Point Lobos
State Reserve

A walk around the Point Lobos State Reserve near Monterey and Carmel provides lots of photo opportunities, especially of the Harbor Seal Birthing Area.

Point Lobos State Reserve near Carmel and MontereyPoint Lobos State Reserve

All Photos (c) Donna Dailey and Mike Gerrard

We asked someone in Monterey for some hiking ideas while we were there. 'Point Lobos State Reserve,' he said. 'I always send people there and they always love it.' So, on our way out of Monterey on our last Pacific Coast Highway drive, we slowed down a few miles south of Carmel, and pulled in.

Parking Tip
There's a fee to park at the Reserve but the lady at the window suggested we save the money and park on the roadside as they prefer people to arrive on foot. She even loaned us a map!

Our Walk in Point Lobos State Reserve

We took the Carmelo Meadows Trail, which led us just a short way through woodland to reach the seashore. And there right below us on the sand, the incoming tide just starting to lick around them, were a mother harbor seal and her pup.

Watch the YouTube video we produced from watching the harbor seals and their pups at Point Lobos.

When to Visit Point Lobos State Reserve

To see the harbor seal mothers with their pups, visit Point Lobos between about mid-April and the end of May

Whaler's Cabin

We walked a while and then on our left was the Whaler’s Cabin, now a tiny but fascinating museum. The cabin was built in 1851 by Chinese fishermen and is now on the Register of Historic Places. The Chinese fishermen and their families sailed directly here to Point Lobos all the way from China in junks. It became the first Chinese fishing settlement in California, and they lived here for almost 30 years.

Harbor Seal Birthing Area

Just across from the museum was a little sheltered beach with a small crowd of people gathered above it, and a docent who had a telescope on a tripod trained on the beach. The reason was that harbor seals come ashore here to have their pups. Down below us were a dozen or more of them, many with pups, a few without, not yet having given birth. 

Seal and pup at Point Lobos State Reserve near Carmel and Monterey
Seal and pup at Point Lobos State Reserve near Carmel and Monterey
Seal and pup at Point Lobos State Reserve near Carmel and Monterey

Lucky Timing

It was a total delight for us, and just lucky timing, as we'd no idea we would stumble upon this wonderful scene. The seals are only here for about 6 weeks, from roughly mid-April onwards. The docent told us that they used to say that April 15th was the official start of the birth season but because of the climate changes they’re now starting a little sooner.

Teaching a Seal to Swim

Seals at Point Lobos State Reserve near Carmel and Monterey

He told us he'd seen some of the pups being born, but you had to be quick as it was all over in about half a minute. They’re usually born about 5-6am, and the mother then tears the sack and takes the pup out to sea to teach it to swim and to breathe out of the water and not under the water. The mothers swim underneath the pups to bob them into the water and out again once or twice, so they learn not to breathe underwater.

They stay out a few hours and then come back onto the beach again, where they are perfectly safe. We saw some coming ashore and the docent pointed out one of the day-old pups. Who knew that a baby seal can't swim and has to have lessons from mom?

A sign said 'QUIET PLEASE! Harbor seal birthing area'. The seals themselves were ignoring the notice, the pups constantly calling.

Taking the North Shore Trail

Signpost for the North Shore Trail at Point Lobos State Reserve near Carmel and Monterey

We eventually tore ourselves away from the birthing area  and walked through the small car park to find the start of the North Shore Trail, which the kindly docent had directed us to. Here it’s misty and the surf is crashing against the beaches, the rocks, and the cliffs. We walk through the misty woods, as if in a fairy tale, and we find another harbor seal birthing area, but this time it is only the two of us looking down on a dozen or so seals with their pups.

Point Lobos Photos

Further on a brown lizard runs across the path in front of us, we spend some time watching a hawk in the sky, and try to take photos of a large orange butterfly that dazzles us on this dull day. After a while a side trail led out to a large rocky outcrop where dozens of cormorants sat, looking rather miserable in the mist and the cold wind.

We eventually emerge at another small parking area, and take the short but lovely Cypress Grove Trail, which loops back to the car park. From here it's only a short walk back to our car, taking an inland trail. We continue our Pacific Coast Highway journey feeling elated and fortunate that we were in the right place at the right time. It had been yet another PCH magic moment.

