So many choices. So little time. Monterey County is a premier destination for those who love the outdoors. Biking , hiking , walking, boating , hang gliding and animal watching are just a few of the activities that lure visitors to Monterey and make residents thankful they live here. Whether you want to watch the whales or climb a mountain, walk the Recreation Trail or dive the depths, there is no more spectacular place to enjoy the outdoors than Monterey County.
Kayaking on Monterey Bay and Elkhorn Slough
Kayaking on Monterey Bay and Elkhorn Slough is guaranteed fun. "Everyone comes back pretty surprised at how many animals are out there!" says Dustin Knight of Adventures by the Sea.
It's not just the adorable sea otters, sea lions and harbor seals, or the soaring pelicans, sandpipers, loons, and grebes, says Kasey Boyer of Elkhorn Slough's Kayak Connection . "If you're lucky you'll see leopard sharks and bat rays in the water, too!"
Cass Schrock of Monterey Bay Kayaks has tales of even larger sea life spotted by kayakers. "People have seen whales or dolphins," she says. "But you have to be pretty darn lucky to see the whales!"
Fun For the Whole Family
A kayaking trip can give families stories to share that last for years to come. Whether it's seeing wildlife up close or seeing Cannery Row from the water, kayaking is a great way to spend time with your family and "to see things from a different angle," says Knight.
Schrock notes that Monterey Bay Kayaks has family adventure trips specifically geared toward young children. More than one child has spotted a crab in the kelp as Mom and Dad are paddling along.
"Every day someone comes back with a smile and says, ‘This seal followed us all the way down and all the way back!'" Knight says. Seals are very smart and curious and "sometimes they follow you around like a puppy dog," he says.
Marine Close Encounters
It's important, however, to keep 100 feet of distance from marine mammals. Seals and sea otters "get overly curious and climb up on the [kayak] decks," Boyer says, but "it's not encouraged."
Knight agrees, and tells a story about a wildlife encounter that got uncomfortably close. "A lady was kayaking in front of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and a juvenile harbor seal hopped in the back of her kayak. She thought it was the greatest thing in the world, and had her husband take her picture."
It all seemed fun - until the seal overstayed his welcome. "She said, ‘Okay, time to go, get out!' The seal wouldn't go. The seals don't do what they're told," Knight says.
In the end, the only way the woman could get the seal out of her kayak was to flip the kayak over, Knight says. The seal swam off. Eventually, the kayaker, soaked and bedraggled, managed to get back into her kayak and paddle back to the beach. Now she makes sure to follow the rules; when an overly curious sea mammal gets closer to her than 100 feet, she calmly paddles away.
Where to Go: Monterey Bay or Elkhorn Slough?
Every kayaker champions his or her favorite kayaking spot. "[Monterey Bay] is good for beginners because it's for the most part protected from the open ocean," says Knight. Elkhorn Slough, says Boyer, is even calmer. "It's like kayaking on a lake," she says.
Schrock can't pick a favorite; she loves them both. "Elkhorn Slough is the inland nursery for a lot of fish and sharks...it's peaceful and quiet," she says. But there's a lot to love about "the excitement, the harbor activity and historic nature of Monterey Bay," she says. "People have to see both because they show the full range of what the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary has to offer."
Monterey County: The Perfect Place To Begin Kayaking
Both Monterey Bay and Elkhorn Slough are calm and sheltered, making them perfect spots for a first kayak excursion. Outfitters such as Adventures By the Sea , Kayak Connection and Monterey Bay Kayaks . provide renters with "outer layers, the life jackets and all the gear for the boats," as well as the kayaks, says Schrock.
You'll also get instruction on how to kayak. "We provide a 10-15 minute lesson on the beach," Knight says, "telling you where to go, where you're going to see the animals, how to paddle." In just a few minutes, "we'll tell you everything you need to know" to have a great morning or afternoon on Monterey Bay.
