Elephant Seals of San Simeon

San Simeon is a small town above Cambria and Morrow Bay that is known for two things, Hearst Castle and Elephant Seals. However, one of those two things is free to visits and the other is 25 dollars a person, so naturally I checked out the elephant seals along the San Simeon coast. These creatures are truly unique with their huge stature and overall playfulness. Wikipedia gives the following background on them.

Elephant seals derive their name from their great size and from the male’s large proboscis, which is used in making extraordinarily loud roaring noises, especially during the mating competition.  The males can grow to 14 ft and 5,000 lb, while the females grow to 11 ft and 1,400 lb.


The seals viewing area is located right off of Highway 1 before you start the trek along the coast through Big Sur. The viewing area can sneak up on you, so make sure you keep your eyes peeled once you pass through the city of San Simeon. There are signs letting you know it is coming up though so if you are paying attention your should be able to find it. You will usually see a lot of people here and a lot of seals, like the below picture.

seals 2

This is a popular attraction with many daily visitors and you can easily spend some time taking in the beautiful coast line that is adjacent to the seals. This is one of the most beautiful areas and you can see why the seals would want to come relax here.


You can only get about 25 feet from the seals at any given point. There is a long walk way that allows you to have many different views of them, but if you are going to take pictures make sure you bring a zoom lens so you can use it to capture fun shots.


The seals themselves are very playful, and they are always making noise and biting each other. You will notice that they are always throwing sand on their backs to protect themselves from the sun. It is funny to watch them do the worm up and down the beach as well.


The pictures may not show it, but these creatures are huge. I like the fact that I am on a viewing area because they appear to move pretty fast and outweigh the average human by 1100 pounds. Make sure you walk the whole length of the viewing area as there are more spots in the back where less people usually go. Plus the scenery is beautiful so you will want to take it all in.


If you find yourself in the area, don’t just visit Hearst Castle, spend some time with the elephant seals as well.

Check out the rest of the pictures and leave me a comment if you feel so inclined.


Center map

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  • wow great images

  • Great photos! For anyone thinking of checking out the seals, the best time of year is Dec-Feb (although I’ve heard there are some seals on the beach all year). At that time, the males (which have the characteristic elephant nose) are fighting and posturing to earn and defend their harem of females. Meanwhile the females are giving birth, the pups are learning to move around, and the adults are mating again. At that time of year the beach is MUCH more full of seals than what you saw. Plus the males are just indescribable… you have to see (and hear them) to believe it!

    My husband and I just visited a few weeks ago… check out how it looks in February:


    Be sure to stop and see the thousands of Monarch butterflies in Pismo beach since they are there the same time of year.

  • Joelle Seesing

    Last week I went on a road trip with my roommate starting from LA up to Gualala along the HWY 1. We stopped in to see the San Simeon Elephant Seals based on your recommendation and glad we did!

    At first we did not see any seals and chocked it up to maybe out of season, but then kept walking along the cliff edge, turned a corner and saw close to a hundred or so of them all pilled on top of each other.

    We jokingly refer to them as the seals we almost missed.

    Thanks for all your posts!

    • Thanks for the comment! I am glad you enjoyed the post!

  • abda0577

    I have been to see the elephant seals many times as I like to visit Cambria. What I would add is check out their website first and see when the best viewing times are. During their molting season, most of summer, they hardly move and almost appear like they are dead. But during other parts of the year they are much more active; mating, fighting, giving birth etc.

    • Thanks for the comment and good call on that recommendation! I will have to look at that and update the post as well!