Cabrillo National Monument

Monument in San Diego
Image by Barry Winiker / Getty Images
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. It's easy to 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 California Native inhabitants and the area’s natural history.

The 1854 Old Point Loma Lighthouse, atop the point, is furnished with late 19th-century furniture and offers a glimpse of daily life of the lightkeepers. Drop in next door for more local lighthouse history or head to the nearby building to learn about Point Loma's military history. Starting at the lighthouse, 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. Note that pets are only allowed in the tide-pool area.