Carmel, Monterey & Big Sur-Sunny Days-Part 2

This is part 2 and the final part of this trip, read part 1 here.

On our way back to Carmel from Big Sur we stopped at Point Lobos State Park. We only had an hour but I wanted to get the layout for sites, parking and hiking trails for when we came back the next morning at opening time. Point Lobos is very popular, parking is limited and if parking is full you cannot drive into the park. It is possible to park outside and walk in but not as convenient. We purchased a map and headed to Whaler’s Cove where I had always wanted to dive but never did as we always tried to get in on weekends. (Now you can reserve a weekend time slot for diving.) It was spectacular! We climbed up the steep stairway to the cove cliff and walked around then headed back to drive the park roads and determine our planned starting point for the next morning. We also parked near Sea Lion Point Trail and walked the beautiful Sand Hill Trail to see many sea lions.  The Point Lobos Foundation is a wonderful resource for learning about Point Lobos.

Whalers Cove
Looking to the cove south of Whalers Cove
Looking out at the ocean on top of Whalers Cove Cliff Trail
View from Sea Lion Point Trail

As a side note, I have the California State Parks Poppy Pass which for a yearly fee allows free daily use at most California State Parks including the parks around Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake. This pass excludes some of the Southern California Parks. They also offer the California State Explorer Pass which covers all California State Parks. This allowed us to not worry about paying for just going into the park for an hour. These passes help support the parks and solve the problem of not having exact cash. I love having the pass because it encourages to get out all year. If you are over 62, you can get a reduced rate  senior pass but it excludes park entries from Memorial Day to Labor Day so for us this excludes all our summer fun.

We stopped at Monastery Beach along Highway 1. This large, expansive beach is beautiful but can be treacherous due to the strong undertow and deceivingly steep water entry and exit. On a calm day it is fine but once the waves start, keep your distance from the water. This is also a popular SCUBA diving location for experienced divers because just off the northern end is the area known as the ‘trench‘. This deep canyon brings many fish and marine fauna closer to shore than possible for almost any shore dive. Bob, my husband, and I dove this area many times, many years ago. It was not any safer then than it is now but on a good, clear water day it was exquisite. At that time, diving was my husbands life and we both got the chance to see many beautiful places on dive trips. Now, just walking along the beach is a lovely experience.

Looking south, Point Lobos is the next hill with the trees
Looking north, the wash rocks at the end of the curve is near the trench

As you can see by these pictures, the surf was calm at this beautiful beach when Rachel and I visited.

Dinner was at The Forge in the Forest in Carmel By The Sea.  The menu is extensive.  We had had a outstanding lunch in Big Sur, so we choose to split an order of Steamers (clams and mussels) and a pizza.  I think it was the best pizza I’ve ever had!

Back to Point Lobos

We arrived early the next morning at Point Lobos State Reserve and drove to the Hidden Beach parking and picnic area. We had breakfast and then followed the Bird Island Trail to China Cove and Pelican Point. Beautiful views and coves.

China Cove with beach just peaking out. This beautiful jade color was only seen as the sun was shining over the cove in the morning. A good reason to get up early!
Looking out China Cove to the Pacific Ocean

The Pelican Point Trail goes uphill around China Cove and because it had rained just a few days before the Ceanothus or California Lilac bush was in full bloom.

We lucked out as Harbor Seals were just coming into China Cove beach for birthing in March

Gibson Beach can be reached by steps down from the top of Pelican Point Trail. It may be closed if animals are on the beach.

We took binoculars and saw lots of birds, sea lions, harbor seals and otters on our walk.

Arched rock and beautiful wash rocks as we continued to walk the Pelican Point Trail
View from Pelican Point

We then doubled back and walked the South Plateau Trail across the peninsula towards Whalers Cove. This densely brushed area is filled with trees and native plants.

South Plateau Trail scenery

Back at the cove we visited the Whalers Cove Cabin and Whaling Station Museum. A small place but filled with historical treasures covering many years and different uses of Whalers Cove prior to the park being created. Incredibly, this whole area was saved from being a housing development after its many different uses. Plan to spend some time here and talk to the docents. The ones we spoke with were so interested in sharing the history and answering questions that it really was an amazing part of the day.

