Cabrillo National Monument-Tide Pools

 Situated at the end of the Point Loma Peninsula, Cabrillo National Monument has some of the most popular and easily approachable tidepools in all of San Diego.

After my latest trip this past New Years Day, on a spring tide,  I whole-heartily agree!

Come and join me on a tour of the Cabrillo National Monument tide pools!

The Cabrillo National Monument Tide Pools

Point Loma Map

 Cabrillo National Monument

A Bit of Cabrillo History

Cabrillo National Monument is at the southern end of the Point Loma Peninsula at 18000 Cabrillo Memorial Drive, San Diego.

Before we start let’s talk a bit about the history of this location and why it is so popular.

painting Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo

In 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his crew were the first Europeans ever to discover the West Coast of the United States.

  Donated by Portugal in 1935, the Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo memorial statue looks down upon the entrance of San Diego Bay.

Statue Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo
Credit- Wikimedia Commons

Fun Fact- Cabrillo set out from Navidad Mexico with three ships on June 27, 1542 to explore the unknown.

Consequently on Sept 28th, Cabrillo sailed into what is now called San Diego Bay.

Even more, he later landed at Santa Catalina Island on October 7th, San Pedro Bay on Oct 8th and finally Santa Monica Bay on the 9th.

 First Supermoon of 2018 & Spring Tide

Full Moon Cabrillo National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument

On New Years Day 2018, I woke up with the intense desire to go to the Cabrillo National Monument tide pools in San Diego. Why, do you ask? Well, did you realize that on New Year’s Day 2018 there was a Supermoon?

What is a Supermoon?

Astronomers call this a perigean full moon, meaning when a full moon is closest to earth (1).  The moon appears up to 30% brighter and as much as 14% bigger. Three to four times a year the New or Full Moon coincides with the perigee of the moon.

So how does this affect the tide pools?

When the Moon is full, the Earth is between the moon and the sun. Thus the gravitational pull of both heavenly bodies combined causes exceptionally high tides and extremely low tides.

Cabrilllo National Monument
Notice the extremes on the Tide Chart?

When the Moon is closest to Earth (2),  is when the really high tides and really low tides occur.  Mind you this has nothing to do with the season Spring. Instead, these are what you call spring tides- think of like a flow of water ‘springing forth’ or ‘springing back.’

Extremely low tides are an opportune time to go to the beach and look around at the tide pools. Let’s have a look!

Cabrillo National Monument Tide Pools During a Spring Tide

Tidepools Cabrillo National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument

It seems that we were not the only ones with the desire to go to the coast today.  Once we arrived at the Point Loma Peninsula, there was a line of cars a mile long waiting to get in.

Walking to Cabrillo National Monument

Parking on the side of the road is encouraged as signs were stating just that. The Cabrillo National Monument is very strict when it comes to visitors; no cars are permitted into the park if all parking lots are full.

Cabrillo Road, which is located just after entering the park, takes you down the tide pools. There are three separate parking lots to choose from that are situated right above the tide pools.

Last but not least, there is a ten dollar fee to enter.

The Road To The Tide Pools

Cabrillo National Monument entrance sign

Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo Road takes you down to the Cabrillo National Monument Tide Pools. Looking straight ahead is the end of the Point Loma Peninsula.

Cabrillo road down tidepools Cabrillo National Monument

Here we are looking south toward Mexico.- when it is clear you can see the Coronado Islands in the distance.

corner of Cabrillo Drive Cabrillo Memorial Drive

down Cabrillo Rd tidepools right

Looking toward the right, you will be able to make out the first two parking lot options.
Tidepool specimen shells in box

 A Naturalist Station is set up with volunteers who will answer any questions you might have.

Down below is a link to a page that you can print out if you are interested, which has diagrams and information on what species you might come upon when investigating this shoreline.

