Monterey Experience

Monterey Experience Tour

Welcome to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, one of the nation's largest marine protected areas. This is world class wildlife viewing and ocean kayaking experience set within a beautiful area with rich local California history. Explore the calm Monterey harbor and Fisherman's Wharf, and then the Cannery Row's kelp forests and paddle over an underwater Marine Park!

The bay is an important habitat for coastal birds, fish, invertebrates, and marine mammals like sea lions, harbor seals, and the Southern sea otter, currently a threatened species with less than 2,900 individuals remaining in the wild. Please read this important information about the marine wildlife before you go paddling.

Tips for paddling

Our 4,000 square foot store is located on Monterey Beach, next to the main Fisherman's Wharf entrance. This is the starting point of your kayaking adventure with easy parking, changing rooms, restrooms, a full retail store and a beautiful, calm beach.

After an orientation and some instruction, you can launch and a quick paddle will take you into the protected Monterey harbor.

Launching Kayaks from Monterey Beach Here paddlers can observe seals sunning themselves, sea otters feeding, and find themselves accompanied by frolicking sea lions swimming under your boat. If you know where to look, there is an amazing variety of other marine life (sea stars, sea hares, etc.) that it's like paddling through a marine biology textbook! You can also check out the restaurants where you can have dinner later!

Kayaking Monterey Bay - Seals on Harbor Breakwater Rocks While you are in the harbor, and especially at the entrance around the jetty, look out for motor and sailboats. Always give them the right of way as they are less maneuverable and might not see you. Family Adventure Tour Monterey BayAvoid paddling or stopping in the middle of the boating channels which are marked by red and green buoys.

Swells and wind can be more noticeable as you paddle around the breakwater jetty and venture out beyond the harbor towards Cannery Row.Monterey Bay Kayak Tour If encountering waves, point the kayak's bow perpendicular to the waves.

From the breakwater to the Monterey Bay Aquarium you will be paddling above the Edward F. Ricketts State Marine Conservation Area, an underwater park designed to protect the kelp forest and fish population that sustains so much life in Monterey Bay.

Kayaking Monterey Bay - Pair of Kayakers Sea otters, harbor seals, and sea lions will be feeding or playing or even sleeping in the protection of the kelp beds. Guides on our tours will find kelp crabs, fish, snails, nudibranchs, sea stars, and other fascinating marine invertebrates.

Stay close to shore as you paddle to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Do not go past this area as there are usually more open ocean conditions, or land on the beaches around the Aquarium as they are reserved for marine research.

Lucky paddlers may spot playful dolphins and porpoises as they feed and cruise along the shoreline on their way home!

Seasonal notes

Our unique coastal climate provides mild temperatures year round. Seals, sea otters, and sea lions also live here year round, so whether it's sunny, overcast, or even drizzly, as long as winds are mild, you can kayak year round! Seasonal highlights include:

  • March, April, May—Seals have pups this time of year so be extra careful when you see them resting on beaches or rocks. Strong afternoon winds can come up quickly, especially on those sunny clear afternoons. Paddle as early in the day as you can, perhaps a sunrise tour for a glassy, calm and refreshing start to the day!
  • June, July and August—Mornings can be a bit overcast but calm which is wonderful for wildlife viewing! We are open later to take advantage of longer days with our late afternoon tours and extended rental hours. The bay has the calmest surf this time of year, perfect for venturing out further and stretching your paddling experiences with our Lover's Point, Point Lobos, Stillwater Cove and kayak fishing tours.
  • September and October—Usually the warmest and sunniest time of the year on the Monterey coast, and with less crowds! Peak season for bird and butterfly watching during their annual fall migration.
  • November through February—Usually cool and clear days, but still lots of activity for marine mammals and winter birding. Surfing is good this time of year for learning how to negotiate or play in the surf with our fun classes. Weather can be more unpredictable than usual, so call on the day of your trip to get marine weather conditions.

Monterey Location Directions and Store Hours

We open our doors at 8:30am every day, except Christmas.
Our closing time varies each season.
We currently close at 5:00pm.
March 1 to Memorial Day weekend we close at 6:00pm.
Wintertime we close at 5:00pm.
Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day we close at 7:00pm.

Monterey Bay Kayaks

Monterey Location

693 Del Monte Avenue, Monterey
(800) 649-5357 or (831) 373-5357

A city-owned public beach parking lot in front of our store is $1.50 per hour. The pay machine takes credit cards and cash (usually). There are two 24-minute free spaces if you are just making purchases at the store. All waterfront parking lots charge fees but you may find free spaces a few blocks away from the waterfront.

Weather Information

NWS forecasts are updated throughout the day. The marine radio is updated simultaneously as both sources receive the same information.

