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Hiking the Million Dollar View from Hyatt Highlands Inn at Point Lobos State Reserve, California

This article is not a review of the Hyatt Highlands Inn in the Carmel Highlands of Central Coast California. This is a photo essay of the hike I took at Point Lobos State Reserve, the park seen from the windows in the lobby and rooms of the Highlands Inn. Here is a sample of what you might see when hiking the million dollar view landscape seen from the Highlands Inn in the public access coastal park on the west side of Highway 1.

I have had this interest now for about a decade to be somewhere where I see ten thousand, one hundred thousand, one million birds from a single viewpoint.

I settled for a few hundred cormorants at Point Lobos State Reserve, Monterey County, California about 2 miles south of Carmel-by-the-Sea.


Cormorants on Bird Island, Point Lobos State Reserve, Monterey County, California.

Today I thought about times when I was a guest in the Hyatt Highlands Inn, looking through the telescope in the lobby. Guests see this same view of Bird Island at Point Lobos.


My Heart is in the Highlands

Some friends of ours asked us a couple months ago where Kelley and I would live if we could live anywhere in the world. Kelley and I had this debate over several sessions the past three decades. She is a Pebble Beach girl. Her life took her there for several years.

My heart is in the highlands. Carmel Highlands to be precise. The only gates there in the Highlands are the ones you may choose to put over your driveway. Otherwise the public is free to drop by. Just be nice.


Hyatt Highlands Inn sits above California Highway 1, a few miles south of Carmel-by-the-Sea in the last town heading south on the Pacific coast until you reach Big Sur 25 miles farther south. Highlands Inn is a historic hotel location that is now a small hotel with Hyatt vacation timeshares also on the property. Hyatt Highlands Inn is perceived by some guests to be a too high-priced and too isolated hotel with little to offer but a great view and high priced restaurants with a 70s style motel pool. The Highlands Inn is that.

Highlands Inn is also a Hyatt Gold Passport category 6 hotel award at 22,000 points per night with summer rates typically in the $500 to 600 per night range.

My response to guests with an overpriced hotel sentiment is Monterey County from Moss Landing to Big Sur is the place where I was born and lived for over two decades in my 53.5 years. I spent over thirty years in other places, none too far from the ocean, and my realization in coastal life is the closer you are to a rocky outcrop ocean view like the Highlands Inn, the closer you are to the best views available in Monterey County.


Highlands Inn, Hyatt Hotels, is property across upper left side of photo beneath the fog. California Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, runs between hotel and private houses on coastal side of the road.

July and August are on average the days with the most fog along the coast around Carmel-by-the-Sea and Carmel Highlands. I hiked several hours in the fog and then drove back to my house in Monterey under abundant sunshine just six miles north of Point Lobos.

And did I mention that Monterey County is one of the most gorgeous places on the planet, from an objective viewpoint of course.

Hiking the View You Are Seeing from the Hyatt Highlands Inn.

I live in Monterey, California.

Hyatt Highlands Inn is eight miles south of my home in Monterey. Point Lobos State Reserve is six miles south of Monterey on California Highway 1.

I drove down Highway 1 and parked my car on the highway road outside the Point Lobos park gate. There is probably enough space for at least 30 cars to park on Highway 1. Most locals tend to park for free off Highway 1 and hike into Point Lobos. Hikes of 2 to 5 hours to walk part of the park or the entire circumference of the trails around Point Lobos are an incredible adventure in history, scenic beauty, rare species and a variety of wildlife. The purpose of this article is sharing the joy of visiting Point Lobos and seeing the Hyatt Highlands Inn from the vantage point of the natural landscape


Natural bridge at Point Lobos State Reserve, Carmel, California.


This is natural life in the fog of Carmel Highlands with a park walk along the seashore to enjoy some of the best views on the California Central Coast with abundant wildlife. A sign on the trail at the park entrance asks hikers to donate $1. Car day pass is $5.

A few days ago I watched the 1971 Clint Eastwood film, Play Misty for Me. This was Clint’s directorial debut and features many scenic locations around the Carmel-by-the-Sea area. His girlfriend in the movie has a family house in Carmel Highlands. I was most struck by how little the scenery has changed in more than 40 years since the film. This is a high-priced area that prevents over-development. Home prices in the Carmel-by-the-Sea and Carmel Highlands area average well over $1 million.

