San Diego/Point Loma-Ocean Beach
Sitting at the mouth of San Diego Bay on a peninsula west of the city's airport, Point Loma offers a pleasant diversion from the city's busy tourist-filled neighborhoods and beaches, with lovely scenery and the historic attractions of Cabrillo National Monument overlooking the area's spectacular coastline. Nearby sits laid-back Ocean Beach, a small, relaxed beach town without all of the usual bells and whistles typical of the popular beach neighborhoods just to the north.
If driving, there are three primary access points into Point Loma: Rosecrans Street from Old Town to the northeast, Harbor Drive past the airport from the east, and Nimitz Boulevard from Mission Bay to the north.
By public transit
The Metropolitan Transportation System (MTS) operates buses in San Diego, but unfortunately service to the Point Loma area is slim, with routes few and far between and running pretty infrequently. Route 28 on Rosecrans Street and Route 35 to Ocean Beach connect to the Trolley station in Old Town, while Route 923 connects Ocean Beach to Downtown on the weekdays and the airport on Saturdays via Harbor Drive.
If you want to go to the Cabrillo National Monument or Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery via the bus, take the #28 bus to Shelter Island Drive and Rosecrans Street and then take the #84 bus towards Cabrillo Monument. But note that the #84 only runs on the weekdays, and very infrequently at that.
- Fort Rosecrans, north of Cabrillo National Monument. A former WWII military outpost, situated on Point Loma to protect the Naval Base on Coronado from attack by sea. The fort contains bunkers, weapons emplacements and the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, which holds a number of monuments including the USS Bennington Monument. An exhibit in Cabrillo National Monument displays some of the history of Fort Rosecrans.
Cabrillo National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument, at the end of Catalina Boulevard, ☎ +1 619 557-5450. Open daily 9AM-5PM. $10 per vehicle/motorcyle, $5 per person walking or bicycling in; national parks passes applicable.
Located at the tip of Point Loma, Cabrillo National Monument commemorates Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who led the first European exploration to what is now the west coast of the United States, in 1542. Point Loma was the one of the places he stopped, and the first contact Europeans made with what would one day be California. The monument has a statue of Cabrillo and exhibits on his expedition in the visitor center.
Being over 400 feet above the ocean, the views from Cabrillo are marvelous, overlooking the Pacific Ocean to the west and San Diego Bay, Coronado, the airport, and Downtown San Diego to the east. Mexico and several off-shore islands are also visible from this vantage point on a clear day. A short walk from the parking lot is the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, which was built in the 1850s to warn approaching sailors of rocks. However, the location proved poor and a new lighthouse was built closer to ocean, leaving the old lighthouse empty. Today the old lighthouse has been preserved and is open to tour. Each year, on the lighthouse's birthday, the top of the lighthouse is opened for visitors to enjoy the same view that the lighthouse keeper had.
In addition to its main sights, Cabrillo also offers a few other attractions:
- There is a Tidepool Area a few miles drive from the Visitor Center, down the cliff on the Pacific Ocean side, where visitors can explore a living tide pool ecosystem. Just be cautious of the marine life and slippery rocks! Wearing shoes with proper grips is a must when visiting any tidal ecosystem.
- A Military History exhibit about Point Loma is located near the parking lot, which preserves a few of the old coastal defense mechanisms which were in place during both world wars. Occasionally, a docent will be present to answer any questions about the military history of the area.
- A Whale Overlook, near the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, offers a great place to watch the annual Gray Whale migration every winter.
- The Bayside Trail gives you a chance to stroll through a native coastal scrubland. Sea lions are very often seen from this trail, playing on the buoys bobbing in the ocean below. The trail is one way.
- Ocean Beach, Main lifeguard station at 1950 Abbott St. A large sandy beach, which cater to just about every beach-going type, offering designated surfing and swimming zones, which are monitored by the local life guards.
- Dog Beach. At the northern end of Ocean Beach, dog lovers can bring their pets along for a romp in the waves or a swim in the flood channel.
- Ocean Beach Municipal Pier, at the south end of the beach. Extends out over the waves and offers great views of the beautiful Pacific Ocean and coast. A tackle shop, located in the middle of the pier, provides bait and supplies for the many fishing enthusiasts who frequent the area. This is one of the few places that visitors can fish without a California fishing license. Pole rentals are available at the bait shop as well.