Kayaking: Tips for the Beginner
- Wear sunscreen. Though most of your body will be covered by wetsuits or paddling jackets provided by the outfitter, there is still the potential for sunburn on any exposed skin.
- Wear quick drying clothing. Not sure which clothes are quick-drying? "Wear something you'd work out in," says Knight. Boyer adds, "Wear as little cotton as you can, especially cotton like jeans - it gets wet, it gets heavy and it stays that way."
- Wear sunglasses. On a bright, sunny day the light will reflect off the water, making it doubly sunny.
- If you are prone to seasickness and going out on Monterey Bay, you may want to take Dramamine. The small swells can upset the stomachs of the especially motion-sensitive.
- Don't expect to stay bone dry. "This is a water sport, so you can expect that even in a kayak you very well could get wet," Boyer says.
- "Anything like cameras and binoculars are a ‘bring at your own risk' kind of thing," says Boyer. They provide great views, but aren't easily recovered if they drop into the drink. There are many great kayaking memories that have been preserved on camera - and a few waterlogged cameras that have wound up in Davy Jones' locker.
- If you're going on Monterey Bay, go in the morning. "It's usually a little more calm than the afternoon," Knight says. "Late afternoon can be nice as well."
- "I'd recommend if it's your first time take a guided tour," Boyer says. Schrock agrees, saying, "That way you will get the most out of your two or three hours on the water. Guides will take care of you." You'll also learn a lot, she says; "The guides have so much information about the area!"
If you want to get to know what the Monterey locals love, trade in your car for a bike. With miles upon miles of bike lanes, waterfront trails and off-road tracks, you can go exactly where you want to go, while getting some exercise at the same time! Hop on the popular Recreation Trail , stretching 18 miles from Castroville to Pacific Grove. Along the way, you can stop for a bite to eat at Fisherman's Wharf , or visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium . On weekdays, bicyclists can enter Del Monte Forest free of charge. Considered one of the top 100 places to ride a bike in America, a cruise along 17-Mile Drive takes you by dozens of glamorous mansions and manicured golf courses of Pebble Beach.
Garland Park in Carmel Valley and Toro Park in Salinas offer mountain bikers hundreds of off-road options for tearing it up. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also maintains miles of trails on the former Fort Ord Army Base, in and around Marina and Seaside.
While it may not be as fast, getting around on two wheels is often easier than four. Whether you bring your own, or rent once you arrive, cruising around the county on two wheels offers a whole new perspective-plus, you'll enjoy your dessert all that much more!
What is a Surrey?
Surreys are four-wheeled, canopy-covered cycles that are perfect for friends and families who want to ride together, as riders sit side-by-side. They are outfitted with a steering wheel and two sets of bicycle pedals. Easy to handle, surreys are definitely the answer for families with small children who want to enjoy the waterfront area together. Two-, four- and six-person surreys for use along the Recreation Trail can be rented at Adventures by the Sea and Blazing Saddles on Cannery Row .
One of the best ways to explore the scenic beauty that Monterey County has to offer is by hiking its back roads, by-ways and trails. Pack a picnic, and point your compass in the direction of one of the many state and regional parks in the area. Plan a day trip to Jacks Peak in Monterey or Garland Park in Carmel Valley , and enjoy walking through dense forests, open meadows and traversing the Carmel River , or head out to Point Lobos State Reserve and choose a meandering trail along the coast.
If you're planning an overnight camping trip, consider the Los Padres National Forest , easily reached from Big Sur . During the spring wildflower season, a wonderful world of flora and fauna awaits hikers who venture off the beaten path. Don't forget to bring along your copy of the latest National Audubon Society handbook so you can identify various birds. You may also meet up with deer, raccoons, foxes and coyotes. Keep your eyes open and you may see signs that wild pigs and even mountain lions have been in the area recently.
Whether you're a seasoned hiker or are simply interested in taking a leisurely walk along the coastal Recreation Trail , there are plenty of places to wander. Remember to bring your camera, and don't forget to carry plenty of water. Happy trails!
