Monterey Bay

Gabilan + Southern Diablo Mountains, California

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Monterey Bay


  • A group of humpback whales in Monterey Bay, viewed from a small aircraft approximately 1,500 feet above the water.- Monterey Bay
  • Several guide services operate out of Moss Landing and offer whale watching kayak tours.- Monterey Bay
  • Flocks of elegant terns and other sea birds thrive in the Moss Landing area.- Monterey Bay
  • A group of beginner kayakers familiarizing themselves with their boats before heading out into open water.- Monterey Bay
  • Flocks of elegant terns and other sea birds thrive in the Moss Landing area.- Monterey Bay
  • Adorable sea otters are common sights in Moss Landing.- Monterey Bay
  • A group of kayakers leaving Moss Landing for the open water of Monterey Bay.- Monterey Bay
  • The underwater topography of Monterey Bay funnels schools of fish and the whales and other large mammals that feed on them within a few miles of shore.- Monterey Bay
  • Flocks of birds over the water often indicate that a school of fish is near the surface, an event that is often accompanied by the dramatic whale behavior called "lunge feeding."- Monterey Bay
Overview + Weather
Convenient and protected launch at Moss Landing. Abundant wildlife.
Perhaps too developed for kayakers looking for remote ocean journeying.
Gabilan + Southern Diablo Mountains, CA
Site characteristics: Water: 
Motorized watercraft allowed: 
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Portage required: 
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Water difficulty: 
Moderate / Class B
Current Local Weather:
Paddle Description

Paddle Description

Pro Contributor

Monterey Bay is a world-class destination for observing marine life ranging from whales and dolphins to seals, sea lions, otters, and pelagic birds. The bay offers open-water ocean kayaking while retaining some of the comfort and safety of having fellow kayakers and boaters in the vicinity. Several local guide services are available to help beginners get started, and the bay is accessible to a wide range of abilities, though all paddlers should be prepared for ocean conditions including swells, wind, weather, tides, and tidal currents. 

A popular launching point in the central bay is the harbor at Moss Landing, which offers a convenient dock and boat ramp behind a large, protective sand dune breakwater. The calm waters in the harbor area allow paddlers to warm up and reacquaint themselves with their craft and technique before paddling onto open water. Within the harbor area one is almost certain to see playful seals, snoozing sea otters, and several species of coastal birds. Paddling inland from Moss Landing will take you into wildlife-rich Elkhorn Slough; paddling past the breakwater onto open water will take you onto Monterey Bay and into the Pacific Ocean.

Migrating whales can be seen passing through Monterey Bay essentially year round. Humpback and blue whale sightings typically peak in September or October, while gray whale sightings typically peak in the winter months from December through March. In high years, a kayaker may see dozens of humpback whales in one morning, a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle that is not to be missed. If you are not paddling with an experienced guide service, be sure you understand the habits of the creatures you are hoping to view and how to approach and enjoy them safely. Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary offers tips and resources for hopeful wildlife enthusiasts.

For scenic coastal paddling, Point Lobos, the "jewel of the California State Parks" found just south of Monterey, offers stunning views and abundant wildlife. The rocky coastline, though beautiful, can also be treacherous to paddlers. It is typically recommended to experienced paddlers only.

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary also posts a list of kayak access points throughout Monterey Bay for adventurers looking to explore all its nooks and crannies.

Updates, Tips + Comments

Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide

Field Guide

Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(8 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(96 within a 30 mile radius)

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