The Central Coast of California spans for hundreds of miles between Monterey Bay and Point Mugu, from just northwest of Los Angeles County and south of San Francisco and San Mateo counties.
Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo is credited with discovering the Central Coast following his landing in Santa Barbara County in 1542 after sailing from the south. America's first motel is located in San Louis Obispo and you can catch a glimpse of the rugged California shore when you travel through the coastal communities of Big Sur, Morro Bay and San Simeon.
Santa Cruz is home to Natural Bridges State Beach, redwood forests and a moderate climate. The city was settled in 1791 and chartered in 1866 after the Mexican-American War when California became a state. An earthquake destroyed much of the city's downtown buildings in 1989. Since reconstruction, downtown Santa Cruz has become a bustling center for shopping, dining and attractions.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a popular maritime destination for visitors. The boardwalk's Neptune Kingdom features mini golf, an arcade, pool tables and laser tag. There are boardwalk rides for everyone in the family including the Giant Dipper and Bulgy the Whale - in fact, more than 60 million people have gone on the Giant Dipper roller coaster that opened in 1924. Another favorite attraction on the boardwalk is the 1911 Looff Carousel. This National Historic Landmark is a hand-carved merry-go-round that boasts a Ruth and Sohn band organ as well as a Wurlitzer 146.
Natural Bridges State Beach is famous for its natural bridge as well as ideal conditions for migratory whale, otter and seal watching. When you visit the beach you'll see sea stars, crabs and other ocean life during low tide. Also in the park is a large area of wildflowers that blossom in the spring, and Moore Creek creates freshwater wetlands and a salt marsh. Natural Bridges State Beach is also home to the Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve - during the winter months, up to 100,000 monarchs find refuge here.
Pacific Grove can be found between Point Pinos and Monterey. It's often referred to as one of America's last hometowns and known for its Victorian homes. There's a massive annual migration of monarch butterflies that makes its way through the city each year.
Asilomar State Beach is located on the Monterey Peninsula. Visitors to the beach can access coastal trails and the nearby Asilomar Dunes Natural Preserve. Asilomar State Beach is a one-mile strip of sandy shores and rocky coves with a ¾-mile walking trail. All marine animals and features at the beach are protected. There's a boardwalk at the beach that houses a number of buildings and halls, including a cafe for you to enjoy a cup of coffee and a gift shop to pick up a book to sit by the water and read.
[http://www.pointpinoslighthouse.org/ The Point Pinos Lighthouse] was lit in 1855 and remains a Coast Guard navigational aid today, making it the oldest active lighthouse in the state. The first lighthouse keep at Point Pinos was Charles Layton and after he died in 1855, Charlotte Layton became the first female lighthouse keeper on the West Coast. When you visit Point Pinos Lighthouse you can take a tour of the historic site and learn more about what is was like for lighthouse keepers who were in charge of ensuring the light was lit as well as the lighthouse's progression through history.
Carmel-by-the-Sea is a top destination in the U.S. and nestled above a white-sand beach. Everything in the city is within walking distance so you won't have any trouble navigating the streets to find hundreds of shops, restaurants, wine tastings and art galleries.
[http://aquariumofthebay.org The Monterey Bay Aquarium] sees nearly 2 million visitors each year. There are more than 600 species of animals on display, and thanks to its location near the water, the aquarium can enjoy a high circulation of fresh ocean water. There's a massive tank for viewing California coastal marine life which is also the first in the world to grow live California giant kelp. Sea life at the aquarium includes stingrays, jellyfish, sea otters as well as bluefin and yellowfin tuna. The penguins in the Splash Zone exhibit are a favorite among families visiting the aquarium and the zone houses African Black-Footed penguins.
Point Lobos State Reserve features Cypress forest, hidden coves, beaches and overlooks where you can catch a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. At Point Lobos you'll find one of the richest underwater habitats in the world, making it a favorite spot among divers. However, seals, sea lions and sea otters can be found swimming through the waters here, too. Scuba and free diving are popular activities among visitors to the reserve. Other favorite things to do at Point Lobos include sightseeing, photography and jogging. There are unique geological formations and endangered archeological sites that you won't see anywhere else.