Family fun in the Monterey Bay area

Sea lions at Point Lobos State Park | Katherine E. Hill

We are fortunate to live close to many amazing places. Within a few hours’ drive, we can be in the rugged mountains, on the sandy beaches of the coast or the desert floor of Death Valley. One of my family’s favorite places to visit is the Monterey Bay area, the central coast region of California.

Sea lions at Point Lobos State Park | Katherine E. Hill

We visit the Monterey Bay Area several times a year to see my brother Ken Hill and his wife Valerie. Each time we visit, we spend time at the beach and exploring the area, looking for new adventures or revisiting our favorite places.

My son Anikin has been to the Monterey Bay area many times and, according to him, a trip to Monterey is not complete without visiting Monterey Bay Aquarium. The exhibits explore the marine flora and fauna, habitat by habitat, from the ocean’s edge to the open ocean. There are more than 35,000 creatures from 550 species featured in 200 exhibits. Anikin’s favorite exhibits are the open sea tank because it has sharks and the incredibly cute and silly sea otters. Other exhibits include the Kelp Forest, the Touch Pool, the penguins and a variety of displays of fish and sea creatures such as jellyfish, coral and octopus. When Anikin was younger, he loved the Splash Zone, which has interactive water activities for kids age 5 and younger.

More fun things to do
My Museum: Monterey County Youth Museum
Point Pinos Lighthouse
Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Path
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

El Estero Park is another one of Anikin’s favorite destinations. This large complex is located across from Monterey State Beach and is centered around Lake El Estero. There are fishing piers, paddleboat rentals, a 1.2-mile exercise course, a group picnic area and Monterey Skatepark.

Otters at Moss Point along the Pacific Ocean | Katherine E. Hill

Anikin says the best feature is the Dennis the Menace Playground. The playground has features for every ability level, a suspension bridge, a hedge maze, a climbing wall and three large slides. It is the perfect place for kids to run, jump, climb and just have fun.

Amazing views at Point Lobos State Park | Katherine E. Hill

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is another great place to visit. It is home to sea birds, seals, sea otters, the occasional migrating gray whale and boisterous sea lions. We have seen many of these animals while hiking on the north and south shore trails that follow the coastline with amazing views of the ocean and hidden coves to explore. The trail to Sea Lion Point provides a close view of hundreds of sea lions and the Bird Island trail offers an incredible bird-watching experience. Get there early in the morning; it is a popular place and the parking lot fills up fast. We grabbed to-go picnic boxes from 5th Avenue Deli in Carmel-by-the Sea before heading to Point Lobos to make the most of our visit.

Feeding time at the Monterey Bay Aquarium | Katherine E. Hill

During our most recent trip to Monterey, we also went somewhere new, the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History. Exhibits feature geology, Monarch butterflies, native birds, plants and animals. There is also a jade display and a large jade boulder in the outdoor native garden. Anikin explored the interactive educational stations that are set up throughout the museum. But his favorite feature is a human-sized bird nest made of twisted tree branches in the garden.

Point Lobos State Park | Katherine E. Hill

After a busy, fun-filled day of exploring the area, it is nice to have a comfortable place in which to relax and recharge. We have stayed at many places over the years but our favorite is the Hofsas House Hotel in nearby Carmel. Located in the beautiful oceanside village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Hofsas House is a boutique, family-owned and family-friendly inn. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and the ocean views are spectacular. Anikin’s favorite amenity is the heated, year-round swimming pool and the dry sauna. The hotel is a short walk from restaurants, shops, Carmel Beach, parks and wine-tasting rooms. | seemonterey.com