01 of 06
Monterey State Beach
Monterey County's varied coastline makes for lots of nice beaches to visit. Whether you're visiting the town of Monterey, going to Pacific Grove or seeing charming Carmel, you'll find plenty of beach options that will delight you.
Monterey beach water quality is good, but in case you're concerned, you can check the latest water quality warnings at the county website.
If you are interested in clothing optional recreation try this list of Monterey County Nude Beaches.
Monterey State Beach: Two Miles of Scenic Ocean
Monterey State Beach stretches more or less from Wharf #2 in Monterey (near Fisherman's Wharf) all the way north to the town of Seaside, a distance of about 2 miles. It's a beautiful, sandy beach with excellent views of the Monterey Bay.
The two cities share the state park, which has three beaches about a mile apart.
The most popular sections of the beach are near Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey and just off CA Hwy 1 in Seaside near the Monterey Beach Resort.
Between the two is Del Monte Beach, accessible from the intersection of Casa Verde Way and Del Monte Avenue. You'll find parking at the intersection and it's a four-block walk from there to the beach.
You can also travel from one end of the beach to the other on the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail, an 18-mile long, paved trail that stretches from Castroville to Pacific Grove, following the old Southern Pacific railroad tracks that once ran to Cannery Row.
What is There to Do at Monterey State Beach?
The area near Fisherman's Wharf is good for fishing, kayaking or for playing in the sand. The beach slopes gradually in this area, making it a favorite place for water recreation.
Paragliders often launch from sand dunes on the Seaside end of Monterey State Beach. You may see them hanging in the air as you drive along Highway One.
At the Seaside section of the beach, lifeguards are often on duty, but strong rip currents make swimming, wading and surfing unsafe. This area is better for walking, building sand castles, beach combing or flying a kite.
What You Need to Know Before You Go to Monterey State Beach
Even though it's a state park, Monterey State Beach has no entrance fee. You may have to pay to park if you go to the are near the wharf, though.
A ban on beach bonfires has been in effect at Monterey Beach since 2014. You can check the current status at the website link below.
- Dogs are not allowed north of the Monterey Beach Resort hotel. In case you're directionally challenged, that would be to the right of the hotel if you're facing the ocean.
- You'll find vault toilets (porta-potties) at the parking lot.
Near Fisherman's Wharf
- Dogs on leash are allowed all the way up to the Monterey Beach Resort.
- Restrooms and plenty of places to eat are nearby at the wharf.
How to Get to Monterey State Beach
The Seaside section of Monterey State Beach is easily visible from CA Hwy 1. Take the Seaside Exit (Exit #403/Hwy 218), turn toward the ocean and park in the lot next to the Monterey Beach Resort.
In town, you can park on Wharf #2 or in the lots near Fisherman's Wharf.Continue to 2 of 6 below.
02 of 06
San Carlos Beach, Monterey
San Carlos State Beach is a small beach in Monterey, located between Cannery Row and Fisherman's Wharf, near the Coast Guard station and breakwater.
San Carlos is a very popular place for scuba diving, and many scuba classes are held there every year. It's no wonder - the kelp beds just off the shore are full of sea life. So are the old cannery remains hidden under water. You'll almost always find a few sea otters bobbing around at the surface, too
What is There to Do at San Carlos Beach?
Most people who go San Carlos Beach go for scuba diving. Many of them are certified divers who go in on their own, but you'll also see a lot of diving classes going on. The Monterey Bay Dive Company is nearby on Cannery Row. They offer guided dives, equipment rentals and scuba classes. It's a fun thing to watch, even if you'd never want to put on one of those black neoprene suits and do it yourself.
Because there are so many divers at the beach most of the time, it's hard to do much else there, except watch. The picnic tables in the grassy area above the beach are a great place to do that.
At low tide, you can see anemones, hermit crabs and sea urchins in the tide pools. Late in the day when the divers are gone, it's a nice little spot to sit and enjoy the view.
What You Need to Know Before You Go to San Carlos Beach
There is no entrance fee, but all of the nearby parking spots are metered. Pay at the machines and display the ticket on your dashboard
The nearest restrooms are on the walking path just above the beach
Dogs are not allowed on the beach, but that doesn't stop a lot of people from letting them run around there
There are plenty of places to eat nearby on Cannery Row and Fisherman's Wharf
If you want to go surfing, check the surf report here
In case this summary doesn't answer all your questions, you can get more information at the San Carlos Beach website.