–>Intertidal Field Guide<–

Gray Whale vertebrate baleen in box

This box of Gray whale goodies was out for all to inspect.  Here you see a vertebrate as well as the Gray whales distinctive blonde colored baleen compared to the usual white baleen found in other baleen whales.

Gray whales pass the Point Loma peninsula during their winter migration from Alaska down to the warm lagoons of Baja California in Mexico to give birth.

Remember to be on the lookout; a whale just might be passing by off the coast!

Fun Fact- Something to consider when looking out for whales is to notice if any whale watching boats are around. If you see one that has stopped, chances are they are next to a whale.

Cabrillo National Monument Bluffs

East view coastal sage scrub bluffs

Looking back at where we started. Do you notice the whale observation booth on top of the hill to the right?   It is a fantastic spot to sit and wait and to watch for the magnificent giants as they pass by the coast.

Cabrillo National Monument hermit crab sign

path down to tidepools Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo state marine reserve rules and regulation sign

Cabrillo National Monument tidepools

Rocky Intertidal Zone of Cabrillo National Monument

The shoreline of the Cabrillo National Monument is a rocky intertidal zone.

The intertidal zone is the part of the shoreline that is connected and influenced by the ocean; in other words, the area between where the high and low tides occur along the shore.

Species here are in ‘pools’ (depressions in the rocks), as well as attached to the rocky substrate of the sandstone cliffs, boulder fields, and tidal shelves, which also surround the area.

Rocky intertidal areas are some of the most diverse and extreme environments on Earth.

Let’s now take a look at each zone.

There Are Four Intertidal Zones

Cabrillo National Monument tidepools bluffs ocean

Upper Intertidal Zone

High Intertidal Tidepools Cabrillo National Monument

Also known as the splash zone, this area is closest to the shore and above the spring high tide line. You will find this area on the sandstone cliffs’ edge where pools of water collect.

Here,  small invertebrates such as Periwinkle snails, lined shore crabs, acorn barnacles, troglodyte chitons and various limpets inhabit.

MIddle Intertidal Zone

Middle Intertidal Zone Cabrillo National Monument
Here is an example of both the middle and low intertidal zones.

This section is covered entirely with water during the high tide. Thus the species that live here are exposed to the elements twice a day but only for a short while with the low tide.

Species that you will find here include the California mussels, aggregating anemones, limpets, chitons, California sea hares, snails, crabs, fishes, lobsters, and octopuses.

Low Intertidal Zone

 This zone is only exposed to air during the lowest of low tides and is considered to be primarily marine. 

Red algae, Dungeness crabs, sea stars, sea urchins and brown kelp live here.

Subtidal Zone

The tides do not expose this area at all. Here you may find larger fish, sea stars and larger sea urchins.

In this video, I  pan over the four different zones to give you an idea of the location.

Next, let us now go and check everything out!

Upper Intertidal Zone

Cabrillo National Monument

Upper Intertidal Zone Bluffs

Upper Intertidal Zone tidepools

Upper High Intertidal Cabrillo National Monument

Do you notice the flat tidal shelf? Many organisms can live with only a minimal amount of water provided in the “Splash Zone.”

High Intertidal Pools Cabrillo National Monument

Here we find a few tide pools that were left over from the previous extra high tide. High Intertidal Pools

Cabrillo National Monument High Intertidal Zone

view inside rock depression Cabrillo National Monument

Middle Intertidal Zone

Entirely covered and uncovered with sea water with every high and low tide, the mid intertidal zone is one of the most unstable environment there is.

California Sea Hare Cabrillo National Monument
California black sea hare with its egg mass on the right side of it.

Cabrillo National Monument tidepools

South view Cabrillo National Monument
From left to right- high intertidal, mid intertidal, low intertidal and sublittoral zones.

Middle Intertidal Zone Cabrillo National Monument

Low Intertidal Zone

The low intertidal zone is entirely covered with sea water except during a low spring tide,

Low Intertidal Cabrillo National Monument

Eel Grass Low Intertidal Zone

Cabrilllo National Monument Tidepools
Tidal Shelf Cabrillo National Monument
Exposed tidal shelf.

