Año Nuevo State Reserve

Año Nuevo State Reserve, Pescadero: Hours, Address, Año Nuevo State Reserve Reviews: 4.5/5

Año Nuevo State Reserve
4.5
Nature & Wildlife Areas
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8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Monday
8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Tuesday
8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Wednesday
8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Thursday
8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Friday
8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Saturday
8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Sunday
8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
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Home to the largest mainland seal colony in the world.
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Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.
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4.5
282 reviews
Excellent
199
Very good
63
Average
16
Poor
4
Terrible
0

Theresa A
30 contributions
Have been to this twice now and learn something new every time. In November when I went, the seals were just starting the mating season. In March when I came back, the pups and "weaners" were still there and the adults were starting to head back to sea. The hike to the seals is lovely and the views are gorgeous. The last bit through the sand is a bit of a slog and could be difficult for some visitors. But it was definitely worth it to see the seals. We really appreciated the docents' information about the seals and having an opportunity to see them in a very natural environment.
Written March 13, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Jonathan Chan
La Jolla, California, USA249 contributions
A fitting place to start the new year. There is a small barn with some displays about elephant seals. If you reserved an elephant seal tour, walk a mile on an easy path out and a volunteer docent will guide you out towards the beach where the seals are breeding, nursing, and resting.
Written February 7, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

stefdoj
Columbia, MD258 contributions
Long walk through attractive vegetation, ponds, dunes and coast line. Saw about 150 elephant seals on the beach at the end of the 1.3 mile trail. Overall, enjoyed the stroll but saw many more seals without the walk further south, maybe at Piedras Blancas or thereabouts. The docents did a nice job, however, of explaining the seals' life cycle.
Written May 14, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

NYCIrish1944
Granby, CT729 contributions
We were headed north on PCH # 1 ( Cabrillo Highway) after finishing our tour of Hearst Castle. There was nothing but the beautiful Pacific our our left. Then, we saw a sign for Sea Lions State Park.

Sea Lions State Park was just a parking lot and a short path to the beach area. Then we saw the marvelous scene. The beach was covered with Sea Lions, some very large (Elephant type). Our first thought was that they were dead !! Then , we realized that they were sleeping. Attached are the photos to prove it !!!
Great Memory !!!!
Written March 20, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Tineeric
Santa Barbara21 contributions
The preserve was beautiful, and we loved talking to the docents as much as we enjoyed watching the elephant seals. However, back in the car we pulled more than 20 ticks from our hair and clothes. We never left the trail, so these are very clever and agile insects.
Written April 12, 2004
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

LarkspurGirl
Marin County, Northern California39 contributions
I'd been meaning to visit Ano Nuevo forever but whenever we had guests here it always seemed to be the "wrong" time of year. One thing I've learned, having just visited, is that there really is no wrong time of year to visit. For about 9-10 months of the year, the seals are there for some reason. December thru February when we were there, is the breeding and birthing time. By mid March most of the adult go, leaving the pups (weaners) behind to fend for themselves. Then the adults return April thru August to molt and grow new fur.

Bookings for tours are essential they say, and if you visit the reservation website [--] they advise 8 weeks ahead of time. The site showed no availability online so I called the reservation line (shared with Hearst Castle reservations) and didn't get any headway there either as it was all booked up.

However, we decided to drive down anyway, one afternoon and spoke to a ranger at the entrance to the park. He advised that if we came back reasonably early the next day there was a good chance of standby tickets, since tours run every 15 minutes. We took him at his word, showed up next day at 10.20am and were on the 10.30 tour.

You take a leisurely stroll from the visitor center with the others in your assigned group to a staging area where you are oriented by another ranger who tells you the do's and don'ts of visiting, and then are led with one volunteer docent at the front of the group and another at the rear down to the dunes. Along the way, the docents point out wildlife (flora and fauna) and describe the topology and history. And then all of a sudden you arrive above the dunes and there are these large lumps all over the place. When you look closer, you realize they are not lumps of sand, or flotsam and jetsam, but seals. Everywhere! There were over 200 males when we visited, and 20-something new pups, some weaners and another 50-odd females. All lounging around, occasionally flapping a flipper, or baying at one of the other seals, but mostly just basking in the sun. You get to wander close to them (no closer than 25 feet), can take as many snaps as you want, and the docents and rangers have binoculars and spotting scopes to afford you the best opportunity to observe these giant creatures in their chosen natural habitat. The males grow to 5000 lbs, while the females are a relatively petite 1500 or so. Pups are 60-80 lbs at birth and double and quadruple their body weight really fast.

