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Ano Nuevo Giant Sea Lion

A must do in California – Watching the Giant Seal Elephants at Año Nuevo State Park

As my kid said watching the Giants Seals at Año Nuevo State Park is amazing, and a must-do in California Año Nuevo State Park is one of the best places in California. Not just because of its stunning views, vast dunes, coastal scrub hosting a high diversity of plants and animals beaches and more importantly, Elephant seals!

Giant Sea lion
looking at the Giant Sea Lion in Año Nuevo

I have been in Año Nuevo with the family before, but I didn’t get to see the giant Sea Lion until I chaperone at my kid’s school. Which nickname is “Sea Lion”. My son 4th grade class as a part of his curriculum got to visit Ano Nuevo State Park last January. It was the perfect time to visit. We were immediately captivated for the coastal terrace prairie view in contrast with the Ocean, Gosh it is really beautiful! However, the star of that day was the Giant Sea Lions. They were so close by that we could touch them, but we were advice to keep our distance and no try to touch them. Although these animals look big and heavy, don’t underestimate them, they can move fast because they weight tons, no one shoul be on its way!

Año Nuevo State Park is one of the largest mainland breeding colonies in the world for this Seal. The Giant Seals mating, giving birth and molting at this scenic beach. You can see all of this at this State Park!  I found out the is around up to 10,000 elephant seals that return to these beaches and this is a Natural Preserve established to protect the seals along with many other animals such as otters, elephants seals, coyotes, cormorants, terns and more. Not wonder why this place brings people from all over around the world.

Ano Nuevo Scenic View
Ano Nuevo Scenic View: ocean and Dunes
Ano Nuevo Sea lions during January
Ano Nuevo Sea lions during January

Before the Gate:

Our guided tour started walking from the parking lot to a historic nineteenth-century dairy ranch of the Dickerab/Steele family. In this building, you find a marine education center, also a bookstore and a viewpoint. Bring some money you can find cool souvenirs. The park features the Marine Education Center boasting a natural history exhibit, bookstore, and theater. The building has a nostalgic feeling of the American Settlers.

After I was able to pull the kids out of  the store (don’t make my mistake – don’t stop there first!) we did a mild hike of ten minutes to the gate, where a little exhibition shed is located. It didn’t feel to long because the view during our hike was great. We saw so many different birds because Ano Nuevo State Park is also a major bird migratory route and birding location. Also,  native plants and an untouched intertidal ecosystem also find shelter inside the Natural Preserve.

An example of the magical view during our hike to the main sight point at Ano Nuevo State Park
An example of the magical view during our hike to the main sight point at Ano Nuevo State Park

After we admired the birds and local plants on our hike, we arrived at the exhibition shed where the kids were able to see and touch different sea animals bones and birds. Volunteers guided them through a hand-on the activities of  guessing and proceeded to explain what animal every bone belong. Kids love to guess and be right! Volunteers, there are very knowledgeable people. Once we finished that activity, kids were allowed to pass the gate and hike on the dunes to see the Giant Seal.

 

After the Gate:

Before crossing the Gate, they explained that we need to keep our distance for safety reasons. Giant Seal was on the path and having a great time. I didn’t know we could get so close.  The experience was amazing to see this beautiful creatures so close. It was possible because we visit during the matting time. To view the elephant seals during this season, you must be on a guided walk only. Elephant seal viewing requires a 3-4 mile moderate hike over varied terrain, including sand dunes. The walks last about two and a half hours.

Ano Nuevo Giant Sea Lion
Ano Nuevo Giant Sea Lion battle

People can onserve the Giant Elephant Seal all year-round either on a docent lead tour or through a self-guided permit system within the Wildlife Viewing Area.

Another thing AMAZED me is how loud these creatures are, also how exhausted they are.

What to Expect From  The Elephant Seals Year Round

Once you book your visit it is important to learn the life cycle of Elephant Seal:

Elephant Seal Molting Season

April 1 to August 31 – During molting season seals come ashore to shed their outer layer of skin and fur. This happens during the spring and summer months. The Park is open during these months for self-guided hiking by Visitor Permit only. You don’t need reservations  but visitors must exit the Natural Preserve by 5 p.m.

