Clayton Daily loves National Monuments and one of his favorites is located in Southern California at Point Loma.
A Peninsula in San Diego
As a kid, I had gone to San Diego around 20 times but never to Point Loma. It wasn't until I was an adult and became interested in National Parks that I found out about this hidden gem.
Whenever I am in San Diego, I make it a point to visit (no pun intended). The location is really convenient to most of the other scenic stops around the county.
On the one side facing east are views of Coronado Island, home to one of the great Navy bases called Naval Air Station North Island as well as the famous historical hotel. On the other side of the peninsula facing west is the beautiful Pacific Ocean.
Since there aren't many National Monuments in the Southern California region, the Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma is a fantastic place to bring the whole family.
The monument is not the only thing to see there. I'll discuss some of the other activities and sites below.
Neighborhood with a History
Literal translation from Spanish to English of Loma (pertaining to geography) is "hill". With just under 50,000 in population, the amount of people for the livable space is quite large.
Historically, it was possibly one of the first places that explorers came ashore in California back in the 1500s.
Cabrillo National Monument
Named after a Portuguese explorer working for the Spanish named Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, this national monument has a statue of him located near the visitor center.
The park is at the very end of the road. If it's your first time visiting, you may think that you're lost but as you continue down you'll eventually see the small entrance to the monument grounds and the ranger shack collecting entry fees.
The history of the site is rather interesting. Cabrillo probably landed on the eastern side and had mentioned in some historical documentation the features of the peninsula.
By the early 1900s the site was designated a California landmark. President Woodrow Wilson ordered that a statue be built and placed their commemorating Cabrillo, but it was never done. Later, it would be the Portuguese government that would have the statue completed and donated to the U.S.
There are 3 main areas to the monument:
- The Cabrillo Statue
- The Lighthouse
- The Tidepools
Cabrillo National Monument
The Cabrillo Statue
The statue is really the highlight of the monument. It's so noticeable as you visit the park. All in all, the original statue weighed over 14k pounds and was made from sandstone. Due to weathering effects of the original, it was later replaced with a limestone copy.
As you walk around the statue, it's easy to admire the view that the explorer once saw (minus all the buildings, boats, roads and cars of course). Close to the statue is the visitor center. There are restrooms there as well.
The visitor center has panoramic ocean views. Stop by to get your park passport stamp or find out about the monument and some hiking spots.
At one time, someone actually lived inside the lighthouse and would operate it so that ships would have some visual tracking of the rocky cliffs and steer clear. The original lighthouse was built in the mid-1850s but was a challenge to construct due to the terrain.
The light uses a Fresnel lens, which illuminates the focal area much better than what was used before (Argand Lamps with reflectors). It stayed in service until the late 1800s when another one was built at a lower elevation. However, thankfully this unique piece of history continues to be maintained and preserved as part of the National Parks system.
Additional Reading Recommendation
The tide pools are my family's favorite place to spend time when we are at Cabrillo. To get here, you have to travel down a steep road. You could walk or ride a bike down (I see people doing that occasionally but I'd recommend taking a car, it's the safer option.
If it's low tide you can actually go down on the beach/sandy areas to explore the tide pool areas. We usually don't time it that well so the tide is generally too high to approach from the beach and we end up walking on the trail at the top of the cliffs. It's still a beautiful place to visit and see endless views of the ocean. It can be windy here and a bit cool so might want to bring a windbreaker.