Oleís Whale Watch Bar, Little River Inn
Not only can you spot whales from the Mendocino shore during migration season, with luck you can even see them from a cozy seat at Oleís Whale Watch Bar in the Little River Inn. Not surprisingly, this oceanfront bar and inn gets packed to the rafters during Whale Festival and stays busy throughout spring and summer. While you're there, order a plate of Ole's Swedish hotcakes, a crab pot pie or Olallieberry Cobbler while keeping an eye on the horizon for cresting spouts.
Gray Whale Watching with All Aboard Adventures, Mendocino
If you want a closer encounter with a whale, head out to sea with All Aboard Adventures, Anchors Charter or another trusted charter boat operator. Mendocino hotels like Little River Inn partner with boat operators to offer seasonal whale watching packages. Aside from whale watching, charters like All Aboard Adventures offer salmon, rock cod, albacore and crab fishing trips, depending on the season.
Orcas Off The Mendocino Coast
If youíre really lucky you may even spot a pod of orcas, recognizable by their distinctive black and white markings, breaching along the Mendocino coastline. These graceful, powerful animals have been spotted as close as two miles off the shore of Mendocino.
San Francisco Sea Lions, PIER 39
San Franciscoís famous sea lions congregate at PIER 39 to snooze on each other and bark incessantly, seemingly oblivious to their international reputation and photo appeal. Snap a few photos of a few of the area's most popular residents before browsing the pier's multitude of shops, restaurants and attractions.
Moray Eels, Monterey Bay Aquarium
Moray eels are a no-fail crowd pleaser in any aquarium and this includes Monterey Bay, where the competition numbers in the thousands of eel species. While the Montery Bay Aquarium features many beautiful examples of this variety of eel, California moray eels can be spotted peeping from their rocky hiding spots in habitats close to shore.
Sea Otter, Monterey Bay
Monterey Bayís adorable mascot is beloved by all ó well, make that, all humans. Most people yearn for a sighting of wild otters frolicking off the Monterey coast, but local fish, crustaceans and other small sea life stay well away from this cute but carnivorous critter. The Southern Sea Otter hunts for its prey on the sea bottom, but always returns to the surface to eat its catch, which is often where you'll see them!
Western Snowy Plovers, Monterey Bay
Why are these adorable little birds sporting colorful ankle bands? Since 1993 the Western Snowy Plover has been listed as an endangered species, with only 28 major nesting areas remaining. The Monterey Bay region is a key recovery area for Snowy Plover conservation. Visitors may catch a glimpse of them while walking the beaches or during a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Elephant Seal Preserve, San Simeon
The mating season posturing and fighting between adult male elephant seals sets the stage for ideal California wildlife photography. The A?o Nuevo State Park in San Simeon is the largest mainland breeding colony in the world for the northern elephant seal. The winter months is when visitors can witness the mating and gestation season, which lasts from December through March. After that, park-goers can see weaning pups learning to swim in April and adults returning to molt through August.
Tide Pools, Half Moon Bay
Tide pooling in Half Moon Bay is one of the region's most popular activities. Easy to access and full of sea life, the pools in Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, Moss Beach, might be one of the most visited spots in San Mateo County Park. During low tide the pools offer an outdoor classroom experience, showcasing everything from sea urchins and starfish to the red octopus and various mollusks.
Lena Katz is the author of the Travel Temptations series (SIP, SUN, SNOW), published by Globe Pequot Press in 2009. Lena is also a travel expert for Celebrations/1800FLOWERS and WEtv (online and on-air). She contributes to the South China Morning Post and ABC News online. Lena is a former Orbitz Travel blogger and former columnist for the LA Times. She's been published in Brides Magazine, Robb Rep...(Read More)