Tourist Info

See the elephant seals at Piedras Blancas

Elephant seals relax on the beach south of the Piedras Blancas lighthouse in March. Tribune photo by David Middlecamp
Elephant seals relax on the beach south of the Piedras Blancas lighthouse in March. Tribune photo by David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

The elephant seals aren’t to be missed and make an easy stop on your way to or from Hearst Castle.

The blubbery creatures haul themselves onto the beaches north of San Simeon, where they lay in the sun, forge harems and mate, battle challengers, give birth, molt, honk and sprinkle themselves with sand. Watch them lurch to the water’s edge then glide gracefully through the water, playing and poking their heads up to look around.

Drive north of Cambria along Highway 1 for about 11 miles to the viewing area near Piedras Blancas, just south of the lighthouse. In the Plaza del Cavalier in San Simeon, there’s a visitor center with gifts and educational information, run by the nonprofit Friends of the Elephant Seal. At the viewing site, there’s a boardwalk and signs with information. Often there are also docents to answer questions.

November through February is the best time to watch the seals because they are mating and giving birth to their pups. In the summer, the beaches are less populated but the viewing is still fun because the huge bull seals — some weighing two tons — come for their annual molt.

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