Fall Juvenile Haul Out

September 1 to November 30 –  By the time summer ends only a few numbers of seals are around because most elephant seals have returned to sea to feed. Just the one to three-year-old juveniles hauls out on remote beaches as part of their early development. During this time the Wildlife Viewing Area of the Natural Preserve is open for self-guided hiking by Visitor permit.

Natural Preserve Closed

December 1 to 14 –   It is close to visitors during this period because pregnant females arrived at the beach. And adult males begin to arrive on the beaches and form harems.

Elephant Seal Breeding Season

December 15 to March 31 – This is the “magical time” when you can see them from close through a Guided Tour. this is the time when we visited. The Northern elephant seals come ashore to give birth and mate. Also, Bull seals battles for breeding access to the females. While pregnant females come ashore to the pup, and mothers nurse their pups for about a month. After that time mate and return to the sea. By the end of this period, Pups remain behind through March basking in the sun and learning to swim but most of the adults have returned to the sea. Crazy right!  To view the elephant seals during this season, you must be on a guided walk.

Park Information

Phone (650) 879-2025
 
Park Hours
 
  • 8:30 am to Sunset Permits to view seals issued 8:30 to 3:30 p.m.
  • 3-4 mile moderate hike over varied terrain, including sand dunes
  • Visitor permits to see the seals inside the Natural Preserve are issued from  8:30 to 3:30.
  • Keep your distance from Seals Elephant seals are dangerous wild animals and are protected by the park. The majority of the time they are very much alive. Never get within 25 feet of an elephant seal.
  • No pets.
  • No bikes on trails.
  • No collecting Shells, rocks, wood, plants or animals. All features of this park are preserved and protected by law.
  • No smoking or fires
  • No drones

 

California Ano Nuevo State Park
A great place to visit in Northern California
Ano Nuevo State Park
California Elephant Sea Lion
Ano Nuevo State Park

Anniversary Ideas – Carmel by the Sea

 

When you’re looking for anniversary ideas or valentines getaway, Carmel by the Sea on the central coast of California is a wonderful option.  If you have a November anniversary like I do, you know that in most of North America, November can sometimes be rainy, chilly, or even snowing – so your options may be limited for domestic trips that time of year.  Therefore, this year we wanted to do something mellow and fun, so we took a drive down to Carmel by the Sea for the weekend.  It did not disappoint!

Why Carmel by the sea

Carmel by the Sea is a small, charming town with a mind-blowing signature Carmel Style, reminiscent of European villages of old.  If you’re running out of ideas of good places to go for an anniversary or special occasion, I strongly recommend you check it out. We are lucky to have Carmel very close by – and grandparents available to baby-sit. Carmel by the Sea is a town that has so much for all your senses.  Yes, the beautiful artwork, clothing, and baubles in the shops are expensive but you don’t need to buy anything – just enjoy window shopping!

 

 

 

 

What to visit

Our first memorable stop was for lunch at Hog’s Breath Inn, a bar/restaurant that used to be owned by the legendary Client Eastwood. Its atmosphere and food is good, and it isn’t a tourist trap.  Most importantly, the drinks didn’t disappoint us. 🙂

Carmel by the Sea is a seaside jewel and is close to a lot of other great things to see.  One of the famous sights in the immediate vicinity is the beautiful Carmel Mission.  You can also get to Big Sur in few hours. Actually we ran into many many people who wanted to run the Big Sur Marathon 2018, but couldn’t because it was canceled due to the air quality, due to all the wild fires that affecting California that month.

Our next stop, was the Cheese Shop located in Carmel Plaza (lower level). They are savvy merchants, offering free tastings of a wide variety of cheeses they have from around the world. They also have wine tasting there too to go with the cheese, but the wine isn’t free alas. It is a heavenly experience, so long as you are not a vegan or lactose intolerant!

