Monterey Bay

A beautiful bay about an hour's drive south of San Francisco - and a hotspot for marine mammals.

TravelCurious Tip

If you are around in September, don’t miss Monterey Bay’s annual Jazz Festival

Just an hour south from San Francisco, Monterey Bay is a marine life haven, and has been for centuries. The first European to set foot here was Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542 as he sailed north along the coast on an expedition. He called it Bahia de los Pinos, no doubt because of the Monterey pines that fringe the broad bay. However, the name did not really stick, apart from at one place: the westernmost point of the peninsula is still known as Point Pinos.

The marine life in Monterey Bay is wonderfully diverse. There are sea otters, harbour seals and bottlenose dolphins, to name a few. Moreover, it is on the migratory path of grey and humpback whales and is also a breeding site for elephant seals. Sometimes you can see killer whales hunting the grey whales as they migrate, which is quite a sight. The marine life gets smaller too, from sharks, to turtles, to fish, squid and molluscs. All of them drift around a gently wafting mesh of kelp, which can be so large it is known as a kelp forest.

Naturally, this makes Monterey Bay a superb place for snorkelling and scuba diving. There is so much marine life that you are never in danger of a fruitless dive. The visibility is also usually excellent, which helps. In fact, Scuba Diving magazine rated Monterey the best beach dive in the US. There are dives for every level, but if you are experienced then check out Monastery Beach and Carmel River State Beach for something special.

You should tear yourself away from the sea, though, because Monterey itself has much to offer. It possesses some of the best-preserved historical evidence of California’s Spanish and Mexican periods, and the historic quarter is full of these restored and preserved buildings. And when it comes to restaurants, with Monterrey Bay and Napa Valley nearby, the seafood and wine is as good as you would expect.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in San Francisco
Cannery Row
A historic waterfront street in Monterey, with more than its fair share of excellent restaurants.
Lone Cypress
One of the most photographed trees in North America, the iconic Lone Cypress stands bravely on a granite outcrop along the Pacific Drive.
Golf Course
Several amazing golf courses lie along the coast, including the oldest operating course in the Western United States.
17-Mile Drive
A scenic road through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove that is in itself one of the great attractions of the region.
Carmel by the Sea
Overlooking a beautiful beach, this small town is known for its natural beauty and rich artistic heritage.
Pacific Grove
Nicknamed 'America's Last Hometown,' this charming coastal city is known for its beautiful Victorian homes - and its annual deluge of Monarch butterflies.

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