MONTEREY — What makes Monterey Bay so appealing is what you can’t see.
Starting a mile off shore from Moss Landing is the start of the third largest submarine canyon in the world. It is 292 miles long, 7.5 miles wide and is more than two miles deep at one point.
The presence of that canyon — the closest-to-shore deep sea environment in the United States — has helped create one of North America’s premiere marine ecological regions.
It is why whale watching is possible year round.
Between now and April the Gray Whale Highway a few miles off shore is filled with its namesake travelers as the migrants head from their breeding ground along the Baja California coast and head north to their summer feeding grounds in the waters off Alaska. The massive blue whale — the largest animal in earth along with fin, minke, orcas and humpback near Monterey Bay — linger here for the same reason from April to November that John Steinbeck was able to find employment on Monterey’s famed Cannery Row — the waters are teeming with a rich marine smorgasbord. Sardines may have been virtually decimated but there is plenty of marine life left for whales as well as your eyes to feast upon.
Typically more than 20,000 gray whales pass Monterey Bay from December to April.
The best way to try and get glimpse of the whales is on a boat. There are a number of options out of Monterey that can be explored by going to www.santacruz.com/guides/santa-cruz-whale-watching-cruising.
Among those is Princess Monterey Whale Watching (montereywhalewatching.com). It’s located on Old Fisherman’s Wharf just off Highway 1.
Rates are $50 for ages 12 and up and $35 ages 3 to 11. Upgrades to the limited upper deck are $20 per ticket that allows for premium viewing. Kids under 3 and pregnant women are not allowed due to safety concerns.
Trips are two-and-a-half to three hours and are narrated by naturalists.
The two main vessels — The Monterey Princess and The Atlantis Monterey – are both 100 feet. The have heated cabins, seating, as well as snack bar. Departure times on Saturday and Sunday are 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 2 p.m. Weekdays the times are 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
There’s more to see on the cruise than just whales. Besides great vistas and views of the California coast, you can come across dolphins, porpoises, sea otters, seals, sea lions, birds, and other marine life. It isn’t as common but there are times you might be able to catch a glimpse of sharks, sea turtles, jelly fish and sunfish at the surface as well.
You can combine whale watching with other nearby low-cost or no-cost attractions. Bedsides Old Fisherman’s Wharf there is the nearby Cannery Row plus the Monterey Historic State Park that includes the Custom House — the oldest government building in California. The park also covers the area that houses the Spanish and Mexican governments when they ruled California as well as the state’s first capitol.
Monterey has an extensive array of dining options. It is also home to the Monterey Bay Aquarium where adult admissions are currently $49.95.
For general visitors’ information on Monterey, go to seemonterey.com.