A visit to the Cabrillo National Monument tidepools.

Visitors to Cabrillo National Monument investigate the tidepools.
Visitors to Cabrillo National Monument investigate the tidepools.

Cabrillo National Monument at the end of San Diego’s Point Loma peninsula is a place of many wonders.

Visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of San Diego, its big, beautiful bay, Coronado’s North Island and the Pacific Ocean. They can enter the Old Point Loma Lighthouse which was built in 1855 to guide ships into San Diego’s harbor. They can see the iconic statue dedicated to Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, the explorer who discovered San Diego Bay in 1542 on behalf of Spain. They can watch the migration of gray whales, move through native flora on the Bayside Trail, and check out bunkers that were erected as a coastal defense during World War II.

And by heading a little off the beaten track, visitors can also explore amazing tidepools!

Where are they?

Shortly after passing the park’s Entrance Station, turn right on Cabrillo Road and drive down the hill to the Point Loma Tide Pools.

Make sure to arrive around the time of low tide. Wear sturdy shoes with good traction. Then carefully walk from the parking lot down a short path to the sandstone cliffs and slippery intertidal zone rocks. That’s where you’ll find abundant sea life.

It’s easy to spot all sorts of diverse marine animals, invertebrates and plants at the ocean’s edge. One can find surf grass, sea lettuce, dead man’s fingers, sea hares, lined shore crabs, bat stars, aggregating anemones, sea urchins, limpets, chitons, periwinkle snails, California mussels, lobsters and even small octopuses!

I took some photographs about two hours before low tide!

As low tide nears, people look about the rocks and shallow water for signs of sea life.
As low tide nears, people look about the rocks and shallow water for signs of sea life.
Amazing beauty awaits curious eyes.
Amazing beauty awaits curious eyes.
Starting down the path from a parking lot to the Point Loma Tide Pools at Cabrillo National Monument.
Starting down the path from a parking lot to the Point Loma Tide Pools at Cabrillo National Monument.
A sign by the path. Exploring the rocky intertidal zones is like peering through a window into the ocean's ecosystem. During low tide, marine animals in shallow pools can be closely observed.
A sign by the path. Exploring the rocky intertidal zones is like peering through a window into the ocean’s ecosystem. During low tide, marine animals in shallow pools can be closely observed.
The closer you look, the more you see. Park rangers periodically identify and count the organisms to monitor the health of each species.
The closer you look, the more you see. Park rangers periodically identify and count the organisms to monitor the health of each species.
As we head down the dirt path, the tide pool overlook comes into view.
As we head down the dirt path, the tide pool overlook comes into view.
The tide pool area is active with curious visitors. Only two hours until low tide this afternoon.
The tide pool area is active with curious visitors. Only two hours until low tide this afternoon.
A funny crab asks visitors to please leave all shells in the tidepools.
A funny crab asks visitors to please leave all shells in the tidepools.
Approaching a pair of information signs atop the overlook. The blue Pacific Ocean waves smoothly curl below.
Approaching a pair of information signs atop the overlook. Pacific Ocean waves curl smoothly below.
The old signs are very weathered, but let's take a look anyway.
These old signs are very faded, but let’s take a look anyway.
You are now standing in the upper limits of the splash zone. The waterline does not come this high, but splash and spray sometimes do. Just below is the high-tide zone.
You are now standing in the upper limits of the splash zone. The waterline does not come this high, but splash and spray sometimes do. Just below is the high-tide zone.
Some organisms pictured are limpets, chitons, sand castle worms, goose-necked barnacles and abalone.
Some organisms pictured are limpets, chitons, sand castle worms, goose-necked barnacles and abalone.
Plant life includes giant kelp, surf grass, coraline algae, rock weed, feather boa kelp and dead man's finger.
Plant life includes giant kelp, surf grass, coraline algae, rock weed, feather boa kelp and dead man’s finger.
Families enjoy the warm sunshine and smell of the ocean. This photo looks north along the sandstone cliffs of Point Loma.
Families enjoy the warm sunshine and smell of the ocean. This photo looks north along the sandstone cliffs of Point Loma.
A few rocks stick out of the surf. Fishing boats lie in the water beyond.
A few rocks stick out of the surf. Fishing boats lie in the water beyond.
A gull stands upon one of the larger rocks.
A gull stands upon one of the larger rocks.
A lone surfer has caught a good wave!
A lone surfer has caught a good wave!
As we head down a short dirt path from the overlook to the tidepool area, we take a closer look at the eroded sandstone cliffs and water-smoothed stones on the narrow beach below.
As we head down a short dirt path from the overlook to the tidepool area, we take a closer look at the eroded sandstone cliffs and water-smoothed stones on the narrow beach below.