- Sunset Cliffs, along Sunset Cliffs Boulevard south of Ocean Beach. A lovely setting, Sunset Cliffs is an excellent place for sightseeing, picnics, watching sunsets (as the name suggests) or just driving along the rim of the beautiful cliffs along Sunset Cliffs Blvd. There is also a rather secluded beach there, but it's swim at your own risk. It is quite popular with the more adventurous and seasoned surfer as the surf is rather rough for the area. Be warned, however, that there are no lifeguards at this secluded beach and it is only accessible by scaling a gently eroding (but long-standing) cliff face. Local surfers have been kind enough to provide a rope that aids in 'safely' repelling down the cliff face. Some upper body strength is required to return to the top.
- Humphreys Concerts By the Bay, 2241 Shelter Island Dr, ☎ +1 619 220-8497. A concert series held every May through October, showcasing some famous entertainers (Crosby, Stills & Nash, Jewel, The Moody Blues, Bonnie Raitt) at Humphrey's Half Moon Inn & Suites. A wide variety of styles, from rock and jazz to comedy, blues and international music. Humphreys Restaurant also has live blues/jazz/disco/classic rock music every night in its lounge.
Point Loma, as the home of Shelter Island and Harbor Island, offers plenty of opportunities for boating on the San Diego Bay.
- Shelter Island Boat Launching Ramp. Provides the closest access to the Pacific Ocean (approximately 3 miles away) of the four boat launch ramps on San Diego Bay. Restrooms and a large parking lot are immediately available. For visiting fishermen, the bait receivers, where anchovies and sardines can be purchased, are located on the right side of the channel as you exit the harbor. The bait barges are open 24 hours per day.
- There are two anchorages here; Cruiser Anchorage, located east of Harbor Island, is set aside for visiting boaters. A permit is required to anchor here; permits are valid up to 30 days at a time. Permits can be obtained at the Shelter Island Harbor Police Facility, 1401 Shelter Island Drive, +1 619 686-6272. La Playa Cove Anchorage, located near several yacht clubs in the Shelter Island yacht basin, has room for around 25 boats. La Playa allows stays on weekends only, up to 72 hours. Nearby yacht clubs include: San Diego Yacht Club and Southwestern Yacht Club.
- Harbor Island West Marina is a full-service marina that is also popular for convenience. Dock services include restroom/shower facilities, electric, water, telephone, dock boxes & carts, fuel dock/pumpout station, swimming pool, saunas, boathouse restaurant, deli/liquor store, boutique, sailing club, picnic area, and laundry facilities, to name a few. Liveaboards are also welcome. Sunroad Resort Marina is on the east side of Harbor Island, with more than 600 boat slips. Dock services such as electrical hookups, telephone jacks, satellite television, wireless internet, fresh water service, and a waste pump-out station are available.
- There are also several moorings located throughout the Harbor for vessels ranging from two to 65 feet in length. They are available north of the Grape Street Pier and south of the Coast Guard Station, near Downtown. Mooring balls that are strictly for transients are also available. Visit the SD Mooring Company Office, 2040 N. Harbor Island Drive, +1 619 291-0916, for an application.
- The local Kiwanis Club hosts the Ocean Beach Kite Festival each Spring, filling the sky above a local park with color. Children get to enjoy kite making and a carnival, and there also vendors and live music.
- Every April, Point Loma hosts the annual Day at the Docks sportfishing tournament and festival, where you can learn how to catch and cook fish, take part in fishing contests, take a boat ride on the bay, and enjoy lots of food and entertainment.
- The Ocean Beach Street Fair takes place annually in late June and includes live entertainment, displays by local artists, and a chili cook-off festival.
- The Cabrillo Festival is held every September to commemorate Cabrillo's landing on Point Loma in 1542. Festivities include demonstrations of Native American, Mexican, Portuguese and Spanish culture, food, dancing, and a reenactment of Cabrillo's landing.
- In December, the Parade of Lights starts at Shelter Island in Point Loma, as dozens of boats decked out in Christmas lights make their way across the bay towards Downtown.
Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach offers a great variety of unique stores and boutiques. Any demographic can find something down Ocean Beach's main street. Once a week, typically on a Wednesday, you'll find a farmers market. The market offers food, fresh produce and other fare as well as live entertainment and small attractions. It takes up the entire two main blocks of the shopping district and typically lasts from 4-8PM.
- Downwind Marine, 2804 Canon St, ☎ +1 619 224-2733. Boating materials, supplies, and equipment are available here.
- Karen’s Consignment Gallery, 4051 Voltaire St, ☎ +1 619 225-8585. The place to go for silver, crystal, china, oriental rugs and lamps, and has been highly rated since opening day.
