Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument

RV Rental Dates


Cabrillo National Monument near San Diego, California, honors the landing of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese explorer sailing under the Spanish flag, who arrived in San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542. Cabrillo’s arrival commemorates the first European expedition to land on the West Coast of the United States.

The monument sits on a rocky coastal cliff with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, San Diego Bay, and the surrounding landscapes. The convergence of warm and cold ocean currents off the coast creates a diverse marine habitat, making it a popular tide-pooling and whale-watching spot during certain seasons.

Visitors, including RV renters, can enjoy a variety of activities at Cabrillo National Monument. Exploring the tidepools and coastal trails is a popular choice, offering opportunities to see unique marine life and breathtaking views. The Old Point Loma Lighthouse and the Bayside Trail are also must-visit attractions. Birdwatching, ranger-led programs, and visiting the monument’s museum and exhibits provide further opportunities to engage with the area’s history and natural beauty.

Park Alerts (2)

The interior of the lighthouse museum is set to be inaccessible until Friday, July 28th, as it undergoes necessary repairs.

In the event that the County reaches a High Community Level, masks might be compulsory inside federal buildings, following the guidelines provided by the NPS.

RV Rentals in Cabrillo National Monument


When visiting Cabrillo National Monument, visitors have several transportation options to choose from depending on their preferences and location. The most common way to access the park is by using a personal vehicle. Cabrillo National Monument can be reached via Cabrillo Memorial Drive, which connects to various roads in the surrounding area.

To access the park from different entrances, visitors can follow specific routes based on their starting point. Those approaching from the north can take Catalina Boulevard/Cabrillo Memorial Drive and head south through the Navy gate to reach the park’s entrance. From downtown San Diego, travelers can take Harbor Drive past the airport, turn left on Rosecrans Street, then right on Canon Street, and finally, left onto Catalina Boulevard, which eventually becomes Cabrillo Memorial Drive.

Travelers coming from the south via Interstate 5 should take the Hawthorne Street/Airport Exit, stay left to go under the freeway towards the bay, and then turn right on Harbor Drive. After passing the airport, they should turn left on Rosecrans Street, right on Cannon Street, and left onto Catalina Boulevard/Cabrillo Memorial Drive.

If arriving from Interstate 5 from the north, travelers should take the Rosencrans/Highway 209 exit, follow Rosecrans Street to Point Loma, turn right on Canon Street, and left on Catalina Boulevard, which leads to the park’s entrance.

For those approaching from Interstate 8 westbound, taking the Rosecrans/Highway 209 exit will lead them to Point Loma on Rosecrans Street. From there, they should turn right on Cannon Street, and then left onto Catalina Boulevard.

It’s important to note that Cabrillo National Monument is located on the Point Loma Peninsula, which has limited road access and narrow, winding roads. Due to these constraints, there may be restrictions on the size of vehicles or rigs that can access the park. Before planning a visit with a large or oversized vehicle, such as RVs or trailers, visitors should check with the National Park Service (NPS) or Cabrillo National Monument’s official website for any specific guidelines and restrictions on rig sizes to ensure a safe and hassle-free visit.

Campgrounds and parking areas in Cabrillo National Monuments

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Top Campsites in Cabrillo National Monuments

Sweetwater Summit Regional Park

Located approximately a 45-minute drive from Cabrillo National Monument, Sweetwater Summit Regional Park offers a county-run campground that attracts a steady flow of visitors. The campground provides 112 campsites, including spaces specifically designed for equestrians and their horses. The park features a range of recreational activities, such as 15 miles of trails for hiking and biking, fishing opportunities at Sweetwater Reservoir, a community room for gatherings, amphitheaters for entertainment, and an aquatic playground for water-based fun. The site also includes picnic pavilions, a kitchen, and a 13-station exercise course. Many campsites have access to water and power, and there are coin-operated shower facilities for convenience. Pets are welcome at this campground, although they are not allowed on the playground or splash pad. Adjacent to the campground, a local park offers additional grassy areas, a playground, splash park, and scenic picnic spots. Sweetwater Summit Regional Park is open year-round, but specific months of operation for the campground might vary. It’s important to check for the latest updates and reservation availability. The permitted RV and trailer sizes can differ for each site, so it’s advisable to confirm with the park authorities regarding specific size restrictions.

San Diego KOA

The San Diego KOA is a popular camping choice located approximately 35 minutes away from Cabrillo National Monument. This campground is well-equipped to meet the needs of RVers and offers an array of amenities for a comfortable and enjoyable stay. It provides 50 Amp electric hookups, WiFi, Cable TV, a pool, sauna, hot tub, pavilion, camp kitchen, and various recreational facilities, such as a basketball court, climbing wall, horseshoe pits, and a dog park. Families and friends can also make use of the games room for added entertainment. The San Diego KOA is capable of accommodating RVs up to 70 feet in length, making it suitable for a wide range of RV sizes. For those without an RV, the option to rent cabins is available to accommodate larger groups. The campground remains open year-round, but it’s important to verify reservations and specific months of operation in advance. Notably, the San Diego KOA is pet-friendly, warmly welcoming visitors to bring their beloved pets along for the camping experience.