Hike More With a Monterey State Parks Pass!
Explore all of the California State Parks in Monterey County with a three-day Monterey State Parks pass, exclusively available on SeeMonterey.com! The three-day State Parks pass gives visitors three days of in-and-out privileges at every California State Park in Monterey County, including Point Lobos, Pfeiffer Big Sur, Andrew Molera State Park and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
Sport fishing is one of the most thrilling activities for visitors to the Monterey coastline. Whether out on the bay or off the banks of the Carmel River, fishermen find that the local fishing spots offer unbeatable views and are stocked with aquatic treasures such as salmon, rock cod, albacore, halibut, trout and bass. Monterey County is truly the ultimate fishermen's fantasy!
Get Your Fishing Permit!
Be sure to check the California Department of Fish and Game website for information about sport fishing licenses. Several deep-sea charters on the Monterey Peninsula also supply visitors with one-day or annual sport fishing licenses.
Deep Sea Fishing
Boats depart daily, year-round for deep sea fishing on the stunning Monterey Bay. Depending on the current fishing season visitors can try their luck at salmon, albacore, rock cod, lingcod, halibut and rockfish.
Several companies charter fishing trips right from Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey. See squid, salmon or deep sea fish with Chris' Fishing Trips, featuring four quality boats and experienced skippers who know the bay. Try Randy's Fishing and Whale Watching Trips for unforgettable marine adventures on board their two vessels. These businesses make deep sea fishing a breeze. Visitors can even rent full gear and purchase the required fishing licenses.
Tips for the Deep Sea Fisher
Monterey's knowledgeable fishermen have several tips for amateurs looking to get the big catch. Captain Brian from Randy's Fishing Trips suggests that novice fishermen start with cod fishing as there is an abundance of this particular rockfish in the deep sea.
- Make reservations in advance as trips can fill up fast.
- Be sure to pack plenty of water, a lunch and snacks since food and beverage are not available for purchase once on the boat.
- Most fishing trips will allow mates to bring beer aboard as long as it's not in a glass container.
- Even if the weather seems warm on the dock the ocean air can get frigid!
- Be sure to wear multiple layers, preferably waterproof.
- Rubber-soled shoes are recommended when on the slippery deck.
- Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen are essential, as you can still get burnt even if the sun is not visible.
Once you get the catch of the day
Let the crew clean and fillet your fresh catch for a minimal fee. Day fishers are not allowed to clean their own fish on the dock. The deckhand can get the job done quickly and efficiently.
Deep Sea Fishing Boats
Chris' Fishing and Whale Watching48 Fisherman's Wharf #1 , Monterey, CA 93940
Phone (831) 375-5951
Fax (831) 645-9895 Visit Website | Deep Sea Fishing & Whale Watching tours year around in the third largest deep submarine canyon in the world.
Randy's Fishing Trips and Whale Watching66 Fisherman's Wharf 1 , Monterey, CA 93940
Phone (831) 372-7440
Fax (831) 372-7442 Visit Website | Full-service boat chartering company that offers whale watching and recreational sport fishing trips, specialty cruises, sailing and more.
Many state parks in Monterey County permit saltwater fishing including Carmel River State Beach , Garrapata State Park , Limekiln State Park , Moss Landing State Beach , Zmudowski State Beach , Salinas River State Beach , Ford Ord Dunes State Park, and Marina State Beach . Surf fishers can expect to reel in halibut, stripers and perch.
Tips for the Surf Fisher
Don't be surprised if you aren't alone. Many of these fishing havens are popular spots for tourists also enjoying the spectacular views and recreational activities.
- Pack a jacket. You never know when the sea breeze will pick up.
- Look for rocks that provide access to deep water. You might be able to catch a lingcod if you are lucky.
- Use fresh bait, the fresher the better!
- Bring a bucket to fill with water to keep your catch as fresh as possible.
