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Best Places to View Winter Wildlife in Monterey County

Here are some of the best places to go to visit the incredible wildlife that resides in Monterey County:

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve

At 1700 acres and located at the east end of the Slough which is one of many access points to the Slough, Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve is home to several creatures from several habitats. Some of the animals you can find there are the Acorn Woodpecker, Arboreal Salamander, Bobcat, Brown Pelican California Tiger Salamander, Caspian Tern, Cliff Swallows, Ensatina, Great Horned Owl, Harbor Seal, Newts, Pickleweed, Plainfin Midshipman, Poison Oak, Rain Beetle, Santa Cruz Long-Toed Salamander, Snowy Plover, Southern Sea Otter and The Wrentit.

The reserve also has a Visitor Center, which is the best place to visit first before immersing yourself in the Slough. It is home to fun and informative exhibits, a nature bookstore, and is staffed with knowledgeable naturalists who can answer your questions. There are picnic tables, restrooms and hiking trails. Binoculars are als available for loan.

Know Before You Go:
Opening Hours:
9 a.m.-5 p.m.

*Free admission to visitor center; $4 (credit card only) for ages 16 and older to walk trails
*Free guided tours at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. most weekends and birding tour at 8:30 a.m. the first Saturday of the month.

Monarch Sanctuary

Monarch Butterflies are magnificent butterflies that are popular for their orange and black wings. One of the most anticipated events in their cycle of life is their migration during the fall. And some of them migrate at the Bay Area every winter, clustering in groves of eucalyptus.
People from all walks of life travel to visit these colonies of the orange-and-black butterflies clustered in a tree, fluttering their wings under the sun. Ardenwood is home to a colony numbering about 300 to 400 so far this year. (Numbers tend to peak between late November and mid-December.) Monarch programs are offered Friday through Sunday and on other weekends in December and January.

Know Before You Go:
Opening Hours:
Sunrise to sunset daily.
Docents available noon to 3 p.m., weather permitting, through February.

Adventures By The Sea

For over 25 years, Adventures by the Sea has been providing visitors and locals the opportunity to discover Monterey by either land or sea. They provide guided kayaking and biking adventures where otters, harbor seals and more can be seen and appreciated. They offer kayak and bike rentals and tours, family bike (or surrey) rentals and stand up paddle board rentals and lessons. This is definitely a great way to explore the wonder of Monterey’s wildlife with the whole family.

Know Before You Go:
Opening Hours:
299 Cannery Row Kayak Tour - (Tour of Cannery Row Kelp Forest and Visiting the Resident Raft of Otters)  
$60 per person
Daily at 10AM and 2PM

Lovers Point Kayak Tour - (Tour of the local beach in Pacific Grove and Viewing of Resident Otters and Harbor Seals)
$60 a person (Require a 2 person minimum to reserve)
Daily at 8am (Require advance reservations)

Fast Raft Ocean Safaris

An exciting and unique way to explore the beauty of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is through the use of this low-to-the-water boat called the Ranger which offers an incredible perspective of marine wildlife and beautiful coastal scenery. The Fast Raft Ocean Safaris offers this for all. With a maximum of six passengers, each tour is customized to the unique desires of the guests. Each passenger has a front row seat for an exhilarating experience of our amazing ocean wilderness.

Know Before You Go:
Opening Hours:
Whale-watching and coastal safaris from Moss Landing and Monterey for ages 8 and up;
Most three to four hours, $140-$185.
Private charters available.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

If you are not much of an outdoor type of person but you still want to enjoy the beauty of Monterey Bay’s marine wildlife? Then the best place to visit is the Monterey Bay Aquarium! There are several tours, exhibits and experiences to be done here. There are romance tours if you want to experience Monterey Bay Aquarium on an intimate level. You can also have an overnight stay at the Aquarium and have a sleepover with the fishes. There are also scuba diving sessions for kids, daily shows and wildlife feeding like Penguin, Sea Otter and Kelp Forest feedings.
The best part are the tours where you get to meet and see all the marine wildlife. There is the Jellies and Open Sea Tour, Sea Otter Conservation Tour, Feeding Frenzy Tour, Shark Tour, Behind-the-Scenes Tour, Feed the Fish Tour, Family Tours and also Personal Guided Tours.

And after exploring and meeting the different marine wildlife, you can relax at the eating establishments at the Aquarium. There is the Cafe, where they serve pizzas, burgers, salad and desserts, and then there is the Restaurant, where they serve seasonal dishes with wine and a amazing view of the ocean, and the last is the Coffee Bar, where they serve beverages, coffee drinks, pastries and desserts.

Know Before You Go:
Opening Hours:
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Daily
$25-$40, free for ages 2 and younger

If you're planning to have a staycation or you are visiting Monterey and looking for a nice hotel to stay in? Munras Inn is a convenient and great choice to stay in. For online reservations, click here. You may also reach us at (831) 646-9696.

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