By Andrew Iida
Commemorating the landing of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay in 1542, the Cabrillo National Monument sits at the southern tip of the Point Loma peninsula and offers one of the best views of San Diego. On a clear day at Cabrillo, you can see San Diego’s city skyline, the harbor, Coronado and the Naval Air Station.
The monument holds a special place in our hearts because of the amazing natural beauty of the area. Close to an awesome surf spot in Sunset Cliffs, it’s also a great spot to catch some waves or check out the natural tide pools.
Cabrillo was an explorer best known for being the first European to sail along the California coast. He was born in either Portugal or Spain but historians cannot agree on the location of his birth. In 1539, Cabrillo was commissioned by the Viceroy of New Spain, a territory of the Spanish Empire which included modern-day Mexico, to travel north and explore the coast. Cabrillo began the voyage in 1540, and attempted to find a passage across North America. His flagship was called the San Salvador.
On September 28th, 1542, Cabrillo landed in a bay that he called San Miguel, a name which was changed 60 years later to San Diego. This was the first time that a European expedition set foot on the West Coast of what is now the United States. He made it all the way to Point Reyes, north of San Francisco, before turning back and heading south.While the fleet was stopped in Catalina, Cabrillo was injured and developed an infection that led to his death in January of 1543.
Visitors to the Cabrillo National Monument can witness a reenactment of Cabrillo’s landing in San Diego each October. During the event, the native Kumeyaay, share their traditions and history with visitors.
During the rest of the year, the Cabrillo National Monument is a popular place to check out some ocean life. The tide pools here are among the best in all of san diego, and are full of marine animals. Common sightings include anemones, snails, crabs, small fish, mussels, and sea stars. Lucky visitors might see urchins, lobsters, and octopuses. The area is also a great place for whale watching from the land because the high cliffs give you an incredible view of the ocean.
If you’re curious about Cabrillo’s flagship, a replica of the San Salvador can be found at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. The ship was constructed using the same shipbuilding techniques that were used by the original builders of Cabrillo’s ship. Construction was completed in 2015, and today the ship regularly embarks on trips along the coast.
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