How to Get to San Carlos Beach
San Carlos Beach is at the foot of McClellan Street and the east end of Cannery Row. From CA Hwy 1, follow signs toward Cannery Row and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Turn right on Cannery Row street or Reeside Avenue.
The parking lot above the beach is most convenient, but you can also try for one of the limited street parking spaces on Cannery Row just past the beach.Continue to 3 of 6 below.
03 of 06
Asilomar Beach, Pacific Grove
Asilomar State Beach includes a narrow, long strip of gently sloping sandy beach and low coastal cliffs with rocky areas offshore that make for perfect tide pooling. A walking path runs along the clifftops, making a perfect place to enjoy the natural surroundings. On the beach itself, there's lots of sand and room to play.
What is There to Do at Asilomar Beach?
People enjoy mostly simple pleasures at Asilomar Beach: sand play and walking on the trail or on the sand. You can also explore the tidepools at low tide.
Asilomar is one of Monterey's prettiest beaches, with a curving line and sloping sand that create lots of breaking waves. Some people like to go surfing there. If you want to try it, check the surf forecast.
What You Need to Know Before You Go to Asilomar Beach
No entrance fee and no parking fee
There are no restrooms on the beach. The nearest ones are across the road at the Asilomar Conference Center. Lack of restroom facilities limits how long you can spend at the beach before you have to "go" somewhere else. There are no showers at Asilomar, either.
Bring your own picnic and water or walk to the Asilomar conference center.
Parts of the walking path are flat and easily accessible.
Dogs are allowed on the beach but must be on a leash at all times.
Because of its location near the tip of the Monterey Peninsula, Asilomar Beach is often foggy. On busy days, it's often hard to find a place to park.
How to Get to Asilomar Beach
To get to Asilomar State Beach, take CA Hwy 68 west from CA Hwy 1. Watch for signs and turn left onto Sunset Drive.
The only available parking is along Sunset Drive, parallel to the road. On busy days, it can get quite hard to find a spot.Continue to 4 of 6 below.
04 of 06
Lovers Beach, Pacific Grove
Located on scenic Lovers Point in Pacific Grove, Lovers Beach is small but lovely. Nestled just below the cliffs, it faces southeast. Among all the beaches I have visited and written about in California, Lovers Point Beach is one of the best-reviewed and most liked. Everyone comments on how pretty the water is and about the beautiful surroundings.
At low tide, you'll find some fun tide pools to explore, and fishermen are often seen casting their lines at the point.
Because of its location, Lovers Point is always busy. Because of its name (and its gorgeous views), it's a favorite place for people to get engaged. Oddly, it didn't start out that way. Local lore says the park was first called "Lovers of Jesus Point," a name it got when the town of Pacific Grove was a Methodist church retreat.
Also interesting is that the beach faces east, making it one of the few spots on the West Coast where you can watch a sunrise over the Pacific Ocean.
What is There to Do at Lovers Point Beach?
Lovers Point Beach is close to Monterey and Pacific Grove. The most popular thing to do - judging from what I see when I go there - is to stand on the cliff top and look at it. If you get yourself down to the sand, you can play beach volleyball, do a little sunbathing or go swimming. If you want to go tidepooling, check the tide forecast here and go at the lowest tide possible.
Some people also go scuba diving to explore the kelp forests just off shore. A few might even try surfing and a few go kayaking.
Lovers Point Beach is also the starting point for the so-called "Kelp Crawl" portion of the Pacific Grove Triathlon, which happens in September. In late July, the Feast of Lanterns Festival holds a Feast Day in the park.
To add to its reputation as a place for lovers, the park above the beach is also a popular spot for a wedding.
What You Need to Know Before You Go to Lovers Point Beach
There is no entrance fee or parking fee, but parking can be scarce on a busy day.
Restrooms are available, and visitors say they're usually spotless.
Picnic tables are located on the cliffs above the beach
You can also find food at the snack bar and a restaurant across the street
The walking path in the park at the top of the cliffs is accessible for wheelchairs
How to Get to Lovers Point Beach
Lovers Point Beach is at Ocean View Blvd. and 17th Street in Pacific Grove. If you have a GPS, set it to 620 Ocean View Boulevard, which is just above the beach.
Follow Ocean View Blvd from just above the Monterey Bay Aquarium or take 17th Street from downtown Pacific Grove.
You'll find parking in the nearby lot and also along Ocean View Blvd.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
Carmel City Beach: It's Like a Dream, Only You're Awake
Carmel Beach is long, curving, sandy beach located at the end of Ocean Street in charming Carmel-by-the-Sea. It's just a few blocks from downtown.
