The state of California has over 280 state park systems– and Point Lobos is its crown jewel. A gem has been a tired term used to describe many wonders of the natural world, Point Lobos truly deserves the title. The famous Australian landscape artist Francis McComas once claimed it as the world’s greatest meeting point of land and sea.
Point Lobos is painfully stunning, even more so on sunny days. Its gorgeous and scenic coastal landscapes, often embraced by the summer fog, are beautifully haunting, and it has long been the muse of famous photographers, painters, and poets. Crown jewel is an understatement.
The diving waters in Point Lobos are considered one of the best scuba diving sites on the Monterey Peninsula– even outshining other diving spots that are found in its more popular neighbor, Big Sur. The beauty of Point Lobos is not only limited to its scenic views of the ocean but it is even more majestic in its underwater seascapes.
Its rich history dates back over 2,500 years ago when it used to be home to Rumsien Indans. Point Lobos started as a whaling community that hunted Gray whales that migrate along the coasts of California starting in the middle of December to early May.
The Carmel Whaling Company operated from the early 1860s to the late 1870s. There were only 16 shore whaling stations in California, and the Carmel Whaling Company originally located in Point Lobos is one of them. When the last whalers moved out of the community in 1983, the cabins were converted into a museum, which is now known as the historic Whalers Cabin was built by Chinese fishermen in the 1850s. Locally sourced pinewood and redwood was used for its structure. Its floor, which were originally packed earth, is supported by six whale vertebrate that rest on granite blocks that were quarried nearby.
Early Spanish explorers initially called it “Punta de los Lobos Marinos” because of the crowds of sea lions that can be found in its beachers. The Spanish term roughly translates to Point of the Sea Wolves, their name for sea lions.
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
The Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a protected wildlife sanctuary that is home to over 20 species of land mammals, such as coyotes and foxes. Mountain lions and bobcats also occasionally enter the reserve.
Most animals living in Point Lobos are nocturnal, like the raccoons, skunks, and other marsupials. But visitors do often have sightings of those that are active during the day, including bush rabbits, black-tailed mule deers, ground squirrels, and pocket gophers. The ground squirrels often burrow in the soil near the shore and among the coastal scrub plants, making them the most visible animals to visitors.
The reserve also has several miles of trails that’s great for hiking. Point Lobos is a wide 400 acres where visitors can enjoy various activities including sightseeing, photography, painting, nature study, picnicking, etc.
Marine Protected Areas
Point Lobos is considered to have the richest marine habitats in California. Its ocean waters are home to various marine wildlife like sea lions, seals, otters, and orcas. Its marine protected areas provide shelter to those that rely on the kelp forest near the shore to those that live in the deep waters of the Carmel Submarine Canyon. These protections extend to a wide variety of fish, invertebrates, birds, and marine mammals.
The Point Lobos State Marine Conservation Area strictly implements a no-take zone inside the 3,600 acres of the reserve and its surrounding areas which extend from the east side of Monastery Beach to the mouth of MalPaso Creek. Nobody is allowed to take any fish, mollusks, or any other marine resources within the reserve. However, they allow the recreational and commercial take of salmon, albacore, and spot prawn.
Diving Areas In The Reserve
Point Lobos is one of the most popular diving spots along the west coast. It is arguably the most famous place frequented by scuba divers. Point Lobos has one of the richest marine habitats in all of California and is considered as the best diving spot on the Monterey Peninsula.
It has fascinating underwater topography that divers flock to despite its cold waters. Its clear waters only emphasize the abundance of its sea life and sheltered coves. You will truly only see and experience half of the beauty of Point Lobos if you don’t venture the world under its waters.
It is undeniably the most exhilarating part of Point Lobos. Since it is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, its aquatic life remains one of the most varied and undisturbed in the world. The marine wildlife diversity makes it perfect for underwater photographers and scuba divers who want to see the incredible array of life in its waters. Monterey Bay has many good places for scuba diving, but we have compiled a list of 9 Best Places in Monterey for Scuba Diving that will help you choose the best places.
The site has an abundant size of different kinds of fish. Schools of blue rockfish can often be found circling the pinnacles inside Whalers and Bluefish Coves. A large, male sheepshead fondly called Victor by regular visitors and locals often greets divers while making their descent down the anchor line. Huge rockfishes of different kinds, like vermillions, gophers, and coppers, also hang around at the 90 feet mark.
Whalers Cove and Bluefish Cove are the only areas where divers are allowed to dive. The reserve implements a strict reservation system to limit the number of divers per day.
Whaler’s Cove can be found in the northern part of Point Lobos. It is best known for its incredible scuba diving opportunities, and it is one of the only two allowed dive spots in the reserve. The other spot is its adjacent Bluefish Cove.
Its entrance is easily accessible– located near Whaler’s Cabin– where divers of all levels can enter and explore the coves and reefs. The Pit, a small diving area next to the cove, is also a popular spot for divers, although it is not easily accessible from the bluff above. Inside the cove lies a sand channel located between the middle side reefs.
Whaler’s Cove is often underwater during high tide, but when the tide is low, its narrow beach is fun to explore.
The only other diving spot allowed in the reserve– and probably the best diving area between the two– Bluefish Cove is a gorgeous dive site. Divers will encounter various types of wildlife here including sheepshead, rockfish, strawberry anemones, rock crabs, sponges, and forests upon forests of kelp holdfasts.
It is beachless and is only accessible either by a long swim or by using kayaks due to its distance from the boat ramp located around the corner of the cove. There are also boat charters that take divers directly to the cove to dive but they usually only operate once a month.
Bluefish Cove is also the location of The Great Pinnacle– two pinnacles separated by a narrow canyon with a sand bottom that winds down to a steep drop. Because it is somewhat exposed, it is considered as an advanced dive and not suitable for beginners. Even expert divers rarely dive in the pinnacle because it is quite difficult to find. You would also need a boat to the pinnacle.
The shallow areas of the pinnacle are home to anemones, corals, and sponges– including hundreds of individual dorids in over a dozen species. Many chestnut cowries, small fish, and shrimps also frequent the pinnacle walls. It is often covered in vast kelp forests making it a colorful heaven for photographers.
Some Reminders When Visiting Point Lobos
- Divers must secure permits in order to be allowed to dive, which is only limited to 15 teams per day. All divers need to have a valid certification card presented, only permits are given by pair, as diving alone is not permitted.
- There is no dive shop inside the reserve. The nearest one is located all the way back in Monterey, so make sure that you have your gear packed and test-assembled before heading to Point Lobos.
- Diving is only limited to Whalers and Bluefish Coves and its nearby waters. Snorkeling in all other areas, like China Cove or Gibson Beach, is strictly prohibited.
- Strictly no fishing equipment and collecting tools are permitted inside.
- Keep your distance from areas frequented by nesting birds as they get frightened easily.
- If you approach seals, otters, whales, or seabirds and notice they are alerting to your presence then you are too close. You need to change your direction and move farther away from the wildlife.
- Keep in mind that the Federal Marine Mammal Protection Act and State laws prohibit anyone from disturbing the local wildlife inside the reserve. Doing so may get you in trouble with the law and could be made to pay fines.
- Lastly, bring snacks and food because there’s no food available for purchase inside the reserve. Several picnic tables are available in a lot of areas within the park, but camp stoves are not allowed inside. So only bring already cooked and ready-to-eat food.