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Point Lobos State Reserve

This wildlife sanctuary, a magnet for nature lovers and artists, is a jewel of the California State Park system. 

Follow misty hiking trails through towering cypress trees along dramatic, craggy shorelines and down to secluded beaches. Once the home of whalers, sealers and fishermen, the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve and surrounding waters are now a protected wildlife and marine reserve.  

The California sea lion is plentiful in this area, with hundreds of them sunning on the rocks along the shore between August and June. Sea otters can also be seen searching for food in the kelp beds just offshore. Look a little further out in the ocean for gray whales on their long annual migration between December and May. It’s also possible to see mountain lions and coyotes roaming inside the reserve. Both are used to human activity but shouldn’t be approached or fed. Many bird species thrive here too. Keep an out for the beautiful black-crowned night heron and brown pelican. 

Hiking is a popular activity at Point Lobos, with trails running alongside the shore and offering stunning views. Follow the Cypress Grove trail to the ocean at sunset to capture the perfect photo. The trees here sometimes appear orange due to a build up of algae, and the light is forever changing as fog rolls in from the ocean.
The best way to experience Point Lobos marine life is by scuba diving or snorkeling. Kelp forests just offshore support a variety of fish and plant life, all of which is protected by state law. You can rent diving gear from several nearby shops. Certified divers can make reservations prior to arrival via the Point Lobos State Reserve website. 

Find the Whalers Cabin Museum in an old shack by the water. Chinese and Portuguese whalers built dozens of these cabins here in the mid-1850s, but only this one remains. The museum’s exhibits include harpoons, blubber pots and a model of an old whaling boat. Enormous bleached whale bones scattered around the cabin provide an eerie reminder of the once bloody trade.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is three miles (five kilometers) south of Carmel. It’s a 15-minute car drive from downtown Monterey, or catch a MST bus to Point Lobos. Set aside an afternoon or entire day to explore the reserve. Bring a snack or picnic, as there are no food outlets inside the park.

Popular Activities at Point Lobos State Reserve

Make the most of your time spent at Point Lobos State Reserve. Below is a list of the most popular activities:

How about making your visit a little more special? A 3-Day Coastal Camping Tour from San Francisco to Los Angeles and a 3-Day Coastal Tour from Los Angeles to San Francisco are both worth looking into.

For more activities, peruse our Carmel things to do page.


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Top Hotel Deals

See all 428 properties near Point Lobos State Reserve
Hyatt Carmel Highlands, Overlooking Big Sur Coast C$511
Hyatt Carmel Highlands, Overlooking Big Sur Coast

Hyatt Carmel Highlands, Overlooking Big Sur Coast

120 Highland Dr, Carmel, CA
     
    4.0 out of 5.0

    Situated in Carmel, this resort is 0.6 mi (1 km) from Gravity Garden and 2.5 mi (4 km) from Point Lobos State Reserve. Gibson Beach and Monastery Beach are also within 3 mi (5 km).

    Charming Family Ranch Home
    Charming Family Ranch Home

    Charming Family Ranch Home

    Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA
       
      0.0 out of 5.0

      Situated in Carmel, this historic vacation home is 1.1 mi (1.7 km) from Gravity Garden and within 3 mi (5 km) of Point Lobos State Reserve and Carmel Mission Basilica. Gibson Beach and China Cove are also within 1 mi (2 km).

      Stunning Ranch Home With Ocean Views
      Stunning Ranch Home With Ocean Views

      Stunning Ranch Home With Ocean Views

      Carmel, CA
         
        0.0 out of 5.0

        Situated on the waterfront, this historic vacation home is 1.1 mi (1.7 km) from Monastery Beach and within 3 mi (5 km) of Point Lobos State Reserve and Carmel Mission Basilica. Gravity Garden and Gibson Beach are also within 2 mi (3 km).

        Gated, Private, ONE Acre BY THE SEA
        Gated, Private, ONE Acre BY THE SEA

        Gated, Private, ONE Acre BY THE SEA

        Carmel, CA
           
          0.0 out of 5.0

          Situated by the ocean, this historic property is 0.1 mi (0.1 km) from Gravity Garden and 1.9 mi (3 km) from Point Lobos State Reserve. Gibson Beach and China Cove are also within 2 mi (3 km).

          Beach Front Cottages With Stunning Views Abalone Cottage
          Beach Front Cottages With Stunning Views Abalone Cottage

          Beach Front Cottages With Stunning Views Abalone Cottage

          Carmel, CA
             
            0.0 out of 5.0

            Situated on the beach, this historic property is 0.1 mi (0.1 km) from Monastery Beach and within 3 mi (5 km) of Carmel Beach and Carmel Mission Basilica. Point Lobos State Reserve is 2 mi (3.2 km) away.

            Charming Beach Front Cottage
            Charming Beach Front Cottage

            Charming Beach Front Cottage

            Carmel, CA
               
              0.0 out of 5.0

              Nestled on the beach, this Carmel property is within 3 mi (5 km) of Monastery Beach, Carmel Beach, and Carmel Mission Basilica. Point Lobos State Reserve is 2 mi (3.3 km) away.

              Hyatt Residence Club Carmel, Highlands Inn One Bedroom Suite
              Hyatt Residence Club Carmel, Highlands Inn One Bedroom Suite

              Hyatt Residence Club Carmel, Highlands Inn One Bedroom Suite

              Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA
                 
                0.0 out of 5.0

                Situated in Carmel, this resort is 0.2 mi (0.3 km) from Gravity Garden and 2.1 mi (3.3 km) from Point Lobos State Reserve. Monastery Beach and Gibson Beach are also within 2 mi (3 km).

                Beach Front Cottages With Stunning Views
                Beach Front Cottages With Stunning Views

                Beach Front Cottages With Stunning Views

                Carmel, CA
                   
                  0.0 out of 5.0

                  Situated on the beach, this historic property is 0.1 mi (0.1 km) from Monastery Beach and within 3 mi (5 km) of Carmel Beach and Carmel Mission Basilica. Point Lobos State Reserve is 2.1 mi (3.4 km) away.