National Monument at Cabrillo San Diego

It is not surprising that the southern part of the state is home to some truly spectacular areas of natural beauty, not least the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, where we boondocked on our way from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to Cabrillo National Monument over the course of five nights.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
It is the only place in the US where the Organ Pipe Cactus grows wild, and was once considered the most dangerous national park.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Anza-Borrego Boondocking
We saw no other RV at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park as far as we could see. Fabulous boondocking spot.
The boondocking options north of Los Angeles, CA are limited, so we stopped at Cabrillo with the trailer, as we drove through on our way to our next camping location.

Since we arrived at Cabrillo National Monument on Tuesday morning carrying the trailer, we were one of the first to arrive. As it turned out, we had to wait for about 10 minutes for the gate to open after arriving a bit early.

In California, Cabrillo National Monument lies along the southern tip of Point Loma Peninsula. this handy guide offers panoramic views of both the harbor and city skyline of San Diego.

Despite its designation as a National Monument, the site commemorates Cabrillo’s landing on September 28, 1542.

A debate exists over whether Cabrillo was Spanish or Portuguese. The expedition he set out in June 1542 with three ships would become the first European expedition to land on what would soon become the west coast of North America.

Several presidents were responsible for Cabrillo’s protection. The statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was originally planned for half an acre of land designated by President Woodrow Wilson on October 14th, 1913. A Californian fraternity, Native Sons of the Golden West, was instructed to erect a statue 13 years later, in 1926, without a statue having been erected. They also failed.

Cabrillo Statue
The Portuguese ambassador to the United States presented a bronze plaque to Cabrillo in 1935, during major renovations.

A 14-foot-tall and 14000-pound sandstone statue was commissioned by the Portuguese government in 1939. San Francisco, CA, received the statue late, and it was meant to appear at the Golden Gate International Exposition. It spent a brief time in an Oakland, CA garage before being moved to the Naval Training Center in San Diego and finally installed at Cabrillo National Monument in 1949.

It was also expanded by Eisenhower and Ford, which now span almost 144 acres.

A limestone replica replaced the sandstone statue in 1988, after it had been removed due to extreme weathering because of its exposed position.

Cabrillo Statue
All are welcome to see Cabrillo’s replica!
We had no idea that Cabrillo National Monument was so rich in flora and fauna, since we arrived on a cloudy morning in April. While we were inside the Visitors Center, we learned that we were there at a very off-season time.

National Park Passport Stamp
It wouldn’t be a National Park visit without a National Park Passport stamp!
Flora & Fauna
At Cabrillo, a wide range of marine animals live in the intertidal zone and tide pools. The areas are, however, only accessible at low tide. It was not only a high tide, but it is generally higher during the springtime anyway. Ooops!

During fall and winter, the tides are at their lowest during the day, so the best time to visit is in the late fall or winter.

It is also popular to watch gray whales migrate by Whale Overlook station. Sadly, these migrations take place during the winter months – December through March – so we were too late!

So I guess we’ll just have to go back another time. Cabrillo had not been on my radar when we visited San Diego in February a few years ago – otherwise, the timing would have been perfect!

Cabrillo Flora
It was beautiful to see the spring colors along the cliffs even though we weren’t able to see tide pools.
Instead of seeing all of this wildlife up close, we chose to watch a film inside the auditorium. Short films are shown every hour, on the hour.

We arrived just in time to catch the short On the Edge of Land and Sea. Perfect!

This film taught us about the various marine habitats along the coast, and was genuinely interesting.

The Cabrillo National Monument can be explored in a couple of hours during high tide. Both the Cabrillo expedition’s history and the lighthouse that sits atop Point Loma can be explored.

San Diego Harbor
View of San Diego’s skyline from Cabrillo National Monument.
When the tide is low, the shoreline and its intertidal zones are best explored. I suspect there are hours of fun to be had exploring the tide pools if you don’t mind the cooler temperatures.