Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- San Diego Tide Pools
- Cabrillo National Monument Tide Pools
- Learning History at Cabrillo National Monument
- What to Do with Kids at Cabrillo
- Old Point Loma Lighthouse
- Hiking at Cabrillo National Monument
- Seasonal Whale Watching
- Junior Ranger Badge
- Where to Eat at Cabrillo National Monument
- Where's Cabrillo National Monument
- Tips from a TravelingMom
San Diego has amusement parks, glorious beaches, the San Diego Zoo and gorgeous weather. But you might not know there’s a national park site, minutes from downtown. It’s an animal lover’s delight with tide pools to explore, seasonal whales to spot and kid-friendly hikes. Here’s what you need to know before visiting Cabrillo National Monument and tide pools.
San Diego is a top family destination for its sunny weather and lots of kid-friendly activities. With warm days year-round, it’s like a family travel beacon. With the top ranked San Diego Zoo, amusement parks and beautiful beaches, it is great for all ages, from babies playing in the sand to teens learning to surf. My kids always say yes to spending a few days in San Diego.
San Diego Tide Pools
But the San Diego Zoo isn’t the only place to see animals. Check out an entire ecosystem, only visible for a few hours each day. Teeming with marine life, head to Cabrillo National Monument during low tide to play eye spy for star fish or a crab. A must for any trip to San Diego, take a break to experience the excitement of discovery at the Cabrillo National Monument Tide Pools.
Cabrillo National Monument Tide Pools
Tide pools are rocky pools of seawater part of the intertidal area. Meaning tide pools are only visible part of the day at low tide.
Discover the tiny creatures in a marine ecosystem that’s a must-do West Coast experience. Cabrillo National Monument offers one of the top places to tide pool in San Diego.
Cabrillo National Monument features one of the most protected and easily accessible areas to explore with kids. With several different tide pool zones, families can see more marine animals.
- Splash zone—This area is closest to the shore. Find periwinkle snails, acorn barnacles and limpets in the splash zone.
- Middle intertidal zone—This area is submerged during high tide. Find California mussels, anemones and lobsters in the middle intertidal zone.
- Subtidal zone—This area is mostly submerged during low tide so wading in shallow water might be necessary. Find larger fish and star stars during low tide in the subtidal zone.
Bring the water shoes (not flip-flops) and look up the low tide time before you arrive for the most fun.
Learning History at Cabrillo National Monument
The tide pools are cool but learn some history while exploring Cabrillo National Monument near San Diego.
A young Spanish Conquistador, Juan Rodrigues Cabrillo explored the New World claiming land for Spain. After settling in Guatemala with a family, Cabrillo built a successful business in ship building with skills learned in Spain.
In 1542, Cabrillo set out to sail north of New Spain (Mexico) in the Voyage of Discovery. His ship and crew landed in California at the San Diego Bay before heading farther north, claiming land for Spain.
Harsh conditions forced Cabrillo and his crew to winter on the Channel Islands in California. Cabrillo died here after an injury, but his ship and crew continued on to Oregon during the expedition.
Walk through the Age of Exploration display to learn about the journey. Don’t miss the statue of Juan Cabrillo.
What to Do with Kids at Cabrillo
Old Point Loma Lighthouse
Stop by the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, restored to its 1880s appearance. Learn the role of lighthouses along the West Coast.
Soon after California gained its U.S. statehood, the national government decided to build lighthouses up and down the California coast. With a string of eight lighthouses, including San Francisco’s Alcatraz Island, the lighthouses improved the safety around the busy shipping ports.
Walk through the life of the Light Keepers and their families. Learn about the type of lenses used to power the lights.
Hiking at Cabrillo National Monument
With two convenient hiking trails, hike to get around Cabrillo National Monument.
- Bayside Trail—A 2.5-mile round trip trail features wide, well-groomed gravel trails. Start near the Old Point Loma Lighthouse.
- Coastal Trail—A 1.0-mile round trip trail leads to the tide pool area. Since this trail heads to the ocean, it features steep slopes in areas. Find it near the parking lot.
Birding is popular year-round so keep a look out for birds during your hike.
Seasonal Whale Watching
Head to the Whale Overlook to savor the view. Or scan the Pacific Ocean for whales during their winter migration. The interpretive display offers information on the common whale species seen in Southern California.
Junior Ranger Badge
The Junior Ranger Program is the go-to program for families to learn more about a National Park Service site. It’s free and takes about two hours to complete. My kids love the badges that the Rangers present them after completing their booklet.
Pick up a Junior Ranger booklet at the Cabrillo National Monument Visitor Center. I found several activity areas and displays for kids in the visitor center.
Where to Eat at Cabrillo National Monument
Since Cabrillo National Monument doesn’t sell food, pack a picnic to enjoy while overlooking the water. Remember your refillable water bottles and fill up at the Cabrillo National Monument Visitor Center.
Where’s Cabrillo National Monument
Located on Point Loma in San Diego, the peninsula that shelters Coronado Island, the Cabrillo National Monument feels secluded from the rest of San Diego. Its address is 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr.
Cabrillo National Monument is open 365-days a year from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Use an America the Beautiful annual pass ($80) or purchase a 7-day pass for $20 per vehicle.
Limited parking at tide pools. Find more parking near Cabrillo Visitor Center.
Tips from a TravelingMom
- Be mindful of the posted signs and know the tide times.
- The tide pool area closes at 4:30 p.m., 30 minutes before the rest of the monument.
- Limited parking at the tide pool area and it closes periodically during weekends when the lot is full.
- All shells and animals are federally protected so shelling is prohibited.
- Don’t pick up animals in tide pools to investigate.
- Touch animals with two fingers only.
- Pets are only allowed on the coastal trail and not at the tide pools or visitor center.