 

A great selection of cheese to choose from

 

Their employer were super helpful

 

We stayed at the La Playa Hotel. Just standing outside, I was sold on the place even before we walked in the door.  Being in the heart of Carmel’s shopping district, we visited tons of different shops, and we found this great little sea glass jewelry shop, Robin’s Jewelry, located inside the “Doud Craft Studios” on Ocean and San Carlos. Her pieces are stunning and since I’m a big fan of sea glass I was excited to find out that Robin does custom jewelry. With her little workshop upstairs from her shop, she let me design the dolphin for my necklace and pick the sea glass. The final piece was beautiful and it’s a great memory of the trip.

Robi’s pieces

 

Robi’s pieces
We got magic wands as an extra present from Robin’s

Where to stay

After that, we left our stuff at the La Playa Hotel. I was so impressed with the mediterranean style of the hotel and gorgeous ocean views, located few blocks from Carmel beach. We dropped our bags and went to Carmel beach and enjoyed the amazing sunset on its pristine white sand. The sunset was enhance due to the smoke from all the wildfires and it was dramatic.

Happy Campers

 

 

 

 

Carmel Beach

 

 

Where to eat

We had dinner at Seventh and Dolores – what amazing food, everything there was good!  Our  favorite was beef tartar with foie gras – such a delicacy! We ate so fast sorry pic is not pic but we highly recommend it. 🙂

Locals recommended this restaurant and it was a totally scored
waiting area
bar area

 

 

 

 

It was a truly wonderful and memorable weekend.  I highly recommend you give Carmel by the Sea a try for your next weekend get-away!

Carmel California
What to do in a 48 visit to Carmel

Family Trip to McWay Falls in Big Sur

Months back, we decided to take a family trip to McWay Falls in Big Sur. We needed to decompress and don’t have a huge budget to travel. I have been to Big Sur just few time for camping and hiking and it never disappointed me.  We research and decided to head to McWay Falls at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park , a place I hadn’t visited. It was a spur of the moment decision, now after six month since I broke my ankle break I don’t regret.

Our trip to McWay Falls in Big Sur just took few hours from home. So, we pack and hit the road.  We made short stops to get snacks from the fruit kiosks. Fruits Tatar’s good and is always good to support local farmers.

The beautiful scene helps you forget about the time you spend on the car. When you get there The Mc Way Falls is a short hike. I’d seen many pictures before -and you may have, too- of  the 80′ waterfall that pours onto the sand of the beach below, getting lapped up by the stunning aquamarine sea.

Unfortunately, they don’t actually let you go down and splash around under the McWay falls.  It’s a steep climb down some almost vertical cliffs to get there, and they have yet to put in an elevator.  It may be possible to access it via rubber dingy or something from the ocean, but as a tourist arriving by car, the best you’ll do is to gawk at it from a trail which runs along the northern side of the inlet, a few hundred yards away form the falls themselves.

But that’s OK.  I can’t help but feel that if people were allowed to go tromping around the falls, it wouldn’t maintain its majestic beauty for long.  Certainly the sand wouldn’t look so pristine for picture taking.  Speaking of the sand, I learned something interesting when I was there – not long ago, there wasn’t any sand there whatsoever.  A massive landslide in the 1980’s poured gazillions of tons of dirt, sand, and rock into the water, and a lot of it ended up washing up into the inlet and forming the beach.  The beach we see there today is very new, and they say some other geologic event might cause it to be washed away again one day.

Getting to the view of the Mc Way Falls took about 5 minutes on the trail. The Tunel that connects the trail from across the street fascinated the kids. When they stop playing there they did enjoyed the beauty of the view that is Just breathtaking. So go check it out while the getting is good!

Looking back I’m so thankful I didn’t hesitate taking this trip, because just two month after that I broke my ankle. We had great fun as a family on the trip. I know that as a parents sometimes you try to plan ahead everything because little people depend on you. However, sometimes the best  memories are made when you just follow your guts.

I’m so thankful for our planet and I’m glad Big Sur is so relatively  close to us. When I see the recently Catastrophe that is happening in California. I can’t help to reflect on the world that my kids know now, and the world we are leaving to them. Therefore, I commit to show my kids more of the beauty of the world. As well to  teach them more ways to help the planet: recycling, cleaning beaches, and  in general consuming less plastic. I hope you too.

I hope you enjoy a selection of photos from our outing.