China Cove and Gibson's Beach

Monterey, CA

You have to see China Cove and Gibson's Beach, at Point Lobos State Reserve, at least once in your life! What a gorgeous little cove! You can only see China Cove from above because it is now the home of mother seals and their babies, and has been blocked off. If you want to dig your toes into some perfect white sand though, you can walk down the steep staircase to Gibson's Beach next door. The water looks a bit rough and feels too cold for swimming though.
The water as you look down at China Cove isn't the slightest bit grey! It is crystal clear with hues of blue and green. Flowers cling to the cliffs that frame the cove. Spend a blissful hike just taking in the beauty of this place and watching the seals frolick about. With the sea-cave to the left of the beach it really looks like a place of magic where mermaids would live!
Be aware it is cold in Monterey- I was shivering even though I was in the full sun at noon with a sweater and jacket on, in the middle of summer! This area though can be sheltered from wind, so it makes a good choice if other parts of Monterey are blowing a gale.
Between China Cove and Gibson's Beach is Bird Rock, a huge white rock covered in happy cormorants. Here you may see sea otters playing in kelp offshore or harbor seals sunning on rocks just above the water.
On the drive to the Bird Island Trail there is another parking lot before Hidden Beach. If you stop here, your kids will enjoy playing with the pebbles on shore and watching the waves crash on the rocks and swoosh into a tiny cove. The rock formations here are interesting- the earth's crust has clearly been jammed right up by an earthquake at some time.
There are many trails that hug the cliffs. Explore each one- all are easy- and see what new views you discover with each turn!
To see China Cove and visit Gibson's Beach, you must visit Point Lobos State Reserve. It costs $10 per car but you can park outside the park along Highway 1 to avoid the fee or if the parking lots are full, which is often. Hike the South Plateau trail from the free parking, which is to the left of the entry booth. It takes you for 18 minutes through moss-strung trees and then along the cliffs to Gibson's Beach and Bird Island Trail, which is the trail you that gives you views over China Cove.
If you pay to enter the reserve, you can drive to the Bird Island Trail parking lot, at the end of the road, and hike the Bird Island Trail for six minutes to China Cove and Gibson's Beach.
There are restrooms at most of the parking lots.
While in Monterey, take a day to do the Big Sur Coastline Drive to San Simeon. It is something you will always remember!

Continue to pictures...

Spanish moss on the trees near the entrance to Point Lobos State Reserve.

Perfect Gibson's Beach.

Gibson's Beach- paradise!

The southernmost section of the South Plateau Trail, as it winds toward Pelican Point.

Bird Island area.

Flowers, kelp beds, Gibson's Beach, and then the pine-covered mountains.

The sea arch around the corner from China Cove.

Cormorants galore on Bird Rock.

Lovely little sea cave around the corner from China Cove.


A little girl enjoying herself at the shore (you can no longer go down to the beach at China Cove).

China Cove midday in late summer (now only seals are allowed to frequent the beach).

Little rocky cove near Hidden Beach, in Point Lobos State Reserve.

Gorgeous rocks near Hidden Beach.

Climbing on the rocks near Hidden Beach, in Point Lobos State Reserve.

Amazing scenery near Hidden Beach.

Little arch on the coastline at Point Lobos State Reserve.

A wonderland, near Hidden Beach.

Wonderful rocks!

Sweet flowers along the South Shore Trail at Point Lobos State Reserve.

Seal with tracking device on his head.

Climbing on the rocks by the ocean.

Little rocky cove near Hidden Beach.

The South Shore Trail goes past Hidden Beach.

Flowers on the Bird Island Trail.

A baby seal swimming by the mermaid cave at China Cove. What a perfect life!

The stairs from the parking lot to the Bird Island Trail, which takes you on the cliffs above China Cove.

Looking past the cypress trees to China Cove.

China Cove is idyllic- look at the color of the water!

Bird Island is covered in birds!

Looking down at green cliffs- wonderful!

Flowers on the cliff above China Cove.

Flowers along the trail.

Flowers above Gibson's Beach.

Stairs leading down to Gibson's Beach.

The memorable shoreline at Gibson's Beach.

A mother seal nurses her baby on the shore.

Take Highway 1 south from Monterey. Soon you will see signs for Point Lobos State Reserve. Pull into the driveway to the right, and pay $10 per car to enter. If it's full, park along Highway 1 and walk in for free (see directions above). At the booth, you can buy a great map for $2 that tells about the park and its trails. On weekends, expect a ten minute delay as you wait for everyone to pay at the booth.
The address for Point Lobos State Reserve is 62 California 1, Carmel-By-The-Sea CA 93923.


2015-04-30 12:51:21

The inept Point Lobos Reserve park staff closed access to the most beautiful corner of Point Lobos.


I visited this tiny beach as a child. My mom liked the protected nature of the cove and clear water which made it an idea spot to introduce small children to the ocean's edge.

I have returned many times, swimming through the stone tunnel from Gibson Beach on occasion.

There are so few spots in the world like this one.

I can't believe the taxpayer funded Park staff closed China Beach to public access.

(The spot is 5 star when you can walk down to it. Otherwise it's negative 100 because you see what you are missing.))


2011-02-14 21:34:00

Hi Bob, The shape of the beach looks similar, as does the water color. Both are so gorgeous! But the scene I think you are thinking of was filmed at Eternity Beach in Hawaii, which is also on our website!


2011-02-14 18:00:00

Was this the beach where part of "From Here to Eternity" with Bert Lancaster was filmed?)


2009-12-22 20:39:00

I feel a personal connection with this place. Can't wait to return.)


2009-10-21 22:00:00

We hiked around Point Lobos last September (08) and China Cove was closed due to the stairs falling apart; we tried to go down "at our own risk" but got called back up by the Ranger. It is a beautiful sight even from afar. We're going back this weekend (10/24/09) - hopefully it's open again and we can go down to explore and take in the beauty up close! )


2009-10-15 02:59:00

I truly had no idea such a paradise existed)

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Last Updated: Mon, 10 Oct 2022 15:06:21 GMT

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