Season-specific experiences in Cabrillo National Monument


Explore the intertidal zone along Cabrillo National Monument’s rugged coastline during low tide. The Tide Pool Trail leads to a hidden world of marine life exposed on the rocky reef. The upper zone hosts snails, crabs, and barnacles, while the middle zone boasts mussels, anemones, lobsters, and octopi. Larger fish and sea stars reside in the subtidal zone. Winter is ideal for tidepooling, as low tide occurs in the day, offering a chance to observe marine creatures in their natural habitat. Pets are allowed but must be cleaned up after, and parking may fill up, temporarily closing the road to the tidepools.

Whale Watching

During winter, Pacific gray whales migrate south along the California coast, passing Cabrillo National Monument. The peak whale-watching time is mid-January, although sightings occur from December to mid-March. The Kelp Forest Overlook and Old Point Loma Lighthouse are popular spots for observing these majestic creatures. Bring binoculars for a better view, as rental availability is limited. Respectful wildlife viewing is encouraged to minimize disturbance to the whales. Witnessing the gray whales’ migration offers an unforgettable experience connecting visitors with nature’s wonders.

Bayside Picnicking

Bayside picnicking is a wonderful activity for RV renters at Cabrillo National Monument during the winter season. With designated picnic areas along the bay, visitors can enjoy stunning views of San Diego Bay and the city skyline while savoring a relaxing outdoor meal. The mild winter temperatures provide a comfortable setting for picnickers to appreciate the coastal landscape. RV renters can pack their favorite snacks and meals, making it a personalized and budget-friendly dining experience. The picnic areas offer nearby facilities for convenience, and visitors can capture memorable photos of the picturesque scenery. Cleaning up after the picnic is essential to preserve the park’s natural environment. Bayside picnicking provides an opportunity to connect with nature and create cherished memories with loved ones.


Fall is an ideal time for RV renters to explore the park’s scenic hiking trails. The Bayside Trail, a recommended option, offers captivating views of the ocean, historic landing spot, San Diego skyline, Coronado Island, Mexico’s Tijuana, the Pacific Ocean, and passing ships. The milder fall temperatures create a pleasant hiking environment. Interpretive information along the trails enriches the experience, and benches are available for hikers to rest and appreciate the surroundings. Before hiking, RV renters can obtain trail maps and information on difficulty levels at the visitor center.

Night Sky Observation

Cabrillo National Monument is an exceptional destination for night sky observation in the fall. As a designated Dark Sky Park, it offers clear skies and an unobstructed view of stars, planets, and celestial events. Away from city lights, RV renters can enjoy stargazing with telescopes or the naked eye. The park’s elevation and favorable atmospheric conditions enhance stargazing opportunities. Notable astronomical events, like meteor showers or planetary alignments, may occur during fall. Bringing binoculars or a telescope and dressing warmly for chilly nights can enhance the stargazing experience.

Ranger Programs

Cabrillo National Monument offers engaging Ranger Programs tailored for RV renters during the summer season. The park’s dedicated rangers conduct interactive activities and educational tours that provide a deeper understanding of the park’s natural wonders and rich historical heritage.

For young RV visitors, there is a Junior Ranger Program specially designed to spark their curiosity and appreciation for nature and history. To participate, kids can start at the visitor center, where they will receive a free “Just for Kids” newspaper. The guide leads them to various sites, including 16th-century historical spots, military installations, ships and aircraft, whale watching areas, and natural features. Exploring these locations and completing fun activities in the guide allows young participants to learn about the park’s significance and ecosystems.

Once the kids finish the activities, they return to the visitor center to discuss their answers and experiences with a friendly park ranger. In recognition of their efforts, the children are awarded a Junior Ranger Badge, a cherished memento of their time at Cabrillo National Monument.

Historical Sightseeing

RV renters at Cabrillo National Monument can immerse themselves in rich historical sightseeing experiences during the summer. Guided tours led by knowledgeable rangers provide invaluable insights into the park’s storied past, offering a comprehensive understanding of the significant sites and their historical significance.

Along the park’s trails and at key locations, interpretive information is available for RV renters who prefer self-guided exploration. Armed with this informative material, visitors can independently discover the searchlight shelter and power plant dating back to 1919, military installations, fire control stations, searchlight bunkers, and a radio station. The radio station now features an intriguing exhibit, while the iconic Old Point Loma Lighthouse has been transformed into a fascinating museum.

One of the most captivating spots to visit is where explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first landed in the 16th century, allowing RV renters to transport themselves back in time and envision the experiences of the early explorers along this stunning coastline.

Monarch Butterfly

Spring marks the Monarch butterfly migration at Cabrillo National Monument. RV renters can witness these beautiful butterflies as they stop over during their journey from Mexico to North America. The park’s coastal environment with nectar-rich flowers and milkweed provides essential food and resting spots for the Monarchs. Park rangers may organize guided walks and programs to observe and learn about the Monarch butterflies and their conservation efforts.

Wildlife Observation

Spring offers RV renters excellent opportunities for wildlife observation in Cabrillo National Monument. The park’s diverse habitats attract various wildlife species. Reptiles like the California striped racer, rattlesnake, gopher snake, and alligator lizard can be spotted sunbathing. Birdwatchers can delight in observing local and migratory species such as herons, pelicans, hummingbirds, egrets, terns, and warblers. Mammals like Cottontail rabbits, ground squirrels, and possibly foxes add to the wildlife experience. Exploring trails and viewpoints with binoculars and cameras can enhance the wildlife observation experience.