Monterey and Carmel Beaches

Monterey County's varied coastline makes for lots of 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. You should also know that all of these beaches are subject to seasonal fog that's so predictable it has a name: June Gloom. If you plan to visit in the summer, find out when June Gloom happens.

If you are interested in clothing optional recreation at the beach, try this list of Monterey County nude beaches.

01 of 06

Monterey State Beach: Two Miles of Scenic Ocean

Couple Playing With the Kids at Monterey State Beach

Betsy Malloy Photography

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 most popular sections of the beach are near Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey and just off California Highway 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 along the beach on the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail. It's 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?

Near Fisherman's Wharf, you can go fishing, kayaking or play 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, strong rip currents can make swimming, wading and surfing unsafe. Lifeguards are often on duty, but the 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 area near the wharf.

Beach bonfires are not allowed.

In Seaside

  • 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

Monterey State Beach website

To reach the Seaside section of Monterey State Beach, set your GPS for the Monterey Beach Resort and park in the lot next to it.

In town, you can park on Wharf #2 or in the lots near Fisherman's Wharf.

02 of 06

San Carlos Beach, Monterey

San Carlos Beach in Monterey

Betsy Malloy Photography

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 underwater. 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. Breakwater Scuba is nearby on Cannery Row. They offer guided dives, equipment rentals, and scuba classes. 

Because there are so many divers at the beach most of the time, it's hard to do much else except watch them. 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. 

The nearest restrooms are on the walking path just above the beach. There are no showers. There are plenty of places to eat nearby on Cannery Row and Fisherman's Wharf.

Dogs are not allowed on the beach, but that doesn't stop some people from letting them run around there.

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. 

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.

03 of 06

Asilomar Beach, Pacific Grove

Asilomar Beach and Dune Preserve
Stuart Dee / Getty Images

Asilomar State Beach includes a narrow, long strip of gently sloping sandy beach and low coastal cliffs. Rocky areas offshore make for perfect tide pooling. A walking path runs along the clifftops. On the beach itself, there's lots of sand and room to play.

What is There to Do at Asilomar Beach?

People enjoy mostly pleasures at Asilomar Beach: sand play and walking. You can also explore the tidepools at low tide. Parts of the walking path are flat and easily accessible.

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

The beach has 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 food and water or walk across the road to the Asilomar conference center.

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. 

How to Get to Asilomar Beach

Asilomar Beach website

Asilomar State Beach doesn't have a street address, but it shows up in most mapping apps.

The only available parking is along Sunset Drive, parallel to the road. On busy days, it can get quite hard to find a spot.

04 of 06

Lovers Beach, Pacific Grove

Lovers Point Beach Near Monterey
Kai Schreiber/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Don't miss Lovers Beach while you're gawking at the scenery from Lovers Point in Pacific Grove. It's easy to overlook but is also one of the best-reviewed, and most liked beaches in California. Everyone comments on how pretty the water is and about the beautiful surroundings. 

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 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.

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?

The thing people do most often is to stand on the cliff top and look at the beach.

If you get yourself down to the sand, you can play beach volleyball, do a little sunbathing or go swimming. Some people also go fishing from the beach, but you need a fishing license to do that.  If you want to go tidepooling, go at the lowest tide possible. Check the tide forecast here.

Some people also go scuba diving to explore the kelp forests just offshore. A few might even try surfing or 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.

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 find food at the snack bar above the beach 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 website

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.

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

Betsy Malloy Photography

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. It's so idyllic that one online reviewer described it this way: "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.

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. Restrooms are in the Ocean Avenue parking lot.

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 few parking spots fill up early on sunny days. You could walk to the beach from town, but don't 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 (but they must be vaccinated and under voice control). If you are afraid of dogs, avoid the busiest parts of the beach.

It's easy to walk 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 into 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

How to Get to Carmel Beach

Carmel City Beach website

Carmel Beach is almost in downtown Carmel, at the end of Ocean Avenue west of California Highway 1. The main parking lot is at the end of the street, but you can also find parking spots along Scenic Road.

06 of 06

Carmel River State Beach: Why You Absolutely Need to See It

Afternoon at Carmel River State Beach
Tracy Packer Photography/Getty Images

Carmel River State Beach is two beaches in one park. The Carmel River flowing into the ocean makes both of them gorgeous to look at and fun to visit. 

These two beaches are well-rated by nearly everyone who goes there. Visitors especially like them for their views. People 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 - all you have to do is 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?

The best thing to do at both beaches is to walk and enjoy the scenery.

Riptides and unpredictable currents may be present, making swimming — and even wading — very dangerous.

What You Need to Know Before You Go to Carmel River State Beach

Both beaches can be foggy, sometimes all day long. That can happen any time from late spring through July.

Restrooms are at both locations. No fires or barbecues are allowed.

There is no entrance fee at either location.

Pacific storms can stir up the surf so much that the park service closes both beaches.

Dogs are allowed on the beach, but they must be on a leash. Please keep that sand clean and fun to walk in barefoot by picking up any "deposits."

How to Get to Carmel River State Beach

Carmel River State Beach website.

To reach the Scenic Road location, use these simple directions: Highway 1 southbound. Right on Rio Road. Left on Santa Lucia. Left on Carmelo.

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. It's between Mile Markers 71 and 72. Find out how to interpret a California milepost marker