Asilomar State Beach
Asilomar State Beach is a narrow one-mile (1.6-kilometer) strip of petite beaches, tidal pools and flora-rich sand dunes on the Monterey Peninsula. Follow the Asilomar Coast Trail, which runs along the dog-friendly beach. Explore the pools at low tide, and look for seals and sea lions sunning on the rocks.
A boardwalk takes visitors through the 25 acres (10 hectares) of natural sand dunes. Twenty-five native species of hardy coastal flora, such as sagewort and coyote bush, thrive in the sand and keep erosion in check. These dunes are a fragile and protected habitat, so stay on the boardwalk.
Continue along the boardwalk to the Asilomar Conference Center. This stunning collection of buildings was constructed in 1913 and started life as a women’s summer camp. Today, the center is used for private conferences. Take the time to appreciate this National Historic Landmark, built in the Arts and Crafts style popular in California at the time.
Just inland from the beach is the Asilomar pine and oak forest. These tall, native trees have become under threat from development and disease over the past century. Download a guide from the California State Parks website and take the 45-minute self-guided tour, starting at Merrill Hall. This 3/4-mile (700-meter) trail gives detailed information on Monterey pines and coast live oaks, some of which are 100 years old and 100 feet (30 meters) high. It also explores some of the local wildlife, from mint bushes to raccoons, hawks and salamanders. Watch out for the poison oak, however, a common native plant that can leave you scratching.
Asilomar State Beach is on the Monterey Peninsula in Pacific Grove, a 15-minute drive northwest of downtown Monterey. Public buses run from Monterey to Pacific Grove.