Ocean and Shoreline

The interface between the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean and the North American continent is what makes Point Lobos such a special place.  Offshore, the ocean stretches for thousands of miles and plunges to depths of two miles, and even deeper in some places.  It is an ever-changing environment populated by fish and other creatures, some which live in specific areas depths, and some which travel from one shore to the other and migrate vertically from near the surface to great depths.

Along the Point Lobos shoreline, the ocean plummets rapidly to several thousand feet in depth.  Due to this topography and the prevailing weather conditions, we experience a phenomenon known as upwelling along the California central coast.  This is the rising up of very cold, nutrient-rich waters from near the bottom of the ocean to the surface.  From a biologist’s point of view, this phenomenon contributes to an astounding diversity of sea life along the coast.  From the viewpoint of the residents near Point Lobos and of our visitors, this results in very cold water and the persistent fog that can often be seen and felt in the area. 

Kelp Forest

Looking out at the ocean from the rocky headlands of Point Lobos, visitors usually notice the sometimes-thick collection of brownish seaweed.  This is our kelp forest, most of which is giant kelp.  It grows rapidly in up to 100 feet of depth, as it is connected to the bottom.  It thrives best when attached to a rocky bottom.  In summer the canopy is thick, but the kelp is not strong enough to stand up to strong winter wave surges, and the canopy becomes sparser.

The kelp forest provides protective habitat for a myriad of animals, and is the place to look for sea otters.  But look carefully, as the otters blend in with the kelp when they sleep, and they wrap their bodies in the kelp to assure they won’t float away while sleeping.

Underwater Reserve

In 1960, 750 acres of near offshore land were added to the approximately 550 acres onshore, creating the nation’s first underwater reserve.

In 2010, a group of divers, along with the California State University at Monterey Bay (CSUMB) sought to gather data from the Point Lobos State Marine Reserve area, designated for diving. Using the newest technologies available, a unique 3D model and map were created and unveiled on May 10, 2014 at Whaler’s Cove. Offering unprecedented levels of accuracy and detail, the model and map provide divers valuable tools to navigate the complex underwater world, and nondivers can visualize the underwater wonders – without getting wet!

Marine Protected Areas

Because of its immensity, the ocean is considered by some an infinite resource.  But recent findings show that it is anything but that.  The stocks of fish are finite, and they are being extracted at an alarming rate to feed humans. 

In 2007, the State of California created a network of Marine Protected Areas along the coast, and two of those areas are contiguous to Point Lobos.  Learn more at Marine Protected Areas.

If you would like to know what is happening in the ocean off the Central California coast at different times of the year, go to the Seasons in the Sea website.


The constant motion of the tides and waves creates an ever-changing margin along the coast.  As the water advances and recedes, it leaves pools – tidepools – in the rocky intertidal zone.  At lower tides, these tidepools offer visitors an opportunity to view a variety of sea life up close.  You can learn more by clicking on tide pools.  There will occasionally be opportunities to go tidepooling with a docent leader.  Check the calendar for those dates which offer the lowest tides.

Dive Information

Point Lobos is considered one of the best places along the west coast for scuba divers, and you may see divers at Whalers Cove.  See Diving for information on diving regulations, reservations, locations, and other things you need to know.