Elkhorn Slough Experience

Elkhorn Slough Kayaking

Moss Landing is a quaint, historic fishing village, located at the mouth of Elkhorn Slough, a National Estuarine Research Reserve, California's second largest marine wetland (one of only twenty such areas in the nation). Within the Reserve is also a State Marine Park, setting aside this very important ecological treasure for future preservation.

This expansive tidal wetland is an important habitat for harbor seals, sea lions, and the Southern Sea Otter, a threatened species with less than 2,900 individuals remaining. Birdwatchers can enjoy over 340 resident and migratory bird species year round. Please read this important information about the marine wildlife before you go paddling.

Tips for Paddling

Our waterfront location in Moss Landing's North Harbor provides an easy beach launch, parking, changing area, restrooms and full retail store to pick up any last minute items!

  • Check tides and currents with our staff before you go. The Slough's tides can make a big difference in your paddling day. Find out the time, the direction, and the magnitude of the tidal currents. Keep in mind that winter time and periods during a full moon have the strongest tides.
  • Afternoon winds can blow into the slough and make it difficult to paddle back, especially during spring or warm days. Paddle early in the day and avoid the main channel if paddling against strong winds.

Once on the water, paddle close to shore and out of the boating channel marked by red and green buoys. A quick paddle takes you to the harbor mouth. Although calm during much of the year, strong winds and tides in this area can sometimes have choppy waves and strong currents. Quickly paddle over toward the south bank where the current isn't as strong and then under the Highway One bridge. Do not paddle too closely to the "sea lion" pier, land on ocean-side beaches, out into the ocean, or into the South Harbor which is crowded with commercial boats.

When you encounter larger boats, give them the right of way as they are less maneuverable and might not see you. Stay in shallow areas to avoid them and always turn your boat into the wake of a large boat.

Elkhorn Slough Kayaking - Seals Basking on the Tidal Mudflats Once in the slough, take time to enjoy sea otters, sea lions, and seals resting, feeding or just cruising by. Pelicans, hawks, kites, and harriers soar effortlessly over the hillsides, as countless varieties of shorebirds dabble along the water's edge. The muddy, sandy banks are bordered by great expanses of tidal marsh and beautiful rolling, oak-covered hills.

A large population of sea otters have taken up residence in the slough in recent years, making this a prime sea otter watching spot. Be sure to read the important wildlife information for low impact paddling tips.

Elkhorn Slough Kayaking - Birds Entering the Water
photo by Michael Powers
Most of the marine mammals can be found within the first 2 miles of the slough, but paddlers can explore the entire 6 miles (more or less depending on the tide). But there are areas off limits to paddlers: the salt ponds, private beaches, the Reserve property beyond the railroad tracks, as well as landing on any mudflats.

There are numerous networks of winding tidal creeks that branch off from the main channel. If you venture in, just be sure the tide is rising, not receding, or you may get stuck in the famous Slough mud. Give yourself enough room to turn around or be prepared to paddle backwards a lot!

Elkhorn Slough Kayaking You can get out at Kirby Park (the only other public access site) which is 4.5 miles inland and rest, or arrange to be picked up by our shuttle van (by advance reservation only).

Be sure to save energy for the paddle back, especially if the tides and winds are going against you! Remember the rule of thirds: plan on 1/3 of your time paddling in and 2/3 of your time paddling back out.

Watch this video on the importance of Elkhorn Slough produced by the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Foundation.

Seasonal notes

  • March to May—Spring bird migration and pupping season for seals make Elkhorn Slough paddling special. Daytime tides are mild but this can be one of the windiest times of the year so start out as early as you can.
  • June to August—Generally mild days but could be overcast, which is great for wildlife viewing and keeps the winds down. There is less tidal influence during this time of year. Take advantage of summer's longer, lazy days with late afternoon Guided Tours and extended rental hours.
  • September and October—Usually the warmest and sunniest time of the year, and of course the annual fall bird migration, makes this a fantastic time to explore the Slough, especially our Birding Tours.
  • November to February—Usually clear and with less crowds but still tons of wildlife activity on the water. Winter days can have very strong tidal influences, so know your tides before you go, and check out our winter Ride the Tide Tours. Surf's up on the beaches of Moss Landing, a great time to sign up for Surfing in Kayaks classes.

After your paddle, consider a trip to the Elkhorn Slough Visitors Center to round out your coastal adventure day. They have great scenic trails, picnic areas, and an interpretive center that kids will enjoy.

Kayaker's Map of the Slough (by the Elkhorn Slough Foudation)

Moss Landing Location Directions and Store Hours

We open our doors at 8:30am every day, except Christmas.
Our closing time varies each season.
We currently close at 5:00pm.
March 1 to Memorial Day weekend we close at 6:00pm.
Wintertime we close at 5:00pm.
Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day we close at 7:00pm.

Moss Landing Location

2390 Highway One
(800) 649-5357 or (831) 373-5357

North Harbor is a large paved parking lot with fees of $6 for half day (cash only). They also charge for launching privately owned boats/kayaks.