Freshwater fishing is available at El Estero Park Lake on the fishing piers located on the Pearl Street bridges in Monterey. Other locations include Arroyo Seco River, Carmel River, Andrew Molera State Park, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Lake San Antonio in South Monterey County and Cachagua Community Park and Los Padres Reservoir in Cachagua. Arroyo Seco Recreation Area on the edge of the Ventana Wilderness about 15 miles from King City also allows fisherman to cast for freshwater fish. Hopefuls in these areas can hook bass, trout, steelhead and catfish.
Tips for the Freshwater Fisherman
- Be patient. Pack a snack, book or radio as you may have some downtime before the big bite.
- Bring multiple types of bait. Sometimes it's difficult to see what fish are in the mood for.
- Clean up after yourself and allow others to enjoy the site as well.
Whether you are looking for a short sail out on the bay, a romantic dinner cruise, a private charter or sailing lessons, you can do it all on Monterey Bay. The unique winds that pick up in the bay make conditions ideal for unfurling the sails almost every day at any time.
Several sailing providers depart from Old Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey and many of them have cruises leaving daily throughout the year. One to two hours of sailing is a great way to see the Monterey Bay and its unique inhabitants, with the snap of the sail and the lap of the ocean as your only soundtrack. The lucky sailor might even encounter a few gray whales, sea lions, orcas or even a school of dolphins.
Those looking for a private or romantic experience can book a dinner cruise or a private charter. Sunset dinner cruises provide sailors with phenomenal views of the bay complimented with an array of colors. Private charters are also available for a more intimate experience.
Bringing your own boat? See below for information on sailing into Monterey Harbor or Moss Landing Harbor.
Carrera SailingMonterey Municipal Commercial Wharf 2
A Tier Extension , Monterey, CA 93940
Phone (831) 375-0648 Visit Website | Sail Monterey Bay with Carrera Sailing on the newest, largest charter sailboats in Monterey! We provide intimate, small group sailing, where you can participate or sit back, relax and let us sail you...
Monterey Bay Sailing78 Old Fisherman's Wharf #1 , Monterey, CA 93940
Phone (831) 372-7245 Visit Website | Sailing organization whose mission is to offer residents of the Monterey Peninsula communities and visitors an affordable opportunity to sail the central coast.
Tips from the Captain:
- Dress warm. Captain Dutch of Monterey Bay Sailing suggests wearing three layers of clothing. It may be warm on the wharf but once the winds pick up on the Bay you will be glad you have the extra coverage.
- Wear flat, rubber-soled shoes. Sailing can be slippery, especially when keeling.
- Bring sunglasses. The sun's glare on the ocean can be intense. Bring some shades to avoid the squint.
- Be prepared to feel some spray. It doesn't always happen, but one should be prepared to feel a little ocean mist.
- Take ginger candy. If you are prone to motion sickness be sure to have ginger candy on hand. These tasty chews can ease almost any unsettled stomach.
Want To Be Your Own Captain?
The Monterey Sailing School offers a range of classes from amateurs looking to have a little fun to skippers seeking full certification. Courses are available in keeling, navigation, coastal cruising and bareboat chartering. Classes can even be tailored to focus in on your particular interests and needs.
Have your own sailboat? Sailors with their own vessels should contact the Monterey Harbormaster at 831-594-7760 or visit their office at Del Monte and Figueroa in Monterey.
The Monterey Bay Sanctuary attracts divers from around the world. More than 65,000 of them visit each year. Lured by the unique beauty of the kelp forest and underwater canyon, divers also appreciate the good visibility and safe conditions.
Wear a wetsuit! While water temperatures sometimes hit the 60 degree range, they are usually closer to 50. Once you go underwater, you'll enjoy 10 to 30 feet of visibility. The nutrient-rich waters of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary ensure there will be a lot of marine life to see once you're underwater!
Suite M , Monterey, CA 93940
Phone (831) 717-4546