Whale Watching in Monterey: Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Day 1

by Dec 13, 2015North America, USA, Video2 comments

I’ve been dreaming for years of driving the Pacific Coast Highway and was very excited to wake up early on a Sunday to start the drive. Day 1 of our PCH road trip took us from San Francisco to Monterey and included an amazing whale watching trip with Monterey Bay Whale Watching.

We chose well with our San Francisco accommodation (HI San Francisco Downtown Hostel) as it was literally right across the road from the Hertz office where we were picking up our rental car.

We went for a slightly larger than normal car and got a Nissan Rogue SUV as we’re still carrying some extra luggage that we’re planning to leave in Canada and New Zealand. It was a struggle just lugging our gear over the road but at least it all fit easily in our car.

GPS issues

I have a love/hate relationship with GPS for cars. I love them the few times they come in handy and correctly tell you what lane to be in on a massive LA multi-lane freeway and I hate them pretty much the rest of the time.

We bought a Garmin Nuvi 2597 because we have quite a bit of driving coming up both in California and Arizona and then again in New Zealand. To hire one from Hertz would have cost about the same as buying one after a week so buying made sense vs renting.

However I wouldn’t recommend the one we got.

The damn thing wouldn’t work in San Francisco (even though we tested it successfully from our Hostel before hopping in the car). When it did finally get a satellite signal it tried to direct us the wrong way down every one way street we drove past.

Since that rocky start it has continued to give some odd advice at times with random detours and round-about ways of getting to places. We’ve started putting in about 5 different interim destinations to make sure it doesn’t take us on some obscure detour on the way.

Once we knew not to rely on it we’ve not had any problems though. Nothing beats the old fashioned route of looking up maps and following street signs.

The drive from San Francisco to Monterey

Car acquired, GPS issues navigated (see what I did there), we drove through cloud and rain from San Francisco down to Daly City and on to California State Route 1, the famous coastal highway that follows the Pacific Coast.

The section from San Francisco is not the most scenic of the whole drive but we got our first glimpses of the beautiful coast and we were treated to some impressive swells as a little bit of a storm brought crashing waves.

Just before Monterey the weather came good and the sun came out. I love the “winter” weather here that has seen us in t-shirts and shorts most of the time.

We stayed at Casa Munras and got an upgrade to a nice little suite (very rare for us!). Instead of chilling in our nice hotel room though, we were off to see some whales.

Whale Watching in Monterey Bay

We’ve been on a few whale & dolphin watching trips in our time and we both usually have pretty poor luck. We have seen both whales and dolphins before but have often missed the boat that gets the amazing stuff (either being the one before or after ours).

After some research & learning about how good a spot for whale watching Monterey bay was, we had to go though. We chose to go with Monterey Bay Whale Watching and loved the boat and crew (including several cute dogs that Captain Nancy keeps onboard).

We were in for a great day and got to see Risso’s Dolphins, Seals, Sealions & Humpback whales. The Humpback whales were lunge feeding on Krill at the surface of the Sea – you can see one of the times they did this in our video at 3:26. While I was enjoying the show at the front of the boat, Dayna was turning green at the back unfortunately.

I eventually realised Dayna wasn’t feeling so well when I came back to find her and whilst I was sitting back there comforting her as she regretted not taking any medication for seasickness we had a huge Humpback whale breach and jump out of the water right in front of us. I think we were the only ones on the boat that saw it so maybe our Whale Watching luck has finally turned!

Have you been Whale Watching? Where’s the best place you’ve been and what did you get to see?

Click here to check out Big Sur and Day 2 of our Californian road trip.


More information on Whale Watching in Monterey

How long is the coastal drive from San Francisco to Monterey?

121 miles via the 1 which is about 3 hours drive (beware that google maps and GPS will default to the more boring but quicker inland route)

Monterey Bay Whale Watching

They regularly see Humpback whales & Dolphins and even see Killer Whales, Grey Whales & Blue Whales – check out what season to go and see each on their site (http://www.gowhales.com/). You can book online or just turn up before the sailings (we went on a 2pm sailing but there was also a morning one departing at 9am on the day we visited).

How much does a tour cost?

$41 per person for our tour that took about 3 hours (plus a tip for the crew)

*Some of the links used above are affiliate links – there is no difference in cost to you but we do get a small commission if you book or buy through the link. As always, we only ever recommend and link to accommodation that we have stayed at and thought was good or things that we use ourselves.