COMPASS Coastal California COMPILED BY PAT HENDERSON Whales and trails in Monterey Whale watching at Monterey Bay Horseback riding at Moss Landing State Beach Point Lobos State Natural Reserve “Monterey County features nature at its best,” says Tammy Blount, president and CEO of the Monterey County CVB. “The spectacular scenery includes 99 miles of stunning Pacific surf, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, enchanting forests, majestic redwoods, sprawling vineyards and beauti- ful beaches. In addition to checking out the area’s signature spots—Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, the scenic 17-Mile Drive and the beaches of Carmel— groups can enjoy a range of nature-based experi- ences such as whale watching, kayaking, hiking, horseback riding and scuba diving. The presence of several species of whales along the county’s coastline makes nature cruises a favor- ite of visitors. During sightseeing excursions, gray whales, blue whales, orcas and humpbacks, as well as thousands of dolphins, are often spotted near Point Piños and Monterey Bay. “From whale watching year-round to bird watch- ing to viewing seals during pupping season, there are also a number of ways to view wildlife up close and personal,” adds Blount. Kayak tours on Monterey Bay and Elkhorn Slough offer a memorable way to have those types of close encounters. Whether travelers go on guided excur- sions or rent a kayak and paddle on their own, they can see harbor seals, otters, sea lions, whales, peli- cans, sandpipers, loons and more. The county also is home to hundreds of miles of great hiking trails. Visitors can discover many aspects of the area’s natural beauty as they walk through Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park’s redwood groves, birding hot spots in Pinnacles National Park, the for- ests of Point Lobos State Natural Reserve and Point Sur Lightstation’s volcanic terrain. Contact the CVB’s David Cater at dcater@seemonterey .com or go to seemonterey.com to find out more. Update on the Pacific Coast Highway 36 August/September 2017 Winter storms forced closures along the Pacific Coast Highway in the Big Sur area south of Monterey. While Big Sur and a number of other places along the Central Coast are open, parts of the scenic highway, including the section from Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge to Ragged Point, are currently closed. Status updates are available from the Monterey County CVB at seemonterey.com/resources/travel-alert.