Historic Cabrillo Beach, located in San Pedro, was named after Portuguese explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo. Just 20 miles from Catalina Island, the entire Cabrillo Beach Recreational Complex covers 370 acres in the Port of Los Angeles West Channel. Cabrillo Beach is a popular swimming, fishing and boating area, and is the only public beach located within a port complex. With two separate beach areas, Cabilllo has something for everybody. Inside the breakwater the ocean is calm, relaxing and perfect for families with children. Outside the breakwater, the ocean surf is abundant for anyone interested in water sports. Cabrillo Beach is a popular destination for swimming, surfing, kayaking, scuba diving, fishing off the pier, and beach volleyball. Known as “Hurricane Gulch,” its predictably strong westerly winds are also perfect for windsurfing and kitesurfing. Walk along the gentle and quiet beach front and experience breathtaking views of the ocean, dotted with the silhouettes of wind surfers against the backdrop of massive container-laden cargo ships. Picnic tables, a snack bar and a playground are also on site. A stroll along the beach in early evening will often include a beautifully colorful sky, characteristic of our South Bay sunsets.
Cabrillo is home to a few famous landmarks, namely the 1.75 mile Los Angeles Breakwater which ends at the Angel’s Gate Lighthouse, the recently restored Cabrillo Beach Bathhouse, and the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.
Cabrillo Beach Bathhouse
Originally built in 1932, the Cabrillo Beach Bathhouse is a Mediterranean-style structure and one of the last bathhouses built in Southern California. The building was declared a historic landmark in 1989, and restored and rededicated to the public on October 12, 2002 — its 70th Anniversary. During the Bathhouse’s heyday, people from all over Los Angeles would travel to the beach and rent a swimsuit and towel from the Bathhouse for a ten-cent fee. The 26,000 square foot building features shower rooms, life guard facilities, snack bars and an upstairs community meeting room. The Bathhouse is run by the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, which offers a variety of activities and classes. For more information, call (310) 548-7554, or visit their website.
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
Celebrating more than 60 years of marine education, the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is an educational, recreational, and research facility devoted to encouraging active public participation to promote knowledge and conservation of the marine life of Southern California. The Aquarium is a facility of the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, located at 3720 Stephen White Drive in San Pedro. Admission to the Aquarium is free with a suggested admission donation of $5 for adults and $1 for children. For more information, call (310) 548-7562, or visit their website.
Hours of Operation:
Tuesday through Friday: 12 Noon – 5 PM
Saturday & Sunday: 10 AM – 5 PM
Cabrillo Beach Youth Waterfront Sports Center
This one-of-a-kind youth aquatic center provides unique aquatics and camping experiences to Southern California kids, giving them self-confidence by exposing them to water safety, rescue methods, care and use of equipment, and physical fitness. For more information, call (310) 831-1984, or visit their website.
Cabrillo Way Marina
Cabrillo Way Marina is a 700-slip marina covering 87 acres of land and water in the West Channel/Cabrillo Beach Recreational Complex, located south of 22nd and Miner streets. A recent project from 2009 to 2011 updated the decades-old marina facility and added about a mile of public waterfront promenade.
Whale watching tours are offered during the annual migration of the Pacific gray whale from December to March. For more information, contact the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium at (310) 548-7563. Check out the South Bay Events Calendar for upcoming trips.
As whale-watching season nears its end, grunion season begins. Twice a month, like clockwork, these silvery fish emerge from the water at Cabrillo Beach to lay their eggs in the sand under a full or new moon. During part of the season it’s legal to catch them, but by hand only! It’s fun as a spectator sport, too, watching crowds of people with flashlights trying to catch these slippery fish.
Parking is available at Cabrillo Beach. The parking lot opens at 5 AM and closes at 10 PM. Parking is free for the first 20 minutes and then is $1.00 per hour to a maximum of $9.00 per day. Cash Only.
