The Monterey Peninsula gets some serious tourism with a couple million visitors throughout the year. Tourism here peaks June to August, but May is still relaxing for me in the weeks before the crowds pick up and travelers fill the coastal walking paths.
As a local Monterey resident, I headed three miles down the coast from where I live to spend a day walking around the coastal trail in Pacific Grove on a wonderfully sunny Mother’s Day weekend in May.
Three reasons May can be a perfect time of year to visit Pacific Grove, California:
Flowers, pups and weather.
Pacific Grove’s Magic Purple Carpet in May
‘Magic Purple Carpet’ is the local name for the Pacific Grove coastline during the month of May when Drosanthemum floribundum blooms. This non-native California species was planted decades ago along a portion of Pacific Grove coast by Hayes Perkins (1878-1964), a town resident and global travel adventurer of the early 20th century. His tale is documented in a 2,000 page autobiography in Pacific Grove library. The purple carpet plant is prevalent in Cape Town, South Africa coastal region. As an aside, Hayes Perkins Park informational sign was severely vandalized since I last walked the trail. The sign has been around for a few years and now needs to be replaced.
Pacific Grove Seal Pups and Otter Pups
A second reason Pacific Grove is perfect in May are the harbor seal pups seen along Hopkins Marine beach.
Seals and pups on beach at Stanford University Hopkins Marine Station.
This photo of seals was taken two weeks ago. Mid-April to mid-May is the period around local beaches when harbor seals have pups. Beaches with pups are posted and people are not allowed on beaches during the two months of pupping season. Harbor seal pups wean in about 4 to 6 weeks and go on their own way for survival. Harbor seals tend to remain in the same area of their birthplace. Females born on this beach in 2017 will likely return to birth their own pups here in coming years.
Sea Otter Pups
A rare treat of our weekend walk was spotting a large raft of sea otters. With binoculars I could see there were 20 or more otters packed together about 500 meters off the coast. As we walked, the raft broke into two groups, each with about 10 otters. A dozen or so other otters were swimming or floating, mostly in pairs around the main core of sea otters. After several minutes of observation through binoculars I spotted a few bodies with a single furry pup lying on a mama otter’s chest or belly.
Sea otter raft drifting wrapped and tied together in a bed of kelp. The highest peak in the background is Loma Prieta (3,790 ft.) in Santa Clara County, almost due north across scallop-shaped Monterey Bay.
Otters were a bit too far for my Nikon 200mm lens. Glad I brought binoculars.
The coastal trail along Pacific Grove is unimpeded for pedestrians for about 2 miles from Monterey Bay Aquarium to near Lucas Point. Cars and people share Ocean View Blvd and the same road pullouts for the final half mile to Point Pinos.
A harbor seal kept its head above water as a couple of snorkelers swim nearby in the water.
Sea Otter Mom and Pup
Sea otter and harbor seal pups.
Reason Number Three to Visit Pacific Grove in May
Pacific Grove is one of the foggiest places in California June to August.
April and May tend to be the nicest weather months for this area of Central Coast California between the rainy season months and the heat of California dry summers that pull the foggy marine layer over the Monterey Peninsula. There can be many consecutive days in summer when fog cover blocks the sun along the Pacific Grove coast line.
May has the combination of some warm fog-free days in the upper 60s and low 70s with sunny skies.
Purple flowers and marine mammal pups seen in May are Pacific Grove bonus features.
Ocean View Blvd continues west another mile to Point Pinos.
We turned around for the walk back along the Pacific Grove coastline to Monterey with more views of flowers, pups and sun.