Beach at Cabrillo National Monument

Explore Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument quick facts

Location1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive, San Diego, CA 92106
Coordinates32.67509, -117.23948
Fees$20 per car, $10 per walker or bicyclist, or the America the Beautiful Pass is accepted. More details here.
WebsiteCabrillo National Monument
Top things to doExplore the tidal pools at low tide, visit the Old Point Loma Lighthouse and the Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo statue, hike and take in beautiful views.
Rating5 Mooses
Juan Rodriguez Statue at Cabrillo
Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo Monument

Our experience at the Cabrillo National Monument

There are few places that combine some of our favorite activities and Cabrillo National Monument ranks up there pretty high. Stunning views, wildlife, rich history and well maintained hiking trails make this a gem to visit. We completed a short car ride (9 miles) from Downtown San Diego and quickly gained access to the park with our America the Beautiful Pass. A mid-week visit in the early afternoon (coincidentally at low tide), we found the park to be only moderately busy.

Pro-tip: If you already have a pass and the second lane is open to the right of the fee station, you can bypass the lane and get right in!

Tidal pools at Cabrillo National Monument
Low Tide at Cabrillo National Park

We started at the tidal pools given we were at the peak of low tide and snagged one of the last parking spots in the tiny lot down Cabrillo Road. We saw a fair amount of people walking down the steep and winding hill to the tidal pools if you can’t get a spot, but we don’t recommend it. The road is narrow and has a lot of blind corners.

Seagull at Cabrillo Tidal Pool
Seagull at Cabrillo Tidal Pools

After the tidal pools, we made our way to the main attraction of the park, the statute of Juan Rodriguez and the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. The parking is more friendly at the main portion of the attraction and we had no trouble getting a spot.

You’ll first come across the visitors center and a small museum to learn about the history of the area. Just a few steps beyond you’ll find the Juan Rodriguez monument and 180 degree view of San Diego.

Off in the distance you’ll see the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, which pre-covid offered tours inside.

Lighthouse at Cabrillo National Monument
Old Point Loma Lighthouse

Know before you go

  • Check the tide forecast before you go if you’re interested in exploring the area for wildlife
  • Dogs are not allowed in most areas of the park, you may want to consider leaving your pup at home.
  • A pass is required whether driving or walking into the park.
  • To best explore the tidal pools, bring sturdy shoes you don’t mind getting to wet to have the best chance at spying sea critters.
  • The main parking lot has plenty of spots but the parking close to the tidal pools can be a challenge.
  • The Cabrillo Sea Cave has been closed for sometime, be sure to the check the main website if you have your heart on visiting it.
Cabrillo Tide Pools
Coastline at Cabrillo Tide Pools

Should you visit the Cabrillo National Monument?

Rating: 5.0 Mooses

Cabrillo Monument never disappoints.

  • What we liked
    • The sweeping views of downtown San Diego and the coastline
    • Varied wildlife and sea life in the area
    • Rich history of the area
  • What we didn’t like
    • The crowds during our first visit
    • Small parking lot in the tidal pool area

Verdict: We’ve been there twice and would visit again in a heartbeat!

Yellow wildflowers at Cabrillo National Monument
Wildflowers at Cabrillo National Monument

Frequently Asked Questions about Cabrillo National Monument

Does Cabrillo National Monument allow dogs?

In general, no. They are prohibited in all areas of the park, except the Coastal Trail. The Coastal Trail can be found by turning right on Cabrillo Road just past the entrance station. Note that dogs are not allowed to be walked down Cabrillo Road itself. Service pets are allowed throughout the park. More information can be found here.

Beach at Cabrillo National Monument

What are the top things to do at the Cabrillo National Monument?

  • Explore the tidal pools at low tide
  • Hike on the many trails within the park
  • Enjoy the scenic views of Downtown San Diego and the ocean
  • Visit the Old Point Loma Lighthouse
  • Watch the majestic Pacific Gray Whale’s as they pass by the park (December through February)
  • Search for over 20 different species of birds that live in the area
  • Explore the Cabrillo Sea Cave (currently closed)
  • Learn about the military history in the area
  • Visit the park store and museum
  • Watch a film in the auditorium
  • Visit the nearby and famous Sunset Cliffs Park (over 4 miles away)
  • Pay your respects at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery (adjacent to the park)