Monterey, California, offers a comfortable climate year-round that makes it as appealing to local wildlife as it is to visitors. From the rocky coast to the protected marshland, you’ll find plenty of prime places to witness creatures breed, feed, and play. Visit some of the area’s most notable inhabitants on your next trip to Monterey, and say hello to these creatures of the wild.
Spot Sea Otters
Sea otters are perhaps the most famous of Monterey Bay’s animals. They’re drawn to the abundant kelp forests, which serve multiple purposes for an otter. Otters will wrap themselves in strands of kelp to sleep side by side without drifting away from their group, known as a raft. The kelp forests also provide food to the invertebrates that sea otters like to dine on, such as sea urchins, snails, and clams.
The Elkhorn Slough National Estaurine Research Reserve at Moss Landing State Beach (1700 Elkhorn Road in Watsonville, California) is one of the best places to spot sea otters in large groups. However, you have a good chance of spotting at least one or two anywhere you’re near a rocky outcropping or quiet cove.
Watch for Whales
According to Blue Ocean Whale Watch, you’ll have at least a 90 percent chance of seeing a whale in any given month in Monterey Bay. The migrating season and feeding season overlap here, providing outstanding year-round viewing opportunities. Look for humpback whales between March and November when they’re feeding in the bay. Blue whales come seeking the area’s abundant krill between May and October.
Gray whales migrate through the bay between December and May. Killer whales can be spotted year-round, although the most frequent sightings are from mid-April to mid-May and from late August through October.
Seek Out Shore Birds
If you prefer bird watching, Monterey Bay offers plenty of picks. Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Reserve is a popular choice with 340 species calling this area home. Snowy egrets gather at Moss Landing State Beach while cormorants and pelicans are a common sight at Asilomar State Marine Reserve, adjacent to Asilomar Avenue and Ocean View Boulevard. Try Carmel River State Beach on Carmelo Street in Carmel-by-the-Sea for finding harriers, hawks, terns, and swallows.
Visit in September and you can participate in the Monterey Bay Birding Festival with workshops, documentary screenings, organized field trips, and more. If you’re coming into town for this event, make sure to secure your Monterey hotel early for the best rooms, as this event is a large draw for birding enthusiasts.
Catch the Sea Lions
Not to be confused with the small cat-like sea otters, Monterey Bay’s sea lions are larger, louder, and almost impossible to miss when they gather. The public dock at Moss Landing draws more than 400 of these barking creatures. The area around Old Fisherman’s Wharf is a popular gathering spot as well. Just follow the Recreation Trail north and let your ears guide you to these playful creatures.
With its abundance of wild delights, Monterey is a must-visit place for vacationers who enjoy visiting animals in their natural habitats. Although you have options such as the Monterey Zoo and Monterey Bay Aquarium for guaranteed wildlife sightings, taking a few natural excursions is an unforgettable alternative to keep your vacation interesting.