Carmel River State Beach is popular with divers, kayakers, and birders. Only a mile long, Carmel River State Beach includes the Carmel River Lagoon and Wetlands Natural Reserve, a popular birding area, and Monastery Beach, a popular diving area directly north of Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. This beach was an important spot for the Rumsien tribe. A cross at the beach commemorates one placed there by Spanish explorers in the 17th century. Swimming is not recommended at Carmel River State Beach, as the water is known for its unpredictable riptides.


Carmel River State Beach is a popular kayak launch spot. It has easy access to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Take a good look at the deeper ocean before you launch; the unusual drop-off near shore at Carmel River State Beach can make the sea look deceptively calm if you are only eyeing the waves at the shore.


The most popular diving spot at Carmel River State Beach is Monastery Beach, named after the Monastery of Our Lady and St. Theresa just across Highway 1. The kelp forests in the area provide a home to a wide array of marine life. This beach has a significant drop-off, leading to steep rocky pinnacles that are a diver favorite.

Carmel River State Beach can have severe riptides, and due to its steep drop-off can look deceptively calm. Please be cautious if diving at Carmel River State Beach. Divers are advised to enter at the far north or far south end only, and to avoid the center.


Carmel River State Beach is a stop on the Central Coast Birding Trail. While fall and winter is considered the best season for birding in the area, birders are likely to spot many species no matter the season.

The Carmel River Lagoon and Wetlands Natural Preserve is located at the north end of Carmel River State Beach. It is a good area for spotting the Great Blue Heron, the Virginia Rail, the Brown Pelican, the Greater Yellowlegs, and many types of gulls, egrets and terns. Follow the river upstream from the lagoon to spot Downy Woodpeckers, several breeds of Vireos and Warblers, and many more birds,

Map and Directions

From Highway 1, head west on Rio Road (one mile south of Ocean Avenue). Turn left on Carmelo Street to access the parking lot.

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