices of the rocks by the shallow water pool, you will find a lot of chitons, small crabs,

 and big flowery anemones.


Next to the shallow water pool is the deeper pool where the kelp forest can be observed. If walking through the algae coated rocks are already a challenge, wait for this one as these sea grasses (or trees without stems and branches) are even more slippery and very hard to navigate.  The kelp provides foods and shelter for the sea creatures that live there such as: urchins, sea stars, limpets, sea cucumbers, octopus, and many more others. In this deeper part of the inter-tidal zone, there’s a greater chance for getting wet because of the periodic pounding of the strong surf that could beat you without warning. Makes you wonder how these delicate looking creatures survive the seemingly merciless pounding surf. Unless you have a waterproof camera, here is a place where capturing images is best done in the mind. However, just simply watching the big red octupi, fishes, the rich diversity of a living eco-system up close will make you forget about the passing time and the incoming high tide.  

The best time to visit Point Loma tidepools is winter. It is in this time of the year that a lot of negative low tides occur during daylight hours. This is one of the seasonal changes that can be observed in California’s coast. Even though summer has also daily lowtides, but the water at summer during lowtides is still too high to see anything.


But summer does not necessrily mean the tidepool would be boring. I still love to see the strong big waves splashing on the musells-filled rock,


or the pounding surf beating hardly the red sandstone cliffs,

and seeing the swimming seals from afar.


 Different seasons just bring different sceneries to experience and enjoy. Spring blankets the hills with more green grasses and flowers.

The variability of rainfall (this year we only have less than 5 inches!) causes certain types of plants to thrive one year and barely survive another. But nature takes care of these plants despite the lack of rain, the cold air from the ocean meets the warmer air from the land producing thick fogs. The fogs provide the much needed moisture for plants that require more water to co-exist with desert plants. Yes, always stay on trail when hiking here as you could end up being pricked by the native desert plants if you go off-trail. This is another fun thing to do, taking pictures of the wildflowers.


Different flowers bloom in this peninsula tip all year round. Despite the extreme dryness of summer, the coastal fogs still blanket the moisture loving plants with some moisture. Most of the time, the wind here is chilly, even at summer. It is not unusual to see people wearing warm sweaters in  the summer in this part of the peninsula. This is because of the wind that comes from the cooler water of the Pacific Ocean. There are a few days of the year though that Santa Ana conditions come in, the direction of the wind reverses, that is the wind comes from the warmer land.

Another thing to do here at Cabrillo is revisit history. There are 2 films shown at the “Age Exploration Exhibit” near the visitor center. The films present interesting insights into the history of Cabrillo and the life in the sea.  For first timers, a visit to the Old Point Loma lighthouse,


one of the original eight lighthouses on the West Coast, can be added to the trip. This lighthouse however only had a short life because the seemingly good location had a serious flaw: thick fogs and low clouds often hide the beam. On March 23, 1891, the keeper moved into a new lighthouse, at the bottom of the hill.


This new lighthouse is 100 yards south of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. Near the Old Point Loma Lighthouse is the Whale Overlook, another experience you can get from this natural park. “Grey whale migration pass this side of the west coast every winter. After spending the summer feeding in the food-rich waters of the Arctic, the Gray whales swim south along the coast to the bays of Baja California, Mexico, where they mate and nurse their young. Along the way, they pass Point Loma and Cabrillo National Monument, where you can witness the annual winter journey. Middle of January is the peak of migration, but whales can be spotted from mid-December through March.”- source:

Aside from hiking, biking, birding, tidepooling (in winter), whale watching (winter), enjoying native plants, my other favorite activity to do here at Cabrillo is taking pictures of the beauty surrounding it.


The sunset over the top of the cliffs are great.


The swinging wildflowers add a whisper of romance to this natural setting.


 Going home from Cabrillo National Monument, we usually stop by the Shelter Island,


to probably enjoy the other part of San Diego, that is the urban life. And also, to explore civilization photography :).


How can I not like the great outdoors when I live in San Digeo which has a lot of natural beauties in its backyard? I am just glad for the great gift that everytime I take vacation far from home to enjoy the beauty of nature and the feel of the outdoors, I go back home in SD not missing the nature and the outdoors but getting more of it. This is a place, that is very hard to leave.  


Entry filed under: hiking, hiking, nature, travel, wildlife, wonders, nature, ocean, rocks, wildlife.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • […] own a digital camera when I visited Cabrillo. Photos shamelessly glommed from Wikipedia. However, here’s a great blog entry on Cabrillo with some fantastic photos. Sites like this make me want to work on […]

  • 2. barkybree  |  March 24, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Heyas. Just stumbled across your blog, good job! I just started my own travel-related blog, but yours sets a real high standard. Especially love the sunset pics!

  • 3. betchai  |  March 24, 2008 at 7:45 pm


    Thanks so much for the appreciation. Your inspiring words brings so much motivation.



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