- Seabreeze Nautical Books, 1254 Scott St, ☎ +1 619 223-8989. M-Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 10AM-4PM. A lot of boating products here, like navigational charts, sailing guides, plotting tools, and nautical-themed books and gifts.
- Newport Avenue Antiques, 4836 Newport Ave, ☎ +1 619 224-1994. Well known amongst antique collectors for the range of antique lighting and cigar and smoking accessories.
- Hodads Restaurant, 5010 Newport Ave, ☎ +1 619 224-4623. This restaurant is very popular, especially on weekends; sometimes the line outside reaches the street corner; their logo is a caricatured surfing burger with a caricature Hispanic person riding on top. they also have a Hodads van parked outside. It's a burger joint with fries and shirts and shoes are not required. A pair of seats inside is shaped like a car, and you sit in the driver seats. Their milkshakes are huge and should not be ordered with a meal.
- Nati's Mexican Restaurant, 1852 Bacon St, ☎ +1 619 224-3369. Great food and a lovely patio seating area.
- Old Townhouse Restaurant, 4941 Newport Ave, ☎ +1 619 222-1880. Daily 6AM-3PM. Family owned and operated for over 35 years; a local favorite for breakfast. They will also serve you bottomless cups of coffee.
- Point Loma Beach Cafe, 1424 Sunset Cliffs Blvd, ☎ +1 619 758-1776. Great food, including wraps, burritos, sandwiches, salads, and smoothies.
- Ranchos Natural Foods, 1830 Sunset Cliffs Blvd (between Narragansett Ave & Niagara Ave), ☎ +1 619 226-7619. M-Su 8AM-10PM. Creative Mexican food with an eye towards organic and healthy options. Many vegetarian and vegan options, though the extensivity of the menu caters to every meat-lover's Mexican food dreams. Ample portions, casual service, smoothies and juices and organic salad bar available. Popular, but large enough to handle its crowds except at prime weekend times.
- Tower Two Cafe, 5083 Santa Monica Ave (across from the Lifeguard Tower Two on Ocean Beach), ☎ +1 619 223-4059. This is a family-friendly atmosphere where childless singles can enjoy a good time.
- Sessions Public, 4204 Voltaire St (at the intersection of Catalina and Voltaire), ☎ +1 619 756-7715. Exceptional gastro pub with excellent food and a unique beer selection. The rib-eye steak fries are excellent. 16 great beers on tap including Belgians, local San Diego craft beers and other worthy selections. They will typically have a cask night each week, check out their website. Happy Hour from 4PM-6:19PM.
- Shades, 5083 Santa Monica Ave, ☎ +1 619 222-0501. Daily 6:30AM-9PM (10PM in the summer). Happy Hour from 4PM-6PM. Outdoor porch, indoor seating and bar — windows overlook the pier and sunsets over the ocean.
- Winstons, 1921 Bacon St, ☎ +1 619 222-6822. Nightly bands & dancing, karoke & Monday night football. Watch the lines on the weekend as this place is packed with live bands, even during the daytime on summer Sundays.
- Hostelling International San Diego Point Loma, 3790 Udall St, ☎ +1 619 223-4778, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-out: 10:30am. A friendly and clean hostel, with dorm rooms at $25-45/night and private rooms in the $48-105 range.
- Humphrey's Half Moon Inn, 2303 Shelter Island Dr, ☎ +1 619 224-3411. Located on Shelter Island, this resort offers many activities including live concerts.
- Ocean Beach International Hostel, 4961 Newport Ave, ☎ +1 619 223-7873. A popular hostel with backpackers and budget travelers. There is a bus line on Cable Street that makes it possible to reach the airport.
- Quality Inn, 2901 Nimitz Blvd, ☎ +1 619 224-3655, fax: +1 619 224-4025. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. 100 percent non-smoking hotel one mile from the San Diego International Airport. Free airport transportation is available.
- Vagabond Inn San Diego Airport Marina, 1325 Scott St, ☎ +1 619 224-3371, fax: +1 619 223-0646. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: Noon.
- San Diego Public Library Ocean Beach Branch, 4801 Santa Monica Ave (at Sunset Cliffs Blvd), ☎ +1 619 531-1532. M Th F 9:30AM-6PM, Tu W 11:30AM-8PM, Sa 9:30AM-3PM, Su closed. Free WiFi available.
- San Diego Public Library Point Loma/Hervey Branch, 3701 Voltaire St (at Poinsettia Dr), ☎ +1 619 531-1539. M Th-Sa 9:30AM-6PM, Tu W 11:30AM-8PM, Su 12:30PM-5PM. Free WiFi available.