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    Point Lobos State Natural Reserve: natural pearl on the California coast

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    Lluis Enric Mayans

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    To reign supreme in this small natural park, very close to two renowned tourist destinations such as Carmel by the Sea e Monterey, are the sea lions and the beautiful trails that meander along the shoreline of this part of California.

    Point lobos we can define it as a real paradise for photography lovers, who can indulge themselves in immortalizing nature in all its expressions, but also for those looking for a little rest and tranquility on the road.


    • Useful Information
      • How to reach it and where to park
      • Opening time:
      • Entrance prices
    • To do
      • The Whalers Cabin Museum
      • Trails
    • Where to sleep in the area

    Useful Information

    How to reach it and where to park

    Parking inside the reserve is limited (only 150 parking spaces divided into nine major parking areas), and is at the same time a very popular destination for both locals and tourists who frequent this area. If you can, try to arrive in the morning at a time that is as close as possible to the opening time, especially on weekends.

    Opening time:

    The park is open every day of the year from 8:00 to 17:00 with the last possible entrance by 16:30.

    Entrance prices

    Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is managed by the California Parks & Recreation Department and there is a $ 10 fee per car. Unfortunately, if you have the America the Beautiful parks card with you, you will not be able to use it.

    To do

    The main attractions of this park are two: the natural landscapes, especially the coast which takes many different forms, and the animals that can be observed in their natural habitat. Among the latter we point out the numerous and noisy presence of Sea lions, nice sea otters and, seasonally, whales. If you are an expert explorer, the park provides this check-list of all the animal and natural species that can be seen inside the park; good research!


    At the car park located at Sea Lion PointFrom 9:00 to 17:00 most days of the year, you can find volunteers who provide information about the best routes and places to observe the animals. They will therefore be very useful for finding your way around the park and answering your questions. You can also rent gods binoculars to observe the local fauna more closely. Inside the park is possible to eat but only in the designated areas with picnic tables.

    The Whalers Cabin Museum


    This small building, built around 1850 by a Chinese fisherman, is now a museum in which you can find a collection of harpoons and other artifacts used over the years to hunt whales that, during the annual migration, passed close to this area of ​​California.

    In the external part of the museum you will also find numerous bones of these large cetaceans. Near the Whalers Cabin Museum there is a small parking lot where you can leave your car and take two trails: the North Shore Trail and the Granite Point Trail.


    As mentioned, one of the most satisfying activities that can be done in the park is to walk one of the many sentieri which branch off both inland and along the shoreline of the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. For convenience, I have chosen the ones that I believe to be the most interesting and the easiest to walk to fully enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds you.

    Cypress Grove Trail

    By taking this trail of about 1,3 km round trip, you will have a sort of compendium of the most important things that are found in this park. Among the main ones I point out:

    • Headland Cove Viewpoint: from here you can enjoy a beautiful view of the bay below. If you are lucky you can make your first encounter with the sea otters and sea lions that usually frequent this area of ​​the park.
    • South Point: between December and the first days of May this is the privileged location from which you can see specimens of California Gray Whales that, during their migration, pass very close to this area.
    • North Point – Pinnacle Point: at this point you can stop to admire the Carmel Bay up to Pebble Beach which will open in front of your eyes (weather permitting).
    • Cypress Cove & Big Dome: continuing along the path you will arrive at Big Dome which is the highest point of the whole reserve and it is here that the characteristic Monterey Cypress of this area grows.

    Sea Lion Point Trail

    The starting point of this path is from the same parking area as the previous one. As you can guess from the name, along this trail you will arrive in a coastal area of ​​the park particularly rich in specimens of Sea lions. Once you get to Sea Lion Point it is not uncommon to find volunteers who, equipped with binoculars and portable telescopes, will be happy to show you these "inhabitants" of the park even more closely.

    Through some quite steep and irregular steps you can go down until you reach one small beach. However, this area is sometimes off-limits to visitors, especially during days with strong wind. You can still admire the waves breaking along the rock formations called Sea Lion Rocks from a distance.

    Bird Island Trail

    Along the way you can admire two white sand beaches that have been created among the numerous inlets of the coast. We are talking about China Cove (particularly renowned for the emerald color of its water) and of Gibson Beach, both freely accessible. It is even allowed to swim, but be careful because the ocean water is particularly cold even in late summer.

    Once you get to Pelican Point you can observe from afar the so-called Bird Island which, during the summer, hosts a large colony populated by birds that choose it to make their nest.

    Where to sleep in the area

    Being very close to very popular tourist destinations such as Carmel by the Sea e Monterey the suggestion is to look for accommodation in these towns just a few minutes drive from the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. You can find out which hotels are recommended by reading the in-depth articles we have written about them.

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