Snorkeling Monterey, CA

Lots of people inquire about snorkeling Monterey, CA. But it seems the consensus is…um, don’t. The water is cold. A few dive sites are promising for those with thick wetsuits. But visibility from the surface just isn’t that grand. Go farther south, to San Diego, for snorkeling.

That said, there are other ways for snorksnorkers to see and interact with aquatic wildlife here. Monterey Aquarium is a perfect way to introduce yourself to the creatures of the CA coast. It’s one of the best aquariums and research facilities in the world.

Kids ages 8-12 can learn to surface scuba dive in the aquarium’s tide pool. This gives them a great, confidence-building experience and views of animal life. ¬†

A better way to experience Monterey’s wildlife is by going on a whale watch boat or by renting a sea kayak. We rented kayaks and had closeup views of sea otters, sea lions, and kelp forests. You should give the sea otters a respectful distance. They do, however, sometimes pop up right by your boat and there’s no helping that. Wish we’d had a waterproof camera at the time!

Our only wish is that the Monterey Kayak folks were more diligent about teaching kayak renters better marine mammal manners. The place is high volume but we don’t think that justifies skimping on really talking to folks about how much space to leave between you and the sea otters. They seem to treat that very casually and the excited kayakers, ready to roll, ignored what little was said. We saw plenty of kayakers being aggressive and getting into the way of sea otters. ¬†Monterey Kayaks has been in business for 25 years or so, with locations here, and also at Elkhorn Slough, an excellent nature spot. So, hopefully, they’ll step up and shore up their pre-kayak-rental talks with more specifics for kayakers on how to avoid disturbing the sea otters tangled out in the kelp. ¬†(The otters wrap themselves in kelp to anchor themselves as they snooze.)

If you want a view without even renting a kayak, just rent an oceanside room at the divine Monterey Bay Hotel Plaza & Spa. Bring your binoculars and watch the sea otters and kayaks from your balcony! We could hear them splashing outside the room. The same view is afforded from the plaza near the dolphin statue even if you are just visiting the hotel for a meal or conference.

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