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.
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