FROM THE OCEAN TO THE OPEN SEA
One-time capital of California, MONTEREY is dotted with historic adobe houses, but you’re here for the staggering variety of marine mammals that congregate in the bountiful waters of the bay. In summer, whales migrate here to feed on anchovies and krill, and you’ve got a good chance of seeing humpbacks and blue whales on a morning WHALE-WATCHING TRIP from Fisherman's Wharf. Monterey Bay Whale Watch’s excellent trips are led by a marine biologist, so the emphasis is on education and the environment; opt for the 9am departure [3 hour 30 minutes | $49, under-13s $39, under 4s $15], as it’s less windy in the mornings. You’re pretty much guaranteed to see dolphins at the very least, and killer whales, minke whales and fin whales are occasionally sighted during summer as well.
Back on dry land, the underwater world awaits at the brilliant MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM [open daily 9.30am to 6pm, Saturday until 8pm | $49.95, under-13s $29.95, under-3s free], which occupies an old sardine factory on Cannery Row. Forget any aquarium you’ve ever been to before – Monterey’s superlative version will make them look like glorified goldfish bowls. Most people make a beeline for the Open Sea (a vast display of swirling sting rays, sun fish and tuna shoals) or the world’s first live Kelp Forest, though there are plenty of smaller exhibits, such as the jellyfish that pulse hypnotically past the porthole windows. Make sure you catch the super-cute sea otters at feeding time (usually around 3.30pm).
WHERE TO STAY
THE LIJOMA LOWDOWN
Delve deeper with our tips on what to read and watch before you go, foods and drinks your kids must try, and some key cultural advice
From beachfront hotels to Downtown B&Bs – our pick of the most memorable places for families to stay in California
NEED TO KNOW
A handy overview of California’s weather and climate throughout the year, with recommendations for the best time to visit
Pre-trip practicalities, including getting there, visas and passports, health and safety, and how to get around
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