We were blessed with a gorgeous sunny California day which made for spectacular viewing. I will surely send many of our visitors down to see the seals in the rookery, it's like participating in your own Discovery Channel program. Loved it.
Written January 3, 2007
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

jameshuang
Taipei, Taiwan2,007 contributions
Couples
Ano Nuevo State Reserve (新年岬州立保護區) is located on the California famous Hwy 1, about 20 mi (32.2 km) north of Santa Cruz. Ano Nuevo State Natural Reserve is a separate unit of the California state park system; it has been a part of Ano Nuevo State Park since October 2008. The purpose of Ano Nuevo State Park is to preserve and protect the scenic, biological, ecological, and cultural values of the central California coastline.

We visited Ano Nuevo State Reserve in early April and arrived in the morning just after 9:00 am. Admission cost US$10. The gate personnel asked us whether we needed the Visitor Permit. We really didn’t know why we needed it, but we got it anyway since it was free. Later we learned that we needed it to access the Natural Preserve area. We followed the Ano Nuevo Point Trail and saw the wreckage of the Point Arena which sunk in 1913 at Pigeon Point. We continued on the trail and stopped by the pond where we supposed to see many birds. Maybe we just were unlucky because we only saw few birds around. The nearby Cove Beach Trail was not accessible. We finally reached the Staging Area - the entrance to the Natural Preserve area where we found the restrooms. In the first half mile, we stopped at some overlooks and took some photos of the coastline and the Ano Nuevo Island. Suddenly, we found ourselves in front of sand dunes. The trail was an uphill sandy road which took us a while to reach the hilltop, and then we needed to go down the sandy hill to the other side in order to see the home of elephant seals. It was the molting season of elephant seals. We were lucky to meet a docent on the site, where there were lots of elephant seals. She gave us a lesson about the elephant seals and answered our questions about the Ano Nuevo Island. When we came back from the preserve area, we decided to take Upper Pond Trail. I recommend you don’t do that because we did not see any pond along the trail and it was a longer walk.

Ano Nuevo State Park opens daily from 8:00 am to sunset except between December 1-14. The Ano Nuevo Natural Preserve is restricted during December to March - access is limited to guided walks only. April to November is for self-guided tours with Visitor Permits which can be obtained at the park entrance from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Permit holders must exit the Natural Preserve area by 5 p.m. Planning to visit the park before noon can guarantee you have enough time to see all the attractions.
Written June 20, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Marlies R
Singapore, Singapore75 contributions
Friends
This park was beautiful. There were oceans of yellow flowers blooming when we visited. The views were stunning. The Elephant Seals are super cool to watch. Keep in mind that it is quite a walk (about 1 hour through sandy dunes) to get to them though. But.... it's totally worth it! Check out my picks!
Written August 19, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

rlafler
San Francisco, CA33 contributions
Family
I'm a docent in the park, and just want to add to or correct some of the information.

To "Dead Seal" -- during the season when tours are given you CANNOT see seals without a tour. I cannot stress that enough, as every day I see people walk out towards the wildlife protection area without a tour hoping they can see something. You can't. Really. I would tell you if there was! Occasionally a seal or two will haul out on the beach below the visitor center, but the rookery is 1.5 miles from the parking lot and can only be accessed with a guide. This is for the protection of both the seals and the visitors.

Tours are REQUIRED from December 15 to March 30. Peak season is about January 10 to February 20. However, there is good seal viewing WITHOUT a tour in April, May and June (April is one of my favorite times at the park), and there are some seals in residence all year round (the park is closed December 1-14).

Tour tickets can be booked in advance, but some slots are held for walk-ins. If you get to the park before 10 a.m., the chances of getting on a tour are very good. The last tour is at 2:45. If you get there after that, I cannot stress enough that you WILL NOT see seals! If you're booking in advance, I recommend either very early or very late, as seals tend to be sleepy in mid-day. For the best photography, the morning is preferable, as the sun will be in your eyes (and lens) in the afternoon.

Tours are held rain or shine so dress appropriately (umbrellas are not allowed -- male seals see them as a challenge, and you don't want to challenge a male elephant seal!). Wear appropriate footwear for walking three miles on unpaved trails and clambering up sand dunes (you wouldn't believe the number of people I see wearing flip-flops -- I even had a woman in high heels!). Strollers are allowed part way, but are not allowed in the wildlife protection area.

Finally, tours may be arranged WITH ADVANCE NOTICE on weekends for people with limited mobility. Call the park directly to book.
Written February 25, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

BetsyR19130
Philadelphia, PA109 contributions
Not since our time in the Galápagos Islands have we experienced viewing such pure natural phenomena. Our tour guide, Sharon, was wonderful, instructing about the Elephant seals and the natural landscape. Watching those huge creatures move, fight and nurse their pups was truly amazing. This should be a priority experience for all!
Written February 14, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Año Nuevo State Reserve

Año Nuevo State Reserve is open:
  • Sun - Sat 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
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