The hottest dating scene around Valentine’s Day is on the beach at Año Nuevo State Park. If you want to show your kids true love and big squirmy elephant seals fighting for the prettiest girl on their stretch of sand, February is the peak of this incredible phenomenon. Each year, thousands of elephant seals swim all the way from Hawaii and Alaska to congregate and mate right at Año Nuevo State Park south of Pescadero. They start arriving in December and leave in early April when the new generation is born and ready to swim out.
The only way to view these gigantic creatures is to reserve tickets online for guided tours at the park. Led by expert docents who know everything about the seals, the tours are immensely popular. They leave from the visitor center every half hour during the season (until mid-march) and will give your kids the experience of a lifetime. Think about it: who wouldn’t be amazed by an animal that can swim up to 11 mph beneath the surface and slows down its heart beats to 2 per minute just to preserve energy? Don’t forget they’re also adept at fending off the world’s scariest predators: great white sharks and killer whales. It’s a wild world out there, and the elephant seals are the closest you’ll ever get to wild aquatic life except at SeaWorld.
Dress in layers to hike amongst the sand dunes. Depending on when you go, you’ll see elephant seals lying on the beach, fighting to gain a female’s attention, or cute pups only a few days old inching their way to the ocean to feed (not become dinner). Weighing a few tons each, these animals are massive and dangerous so follow your docent’s advice and keep a safe distance from the wildlife. And when you go, leave your dog at home. No pets are allowed in the park.
Have fun and don’t forget your camera. This is a day your kids will want to share with their friends.
Details: Año Nuevo State Park, For information (not reservations), call 650-879-2025, 8:30 am – 4:30 pm. For reservations, call 1-800-444-4445, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (6:00 pm after February 28). Before you go, read the Año Nuevo Guided Walks brochure.