Asilomar State Beach on the Monterey Peninsula
Asilomar Beach is a mile long unit of the California State Parks Department. Its formal name is “Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds”. It extends along the western end of the Monterey Peninsula from just south of Point Pinos to Spanish Bay. Walking on the coastal trail, tide pooling, kayaking, kite flying and surfing are just a few of the beach activities available here.
This great photo is a rare sunrise shot at Asilomar State Beach. Not that we don’t have sunrises here in California every day, but most everyone seems to consider the sun setting into the ocean much more photogenic. I like this as the whitecaps are illuminated but the foreground is still in shade.
When you visit Asilomar, you most likely won’t be there quite this early. But no matter when you visit, there are many things to see and do.
Asilomar State Beach Quick Facts:
Address: Sunset Drive, Pacific Grove, Monterey Peninsula
Meaning of the name “Asilomar”: Spanish for “Refuge by the sea”
Northern start of Asilomar Coastal Trail at Jewell Ave.: 36.63148, -121.9367
Southern end at Spanish Bay: 36.61950, -121.94125
Parking: On street parking and lots along Sunset Drive
Accessibility: The Asilomar Coastal Trail is mostly level. The Dune trail leading to the Conference Grounds is a boardwalk, but sometimes is sand covered. A beach wheelchair is available for use at no charge, by reservation only. Call ahead for its use at either 831/372-8016 or 831/646-6440.
Other Facilities: No restrooms or picnic tables along the beach.
Organization: California State Parks Department
Behind the fence in the above photo, you can see the Asilomar Coastal Trail, which extends the length of the beach, approximately 1 mile. There are small trails which branch off from the main trail allowing you to climb out on the numerous rocky promontories, one of which can be seen above.
At low tides, these are great places to tide pool. However, you can only observe the marine life. Asilomar Beach is part of the Asilomar State Marine Reserve which allows no taking of marine life nor fishing.
The Monterey Bay Sanctuary Foundation has just put together a Google Earth tour of the area’s Marine Protected Areas and that can be found at this link (opens in a new tab). There is lots of good information to be found here about this and the other marine protected areas found on the Central California coast.
Asilomar Beach stands at the western side of the the Monterey peninsula which tends to expose it to rougher surf conditions. That is certainly why you will almost always see surfers here.
The water is a bit colder as the currents bring water up from the great depths of Monterey Bay Canyon. This undersea canyon is still quite a mystery, but research facilities have been working diligently to unlock the secrets that lie just a few miles offshore.
The “DANGER” sign above isn’t found at Asilomar, but at Lampton Cliffs further south in Cambria. That doesn’t mean, however, that the same warnings aren’t applicable here. They definitely are. Don’t fear the ocean. But do respect it and don’t belittle the dangers that are always there.
The conference center that is part of this state park was created in 1913 by the YWCA as a facility for training college aged women for leadership roles. They operated this facility until 1956 when it was sold to the state.
One of the nice features of the center is the Julia Morgan architecture of most of the buildings. You might remember that name if you have read about or been to Hearst Castle down the road in San Simeon. Morgan was the architect to William Randolph Hearst for the building of his palatial estate on the hilltop.
The state Parks Department especially wanted to restore the dunes that stood originally between the beach and the center. They have done that and taken out non-native plants and restored native growth.