A wide flat rock dips dips toward the ocean at one end of the tidepools, making a perfect platform for exploration when the tide goes out.
A wide flat rock dips dips toward the ocean at one end of the tidepools, making a perfect platform for exploration when the tide goes out.
In a couple hours even more tidepools will appear. Low tide is the best time to explore the rocky pools of captured water.
In a couple hours even more tidepools will appear. Low tide is the best time to explore the rocky pools of captured water.
Someone peers down into the shallow water, perhaps looking for an octopus or fish.
Someone peers down into the shallow water, perhaps looking for an octopus or fish.
Someone--a young person most likely--searched for heart-shaped stones on the rocky beach and lined them up for all to see.
Someone–a young person most likely–searched for heart-shaped stones on the rocky beach and lined them up for all to see.
People explore a smooth bowl-like pit in the eroded, layered, uptilted sandstone.
People explore a smooth bowl-like pit in the eroded, layered, tilted sandstone.
So much wild natural beauty. So much to contemplate.
So much wild natural beauty. So much to contemplate.
The rock shelf contains parallel fissures and oddly eroded patterns. Over many years the rock is weathered, strangely changes.
The rock shelf contains parallel fissures and oddly eroded patterns. Over many years the rock is weathered, strangely changes.
I see some of those whitish goose-necked barnacles. Many of the tiny pits are home to troglodyte chitons.
I see some of those whitish goose-necked barnacles. Many of the tiny pits are home to troglodyte chitons.
I found some limpets clinging to the wet rock.
I found some limpets clinging to the wet rock.
Bright green algae grows on the exposed rock's surface.
Bright green algae grows on the exposed intertidal rock’s surface.
Beauty that defies description.
Beauty that defies adequate description.
The patient sea washes against these rocks, doing its slow work over the course of countless lifetimes.
The patient sea washes against these rocks, doing its slow work over the course of countless lifetimes.
Looking south at light on the water and dark, broken rocks.
Looking south at light on the water and dark, broken rocks.
The slowly uplifted then eroded sandstone cliffs also tell a story in their book-page-layers about the passage of time.
The uplifted then eroded sandstone cliffs tell a story in their book-page-layers about the passage of time.
Little piles of sand and stone collect where the cliffs crumble.
Little piles of sand and stone collect where the cliffs crumble.
High above, atop Point Loma, I see the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, now a part of human history.
High above, atop Point Loma, I see the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, now a part of human history.
Gazing at the sublime work of nature.
Gazing at the sublime work of nature.

No human artist could possibly paint this.
No human artist could possibly paint this.

I see a small bit of sea lettuce!
I see a small leaf of sea lettuce!
An aggregating anemone has collected fragments of shell and grains of sand.
An aggregating anemone has collected fragments of shell and grains of sand.
A small boy walked up to me as I photographed this small scene and said that it looks like a volcano. On the surface of Mars, I thought to myself.
A young boy walked up to me as I photographed this small scene and said that it looks like a volcano. On the surface of Mars, I thought to myself.
Like a glittering hidden treasure.
Like a glittering hidden treasure.
A chiton between an anemone and a limpet. Another close look at nature's awesome and infinite beauty.
A chiton between an anemone and a limpet. Another close look at nature’s awesome and infinite beauty.

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Published by

Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

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