Point Lobos State Reserve
Follow misty hiking trails through towering cypress trees along dramatic, craggy shorelines and down to secluded beaches. Once the home of whalers, sealers and fishermen, the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve and surrounding waters are now a protected wildlife and marine reserve.
The California sea lion is plentiful in this area, with hundreds of them sunning on the rocks along the shore between August and June. Sea otters can also be seen searching for food in the kelp beds just offshore. Look a little further out in the ocean for gray whales on their long annual migration between December and May. It’s also possible to see mountain lions and coyotes roaming inside the reserve. Both are used to human activity but shouldn’t be approached or fed. Many bird species thrive here too. Keep an out for the beautiful black-crowned night heron and brown pelican.
Hiking is a popular activity at Point Lobos, with trails running alongside the shore and offering stunning views. Follow the Cypress Grove trail to the ocean at sunset to capture the perfect photo. The trees here sometimes appear orange due to a build up of algae, and the light is forever changing as fog rolls in from the ocean.
The best way to experience Point Lobos marine life is by scuba diving or snorkeling. Kelp forests just offshore support a variety of fish and plant life, all of which is protected by state law. You can rent diving gear from several nearby shops. Certified divers can make reservations prior to arrival via the Point Lobos State Reserve website.
Find the Whalers Cabin Museum in an old shack by the water. Chinese and Portuguese whalers built dozens of these cabins here in the mid-1850s, but only this one remains. The museum’s exhibits include harpoons, blubber pots and a model of an old whaling boat. Enormous bleached whale bones scattered around the cabin provide an eerie reminder of the once bloody trade.
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is three miles (five kilometers) south of Carmel. It’s a 15-minute car drive from downtown Monterey, or catch a MST bus to Point Lobos. Set aside an afternoon or entire day to explore the reserve. Bring a snack or picnic, as there are no food outlets inside the park.