Excellent for scuba diving, the waters off Monterey are also teeming with game fish. Among the public fishing boats are Chris' Fishing Trips, 48 Fisherman's Wharf (tel. 831/375-5951; www.chrissfishing.com). Cod and salmon are the main catches, with separate boats leaving daily. Call or log on to the website for a price list and departure schedule. Check-in is 45 minutes before departure, and equipment rental costs a bit extra.
Several outfitters rent kayaks for a spin around the bay. Contact Monterey Bay Kayaks, 693 Del Monte Ave. (tel. 800/649-5357 or 831/373-5357; www.montereykayaks.com), on Del Monte Beach north of Fisherman's Wharf, which offers instruction as well as natural history tours that introduce visitors to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and nearby Elkhorn Slough, one of the last remaining estuaries in California. Prices start at $45 for the tours, from $25 for rentals.
For bike rentals and kayak tours and rentals, contact Adventures by the Sea, 299 Cannery Row (tel. 831/372-1807; www.adventuresbythesea.com). Bikes cost $7 per hour or $24 per day, and kayaks are $30 per person or $50 for a 2 1/2-hour tour. Adventures by the Sea has another location at 210 Alvarado St. (tel. 831/648-7235), by the Portola Plaza Hotel.
Experienced scuba divers can contact Monterey Bay Dive Charters (tel. 831/383-9276; www.montereyscubadiving.com), which arranges personal dives with a dive master and has scheduled weekend dives. Aquarius Dive Shop, 2040 Del Monte Ave. (tel. 831/375-1933; www.aquariusdivers.com), also has regularly scheduled trips and dive masters. Certification cards are required.
If the kids need to let off some steam, take them to the Dennis the Menace Playground, at Camino El Estero and Del Monte Avenue, near Lake Estero (tel. 831/646-3860), an old-fashioned playground created by Pacific Grove resident and cartoonist Hank Ketcham. It has bridges, tunnels, and an authentic Southern Pacific Railroad engine teeming with wannabe conductors. There's also a hot-dog-and-burger stand, and a big lake where you can rent paddle boats or feed the ducks. The park is open daily from 10am to sunset.
The Otters, Seals & Birds of the Elkhorn Slough
One of my favorite coastal stops is Moss Landing, 25 minutes north of Monterey on Hwy. 1, home of Captain Yohn Gideon's Elkhorn Slough Safari (tel. 831/633-5555; www.elkhornslough.com). For $32 for adults or $24 for children 3 to 14, friendly Cap'n Gideon loads guests onto a safe, 27-foot pontoon boat and embarks on a 2-hour tour of the Elkhorn Slough Wildlife Reserve. It's not uncommon to see a "raft" of up to 50 otters, feet up and sunning themselves; harbor seals; and hundreds of species of waterfowl and migratory shorebirds. An onboard naturalist answers questions, Cap'n Gideon educates on the surroundings, and binoculars are available.
Monterey Bay's Coastal Bike Trail
If your kids are spending way too much time playing video games, drag them kicking and screaming to ride bikes along the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail. The paved waterfront trail, which was once the tracks of the Southern Pacific Railroad, stretches 18 miles from Castroville in the north to Pacific Grove in the south, then continues as a bike lane to the entrance of the fabled 17-Mile Drive, rated one of the top bicycle rides in the nation (and there's no entrance fee for bicyclists).
The scenery all along the Coastal Trail is spectacular, and there's a very good chance you'll spot numerous sea lions and sea otters (blue whales even). There are several places to stop and get a bite to eat on the trail, or you can pack a picnic and spread out a blanket on one of the trail's many grassy areas. Even dogs are allowed on a leash. If you can't bring your own bikes, I recommend renting 24-speed hybrid bikes in Monterey at Adventures by the Sea (299 Cannery Row, Monterey; tel. 831/372-1807; www.adventuresbythesea.com) for $25 per day, which includes a lock and helmet. Believe me folks -- a day spent cruising along this wonderful trail will be one of the highlights of your summer.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.