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“Amazing MUST DO experience - but TAKE CASH” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Ano Nuevo Elephant Seal Tours

Ano Nuevo Elephant Seal Tours
Pescadero, CA
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Ranked #4 of 10 attractions in Pescadero
Type: Tours
Attraction Details
San Francisco, California
Contributor
13 reviews 13 reviews
4 attraction reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
“Amazing MUST DO experience - but TAKE CASH”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed February 19, 2013

Let's get the bad out of the way first - even if you book and pay for your tour in advance, you still have to pay $10 parking fee. They only accept cash. The woman on the parking lot entrance is extremely rude, and will make your drive 4 miles north to an ATM even if this means missing the tour you booked. Her advice was "Well you shouldn't come to a State Park without cash". No warning of this on booking email for us non-Americans who don't know about State Parks. She did, however, (at my request) book us onto a later tour.

This is really sad, because it gives a really bad first impression of the most amazing place. EVERY other staff member, and the volunteer docents who led the tours were so polite, friendly and well informed. The actual walk experience was amazing - we have seen elephant seals at various points on the coast, but to get to the viewing platform at Ano Nuevo you walk through the sand dunes - where there are frequently seals just lying around. You have to be careful because "Seals have right of way" :) and you need to get out of the way if one is coming your way fast. But what an incredible way to see them up close. Particularly the "weaners" who are the pups old enough to be left to fend for themselves come off the beach to the dunes a lot because its safer to not be around the males while they are fighting for mating rights. It was a totally magical experience - in fact we couldn't use half the viewing platform because there was a huge male elephant seal just sunbathing up there! We've seen them at various points (including Point Reyes) and this is the place and the way to see them - you will never get a better view! Take water because it is a longish walk to the dunes, but an easy one. Reserve early if you want to go on a weekend - those tours book up fast. It's a MUST for anyone on the coast Dec-Mar - but remember to take cash.

Visited February 2013
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16 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
  • English first
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English first
Israel, Jerusalem
Top Contributor
245 reviews 245 reviews
192 attraction reviews
Reviews in 81 cities Reviews in 81 cities
167 helpful votes 167 helpful votes
“amazing experiance”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 17, 2013

this was a great start to 11 days trip south along the coast. the elephant seals are amazing animal that most probably i won't see in any other way. this is the perfect time to see them because they are all coming on to the beach to give birth and fight for territory. the tour was very interesting even though it was pouting rain and we got so wet!!! umbrellas aren't allowed because they intimidate the elephants so make sure you bring rain ponchos and water resistant boots or be prepared to change your clothes at the parking lot right after. during the tour you are getting very close to the elephants and can really see, here and smell them up close!
there are tours that are wheelchair accessible which was even more impressing due to the sandy beach.

Visited December 2012
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Felton, California
Top Contributor
78 reviews 78 reviews
17 attraction reviews
Reviews in 49 cities Reviews in 49 cities
114 helpful votes 114 helpful votes
“A day with the elephant seals.”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 27, 2012

My daughter arranged a tour for our family, five adults, four children, to Ano Nuevo State Park to view the arriving elephant seals. We arrived at the Visitor's Center where we were given directions on where to meet our docent guide, who was about half an hour away along a fairly easy trail. Once there, we were given instructions as to how to act (no loud talking, walk briskly by the male bulls, etc.), what we would be seeing, when to take photos, etc. Oh, be advised that no umbrellas are allowed as they can startle the seals and be careful with Indiana Jones type hats on windy days because if your hat blows off, you're not allowed to run after it. And, if you think all these precautionary instructions are unnecessary, think again. You will walk very close to the elephant seals (they have the right-of-way) and they are very large (up to 5000 lbs) so you don't want to do anything that might irritate them. They are, after all, there for mating and they will challenge anyone they feel is invading their territory.

There were a number of bulls, just lazing around; however, a little further into the season, one would see more elephant seals and more activity (fighting, etc.). When we were there, the females hadn't really started to arrive and there was only one pup that we could see, but the sight of all those massive creatures, laying on the beach and in the sand dunes was spectacular. Our docent was very informative and had photos which enhanced what he was telling us (sometimes, mother nature doesn't cooperate with the real thing so one needs to rely on Kodak). While getting to one viewing sight, two rangers accompanied us because there were several bulls very close by and they wanted to be sure the visitors remained safe (you must keep 25 feet between you and the elephant seals ... but just try telling the elephant seals that). One bull, who was a little further away, started to bellow and actually charged down the dune towards us several times ... but he tired quickly and went back to resting.

The day we were there it was overcast and drizzly but that's actually when there is more activity on the beach. The elephant seals like the cooler weather and are much less active when the sun is out.

I know you are asked about reservations when you arrive at the gate; however, not sure how they handle visitors who are driving by and just pop in. I would suggest making reservations to be on the safe side. Seeing these magnificent creatures is something that you won't soon forget. The kids loved walking among the elephant seals and really like watching them lumber along and bellow challenges at one another. My ten-year-old grandson summed up what he found most interesting ... "Well, they looked like I thought they would ... but they sure didn't sound or move like I thought they would."

Visited December 2012
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Pleasant Hill, California, United States
Senior Contributor
41 reviews 41 reviews
18 attraction reviews
Reviews in 23 cities Reviews in 23 cities
18 helpful votes 18 helpful votes
“Great family excursion”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 27, 2012 via mobile

This was our second trek out to see the elephant seals and we were not disappointed. We went a few years ago when my youngest was three and had to carry gopher most of the way. This year the kids are 8, 11, and 13. Easy hike and not one word of complaint.

Make online tour reservation early (weeks to months in advance). Dress warmly, it can be very windy and cold. It rained on us and umbrellas are not allowed once you enter the seal zone so wear a hooded jacket. Bring a camera and get ready for some great photo opportunities.

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Godalming, United Kingdom
Top Contributor
51 reviews 51 reviews
19 attraction reviews
Reviews in 31 cities Reviews in 31 cities
25 helpful votes 25 helpful votes
“Great opportunity to get close to nature”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 19, 2012

This is a ranger led tour which takes about 2.5 hours with a walk of about 3 miles over sometimes rough ground and sand dunes. The area is beautiful and it is a great opportunity to see some amazing wild life at quite close quarters. The rangers are very knowledgeable about the elephant seals. A great afternoon or morning. Best to book in advance although we didn't and got on a tour about 30 minutes after we arrived.

Visited January 2012
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