The amazing thing about the West Coast is that it is still mostly wild, open, and astoundingly beautiful country, where you can drive for miles and miles and have the scenery all to yourself.
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
The sculpted headland south of Carmel Bay, now protected as Point Lobos State Natural Reserve (831/624-4909, daily, $10 per car), holds one of the few remaining groves of native Monterey cypress, gnarled and bent by the often stormy coastal weather. The name comes from the barking sea lions (lobos del mar) found here by early Spanish explorers; hundreds of seabirds, sea lions, sea otters, and—in winter—gray whales are seen offshore or in the many picturesque, sea-carved coves.
The entrance to the reserve is along Hwy-1, three miles south of Carmel Mission. In summer the park is so popular that visitors sometimes have to wait in line outside the gates. If possible, plan to come early or during the week. Whenever you can, come: Point Lobos has been lauded as the greatest meeting of land and sea in the world, and crowded or not it’s definitely a place you’ll want to see. Point Lobos has endless vistas up and down the rocky coast, and if you don’t mind a short hike, there are a number of magical beaches hidden away at its southern end.