A backdrop of sloping bluffs and cypress trees make Carmel Beach particularly scenic. It looks out onto Carmel Bay and Pebble Beach. And all of that is topped off by gleaming, soft, white sand to squiggle your toes in. Here's what a Yelp reviewer had to say: "Carmel Beach.. is like having a dream, only it's real and you're awake. It's like being on another planet." With all of that, you probably guessed that it can get quite busy on summer weekends.
You'll find lots of locals and tourists on the beach, some of them with their dogs. Carmel is the only Monterey County beach that allows dogs off-leash (but they must be vaccinated and under voice control).
The beach is about a mile long, extending north from the main entrance on Ocean Avenue to Pebble Beach. Going south, you can walk all the way to Carmel Point.
What is There to Do at Carmel Beach?
Most people go Carmel Beach to play. You'll see them sunbathing, walking along the ocean's edge or playing fetch with their dogs.
Bonfires are allowed on the beach south of 10th Avenue, but they must be no bigger than 3 x 3 x 3 feet and must be out by 10:00 p.m. Alcohol is allowed on the beach but not on nearby streets or in the parking lot.
What You Need to Know Before You Go to Carmel Beach
Carmel Beach has no entrance fee and no parking fee
Locals say you should get to the beach before 9 a.m. on busy days, to avoid the crowds and enjoy the natural beauty in peace
The limited number of parking spots fill up early on sunny days. You could walk to the beach from town, but take care not to overstay the parking time limits: Law enforcement is diligent, and you will probably get a pricey parking ticket
In dog-friendly Carmel, your canine friends can run off-leash on the beach
It's easy to get to Carmel Beach from town because it's a downhill slope, but save a little energy because the walk back up can be tiring
Carmel Beach can be foggy, sometimes all day long - and that happens most often in the summer
Read the posted warning signs and pay attention to what they say. Undertow and unpredictable currents make getting in the water at Carmel Beach very dangerous
Stagnant water near the south end of the beach can make quite a stink. Blame Mother Nature. The smell comes from decaying vegetation in the water
Restrooms are in the Ocean Avenue parking lot
How to Get to Carmel Beach
Carmel Beach is almost in downtown Carmel, at the end of Ocean Avenue west of CA Hwy 1. The main parking lot is at the end of the street, but you can also find parking spots along Scenic Rd.Continue to 6 of 6 below.
06 of 06
Carmel River State Beach: Why You Absolutely Need to See It
Carmel River State Beach is located where the Carmel River meets the ocean. It's a state park with two locations: One is on Scenic Road and the other is just off CA Hwy 1 south of town. Both spots have nice views of Point Lobos.
These two beaches are well-rated by nearly everyone who goes there. Visitors especially like them for their gorgeous views. Online reviewers also talk about how soft and clean the sand is.
Carmel River State Beach at Scenic Road is a smallish stretch of sand that straddles between the ocean and the Carmel River lagoon. The area is excellent for birdwatching in the adjacent lagoon, where you'll find lots of songbirds.
Carmel River State Beach at Highway One is often called Monastery Beach or San Jose Creek Beach. It's a popular spot for scuba diving and easy to access - just pull off the highway, park and walk a few feet. Because of its easy access and visual appeal from the road, it's often very busy.
What is There to Do at Carmel River State Beach?
Rip tides and unpredictable currents may be present, making swimming and even wading very dangerous. The best thing to do is just walk and enjoy the scenery.
What You Need to Know Before You Go to Carmel River State Beach
Both beaches can be foggy, sometimes all day long.
Restrooms are at both locations. No fires or barbecues are allowed.
There is no entrance fee at either location
When Pacific storms stir up the surf, both beaches may be closed.
Dogs are allowed on the beach, but they must be on a leash - but please, clean up any "deposits" to keep the beach clean for the next person.
How to Get to Carmel River State Beach
To reach the Scenic Road location, take Rio Road west from CA Hwy 1. Turn left onto Santa Lucia (one block past the mission) and left again onto Carmelo Street. From town, take Ocean Avenue and Scenic Road to the beach.
The Highway One location is just a little south of Rio Road if you're traveling south out of Carmel. You can find it by watching the mileage markers if you know how. Find out how to interpret a California milepost marker. It's between Mile Markers 71 and 72.
If you don't know how to navigate using call box numbers and mile markers, here's how.