Travel Blog

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Santa Cruz County proudly serves as the gateway to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, one of Santa Cruz County’s most exquisite points of interest and an underwater world rich in biological resources. The sanctuary, designated by the Federal Government under the authority of the National Marine Sanctuary Act, is one of only 14 federally protected marine sanctuaries in the country. It is the second largest in the United States, and covers 5,322-square miles of ocean: nearly a quarter of the California Coastline. The sanctuary was established to increase awareness, understanding and stewardship of the Monterey Bay.


The Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail, eight interpretive displays dotting the coast from Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz south to Seacliff State Beach in Aptos.

Massive gray whales passing through the sanctuary on their annual migration from Alaska to Mexico in the winter months.

Divers can explore the lush kelp forests and rocky reefs of the sanctuary’s underwater marine environment. Or have fun while exploring the sanctuary by boogie boarding, surfing, windsurfing or kiteboarding.

The outdoor art on display at the Santa Cruz Harbor.  Two favorites are a “shipwreck” near Harbor Beach and a “human sundial” art exhibit near the Crow’s Nest Restaurant.

The blue-and-green signs at several locations on the wharf and elsewhere along the coast of Santa Cruz provide information accessible with a smart phone as part of a self-guided “ecotour” program sponsored by the City of Santa Cruz and UC Santa Cruz.


The Monterey Bay features an underwater canyon that stretches out over 60 miles from the coast and plunges to depths of over 10,000 feet – more than twice the depth of Arizona’s Grand Canyon.

The sanctuary is home to approximately 21 endangered and threatened animals which spend all or part of their lives there.

In addition to whale watching tours, fishing excursion and sailing charters journey out from Santa Cruz Harbor, as do kayak and stand up paddleboard rentals.

free water taxi at the Santa Cruz Harbor provides a quick tour of – as well as transportation around – this picturesque spot.

An intertidal touch-pool, man-made kelp forest and other exhibits showcase the sanctuary at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center near the wharf and Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz.

Docent-led tours offer a behind-the-scenes peek at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center at Long Marine Lab’s facilities and Younger Lagoon Natural Reserve.


We are able to enjoy a clean and beautiful marine sanctuary thanks to the many individuals – both residents and visitors – who care for it and use it wisely.

Here are a few ways to help:

  • Please do not throw solid or liquid trash into the ocean, down storm drains or on the beach
  • Do not remove animals from beaches or tide pools.
  • If you see an injured or abandoned animal, contact the nearest park ranger for help.  Don’t touch the animal.
  • Report anyone who is harming marine animals or destroying the ocean environment by calling 1.800.853.1964
  • Keep pets away from areas frequented by wildlife

For more ways to protect the sanctuary, visit

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