Our next stop in California was along the coast between Santa Cruz and Monterey, at the Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay KOA (creative name, I know). At over $50 per night (before our member discount) for the most basic campsite, this was by far the most expensive campground we’d stayed in yet. In fact, we chose to stay an extra night in San Francisco because the weekend rate for the same site was over $70.
On the road again…
Not a bad place to pullover to change a diaper and have a little snack!
It is a popular area to visit, and nearly every campground we were able to find ahead of time was $45+ for basic electricity and water hookups. The KOA boasted some great extra features, so we chose to go there. In fact, as I was checking in, I overheard a conversation between and employee and a man who came in. He was upset by how much it cost and she said, “Sir, some campgrounds are places where you sleep while you spend your days doing other things. We are ourselves a destination. The site you are interested in goes for over $100 per night in the summer and it is never empty.” Wow. Aside from this little bit of attitude, we really liked this place. But I’m not sure I liked it enough to pay $100+ a night to camp there.
They had a nice pool that was temperature-controlled, and a hot tub. They had a “beach area” with lots of sand, a giant trampoline-like “jumper” for kids, and probably a lot more when it’s peak season. It was also a 20-30 minute walk to a state beach. We were there for two nights, and during the full day that we spent there we enjoyed all those things – the beach, the pool and hot tub, and the jumpy-thing. The weather was great, though a little too cool for swimming, even in the warm-ish pool and certainly in the Pacific. But we had a nice time.
Can I have the camera please?
Queen of the Sand!
On the day we left, we stopped on our way south and spent a little time walking around Monterey. There’s a really nice walking/jogging/biking path that follows the water, so we walked on that for a while. It goes all the way down to the aquarium and some other somewhat well-known activities, but we didn’t plan to go to all of those and in the end decided not to walk that far. We explored the Old Fisherman’s Wharf for a little while, which is not all that exciting to be honest. It’s mostly overpriced souvenir shops and seafood restaurants. We saw a few pelicans, and there were a few sea lions, but not nearly as many as we saw in Crescent City, and to get anywhere near them you had to pay a shop owner $2 a person to go down his steps. We walked along the water, enjoyed the nice weather, and ate a picnic lunch. Before getting back on the road, we visited the Denis the Menace playground. It’s a free public park that has one of the best playgrounds I’ve ever seen.
Sailboats at the Wharf
Sea lions are fun!
One of the best playgrounds around!
A drink from the lions mouth
We could not believe how long she could hold her own weight on this thing!
The big kids weren’t letting her have a turn on this slide so she tried to slide down on the side. It didn’t work so well, poor thing.
Finally she was willing to ask them to let her have a turn on the cool roller slide!
Peter’s not about to be left out of the action!
So many great new things to try here!
Here’s a campground review:
Price: $93 for 2 nights, after KOA member discount, taxes, and “resort fees”
Location: It’s about a 30 min drive north of Monterey and about 15 min south of Santa Cruz. As mentioned, it’s close to the coast and state beach access is an easy walk that takes about 20-30 min. There is parking available at the beach for those who choose to drive, but there is a parking fee.
Facilities: Abundant. A great playground, pool, hot tub, coin laundry, dish-washing sink, and the list goes on. The bathrooms and showers were fine, but far from the nicest we’ve encountered along our way. I guess it surprised me because everything else was so top-notch (and had the price to match).
Site description: Sandy grass-ish site with a decent picnic table and some trees along the back that offered a bit of shade. Slightly larger than the average KOA sardine-sites.
Neighborhood: Very varied, though we encountered more non-American tourists here than anywhere else. There were a lot of rented RVs and a wide variety of languages to be heard.
Comments: On the second morning when we woke up, there was no power in the whole area, including the KOA. This meant not only no power but no water either. No flushing toilets or showers or drinking water. We made do because we had filled our water jug the night before and we were leaving that morning anyway. But the employees said it happens there often – circumstances outside their control- but still something to be aware of (keep your water jugs full!). There was talk of KOA getting it’s own generator to avoid this in the future, so hopefully it won’t be an issue for anyone else. I’d also like to comment that the employees were very helpful when our car battery was dead (again) on the morning we were leaving, and they helped get us on the road again.
We forgot to take pictures before we packed up the camper.
Another angle on the empty campsite