Hyatt Highlands Inn places visitors to our area in the million dollar real estate club. Locals like me can drive to Point Lobos State Reserve and hike around in the million dollar view the residents and hotel guests of Carmel Highlands see from their rooms.


Clear water near Gibson Beach, Point Lobos State Reserve.


Gibson Beach, Point Lobos State Reserve.

The coves around Point Lobos are home to harbor seals, sea lions and sea otters. My quest was to find a sea otter. I have been growing concerned this year at seeing fewer sea otters around Monterey, Pacific Grove and Carmel than I have seen ever since living here in the 1970s. Moss Landing about 20 miles north is home to dozens of sea otters I have seen this year, but usually there are a dozen or so sea otters to be seen when walking from Monterey Fisherman’s Wharf to Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove. This year I have made that walk many times and not seen any sea otters. That is unusual.


Harbor seal or sea lion diving in the cove.


Cormorants splashing their wings in the sea water.


I could not help but start singing Doobie Brothers China Grove as I walked by China Cove even though this place is a long way from Texas. Then a Vietnam flashback, a place I have never been, as I photographed China Beach.


China Cove is where I watched a seal swimming around in the water near the beach. – Point Lobos State Reserve, Monterey County, California.

More than half the thirty or so people I passed on the Point Lobos trails in the first hour of my hike were speaking French. I felt like I was a tourist in Utah again. I declare 2013 the year of the French tourist.


And then I spotted a pair of sea otters in this cove seen above. A juvenile and mom based on the behavior I observed over ten to fifteen minutes as I sat on a cliff almost directly over them while they fed in a tide-washed cove where the waves hit a depression with periodicity to made a loud bass sound swoosh when hitting inside the wall of rock.


Mom is on her back and the youngster pup swims around her, diving with her, and then mostly watching out while she feeds on shellfish she has retrieved from the ocean floor of the cove.


Junior never ventured more than a few feet away from mom. The pup would dive whenever Mom dived.


The pup made a lot of dives, but never come up with food and spent only a fraction of time eating compared to mom otter.


Just as I set my camera to video the pair of otters decided to leave the cove.

A couple hundred yards down the coast I saw a large bird flying toward me.


My luck was to capture the full wingspan overhead.


The fog lingered on glancing back to the Hyatt Highlands Inn before I rounded the northern point and out of sight of the hotel’s southern cove view.


Barking sea lions on the rocks can be heard up to a mile or more away. Brown pelicans cruising by overhead. There were a couple hundred sea lions lounging on the rocks offshore and swimming in the sea.

Another objective of my hike was to reach Allan Memorial Grove, one of only two locations on the westernmost points of the Monterey Peninsula region where the Monterey Cypress is a native tree.


A lone Monterey Cypress growing at the point of Allan Memorial Grove, Point Lobos State Reserve.


Monterey Cypress in Allan Memorial Grove.


Coastline view south from Point Lobos. Point Sur barely visible above the rising fog in the distance 15 miles south.


Coastline view north from Point Lobos. Cypress Point, Pebble Beach in the distance is the other location with a native grove of Monterey Cypress trees.

There is something special to me about being around ancient trees.


The coast of Monterey County is a hard place to put down roots.


Yet this area on the western front of the USA and the eastern side of the Pacific Ocean is one special place to be.


Point Lobos is the landscape you see outside when staying at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands Inn. A three to five hour hike can work up a good appetite for your dinner.


Point Lobos State Reserve.


Doe and fawn in Allan Memorial Grove, Point Lobos.


Ric Garrido, writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests.

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  • JustSaying July 28, 2013

    This is one of the best places in the world…….no doubt…….add on Carmel…..the ocean drive…..the Aquarium…..then Half Moon Bay…..then San Francisco and it compares very favorably to the French Riviera…………

  • Ric Garrido July 28, 2013

    @JustSaying -Drives, hikes, wine and water. This place rocks.

  • james July 28, 2013

    Hmm, what a coincidence – you’re a highlands guy, I imagine myself a Yankee Beach Drive guy 😉

  • Pat July 28, 2013

    Wow I am stting here having a coffee at yhe Highlands Inn and imagine opening up Loyalty Traveller and seeing Carmel Highlands in the header…beautiful place.

  • Scottrick July 28, 2013

    Point Lobos is one of my favorite state parks in California. I’ve occasionally done it as a day trip from the South Bay.

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