STAFF / USA MAINLAND / Scenic Wonders

Cabrillo National Monument, Point Loma, California

By staff writer Cathie Nichols. Photos Copyright © Cathie Nichols.

LIVING IN A tourist destination is not always a good thing. In fact, it sometimes borders on being a major inconvenience.

For example, during the summer, my family and I do not go to the beach. We live about three miles from the white, sandy beaches of the picturesque Pacific Ocean. On the rare occasion we do make a trip to Ponto Beach, one parent (usually me) has to agree to drive everyone, drop off the umbrella/towels/chairs/cooler and sunscreen-slathered family at the side of the 101, and then go back home only to return three or four hours later for family pick-up. Tell me that isn’t inconvenient.

Layers over a lifetime

Layers over a lifetime

But, the upside is that when the majority of the tourists go home after Labor Day weekend, we can finally enjoy the uncrowded, beautiful beaches up and down the coast, which leads me to San Diego Tourist Tip #1: If you can, plan your San Diego vacation for September or October when it’s still very warm but there’s almost nobody here. The college students and other kids are back in school, and there’s no real chance of the dreaded May Grays or June Gloom.

A .gif I made of the crabs moving underwater

A .gif I made of the crabs moving underwater

On a recent Friday afternoon during Spring Break, my family and I decided to make the short trek to the Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma, California. We didn’t go for the history on this particular day but for the amazingly alive tide pools. The tide pools are teeming with living creatures of many different kinds.

Anemone with shells, in the sun

Anemone with shells, in the sun

Tourist Tip #2: Find out when the tide is low, otherwise there will be less to see and explore at the tide pools.

After paying our $5 fee to enter the park (you can return for free for a week), we turned right onto a narrow and curvy downhill road. Although it’s tempting for the driver to look at the amazing view, it’s probably safer to keep one’s eyes on the road. One wrong move and you may find yourself upside-down at the bottom of a steep hill.

We easily found a place to park, and advanced toward the trail. From the parking lot, we followed the dirt path toward the water.

Such interesting things to see

Such interesting things to see

Tourist Tip #3 & 4: Wear layers because one minute you will be hot and the very next, you’ll be cold. Remember, the monument is an area near water. Also, I highly suggest having water shoes for this trip. Not flip-flops but something closer to a Teva shoe. There is a fair amount of smaller stones, loose gravel and wet, mossy, and very slippery rocks.

Kind of hard to see underwater here, yet fascinating in real life

Kind of hard to see underwater here, yet fascinating in real life

Everywhere you look, there’s another amazing photo op. First, there’s the view of the ocean, the coastal plant life, the layered rocks, the caves, the shells, oh my! Seeing thousands of crabs, sea anemones, starfish, and fish can overwhelm an avid photographer. Between two of us, we took at least 80 pictures! On this particular day we even saw a California Sea Hare,which is a funny name for this creature because it looks and moves more like a snail.

Blue Anemone

Blue Anemone

Tourist Tip #5: Allow 2-3 hours to explore just the tide pools. Some places in San Diego don’t live up to the hype but the tide pools in Point Loma are not one of them. Cabrillo National Monument is a must-see.

Factor in more time if you add the Bayside Trail hike and/or the Old Point Loma lighthouse and visitor’s center onto your agenda.

Crabs are alive, the picture this time

These shells are home to live crabs

Tourist Tip #6: Wear sunscreen even if it’s an overcast day. You will thank me later when you don’t look like a lobster in your San Diego selfie!

Tourist Tip #7: Wow, who knew I had so many tips? I guess living in San Diego for over 27 years has made me somewhat of an expert, but I digress. Be sure to bring food because there is none available to buy at this San Diego park.

If seeing nature out in, well, nature, is something you and your family enjoy, then the Cabrillo National Monument is for you!


Cathie Nichols, staff member at Milliver's Travels

Cathie Nichols

Originally from the East Coast, Cathie Nichols has spent the last 25 years in San Diego, and stays in the area because of its extraordinary beauty and a lovely lack of humidity. Accused by her three children of looking at too many rocks while visiting Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon and the deserts of Nevada, she continues to marvel at the ever-changing southwest landscape. With trips to Palm Springs, San Francisco, Turkey and Greece, Cathie plans to reawaken her desire to see the world, and leave no stone unturned. Cathie tweets as @bloggoneit.



  1. Judith Shaw says:

    What a fabulous travel post! The organizing tips were perfect and so are the photos. I love viewing animal life and wish those tide pools were in my future. Who knows? Maybe they are.

    I live in the Berkshires in western MA, so I totally get what tourist heaven is like in the summer. We need to drive 40 minutes just to get an edible meal, And the traffic–especially during Tanglewood, triples the time it takes to get anywhere.

    I love your writing style. So crisp, and no extra words. When I finish writing this comment, I’ll check out your blog.

    If you’re ever in the Berkshires, let me know. I’d love to meet you.


    • Hi, Judith.

      Thank you so much for the kind words! And thank you for taking the time to read my post.

      I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one suffering through a touristy area. We are also home to Legoland which is only just down the street.

      I’d love to visit MA. My husband used to live and work in Boston long before I met him. I had wanted to make a trip to the East Coast this summer and spend a couple months starting in North Carolina and moving northward but we’ve decided to go even farther east (England!).

      Maybe we’ll make the East Coast trip in 2015, and make it memorable by meeting you in person.

  2. Thank you so much for the kind words.

    Although I have not written much lately, I’m starting to feel the urge again.

    Now let me go grab a couple thousand of my pictures…

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