Bring your family and enjoy the elephant seals at Ano Nuevo State Park

If you are a nature lover, there is a habitat for elephant seals on the California coast that you have not conquered.

Visit between December and March

During the mating season from December to March, nature walks led by Año Nuevo National Park can learn about the habits and habitats of one of nature's most powerful creatures, the elephant seal.

The main attraction is always the northern elephant seals, which can weigh 2.5 pounds, but other visible species include sea lions, otters and harbors.

It is fun to watch the big bulls fight for dominance on the beach and do their thing to attract the waiting ladies. At the end of the party, many females – one year pregnant – are born in the sand. He then travels to the ocean until next year and calls for enjoyment.

Interesting history

Persecuted to extinction in the nineteenth century, the population of elephant seals decreased to about 100 animals. Under the protection of the US and Mexican governments in the early twentieth century, the population grew to about 150,000.

The first sightings of elephants in Año Nuevo began in the 1950s. The first puppies were born on land in the '70s, and by the mid-'90s the number of local births was in the thousands.

This is successful protection in action!

Other seasons

In March, even after the main group has moved into unknown parts, puppies and several hundred elephant seals are left to rest and recover along the beach and stop – not as lively as mating, but still worth seeing.

Be warned, on warm sunny days, there is nothing quite like the aroma of an icy seal elephant.


Just off the mainland sits the island of Año Nuevo. The barren and windy island is home to 19th-century lighthouse remains. The historic guard house shown above was built in 1872 and now provides shelter to a multitude of cormorants and sea lions.

Get ready for a mini workout

You will walk about 3 kilometers while touring Año Nuevo. Wear comfortable clothing, especially shoes, as a guided walk will guide you through a variety of terrains, including sand dunes, and you know what it is like to trumpet in the sand.

Also, wear appropriate headgear as tours go, rain or shine – and parasols are not allowed.

NOTE: A walkway is available via van for those who need mobility assistance. Ask for details when purchasing tour tickets.

For more information on visits with fascinating elephant seals, visit the park's website.

There is also a valuable Marine Education Center located within the boundaries of the park with interesting animals, plants and geological exhibits, along with information on the area's colorful history.

If you go

Año Nuevo State Park is located on California Road 1, about 20 miles north of Santa Cruz, 35 miles south of Half Moon Bay, and about 60 miles south of San Francisco.

Treat yourself and your family to a visit for magnificent elephant seals. We recommend it. The scenic ride of the iconic Highway 1 is the icing on the cake.

Happy travels!