Cabrillo National Monument

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One of San Diego’s most celebrated works of art, Cabrillo National Monument commemorates the landing of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay on September 28th, 1542. Cabrillo’s expedition marked the first time that Europeans had set foot upon the California coastline. In 1913, Woodrow Wilson issued a presidential proclamation that half an acre be set aside to honor Cabrillo. By 1926, there was still no monument, but then—president Calvin Coolidge approved The Native Sons of the Golden West to construct a befitting monument. Artist Alvaro de Bree for the Portuguese government created work of art, and the stunning sandstone statue was donated to the United States. The statue of Cabrillo stands fourteen feet tall and weighs 14,000 pounds.

There is more to see at Cabrillo National Monument than the monument to the infamous Portuguese navigator; next to the monument, you can find a small museum that shows a film about Cabrillo’s voyage, and also contains information about the exhibition. The monument, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is also a park, complete with a spectacular view of San Diego’s harbor on skyline. If you come on a clear day, you can even see Mexico’s Coronado Islands. During the winter months, you might get lucky and spot a migrating gray whale.

Two Mile Historical Park Tour

It’s a good idea to start off at the Visitor Center, where you can see the “Age of Exploration” exhibit and take part in ranger—guided presentations about Cabrillo’s history. Afterwards, you can take a self—guided tour, which consists of a two—mile walk through the park, where you can admire the views of San Diego and the harbor. The highest point of the park is the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, which has been a beloved San Diego landmark since 1854. You can tour the lighthouse by climbing up its spiral staircase, where you will find the private quarters of the lightkeepers and their families, which has been restored to retain its 19th century appearance.