Flowers on the North Shore Trail at Point Lobos State Reserve near Carmel and Monterey
Flowers on the North Shore Trail at Point Lobos State Reserve near Carmel and Monterey
Flowers on the North Shore Trail at Point Lobos State Reserve near Carmel and Monterey
Hiking the North Shore Trail at Point Lobos State Reserve near Carmel and Monterey

Point Lobos State Reserve Location

Map showing location of Point Lobos State Reserve near Carmel and MontereyMap (c) Google Maps

More Information

Visit the website of the Point Lobos Foundation

Where to Stay in Carmel



Other Carmel pages

  • San Luis Obispo in California is half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, on the Pacific Coast Highway and with lots of things to do and see.

    San Luis Obispo

    San Luis Obispo in California is half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, on the Pacific Coast Highway and with lots of things to do and see.

  • Crescent City is on the Pacific Coast Highway in northern California and noted for its crescent-shaped beach, Ocean World sea park, and nearby redwoods and state parks.

    Crescent City

    Crescent City is on the Pacific Coast Highway in northern California and noted for its crescent-shaped beach, Ocean World sea park, and nearby redwoods and state parks.

  • To John Steinbeck Monterey's Cannery Row was a place of sardine canneries, bums and honky tonks, but today the Monterey Aquarium attracts visitors.

    Cannery Row in Monterey

    To John Steinbeck Monterey's Cannery Row was a place of sardine canneries, bums and honky tonks, but today the Monterey Aquarium attracts visitors.

  • Encinitas is a beach city in Southern California, famous for surfing, and regularly chosen as one of the best places to live in both California and the USA.

    Encinitas

    Encinitas is a beach city in Southern California, famous for surfing, and regularly chosen as one of the best places to live in both California and the USA.

  • San Clemente in California is a small city on the Pacific Coast Highway midway between San Diego and Los Angeles, noted for its beaches and surfing.

    San Clemente California

    San Clemente in California is a small city on the Pacific Coast Highway midway between San Diego and Los Angeles, noted for its beaches and surfing.

  • The best things to do in Carmel include visiting Carmel Mission, enjoying the beaches, Point Lobos State Reserve, 17-Mile Drive, and Tor House.

    Best Things to Do in Carmel

    The best things to do in Carmel include visiting Carmel Mission, enjoying the beaches, Point Lobos State Reserve, 17-Mile Drive, and Tor House.

  • Mendocino in Mendocino County is a small but pretty California coastal town, popular with artists and with travelers. It has featured in many songs and movies.

    Mendocino

    Mendocino in Mendocino County is a small but pretty California coastal town, popular with artists and with travelers. It has featured in many songs and movies.

  • Santa Monica in California is famous for its pier, and beaches, and is one of the best west coast vacation spots, with hotels, restaurants, surfing, museums.

    Santa Monica, California

    Santa Monica in California is famous for its pier, and beaches, and is one of the best west coast vacation spots, with hotels, restaurants, surfing, museums.

  • Bodega Bay is a small California coastal town on the borders of Marin County and Sonoma County, and the filming location for Alfred Hitchcock's the Birds.

    Bodega Bay

    Bodega Bay is a small California coastal town on the borders of Marin County and Sonoma County, and the filming location for Alfred Hitchcock's the Birds.

  • One of the best California coast guides is the California Coastal Access Guide, describing the coast’s beaches, National Parks, State Parks, with many maps.

    California Coast Guide

    One of the best California coast guides is the California Coastal Access Guide, describing the coast’s beaches, National Parks, State Parks, with many maps.

  •  Historic and romantic Vagabond's House Inn Bed and Breakfast in Carmel is a great place to stay with free wine and cheese and generous breakfast.

    Vagabond's House Inn

    Historic and romantic Vagabond's House Inn Bed and Breakfast in Carmel is a great place to stay with free wine and cheese and generous breakfast.

  • The Pacific Coast Highway goes right through Laguna Beach, a relaxed artsy beach resort whose attractions include shopping, galleries, dining, and beaches.

    Laguna Beach

    The Pacific Coast Highway goes right through Laguna Beach, a relaxed artsy beach resort whose attractions include shopping, galleries, dining, and beaches.

  • The Stanford Inn by the Sea in Mendocino on the California coast is an eco-resort with yoga classes and the award-winning Ravens Restaurant.

    Stanford Inn by the Sea Mendocino

    The Stanford Inn by the Sea in Mendocino on the California coast is an eco-resort with yoga classes and the award-winning Ravens Restaurant.

  • The Jellies Experience jellyfish exhibition is the latest arrival at Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the top sights along the Pacific Coast Highway in California.

