In mid-October of 2014, we headed down over and through the Santa Cruz Mountains from San Jose, and found ourselves at Monterey in the early morning. Our plans were to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium and then proceed on to Big Sur later in the afternoon.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is an old converted cannery that sits on the cliff overlooking the Monterey Bay. The aquarium was quite fantastic to say the least. I’ve been to quite a few large, world-class aquariums in my life (The Georgia State Aquarium, Texas State Aquarium, Sea World) and I have to say that Monterey Bay stands right beside the giants in excellence. Part of what MBA offers that stands out from other aquariums is that it specializes in the regional life; they show you what is literally just a stone’s throw away out the door.
The staff were quite knowledgable and engaging, and really got the animals and audience excited during feeding times and times between.
One of the center pieces is the Open Ocean exhibit which is a huge tank filled with thousands of fish such as sardine, mackerel, and the elusive sun fish. It really was quite surprising to see just how huge blue fin tuna really are (1000+ lbs, and 5-6 feet long!), and to see how the feeding process works among so many different fish.
Another exhibit was the towering kelp forest. Here you could see the giant kelp stretching over 50 feet high, swaying in the currents and the various fish that called them home. The otters were also a flamboyant bunch to watch.Unfortunately we cannot provide many photos of the underwater areas because it is dark in many parts of the aquarium and they prefer that you do not use flash.
All in all, the aquarium had many different exhibits to explore such as the jellyfish exhibit, the tidal zones, puffin exhibit, the giant pacific octopus, and some of the standards you can’t miss such as the small corals and seahorses.
From the outside, the MBA looks like it might be a rather small half-day event, but once you get in, you realize that it really is quite expansive. Luckily, they are quite accommodating and allow re-entry on the same day; this was great because it let us walk down the road a bit and find a local pizza joint that offered some great, unique personal pizzas.
With over half the day exhausted, we decided to proceed on down south about an hour to see Big Sur.The drive down was quite scenic along the Pacific Coast highway and we got some truly amazing views of the coast and some iconic landmarks such as the Bixby Bridge. We had a little difficulty figuring out how to get to the beach once we were in Big Sur, but eventually located the service road down to Pffeifer Beach. It was about a half mile walk from the parking lot, through a manzanita grove, until we emerged on Pffeifer Beach.
We had about an hour to go before the sun truly set, so we spent our time admiring the rocks and ocean, as well as a particularly photogenic sea gull that stood for around a dozen photographers for what seemed to be nearly 20 minutes.
When the sun sank, I saw what many sailors call the Green Flash. Quite literally, the sky flashed green just as the sun dipped below the horizon. We then headed back to the car to drive back home. The temperature dropped incredibly quickly, which really shouldn’t be that surprising considering how cold the Pacific is.
The drive home was pretty long, around 3 hours back through the winding coast roads and mountain roads. But we both agreed it was a pretty successful day.