The monument honors the arrival of Juan Cabrillo in 1542 to San Diego Bay in what is known today as the first European expedition to the West Coast of the United States. The Portuguese explorer, Cabrillo departed from Mexico in June 1542 and arrived at the San Diego Bay three months later. He called the bay a “closed and very good port,” upon arrival and proceeded to name it San Miguel which was changed to San Diego 60 years later by Sebastian Vizcaino, another voyager.
President Woodrow Wilson ordered the building of a monument dedicated to Cabrillo almost 400 years after this expedition in 1913. It was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. If you are visiting this important San Diego attraction, you should enjoy the gently rolling topography on your way over there and the gorgeous panoramic scenery.
The statue of Juan Cabrillo is fourteen feet tall, weighs 14,000 pounds, and overlooks the monument area which provides some of the most beautiful views of the Bay, the harbor but also downtown San Diego. On very clear days, you can see the surrounding mountains and as far as Tijuana, Mexico.
Besides the statue, the monument area also has a museum that you can check out which holds many interesting artifacts such as navigational instruments, and models of 16th Century-era ships. There are also a lot of historical facts about the tribes that inhabited the San Diego Bay area at the time of Cabrillo and many exhibits dedicated to his explorations. In the visitor center’s auditorium, you can enjoy a film screening about Cabrillo and his travels.
The Cabrillo National Monument is a great place to come at one with nature. You can sit around, relax and reflect while watching the surrounding wildlife. You can also hike down to the rocky intertidal coastline and experience the tide pools. Here you can see some great marine life such as crabs, fish, and more. You can find out when there’s a low tide pool from the Visitor Center. If you’re in the San Diego area in October, you should find out if the annual Cabrillo Festival is going on. This event commemorates and reenacts the first landing on Cabrillo in San Diego Bay, at the Ballast Point. There is also a lot of folk dancing and singing, food, and entertainment for kids.
The Cabrillo National Monument is a must-see if you’re in the San Diego area. It is open 354 days a year from 9 am to 5 pm, except for Christmas Day. It costs $5 per car to get into the monument and $3 per person or bicycle. The ticket is good for a week so you can always come back and explore this fascinating landmark again during your trip.