    The Jellies Experience jellyfish exhibition at Monterey Bay Aquarium

    The Jellies Experience jellyfish exhibition is the latest arrival at Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the top sights along the Pacific Coast Highway in California.

  • Unique Inns on the Pacific Coast Highway include some of the best independently-owned boutique hotels, spas, and lodges in California, Oregon and Washington.

    Unique Inns on the Pacific Coast Highway

    Unique Inns on the Pacific Coast Highway include some of the best independently-owned boutique hotels, spas, and lodges in California, Oregon and Washington.

  • Seeing a humpback whale in the Pacific Ocean off the coasts of California,Washington or Oregon is often the highlight of a whale-watching tour.

    Humpback Whale

    Seeing a humpback whale in the Pacific Ocean off the coasts of California,Washington or Oregon is often the highlight of a whale-watching tour.

  • The Pelican Inn and Suites in Cambria on California's Central Coast has oceanfront views, swimming pool, gardens, and is right on the beach near Hearst Castle.

    Pelican Inn and Suites in Cambria on the Central Coast of California

    The Pelican Inn and Suites in Cambria on California's Central Coast has oceanfront views, swimming pool, gardens, and is right on the beach near Hearst Castle.

  • For a Moss Beach hotel just off the Pacific Coast Highway, the Seal Cove Inn offers good accommodation north of Half Moon Bay, minutes from the ocean.

    Moss Beach Hotel

    For a Moss Beach hotel just off the Pacific Coast Highway, the Seal Cove Inn offers good accommodation north of Half Moon Bay, minutes from the ocean.

  • The Point Reyes National Seashore is an hour’s drive northwest of San Francisco on the Pacific Coast Highway and is maintained by the National Park Service.

    Point Reyes National Seashore

    The Point Reyes National Seashore is an hour’s drive northwest of San Francisco on the Pacific Coast Highway and is maintained by the National Park Service.

  • Pacific Grove is a small city on the California coast, next to Monterey and close to Carmel, with attractions including its historic Victorian houses.

    Pacific Grove

    Pacific Grove is a small city on the California coast, next to Monterey and close to Carmel, with attractions including its historic Victorian houses.

  •  Of all Eureka inns, The Carter House Inns are the most romantic and historic, with one of the best restaurants in Northern California.

    Eureka Inns

    Of all Eureka inns, The Carter House Inns are the most romantic and historic, with one of the best restaurants in Northern California.

  • This Carmel dog-friendly hotel, the historic Cypress Inn, is co-owned by movie legend Doris Day and offers luxury lodgings for travelers in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

    Carmel Dog-Friendly Hotel

    This Carmel dog-friendly hotel, the historic Cypress Inn, is co-owned by movie legend Doris Day and offers luxury lodgings for travelers in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

  •  Pacific Coast Highway Travel takes the 17-Mile Drive from Carmel to Pacific Grove and Monterey, stopping to see the Lone Cypress and beautiful coastline views.

    The 17-Mile Drive between Carmel, Pacific Grove, and Monterey

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel takes the 17-Mile Drive from Carmel to Pacific Grove and Monterey, stopping to see the Lone Cypress and beautiful coastline views.

  • Lonely Planet's Coastal California guidebook is the ideal travel guide for driving or cycling the Pacific Coast Highway from the Oregon border to Mexico.

    Coastal California Guidebook

    Lonely Planet's Coastal California guidebook is the ideal travel guide for driving or cycling the Pacific Coast Highway from the Oregon border to Mexico.

  • San Diego whale watching tours like this from Hornblower Cruises let visitors get up close to see gray whales, dolphins, sea lions and other wildlife.

    San Diego Whale Watching

    San Diego whale watching tours like this from Hornblower Cruises let visitors get up close to see gray whales, dolphins, sea lions and other wildlife.



Recent Articles

  1. Touring Alcatraz

    Jan 30, 23 04:51 PM

    alcatraz-island-pixabay.jpg
    Touring Alcatraz, the former island prison, is one of the best things to do in San Francisco and attracts over 1.5 million visitors a year.

    Read More

  2. Pacific Coast Highway Reopens Wednesday Morning After Flooding

    Jan 26, 23 12:20 PM

    The Tuesday closure was caused by flooding and prompted safety officials to shut down both sides of the highway in Huntington Beach.

    Read More

  3. San Diego Zoo

    Jan 23, 23 06:19 PM

    san-diego-zoo-pixabay-gorilla.jpg
    San Diego Zoo is in Balboa Park, San Diego, California has been called the best zoo in the world and is the most visited zoo in the United States.

    Read More