Photo courtesy Monterey Bay Aquarium
While the marine landscape is easily enjoyable to view from land, it's best experienced in its liquid environment — or floating right above it. Here are four ways to get up close to the beauty of the bay.
By Jill K. Robinson
While in many areas whale watchers have to go far from shore to spot one of the huge mammals, along the Monterey coast whales can sometimes be seen offshore without binoculars. One of the best ways to get up close is with a cruise through outfitters like Discovery Whale Watch (discoverywhalewatch.com), Monterey Bay Whale Watch (gowhales.com), and Sanctuary Cruises (sanctuarycruises.com). Don't rule out being captain of your own vessel, either. Monterey Sailing School (montereysailing.com) offers two- to four-hour introductory sailing courses that vary in price. Private instruction is available, too. Seasoned skippers, take note: If you own a sailboat, Monterey Harbormaster, near Cannery Row, is your go-to (831-594-7760).
2) KAYAKING (AND SUP)
Monterey Bay Kayaks (montereybaykayaks.com) and Adventures by the Sea (adventuresbythesea.com) offer kayaking and stand-up paddling adventures that allow visitors to get out on the water easily and from a variety of locations, like Cannery Row, Fisherman's Wharf, Lovers Point, and Moss Landing. It's a very different feeling from whale watching, when you're gliding on the water in a kayak and a fuzzy sea otter or sleek harbor seal pops up right in front of you. Wetsuits, life vests, booties, and paddling and wildlife orientation are offered. Bring a towel. Apply sunscreen.
Surfing goes hand-in-hand with the laid-back California coastal lifestyle, and some folks are tempted to give the sport a try when in a beautiful destination like Monterey Bay. Several schools and shops in the area offer water instruction or rental surfing gear. Consider: Monterey Bay Surf Lessons (montereybaysurflessons.com), On the Beach Surf Shop (onthebeachsurfshop.com), and Sunshine Freestyle Surf & Sport. Many establishments provide the surfboard and wetsuit. Carmel Surf Lessons (carmelsurflessons.com) offers group rates, so bring some pals. The company also offers corporate team training — a big thing these days — private surf lessons, and lessons for couples. Note: Most lessons are held in knee- to waist-deep water.
One of the richest ecological regions along California's Central Coast, Monterey Bay has plenty beneath the surface, and the only way to see it (other than at the Monterey Bay Aquarium) is by suiting up and getting into the water. Shops like Bamboo Reef (bambooreef.com) and Breakwater Scuba (breakwaterscuba.com) have scuba classes, equipment rentals, and innovative dive tours — at Breakwater, for instance, the Point Lobos Dive Tour is a standout. Meanwhile, over at Aquarius Dive Shop (aquariusdivers.com), the crew reminds students that 70 percent of the planet is underwater. They want guests to gain a basic knowledge of scuba and, upon completion of its many Divers Alert Network courses, provides, as do the other dive centers, a diving certification card.