Cabrillo Beach has a paved boat launch ramp. Parking is $2.00 per hour for vehicle and boat trailer to a maximum of $15.00 per day. There is no extra charge for the boat launch ramp. Vehicles with a boat trailer attached may be left over night or for several days at $15.00 per day. Vehicles without a boat trailer cannot be left over night and may be towed if left past 10 PM.
Cabrillo Beach Boosters
Formed in 1993, Cabrillo Beach Boosters, Inc. is a community based non-profit organization. They have promoted the restoration and preservation of the Cabrillo Beach Bathhouse and the Angel’s Gate Lighthouse as Historical Monuments dedicated to the Community for use as educational, recreational facilities.
Angel’s Gate Lighthouse
This historic lighthouse has marked the entrance to the port since 1913. The breakwater is 9,250 feet long and contains nearly three million tons of rock, brought over from Santa Catalina Island. Owned and operated by the United States Coast Guard, this lighthouse is officially named the Los Angeles Harbor Light and is noted on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the early 21st century, the lighthouse was suffering from the effects of age, weather, vandalism, and neglect. The years of exposure had led to rusted walls, broken windows, cracked masonry, and leaks during storms. In cooperation with the Coast Guard, the Cabrillo Beach Boosters Club completed a $1.8 million overhaul of the exterior, funded by the Port of Los Angeles. The extensive renovation was completed in May of 2012. On October 27, 2013 the lighthouse celebrated its 100th birthday.
This lighthouse is inaccessible to the public, but can be viewed from the Cabrillo Beach area, San Pedro Breakwater, or by boat – your best opportunity to get a close-up view. Due to extreme danger, walking on the breakwater ridge is not allowed.
“Though battered by seasonal storms and an occasional passing ship, the U.S. Coast Guard’s Los Angeles Harbor Light has faithfully guarded the port’s busy gateway since 1913. As early as 1907, plans were being made to include a lighthouse in the Los Angeles Breakwater project. The light was to occupy a 40-foot-square concrete block at the end of the west breakwater. A temporary light was established on the block with the completion of the breakwater in 1910. The present lighthouse was completed in 1913 at a cost of just under $36,000. Originally designed to be a dormered, square wooden building with the lens sprouting from the roof similar to Southampton Shoals and Oakland Harbor Lights on San Francisco Bay, the Los Angeles Light ended up looking more like a Roman fantasy. It is the only lighthouse ever built to this design. The light was firmly anchored to the concrete block and built of steel reinforced concrete.
Heavy construction proved to be a godsend when a furious five-day storm assaulted the light a few years after opening. The steel and concrete stood fast as angry seas broke against the walls. A wooden structure would probably have been carried away and the keepers killed. However, the light did not escape unscathed. When the storm ended, keepers complained of difficulty walking one direction in the building. A plumb line dropped from the tower revealed that the concrete block had settled during the storm, giving the lighthouse a pronounced shoreward list. The lean could not be corrected and did no harm except to annoy the keepers. Other scars were put on the lighthouse one dark night when a keeper was thrown to the floor by a tremendous blow to the tower. Running to the window, the amazed keeper saw the silhouette of a huge battleship which had blundered into the breakwater. The ship continued on its way with only scratches and the incident was marked “confidential” and buried deep in Navy files for many years.
The Navy again came into the history of Los Angeles Harbor Light during World War II. New construction added a degaussing station, a radio direction finding calibration unit and a barracks for the Navy personnel who worked this equipment. More changes were made in 1959. The old deep-throated two-tone fog horn, affectionately known to locals as “Moaning Maggie”, was replaced by a higher-pitched single-tone horn. The new horn was called “Blatting Betty” and was disliked by local mariners for years. The saddest change for the Los Angeles Harbor Light came on February 1, 1973, when the station was automated and the keepers departed. Today, the 217,000 candle-power light is monitored and maintained by personnel from Coast Guard Base Terminal Island.”
Cabrillo Beach in the Early 20th Century: