The Old Point Loma Lighthouse is located in the National Cabrillo Monument on the top of Point Loma. It is a popular attraction in San Diego, and people love to come here to discover one of the eight original lighthouses built on the Pacific Coast. In 1851, one year after California joined the union, the heights of Point Loma were chosen as the place to build a lighthouse to help sailing ships navigate. Construction on the Old Point Loma Lighthouse began three years later in 1854 and finished later that year. The lighthouse was first lit in November of 1955 because the Fresnel lens, which is a lighting apparatus, took some time to arrive from France. The lighthouse was run and kept by David and Jeanne Israel who lived there and had their family and children growing up there as well.
The Lighthouse was thought to be ideally located at 462 feet above sea level, but it was quickly discovered that it had a flaw and the elevation was more of a burden than an advantage. The light beam which could ordinarily be seen for 28 miles was easily obscured by fog and low clouds which sometimes made it difficult to see by ships. Because of this, the old Point Loma lighthouse was only operational for 36 years. A new lighthouse was built a hundred yards lower from the old one in 1981, and only 88 feet above sea level. The new lighthouse is still operational and can easily be seen, but does not offer tours and is not open to visitors.
Today, Old Point Loma Lighthouse is a great place to go to revisit history. When you get there, you will sometimes be welcomed by guides dressed up in costumes and embodying characters of the era such as Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who was the first European explorer to discover San Diego Bay and his crew, but also David Israel, the lighthouse’s keeper.
Visitors can check out the lighthouse by going up the stairs and looking through the peephole, and the living spaces located inside of it where the Israel family lived. Make sure to visit the Assistant Keeper’s living quarters where many exhibits are telling the story of the lighthouse. You should also make some time to watch a film screening about Old Point Loma Lighthouse history and learn all about it. You can also participate in a ranger-led talk about the lighthouse.
While visiting the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, you will get to see some of the most beautiful views in all of San Diego. You can see San Diego Bay, the downtown area, and many gorgeous cliffs. You can also hike down to the small beach with the tide pools, where you search for incredible sea life. From the lighthouse, you can also take a self-guided two-mile walk through the forest, this is especially recommended in the springtime. The Old Point Loma Lighthouse is open 364 days a year, from 9 am to 5 pm, except on Christmas Day. Tickets to the Cabrillo National Monument where the lighthouse is located cost $5 for a car, or $3 per bicycle or person, and the pass is good for an entire week.