A Visitor’s Guide to Point Loma, San Diego (2024)

Just west of downtown San Diego and on the other side of the water from the Coronado Naval Air Station sits the Point Loma Peninsula, known for its tide pools, sandstone cliffs, and the historic Cabrillo National Monument.

Today, Point Loma is used to refer both to the peninsula and to the neighborhood that sits at its base. Along with its cliffside parks and historical artifacts, it is also home to Point Loma Nazarene University and Liberty Station, a former Navy training base that’s been converted into a shopping and arts destination. The bayside neighborhoods of Harbor Island and Shelter Island, both connected to the mainland by narrow strips of land, are also part of the peninsula.

The History of Point Loma

The first landing point for European explorers on the West Coast, Point Loma is sometimes considered the spot where modern California began. (While the indigenous Kumeyaay people lived and fished throughout the region for centuries before Europeans arrived in 1542, there were no permanent settlements on Point Loma because of the rocky beaches and lack of fresh water.) An active shipping port through the late 1700s, Point Loma was home to a number of Spanish and U.S. military bases, training grounds, and forts throughout the 1800s and into the 1900s. Along with the famous old Point Loma lighthouse (first lit in 1855), there are five other sites on the peninsula listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Where to Stay in Point Loma

The southern end of Point Loma is made up of mostly parks and beaches, while the northern end near San Diego International Airport is home to Liberty Station and a cluster of hotels, including big names such as Homewood Suites by Hilton and Courtyard by Marriott.

On the man-made Shelter Island, there are four hotels that each have their own marinas. The Kona Kai Resort & Spais a Polynesian-themed getaway that makes a nice luxury home base for a family vacation. Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn also has a tropical vibe plus its own popular live music venue (Humphreys Concerts by the Bay).

On the mainland of the Point Loma peninsula, most of the hotels are near Liberty Station and the entrance to Shelter Island. The Pearl Hotel is a local favorite that was designed as a sportsman’s lodge in the 1960s and has been revamped into a stylish 23-room property with an oyster-shaped pool and on-site co*cktail bar. The Sea Harbor Hoteloffers convenience and affordability with views of the marina.

On the opposite side of the peninsula, the Inn at Sunset Cliffs offers amazing ocean views and a picturesque cliff-top pool and patio. Because the airport and downtown San Diego are located so close to Point Loma, it’s also easy to stay at one of the nearby hotels in the city.

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Where to Eat in Point Loma

Like the hotels, the majority of shops and restaurants are also located at the north end of Point Loma. Liberty Station Public Market, open every day from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., features more than 30 local food vendors inside its market hall and there are patios so you can enjoy your food outside. Next door is the 23,500-square-foot Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens, built into the old Naval Training Center’s mess hall. While the streets of the arts district around Liberty Station are full of cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants, you can also venture to Shelter Island to try Point Loma Seafoods, home to fresh daily catches and decades-old family recipes, or Mitch’s Seafood, a popular bayfront spot known for its fish tacos. Also located on Shelter Island, Bali Hai is famous for its tiki temple and mai tais.

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5 Fun Things to Do in Point Loma

Visit the Old Point Loma Lighthouse

Located on the southern tip of the peninsula is the Cabrillo National Monument, home to the historic Point Loma Lighthouse. At 462 feet above sea level, the old lighthouse was once the highest in the U.S. but is no longer in use. It has since been renovated and is now a museum surrounded by spectacular panoramic views of San Diego and the ocean. Entrance to the park is $20 per vehicle or $10 per person if you hike or bike in.

Play in the Point Loma Tide Pools

Also located in Cabrillo National Monument, the Point Loma tide pools attract more than 350,000 visitors every year. After entering the park and paying the entrance fee, take Cabrillo Road all the way down to the parking lot; it’s then a short walk and scramble down to the water. The tide pools are best visited during fall and winter months, when low tides occur during daylight hours. Check the tide tables before you go. Permits are required for groups of 10 or more.

Enjoy the Views at Sunset Cliffs

You might have guessed: The best thing to do at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is watch the sunset. A 68-acre city park that stretches 1.5 miles in a narrow strip down the coast on the west side of Point Loma, there are many places to stop along the rocky cliffs and watch the sun go down. At low tide, you can also walk down from Luscomb’s Point to the Sunset Cliffs Caves. From December to early April you have the best chance of spotting gray whales as they migrate from Alaska to Mexico. Insider tip: The best spots to park are at the main large park on the south end of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard (at Landera Street) or in the parking lot off Osprey Street.

Explore Shelter Island

Connected to the main part of Point Loma via a spit of land, Shelter Island isn’t technically an island. It’s an isthmus that juts out into San Diego Bay and creates a sheltered park and boating spot. This is where you’ll find sandy beaches, fishing piers, boat ramps, picnic tables, and a few small fire pits for late-night bonfires. Take a boat trip with Sail San Diego or Next Level Sailing. You can also stay at the luxury Polynesian-themed resort Kona Kai or Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn—which hosts popular public concerts by the bay.

Shop at Liberty Station

For 74 years, Liberty Station was the location of San Diego’s Naval Training Center. But since the station was closed in 1997, it has transformed into a mixed-use retail and arts district. That includes a large park along the boat channel, and a thriving retail and arts area. Along with the food vendors in Liberty Station Public Market, the arts district hosts First Friday events every month. Check the calendar for upcoming classes and events.

While the tide pools and lighthouse might be Point Loma’s most famous spots, if you’re spending multiple days in the area, be sure to check out all the historic bunkers and sandstone caves around Cabrillo National Monument. If all the natural beauty gets you inspired (and of course it will), you can also check out other fascinating tide pools and amazing hikes around San Diego County.

A Visitor’s Guide to Point Loma, San Diego (2024)


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