The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is home to 27 species of marine mammals, more than 100 species of marine birds, and 345 species of fish, as well as the leatherback turtle. Captain Chris Arcoleo, Sr. and his fellow skippers introduce visitors to this wildlife menagerie during three-hour narrated tours of the sanctuary. Collectively, the skippers captain three different vessels equipped with all of the standard safety features, as well as sonar, radar, and eco-friendly twin engines. This technology—plus the captains' vast experience—gives groups unforgettable glimpses of the area's marine life, including the possibility of an up-close encounter with gray or humpback whales. Passengers should also keep their eyes peeled for Pacific white-sided dolphins, California sea lions, otters, harbor seals, and pirate ghosts.
While traditional phones were designed for the art of conversation, iPhones were designed for all sorts of arts, including photography. At iPhone Art Walk, Nicole Ocean teaches participants to snap stunning shots using their phones and several photo-editing apps, such as Instagram. Then she leads guests on a scenic stroll where they can practice their newfound skills at hot spots such as Monterey Bay Aquarium or Carmel's beaches. Nicole can also point visitors toward compelling sights for self-guided walks that pass by notable Carmel architecture or wander through the Monterey gardens where the eponymous Jack cheese grows.
Breakwater Cove serves as the first diving spot for many of Monterey's aspiring scuba divers. Glenn's Aquarius II Dive Shop sits right on the shore of the Cove, providing those divers with rental equipment, guided trips, and the expertise of certified instructors. The owners even set up a webcam outside their shop with eyes on the ocean, so divers can stop by their website to see weather, water, and wind conditions.
The López family owns three local liquor stores and a restaurant; Francisco Jacobo manages a local radio station. Together, they join forces for a common interest: tequila. Beginning this year, they are hosting their annual Salinas Tequila and Mezcal Grand Tasting, an event that gathers a variety of aged agaves for the tasting.
Adventures by the Sea is owner Frank Knight’s love letter to Monterey Bay. As an avid cyclist, kayaker, and surfer in his youth, Frank decided to share the gift of the bay by providing land- and sea-activity rentals for tourists. But, what started out as a small bike-rental shop frequented by local hotel guests eventually transformed into a four-location recreational company that now offers kayaking, bicycling, SUP paddling, and surrey-carriage rentals and tours.
Bicycle renters can cruise along 17-Mile Drive and the rocky shorelines of Pacific Grove, while surrey-carriage rentals provide a low-key communal pedaling adventure for up to four riders. Patrons can also enjoy the serene environment of Monterey Peninsula as they glide through the waters of Cannery Row and Stillwater Cove—both part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary—on the company’s kayaks and standup paddleboards (SUP). During tours, knowledgeable guides rattle off facts about the area while pointing out its wildlife, such as harbor seals lounging on the rocks and otters snapping pictures of kayakers.
Along with providing land and water activities, Adventures by the Sea helps guests build stronger relationships with one another through their local group adventures, which include scavenger hunts. When customers are ready to invest in their own trustworthy gear, the company’s pro shop helps them stock up on boogie boards, snorkeling equipment, and paddleboards from brands such as Surftech, Naish Hawaii, and Paddle Surf Hawaii.
A family-run enterprise since 1949, Randy's Fishing Trips and Whale Watching takes marine mammal enthusiasts on a sailing excursion around Monterey Bay, where whales often hang out and swap favorite krill recipes. Either Captain Brent or Brian, both certified skippers with masters licenses from the United States Coast Guard, will narrate the aquatic wildlife tour of the bay. Gentle humpback whales are the feature attraction from May–November, and sailors from December–April can become acquainted with the gray whales that have migrated from Alaska. Marine biology buffs may spot several other fascinating ocean organisms, such as killer whales, sea otters, silver-finned raccoons, dolphins, octo-gorillas, and seals. If your trip ends without spotting a whale, you'll receive a free ticket for another expedition.