Año Nuevo State Park is home to one of the world’s largest colonies of the Northern Elephant Seal, which is native to the California coast and Mexico’s Baja peninsula.
The species was nearly hunted to extinction by blubber oil traders in the 19th century. Thankfully, they are now protected by law in both the U.S. and Mexico.
You can observe the seals going about their daily life during a naturalist-guided walking tour to the colony’s rookery.
Tours are conducted Dec 15 – Mar 31; last 2.5 hours; and are moderately strenuous, traversing 3 miles (4.8 km) over rolling dunes of sand.
Tours $7, reservable online starting late October.
You must join a guided tour to view the seals up close. It is illegal to get within 25 feet (7.6 m) of an elephant seal.