Tidepools Cabrillo National Monument

Here we have two people checking out the wonders uncovered by the low spring tide.

tidal bluffs exposed mid intertidal zone

I hope you enjoyed your visit. We had a fascinating time for the simple reason that our trip coincidentally turned out to be huge thanks to the effects of the supermoon! It is now time to walk back to the car 1.5 miles away.

Walking Back to the Car From the Tide Pools

Cabrillo National Monument

Point Loma Cliffs San Diego Bay

Cabrillo sunset ocean

San Diego Bay City View

Fort Rosecrans National Military Cemetary

Fort Rosecrans National Military Cemetery

Located right before the Cabrillo National Monument is the Fort Rosecrans National Military Cemetery est 1882.

 Over 117,362 graves are overlooking both sides of the Point Loma Peninsula.

Fort Rosecrans National Military Cemetery

Fort Rosecrans National Military Cemetery South view

Fort Rosecrans National Military Cemetery East View
Looking onto San Diego Bay with Downtown San Diego in the far background.

Thanks for making it this far. So what did you think? Do you think I have persuaded you to come to San Diego and see the Cabrillo National Monument tide pools for yourself? I sure hope so!

Please leave any comments or questions you may have!

Until next time!


 (1 )Moon: Supermoon. (n.d.). Retrieved from

(2) Perigee Moon & Apogee Moon • R/space – Reddit. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Learn How To Make A Business Website For Free!

Cabrillo National Monument

12 Replies to “Cabrillo National Monument-Tide Pools”

  1. Oh my, such a beautiful place! I go down to Dana Point every other year for vacation and we’re always looking for new places to go in the San Diego area. Looks like I found my next destination. Thanks for the lovely photos.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to give us a little history. I have to say it looks amazing. I wish I could have seen how amazing the supermoon looked up close. The video you took of the low zone is absolutely stunning. The military cemetery though sad how many graves there it is a nice looking cemetery. Nice article!

    1. It really felt like a different world down there! I am so happy that we decided to go on this special day! The Cemetery also has a strange feel to it as well, kinda tragically beautiful. Thank you so much for visiting Melissa!

  3. Hi there, first of all, what an amazing post, and some brilliant pictures, really enjoyed reading and looking.
    I only have some few suggestion,
    When you write
    The first Supermoon of 2018=Extra Low Tide, for me it looks maybe a bit wrong with the = sign, maybe you could write is equal to:)

    And at Cabrillo National Monument Tide Pools During a Spring Tide
    There is a picture of something written, but you cant read it all because of the picture

    But an amazing post again:)

    Best regards
    Benjamin, also from WA, and if you would comment on my page as well

  4. Hi. Thanks for this awesome post.
    I am pretty sure you had to make a lot of research for that right?
    Continue your good work , it was a pleasant reading it.


    1. Hi Damien! Yes, it was a lot of research, but I enjoy doing it. It is as if I am at the beach while I am on the computer 🙂 I am glad that you enjoyed it. Thank you for visiting my site!

  5. Great pictures. I spent some time in San Diego for a conference and unfortunately I did not know about this national park or the tide pools.
    if I’m blessed again with returning to your area I would not deprive myself of this natural wonder. thank you for sharing t&IA area with us.

    1. Hi Sylvie! Well, if you had your conference at the Downtown San Diego Conference Center, at least you got a glimpse of the Point Loma Peninsula in the background. 🙂 Thank you for visiting!

  6. Well, considering I lived in San Diego for three years and never saw this place, I am officially bummed. On my next trip down I’ll most certainly have to check it out. I usually spend more of my time in northern San Diego, so maybe that’s why I missed it all the way down to Point Loma.

    Now I have a new destination with friends when I’m looking for a bit of nature and relaxation near the beach.

    Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *