Point Lobos State Preserve
Absolutely breathtaking. The hikes are easy with great rewards. I recommend allotting between 3 and 5 hours, giving yourself time to do this leisurely and having lunch midday. Also take extra camera batteries because there are so many awesome shots. I should have brought binoculars. If you happened to have done another state park the same day, save the parking receipt because its good at all the state parks same day.
To avoid parking issues, get there when they open. Another plus is that you get to see more wildlife like deer before human presence scares them off. $10 admission. Buy the map for $2. It's a must. The ones I printed online, as well as info I gathered wasn't enough to properly plan my day effectively.
To get the biggest bang for your buck, park at “information station” at beginning of sea lion point trail (also starting point for cyprus grove trail). I would allot at least one hour per every mile of trail because there are so many scenic photo opportunities where you would want to stop and gape. Bring water to replenish all the lost drool. The beauty of this parking spot is you can first do the cyprus grove trail 0.8 miles where there are spectacular views of the ocean, islands and rocks, orange moss covered trees.
Once completing the loop, you are back at the lot. You can take another 0.6 mile loop trail called sea lion pt trail where you can see sea lions far far far off on a rock island. BRING BINOCULARS or get laser vision correction or a tripod to get stable zoom shots from so far. On this trail you get to explore along the beach and rocks by the water. There are beautiful rock formation and with varied colors to see. We saw dolphins swimming, cormorants & turkey vultures flying, and of course the barking sea lions on the rock or swimming.
Next you could choose to go back to the car but I would recommend breaking off from the sand hill trail (which is the southern end of this trail) and turn right and follow the south shore trail at least until the next parking lot. You could CAREFULLY navigate the rock formations and all its cool colors, and shapes while the sea surges nearby.
At this point I took the road back to the lot and drove to the China Cove parking. Follow the Bird Island trail 0.8 miles to a gorgeous green-watered cove with caves. DO NOT SKIP THIS. IT WAS MAGNIFICENT & THE HIGHLIGHT OF OUR TRIP! The stairs to the beach were unfortunately out when we were there. You can call 831-624-4909 to find out more details of its opening and park info.
Don't forget to turn around a lot because sometimes the views are even better looking back. There is a spot on the Bird Island trail where you have to look back to notice arches in the water with waves surging through. I guess it depends on which way you start your loop.
I did the northern section of the reserve but felt it was more of the same, still lovely but unnecessary. I didn't see any whales. Skip all the inner trails unless you like looking at trees (and there are plenty of trees on the trails above).
If you own or manage Point Lobos State Reserve, register now for free tools to enhance your listing, attract new reviews, and respond to reviewers.