CARMEL — It has been called “the greatest meeting of land and water in the world.”
Unique headlands, irregular coves, contrasting rock types, and rolling meadows at seaside create a visual feast for those venturing to the Point Lobos State Reserve where one can sit for hours and simply enjoy. There is literally something different along virtually every segment of the Point Lobos coastline to savor as you walk along on foot or scamper over numerous rock formations that have trapped pools of water and sea life between high tides.
It was the fierce yet dainty images created with winter waves slamming against rock formations during a visit years ago that that made me fall in love with Point Lobos. It is a place made for exploring and contemplation. The ocean – and beaches in general — are not usually my thing but Point Lobos in a 5.36-square-mile area manages to offer a kaleidoscope of images you can’t find collectively in one place anywhere else on the California Coast. And although much of the plant and animal life in the living museum are below water, Point Lobos will not disappoint.
Point Lobos State Reserve lives up to the billing of “the greatest meeting of land and water in the world” thanks to a dramatic nearby drop off in the ocean floor that usually is found in the mid-Pacific. Carmel Bay just a mile north of the reserve reaches 1,000 feet and ties into the Monterey Canyon that drops 7,000 feet just six miles offshore. That, combined with the fact Point Lobos is where warmer waters of the central coast mix with the colder waters of the north, creates an abundance of ocean life. The end result is a mixture of plant and animal life from both temperature zones. It makes an ideal paradise for divers who can access the underwater portion of the reserve by permit but like those on land are prohibited from removing anything.
If you take a pair of binoculars with you, one can take in “floating logs in and around seaweed” in coves. Those dark logs are actually Southern Sea Otters floating on their back. They usually eat and sleep on their backs. You won’t find many that come ashore although harbor seals can occasionally be seen lounging on the rocks.
Binoculars also help you take in gray whales that pass within three miles of the shore from December to May. The brochure you receive when you pay the $10 per vehicle fee at the entrance tells you about the best places to look for the whales. (Those who are 62 years and older can get a $1 discount). You can walk in for free although a $1 donation is suggested. Visitors are welcome from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Ocean life aside, the rugged scenery of Point Lobos created by a combination of coarse-grained ingenuous rock and sedimentary rock shaped over millions of years by waves and wind is as impressive as you’re going to find anywhere on the coast. The walking trails are easy to maneuver and include ones more inland that give you a good feel of the unique plant life of the Monterey Peninsula.
Each beach and cove offers a unique visual playground.
Even the most difficult spot to reach – the protected hidden sandy beach of China Cove – isn’t that difficult. It is not handicapped accessible due to steps along the coast trail plus a stairway – including finished logs secured with anchors on one side of the cliff at the bottom. However, elderly in good shape and young kids have no problem descending or ascending from the pristine mini-beach at the upper reaches of the cove.