American Oceans
Sea Lion Sun Bathes on Rock

Where to See Sea Lions in California

When visiting California, one of the most popular attractions is the beach. Though some may go to beaches to swim, walk on the shore, or build sand castles, many people like to watch for sea lions and seals. 

However, it can be hard to find these animals if you’re not sure where to look. Additionally, it is important to do so safely. 

Read on to find out where you can see sea lions in California!

Best Places to See Sea Lions in California

Though it may be obvious, the best place to find sea lions is on the coast. Let’s take a look at some of the best seal and sea lion watching areas in California.

La Jolla

Sea Lions on Beach in La Jolla

One of the most popular places to see sea lions in California is La Jolla Cove. La Jolla is a neighborhood located in San Diego, California, and is well known for the abundance of sea lions and seals on its beaches.

Here, sea lions can be seen across the shoreline and on the rocks in the cove, whereas seals can be seen on “Seal Rock” or at Children’s Pool Beach, a section not far from the cove. 

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Sea Lions on Rock in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Point Lobos is a state park located on the coast of California in between Los Angeles and San Francisco. 

This is a great place to see sea lions and seals due to its location and status as a reserve. This location even has a trail called “Sea Lion Point Trail.”

On this trail, you may see sea otters, harbor seals, and sea lions!

San Simeon 

Sea Lions on Beach in San Simeon

San Simeon, a town in California, is another great place to visit if you’re looking to see sea lions and elephant seals.

More specifically, The Piedras Blancas Rookery is an elephant seal rookery you can visit for free in the area. The seals may be seen year-round, but the peak season includes: January, April, and October. 

San Francisco

Sea Lions on Docks at PIER 39

San Francisco, a city in Northern California is known for many things, but also offers a great location for sea lion watching. 

Specifically, many visit Pier 39 to see these marine animals. They can be found on the decks below the pier where restaurants, shopping, and entertainment is offered. 

Monterey Bay 

Sea Lions on Rock in Monterey Bay

Monterey Bay is a bay not far from Point Lobos State Park. Sea lions have been spotted here for many years and can be seen year round.

Similarly to Pier 39, the animals can be seen on docks and boats and sometimes even along the shoreline. 

Pacific Coast Highway

Pacific Coast Highway

If you’re looking for more of a road trip-style visit, Pacific Coast Highway is the way to go. This highway will lead you through all of the spots above and more.

Taking a drive down Pacific Coast Highway will leave you with numerous locations to spot sea lions and seals while creating memorable photos and unforgettable memories. 

How to Tell Seals and Sea Lions Apart

As you may have noticed, many of the locations above will provide you with the opportunity of seeing sea lions as well as seals.

So how can you tell the difference?

Well, there are a few quick characteristics you can use to identify whether the animal is a sea lion or seal.

First, their flippers. Sea lions have large flippers that they walk on while seals have small flippers and wiggle on their stomachs to move around on beaches. 

Second, their color. Sea lions are usually a brown color while seals can be a bit darker and spotted. 

Lastly, sea lions have external ears while seals just have holes rather than external flaps.

Things to Remember

Before you take your trip to see the sea lions and seals, there’s a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, it is essential to remember to treat these animals with respect. 

This means keeping your distance and not over-stimulating the seals and sea lions by yelling or taking close pictures. While they’re on display, they’re still wild animals and it is best for the safety of you and the animals to treat them respectfully.

Additionally, it is important to leave the area you visited clean. This means no litter or food waste. On top of this, it is best not to feed the animals. 

Overall, it is clear the options are endless for spotting sea lions and seals on California beaches. As long as you stick to the coast, you should have no problem spotting these fun sea animals!

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