There’s something about nature and the ocean that has the ability to shrink life’s problems and bring out your inner curious child, and places like HI Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel exist so that travelers from near and far can reboot and reconnect. This coast side haven is perfectly perched at the edge of the Pacific in an area alive with a whole world of sea creatures appearing at low tide and an array of birds that live to feast on the spoils of the ocean, making it an excellent spot to get perspective and remember the beauty of the Earth. Whether you’re visiting for a day or for a few, it’s worth making the time to explore the natural jewels around this hostel. Here’s the scoop on where to see California’s coastal creatures.
Tide pools near HI Point Montara
You don’t have to go far to spy the alien-neon anemones, stony barnacles and spiny urchins of the area’s tide pools because HI Point Montara’s “back yard” is a cove where the unraveled blanket of ocean exposes the community of critters underneath. At this little beach, which is also open to the public, you’re likely to see everything from starfish and sea snails to hermit crabs and mussels. From December to May, you may even see grey whales breaching and slapping their tails against the blue as they migrate south in the winter and north in the spring time.
Once you’ve spent time getting acquainted with the tide pools closest to home, you can venture out to the beaches and coves near the hostel, like Ross’ Cove, a part of the magical Fitzgerald Marine Reserve where the protected tide pools are home to an even wider selection of invertebrates. Here you can see more crabs, sea stars and anemones and urchins of all colors and sizes, plus a selection of little camouflaged fish and elusive octopi. You can explore the area yourself, or take a docent-led tour so you can find out the names of the other-worldly animals you see, and if you can tear your eyes from the tide pools, you’re also bound to encounter a pod or two of harbor seals lazing and sunbathing on the rocks.
Tips for Tide Pooling
- Check the tide charts – you want a 0 or negative tide so that you can spend more time amongst the pools. The absolute best times are during a full moon, or new moon, each month.
- Be sure to wear sturdy shoes that can handle the slippery rocks, and bring a jacket or windbreaker.
- Never turn your back on the ocean, and be aware of the returning tide.
- Never pick up or take anything that belongs on the beach or in the ocean.
Bird watching at Pillar Point
As part of the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, Pillar Point is an all-in-one place for maritime adventures and more tide pooling. But as it’s also home to a protected marsh, there are many bright-winged birds to discover. The combination of salt and freshwater makes for excellent feeding grounds for all kinds of birds, and nearly 20% of all North American bird species have been spotted around the area. You may see a variety of species of hawks, water-loving fowls like loons, plovers and ducks, and sweet songbirds like sparrows and swallows. Find a quiet spot to sit and just watch and listen to the sounds of life in this rich environment, and you’ll find that from this window to the world, things that seem so big, like the differences between people, don’t seem so big at all.
Tips for bird watching
- Bring a pair of binoculars, a pen and a notebook to jot down any interesting sightings that may be helpful to environmentalists.
- Try to make as little noise as possible.
- Do not disturb any nests or birds.
- Be aware of the tides at Pillar Point as it’s possible to get trapped when the tides turn.
- Pillar Point is accessible year round, except during the annual Mavericks surfing competition.
- A bit further south, near HI Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel, the Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve is also home to hundreds of species of bird and offers docent-led tours.