Another view of beautiful Whalers Cove, the clear & calm water made me want to dive again!

Inside the Whalers Cabin is information about different eras and businesses that took place at Whalers Cove. The top picture is a bench and pounding table for preparing abalone. The bottom picture is jewelry and personal items made from polished abalone shells.

We took the Mound Meadow Trail back towards the coast and walked along Weston Beach and Hidden Beach before ending our visit to Point Lobos. 

The South Plateau Trail and Mound Meadow Trail cross the Point Lobos peninsula offering beautiful forest views and a chance to see some wildlife.

Walking along Weston Beach trail towards Hidden Beach

Hidden Beach

Point Lobos, another beach to explore.

We had a beautiful morning at Point Lobos and perfect weather.

Back in Carmel, The Tuck Box is a restaurant and tea chop inside one of the storybook cottages. It was started as a tea room in the early 1940’s. My husband had visited here as a child with his Mom and I had also visited as a child, so it was a real treat to have a late lunch here. Rachel and I enjoyed tea and a wonderful lunch.

Beautiful tables and an outdoor courtyard at the Tuck Box

We went back to the hotel to regroup and then headed back to Pacific Grove, near Lovers Point, to take the 17 Mile Drive from north to south so that we were on the ocean side of the road for all the stops. The wind was up but it was still beautiful to stop and see all the points of interest. Here are just a few pictures.

Our first stop was a large beach with waves and surfers trying to catch the waves
Then we saw this tree, ‘is that The Lone Cypress’? No, but it is all alone
Bird Rock
Another beautiful beach with houses along the cliffs
The real Lone Cypress at stop number 12

Lone Cypress

The sun was casting a beautiful light on the cliff holding the cypress.

Ghost Trees

As the sun was setting, the silhouettes of these sun-bleached cypress trees were just beautiful.

Recommend doing this with a little more time and making plans to have a snack or cocktails at Spanish Bay where you can see a person playing the bagpipes at sunset. Also, you can visit the Pebble Beach Visitors Center and learn the history of Pebble Beach.

Dinner was at Village Corner Bistro, another great Carmel restaurant.  We were pleasantly surprised at the wonderful selection of restaurants and the great quality of each establishment.  When we asked around, we were told that restaurants have a lot of competition and ones that just look at tourists as one-time customers just don’t make it. They restaurants pride themselves on great food, service and ambiance.  We would have loved to try Bistro Giovanni too!

We also visited the Carmel Mission Basilica which is still a working church, school and historical mission. This historical site has the St. Junipero Serra and the Mission Basilica Shrine and The Caravaca Cross.

Beautiful gardens
Junipero Serra statue in the garden

Basilica from garden entrance and side entrance near the school quad.

Beautiful cactus and succulent garden along the school quad.

Too soon, it was time to go. Our four perfect days of sunshine was done, we woke up to a chilly fog which is not unusual for the Monterey and Carmel area. The town was very quiet during our visit, not sure if this is normal winter crowds or others were already avoiding travel. We were granted a late check out so we took another walk around Carmel admiring all the flowers and looked at a few shops. Then we were on our way back via Moss Beach to see Elkhorn Slough which is a wonderful kayaking estuary near Moss Beach. We love to kayak as does Rachel and her husband. When kayaking, Elkhorn Slough it is a birders paradise and you often see seals and otters. Unfortunately, from a car you don’t see much!

We stopped in at Phil’s Fish House for lunch and then drove back to Hayward. We spent the night, visited with my granddaughters and visited some dear friends of Rachel. We headed back to Truckee the next morning. All in all, a relaxing and beautiful trip with a great friend.

Rachel and Vicki

This is part 2 and the final part of this trip, read part 1 here.


Until the next time – be adventurous and enjoy this short life! Vicki
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2 thoughts on “Carmel, Monterey & Big Sur-Sunny Days-Part 2

  1. That brings back many memories. Such a beautiful area and well worth the trip. Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

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