Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park
One of the tallest lighthouses in America, the 115-foot Pigeon Point Lighthouse has stood proud since 1872, the year it began to guide mariners from its perch on the central California coast. Today the lighthouse and the hostel are part of a California State Historic Park. Half-hour guided history walks around the grounds are available from State Parks docents on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., weather permitting.
Note: The interior of the lighthouse itself is closed to visitors, pending restoration work.
Hostel guests should make time to revel in our oceanside hot tub, perched on the coast above soaring brown pelicans, languid Pacific harbor seals, and migrating gray whales.
The hot tub is available from 4:00 - 10:55 p.m., and is open only to overnight guests. The cost is $7 per person for a half-hour session, with a two-person minimum and a four-person maximum. Hot tub reservations are available at check-in.
The gray whale northern migration season from March - May is a great time of year to visit us. Watch the majestic animals spout, sound, spy-hop, and breach from the boardwalk behind our fog signal building. The gray whale makes one of the longest mammalian migrations, averaging 10,000 - 14,000 miles round trip. Mothers and calves travel very near shore on the northbound migration.
Note: Many guests consider the migration the most spectacular event of the year, so reservations are highly recommended during the season, especially for weekend stays.
On the south side of the Pigeon Point Lighthouse is Whaler's Cove, a series of small sheltered beaches and coves that face southwest and are protected from the prevailing northwesterly winds. From the lighthouse, you can descend the the stairway to the beach below, or walk the bluffs above the cove along Mel's Lane walking trail.
Portuguese whalers arrived at Punta de la Ballena in the 1860s and shore-whaled from this point and cove for over a decade. Small sailing boats with paddle oars launched out of the cove to chase down the gray and humpback whales that frequent this coastline. Whalers then rowed their catch back to the beach, where the blubber was flensed and boiled to make the valuable whale oil ready for market. Just west of Whaler's Cove is the old Pigeon Point Wharf that jutted out over the rocky islands to the south of the lighthouse, and supplied coastal schooners with timber and agricultural products during the turn of the century.
Walk a mere 100 yards north of the hostel during low tides, and you'll see a colorful array of starfish, crabs, mussels, abalone, sea anemones, and other marine animals on display every day. We keep a tide chart in our reception office, or you can check local tides on this website.
Just across the highway from the hostel is Pescadero Marsh, a large coastal estuary that's considered the area's top destination for bird watchers and other naturalists. Thousands of northbound birds (more than 150 species) pass through the popular feeding and nesting ground, including loons, scoters, brant cormorants, and gulls. The marsh is also a refuge for blue heron, kites, deer, raccoons, foxes, and skunks.
Butano State Park
Just 5 miles from the hostel, you can hike through giant 1,000-year-old redwoods at Butano State Park. The 2,200-acre reserve features miles of hiking trails in a secluded redwood-filled canyon. Guided nature walks are offered during the summer.
Año Nuevo State Park
North America's largest native mammals -- elephant seals -- return to the California coast for breeding season every mid-December - April. Located 7 miles south of the hostel, Año Nuevo State Park is the world's largest mainland breeding ground for elephant seals. Naturalist-guided walks are available on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, from December 15 - March 31. These tours are extremely popular and tickets can be difficult to come by.
These tours are extremely popular and tickets can be difficult to come by. Through a partnership with the park, we're able to secure advance tour tickets for our guests. Tickets are $7 per person; ask to reserve them when you book your hostel stay.