Central Coast beaches

Awe-inspiring views of the Big Sur coastline await at ridge-top. Wind your way through lush meadows, across sun-kissed hilltops and along sparkling, sandy beaches to discover the innermost heart of Big Sur.

Seals at the beach

An extraordinary wilderness experience takes you across coastal prairie, wetland marshes and dune fields to a manifestation of nature’s rhythmic cadence, the return of Northern elephant seals propelled home to a shoreline sanctuary.

Big Basin

Stand beneath Ancient Coastal Redwoods for an extraordinary perspective through the canopy of these 30-foot high conifers and feel the pulse of the forest, perfumed by the scent of 20-foot tall pink-blossoming azaleas and vibrating to the tempo of Berry Creek Falls.

Elkhorn Slough

Slip off the shore in the early morning hours on a kayak or paddle board, or walk along the waterfront and watch the estuary come to life as the tide ebbs and flows. A vital habitat for hundreds of species of aquatic mammals, fish, invertebrates, birds, algae and plants, all life in this tidal salt marsh is protected. Listen quietly for the cacophony of sounds that originate here.


An extraordinary testament to nature’s ability to right itself, post-logging boom bonanza. Forest regeneration masks the fading scars, making this a place of healing and becoming.

Monterey beaches

Walk along the dunes rimming Monterey Bay to a bluff-top vista point for a wind-swept view of the coastline at this repurposed army installation. Leave your footprints in the sand along the solitary four mile beach as you contemplate the ever-changing tides.

Fort Ord

An expansive native landscape creates an outdoor adventure paradise just waiting to be happened upon. The thousands of acres that make up this former military base, are now an undisturbed place of tranquility … with just a faint remembrance of those who served with honor.

Fremont Peak

The wonder of the night sky is on display here, away from the lights of nearby cities, at the top of one of the area’s highest peaks. Gaze in wonder as twinkling constellations and faraway galaxies emerge in the darkness of the night sky. A daytime climb ends in a 360° view of all points north, south, east and west.

Garland Ranch Regional Park - Carmel Valley, CA

From the willow-studded banks of the Carmel River to the mesmerizing views at the 2,000 foot summit, this is a journey of appreciation … for shaded trails under maple arches, past stands of cottonwood and sycamores and through thick growths of chaparral. A quiet world in the heart of Carmel Valley.

Big Sur - Garrapata State Park

Stroll along two miles of rolling beach front trails bordering the Big Sur coastline for far-flung views of the Pacific Ocean as it crashes against the rocky shore. Sea lions, harbor seals and sea otters bob in the nearshore waters as California gray whales glide by. Sit for a moment and soak-up the sounds of the sea.


Uncover the magic of this park strolling beneath skyscraping ancient giant redwoods, fording lush stream canyons and traversing sunlit meadows. A forest retreat that inspires calm reflection in meditative silence.

Henry Coe Park

The terrain of this rugged and remote part of the Diablo Range covers lofty ridges and steep canyons. Wildlife, wildflowers, native trees and shrubs and a fascinating variety of animals in this mostly undeveloped park make for a backcountry adventure of epic proportions.

Hollister Hills

Challenge yourself with a high-speed ride, where the sound of a high-pitched whine isn’t from the screech of a hawk, but from the engine of an OHV. A unique and exciting park where off-highway vehicles share the trails with wild turkeys and feral boars. Get your game on!

Mount Madonna Park

A majestic redwood forest preserve on the southern crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains with trails that open to a panorama of stunning vistas. Sit for awhile among the remnants of an old estate, listening for the chatter of another time.

Monarch butterflies

Tide pools teeming with sea life, Monarch butterflies fluttering by, shorebirds and migrating whales all come together in a perfect unison of land, sea and air. The infamous natural bridge is the last one standing of a threesome carved by the ceaseless tides of the Pacific Ocean … feel the tempo of Mother Nature in real time.

Sunsets at the beach

California condors soar high above the jigsaw puzzle of land, sea and giant redwoods in this rough-and-tumble landscape that is definitively Big Sur. A climb through woodland forests and lush, open meadows brings you high above the Big Sur River Gorge for an outlook unlike anywhere else.

Jacks Peak Park - Monterey, CA

The highest point on the Monterey Peninsula provides picture-perfect views, from the valley to the sea, and all points in between. Rest awhile among one of the last remaining native stands of Monterey Pine and take in the enormity of the experience.

McWay Falls - Big Sur, CA

Bring your pioneer spirit to this rough and rugged park that stretches along the stark, yet vibrant, Big Sur coastline. Named for one of the area’s earliest pioneers, Julia Pfeiffer, you’ll find a primitive beauty of redwood trees, sheer cliffs and native vegetation in this four-square-mile park.


What’s a lime kiln?  See for yourself at this small, out-of-the-way park that packs a nature-filled wallop. The 100-foot Limekiln Falls is just one of the natural wonders found here.

Pinnacles National Park

Head deep into the Gabilan Mountains to explore a unique landscape of towering rock spires, talus caves and chaparral covered canyons. The hike from one side of the Gabilans to the other and back in a day makes for sore feet but a renewed spirit. Be on the lookout for the protected California Condor soaring above.

Big Sur, CA

Stand on land amidst the beauty of this, the Crown Jewel of the State Park system, and know that in the waters below is one of the richest marine habitats in California. Popular with scuba divers and landlubbers, the Reserve is a masterpiece of natural beauty.

Toro Park - Salinas, CA

Meander along 20 miles of trails at this 4,000 acre multi-use recreation haven. Springtime brings out a colorful array of wildflowers that blanket the hills. Be on the lookout for wildlife, as well as bikers, runners and equestrians.

Central Coast beaches

Amble across the coastal terraces, past vestiges of the area’s earliest ranching and farming operations, into deep redwood ravines and through dappled oak-studded grasslands for some spectacular views of Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz Mountains. You might even see some of California’s happy cows along the way.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email