Monarch Viewing

Help us help monarchs
Sunning monarchs in Pacific Grove's monarch sanctuary

Sunning monarchs in Pacific Grove's monarch sanctuary

monarch cluster

monarch cluster


When is the best time of year to see the monarchs

You can begin to see monarchs cluster in Central Coast overwintering sites beginning in November. The monarch population peaks in size at the end of November to early December. Monarch mating season is in February around Valentine's day. The monarchs leave the California Central Coast around late February to the end of March.

The Museum's Monarchs Come Home exhibition is open year-round. Highlights of this exhibition include real specimens, amazing videos, vintage artifacts, a "cabinet of curiosities," and multiple hands-on opportunities--all wrapped in the most up-to-date scientific knowledge and artistic presentation.
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Where can I view monarchs in Monterey County? How much does it cost and is it ADA accessible?

 

Pacific Grove has one of the largest monarch overwintering sites in America and the largest population of overwintering monarchs in Monterey County for public viewing. Pacific Grove is a minute drive from the Monterey Bay Aquarium and minutes from Carmel-by-the-Sea.

The Monarch Sanctuary is located at 250 Ridge Road off of Lighthouse Avenue in beautiful downtown historic Pacific Grove and just 10 blocks from the Museum. Parking on Ridge Road is free. The sanctuary is maybe one block from the parking and it is ADA accessible. 

There are many trees in overwintering sites and when clustered high in the trees, monarchs can look like dead leaves and most untrained eyes will be unable to find them.

Museum docents are present everyday in Pacific Grove's Monarch Sanctuary from Nov to Feb from 12-3, weather permitting. Our docents significantly enhance your viewing experience with viewing scopes and their ability to answer your questions. Our docents are present from 12-3 because this is the warmest time of day and you will see both clustering behavior and monarchs flying around. It's beautiful.

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The sanctuary is a Pacific Grove municipal park and is freely open from sunrise to sunset. There is no admission fee. Donations to support the Museum monarch education and the monarch docent programs are deeply appreciated. 

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Where can I see monarchs in Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo Counties?

Look to Natural Bridges State Park for monarch viewing in Santa Cruz County. We strongly recommend calling the park prior to your visit 831-423-4609. Sometimes the Santa Cruz monarch population can congregate at a Lighthouse Field State Park and the park rangers will be able to give you the most accurate and timely viewing information.

The Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove is the largest public viewing of monarchs in San Luis Obispo County and is also one of the largest monarch overwintering sites in America. This sanctuary has a docent trailer on site open from 10 am to 4 pm with docent talks held everyday at 11 am and 2 pm.

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When is the best time of day to see the monarchs?

Monarchs can't fly when the temperature is below 55 degrees so if you visit in the morning when the temperature is cold, you may not be able to find them. There are many trees in overwintering sites and when clustered high in the trees, monarchs can look like dead leaves and most untrained eyes will be unable to find them.

Museum docents are present everyday in Pacific Grove's Monarch Sanctuary from Nov to Feb from 12-3 (weather permitting). Our docents significantly enhance your viewing experience with viewing scopes and their ability to answer your questions. Our docents are present from 12-3 because this is the warmest time of day and you will see both clustering behavior and monarchs flying around. It's beautiful.
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Monarch viewing etiquette

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Please take note of monarch viewing etiquette for the betterment of the monarchs, sanctuary neighbors, and the other people enjoying the sanctuary. 

  • Please stay on the paths. Monarchs often drink their water from the fog dew left on the ground. You could step on a monarch and never know it.

  • Dogs are not allowed in the Monarch Grove Sanctuary. (City ordinance 14.8.030)

  • Please be quiet out of respect to those living in neighboring houses, staying in hotel rooms around the sanctuary, and enjoying their own monarch viewing experience.

  • Do not touch or pick up the monarchs. The Pacific Grove Police Department continues to enforce strict regulations that prohibit the "molestation of butterflies." The fine? $1,000. 

  • Be careful around newly planted trees, flowers, and shrubs. The City of Pacific Grove manages the sanctuary grounds and often has new plantings to strengthen the habitat.

  • Leave only footprints on the paths; take away only photographs and great memories!

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What's the first thing that a monarch does when it emerges from its chrysalis?

When ready, the monarch chrysalis splits open along several joints, and the Monarch butterfly carefully emerges. Its wings are still folded and crumpled from confinement in the chrysalis, so the butterfly must pump fluid from its body into the wings, expanding them quickly to full size. The monarch must also assemble its proboscis, a straw-like tongue by which the monarch drinks nectar, which is in two pieces when it first emerges from the chrysalis. A female monarch has approximately 6 weeks to seek out nectar, mate, and lay eggs before she dies.

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