It was our last full day in San Diego; my wife and I had with nothing planned for the afternoon, but wanted to get out and see some of the local sights. We looked at a tourist map and saw that the Cabrillo National Monument looked like a short drive from where we were staying in the Point Loma section of San Diego. So, we decided to visit.

I found the monument on my GPS and left the hotel for what appeared to be short drive but wasn’t. On a straight line, the monument was not that far from where we were; unfortunately, there were no roads that followed that straight line, so we had to drive a little bit farther than expected, but it was worth it.

As you approach the monument you have to drive through a small US Navy base. Google Maps identifies it as US Space & Naval Warfare Systems. After that you drive through the beautiful Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, where thousands of service members are at eternal rest on a hillside, looking out upon San Diego Harbor.

After you pass through the cemetery you arrive at the entrance to the Cabrillo National Monument. The area is a national park, you will have to pay $5 per car to enter.

The park celebrates Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who, in 1542, stepped into history as the first European to set foot on what is now the West Coast of the United States. It’s located at the end of a piece of land pointing out to sea, some 600 feet above sea level, with magnificent views of San Diego, its harbor, and the Pacific.

A monument to Cabrillo dominates the site.

A statue of Juan Cabrillo overlooks the harbor.

The statue of Juan Cabrillo at the Cabrillo National Monument
The first thing you notice is the breathtaking views of the city and the harbor. We were there on a sunny (but windy) day and saw pleasure craft and Navy vessels entering and leaving the harbor.

The view of the harbor and the city of San Diego.

The rugged shoreline faces the Pacific.

A Navy ship (I think it's a guided missile cruiser) was heading out to sea, passing a dry dock on the left.

The Navy ship soon cleared the harbor on its way out to sea, while keeping a safe distance from all the pleasure craft in the area.

We were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and see the first ship going out to sea as its sister ship passed it on the way into the harbor. I was surprised at how close they came to each other.

At one time there was a working lighthouse in the park, but it was replaced in the late 1800s. While it seemed a good idea to put a lighthouse in the park they soon found there was a problem: it was too high above sea level. It worked great on a clear night, but if it was foggy it would be lost in the fog, too high to be seen by ships in the area. So, it was eventually replaced by another lighthouse that was closer to sea level.

Being from Texas we expected warm weather during our time in San Diego, but the temperature never rose past the low 70s. At Cabrillo Point we were several hundred feet up, surrounded by the ocean, with very high winds. We found it to be so cold that we bought hot chocolate to warm up.  At that point we realized it was time to leave.

We got in the car and drove to the area known as Old Town. The website gives a great description of the area: “Old Town San Diego is considered the “birthplace” of California. San Diego is the site of the first permanent Spanish settlement in California. It was here in 1769, that Father Junipero Serra came to establish the very first mission in a chain of 21 missions that were to be the cornerstone of California’s colonization.”

Old Town recreates the feel of old California.

This huge cactus dwarfed my wife.

Old Town has some small museums, gift shops, and several Mexican restaurants.

Many of the restaurants featured live music. This establishment had a singer outside to attract customers.

Old Town actually has two areas: the older historical area, and an area of restaurants lining both sides of the street nearby. We walked through the restaurant area and quickly realized we were tired and hungry. We chose the Café Coyote: our meal was very good but we actually enjoyed getting off our feet even more.

After the meal we returned to our hotel and called it a night. We’d return to Texas the next day.