- Location: Cabrillo National Monument, Point Loma, San Diego. From the western end of I-8, head south on Nimitz Blvd. for 1.3 miles. Bear right onto Chatsworth, go 0.9 miles and turn left onto Catalina Blvd. Follow Catalina Blvd. to the park entrance (it becomes Cabrillo Rd. en route). Pay the entrance fee of $10 per vehicle (good for one week; annual passes are $20) and follow the signs to the tide pools. Park where available in either of two lots. Note that this park is popular on weekends, especially during warm weather and at low tides, so allow extra time for a possible line at the entrance and for finding parking.
- Agency: Cabrillo National Monument
- Distance: 1-2 miles
- Elevation gain: 100 feet
- Suggested time: 1 hour or more
- Difficulty Rating: G (exercise caution when exploring the tidepools)
- Best season: All year (daylight hours only), easiest to explore at low tide
- Recommended gear: Sturdy shoes/boots; binoculars for possible whale watching (December – March)
- Recommended guidebook: California Hiking
- Dogs: Allowed on leash (not allowed anywhere else in Cabrillo National Monument)
- Cell phone reception: None
- Water: None
- Restrooms: Vault toilets at trail head
- Camping: None
- More information: Trip descriptions here, here, here and here; Bring Fido page here; Yelp page here
- Rating: 6
Surreal marine geology and unobstructed coastal views make the Cabrillo Tidepools a top draw in San Diego. Even Orange County and L.A. hikers will acknowledge that these tidepools and sea caves rival those of Corona Del Mar and Malibu. (As of this writing, the famous Cabrillo Sea Cave is closed to the public, but there are plenty of smaller ones to explore here as well).
The two main routes to explore here are a path that runs across the top of the bluffs from one parking lot to the other, just over half a mile each way (a good option during high tide or for those who are hesitant about venturing into the tidepools) and through the tidepools themselves. There’s a staircase leading down to the tidepools near the north parking lot and a fairly easy access point just above the south lot. There are two small sea caves just north of this area; the first has a hole in the roof in which careful hikers can climb back up to the bluffs.
Wildlife in the tidepools includes sea urchins, anemones, crabs and barnacles that cover some of the rocks – almost looking like pine cones from a distance. Be alert for algae that can make the rocks slippery. From December to March, you may catch sight of a California Gray whale heading southbound.
Text and photography copyright 2017 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.