Any native Northern Californian knows that there’s only one really great place in the region to get certified in scuba diving—the Monterey Bay. Even if you go to a dive school up in the Bay Area, they’ll take you down to Monterey for your open-water dive. Accordingly, dozens of dive schools cluster in and around the town of Monterey (check Carmel and Santa Cruz as well, if you prefer).
A local’s favorite, Bamboo Reef (614 Lighthouse Ave., 831/372-1685) offers SCUBA lessons and rents equipment just a few blocks from popular dive spots, including Breakwater Cove.
Another of your many dive shop options is the Aquarius Dive Shop (2040 Del Monte Ave., 831/375-1933, Mon.-Fri. 9am-6pm, Sat.-Sun. 7am-6pm). Aquarius offers everything you need to go diving out in Monterey Bay, including air and nitrox fills, equipment rental, certification courses, and help booking a trip on a local dive boat. Aquarius works with five boats to create great trips for divers of all interests and ability levels. Call or check the website for current local dive conditions as well.
Kayaking and Stand Up Paddleboarding
With all the focus on sustainable tourism in Monterey, coupled with the lovely recreation area formed by Monterey Bay, it’s no wonder that sea kayaking is popular here. Monterey’s coastline is as scenic a spot as any to learn to stand up paddleboard (SUP). Whether you want to try paddling for the first time or you’re an expert who hasn’t brought your own gear out to California, you’ll find a local outfit ready and willing to hook you up.
Adventures by the Sea (299 Cannery Row, 831/372-1807, summer daily 9am-8pm, winter daily 9am-8pm, tours $60 pp, rentals $30/day) rents kayaks for whole days to let you choose your own route in and around the magnificent Monterey Bay kelp forest. If you’re not confident enough to go off on your own, Adventures offers tours from Cannery Row. Your guide can tell you all sea otters, pelicans, seagulls, and maybe even a whale in the wintertime! The tour lasts about 2.5 hours and the available tandem sit-on-top kayaks make it a great experience for school-age children. Adventures by the Sea also run a tour of Stillwater Cove at Pebble Beach. Reservations are recommended for all tours, but during the summer the Cannery Row tour leaves regularly at 10am and 2pm, so you can stop by on a whim and see if there’s a spot available.
Right on Monterey Beach, Monterey Bay Kayaks (693 Del Monte Ave., 800/649-5357, tours $50-60 pp) specializes in tours of central Monterey. (There’s also a branch up in Moss Landing on the Elkhorn Slough.) You can choose between open-deck and closed-deck tour groups, beginning tours perfect for kids, or long paddles designed for more experienced sea kayakers. Check the website for specific tour prices, times, and reservation information. If you prefer to rent a kayak and explore the bay on your own, Monterey Bay Kayaks can help you with this too. If you really get into it, you can also sign up for closed-deck sea kayaking classes to learn about safety, rescue techniques, tides, currents, and paddling techniques.
Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Coastal California.