What to See in Winter (Dec, Jan, Feb)

Pacific migrations are in full force in Winter. This is a time when the California Central Coast is teaming with migratory wildlife.

Staff favorites for Winter nature viewing in the California Central Coast.

The California Central Coast is the only place in the United States where Monarchs consistently migrate to overwinter. Witness this inspiring and beautiful phenomenon November through mid-February. Don't miss it. It is an endangered migration and they need your help. The monarchs begin to cluster in the overwintering sites in early November with their peak population late November to early December. Monarch mating usually begins in early February. See the Monarchs.

The male bulls begin to arrive at central coast breeding grounds and fight for dominance around late November. The pups are born around the last two weeks in January. Find your way to one of the rookeries at Ano Nuevo or San Simeon to witness the truly amazing relationships between seals.

  • Winter bird highlights

Walk out to the tip of Point Pinos for a rare land-based view of pelagic seabirds, which normally feed much farther offshore and are thus seldom seen. Or, even better, go on a pelagic bird-watching boat trip (you’re sure to see marine mammals at the same time). Among the many pelagic birds that visit Monterey Bay in the winter, look for Albatross, Storm Petrels, and Alcids (including the Ancient Murrelet, Auklets, and the Tufted Puffin).

  • Winter whale, dolphin, and porpoise highlights

Although you can see whales year-round in Monterey Bay, look for Gray whales migrating south to Baja California to have their babies mid-December through mid-February, peaking in mid-January. In general, November through February is a great time to also view Risso's dolphins, Long-Beaked Common dolphins, Pacific White-Sided dolphins, and Dall's porpoise.

  • Mushrooms

If the California rains behave, then January is great for mushrooms. Check out the mushroom varieties at the Santa Cruz Fungus Fair.

  • Winter geology highlight

The best time to find Big Sur jade is after a big winter storm. Where’s the best place? Jade Cove, just south of Plaskett Point in Big Sur. To reach the narrow beach at Jade Cove, walk along a brushy trail and clamber down the cliff, holding on to a rope to the water level. For easier access, drive a bit further south to Willow Creek. Look for green pebbles in tide pools between boulders. Then try scratching them with a knife. If you can scratch a pebble, it’s serpentine. If not, it’s nephrite - Big Sur jade. We encourage "catch and release" rock hounding; please leave the jade for all to find and enjoy. Jade Cove is protected as part of the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary.

Have you seen the world's largest octopus or the world's smallest squid? Don't miss the aquarium's new exhibition Tentacles: The Astounding Lives of Octopuses, Squids, and Cuttlefishes.

  • Tide pools

  Check the Tide Charts for a low tide: Pacific Grove, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Morrow Bay.


Check the Tide Charts for a low tide: Pacific GroveMontereySanta CruzMorrow Bay.


Staff favorites for Winter cultural sites and events in the California Central Coast.

This theatrical troupe was founded in 1965 as the cultural arm of the United Farm Workers. The December theatrical performances in the San Juan Batista Mission are the most beloved. 

Meander through the streets of old Monterey where costumed docents and musicians open the historic adobes as if they were showing their personal homes. Tickets go on sale around October.

Oldest standing lighthouse on the west coast. ...and it is beautiful!

Walk through historic and beautiful architecture of Julia Morgan; noted California architect. Stroll the restored Dunes while gazing at the Bay. Asilomar State Park is a perfect blend of culture and nature.

Amazing showcase of Central Coast California artists — past and present.

As the birthplace of California, the collection of historic sites in old Monterey is part of the heritage of all Californians. Call ahead to find what sites are open and tour times (831.649.7118)

John Steinbeck novels come to life at this museum created in his honor. Book and movie memorabilia highlight his work as Steinbeck's life story of being raised in the central valley comes to life.