Cabrillo National Monument

Monument in San Diego

Image by Barry Winiker Getty Images

Atop a steep hill at the tip of the peninsula, this is San Diego’s finest locale for history, views and nature walks. It’s also the best place in town to see the gray-whale migration (January to March) from land. You may forget you’re in a major metropolitan area.

The visitor center has a comprehensive, old-school presentation on Portuguese explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo’s 1542 voyage up the California coast, plus exhibits on early Native Californian inhabitants and the area’s natural history.

The 1854 Old Point Loma Lighthouse, atop the point, is furnished with late-19th-century period furniture. The 2-mile round-trip Bayside Trail has about a 300ft elevation and interpretive signs about local plant life. On the ocean side, drive the steep mile down to the tide pools to look for anemones, starfish, crabs, limpets and dead man’s fingers (thin, tubular seaweed), best seen in low tide in winter.

If you’re not driving, the monument can be reached by the hourly bus 84 from Old Town Transit Center.