From atop the bluff, Catalina Island rises meekly through the smog, and the sparkling ocean spans into the distance—lapping at the foot of the sheer, towering cliff bands. The short walking trails from the interpretive center to the end of the point offer continual breathtaking vistas.
The picturesque 67-foot-tall Point Vicente Lighthouse that stands on the southernmost edge of the Palos Verdes Peninsula has, over the years, attracted sightseers, tourists, plein air painters, and photographers. It’s situated just so—a whitewashed façade that blushes in the face of the setting sun, juxtaposed by the red, rocky precipice and set off by the ocean’s profound blue hue. This unmanned, iconic lighthouse was built in 1926 and still sends out its beacon (which can be seen over 20 miles away) over the Catalina channel. It opens to the public for tours on the second Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Known among many as the “ground zero” for whale watching, many enthusiasts hoping to get a glimpse of a pod of gray whales post up with their binoculars and tripods along Point Vicente’s cliff band. Reportedly, this is where observers from the L.A. Chapter of the American Cetacean Society spot whales and compile the official count. Each year whales are seen earlier and earlier in the year, a phenomenon thought to be caused by global warming. Though the traditional whale-watching season spans from mid-December to mid-April, now it often begins as early as late October. Every so often, a volunteer meanders among the tourists to answer questions.
A wealth of information and super clean bathrooms can be found at the interpretive center near the parking lot, which is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5pm. Much of the information centers on the whales that migrate through the area, other marine wildlife, and the local geological and cultural history. The real allure of this adventure, though, is found out of doors. Arrive early on the weekends, enjoy free parking, bring your dog, and revel in the view.