7 Places to Spot California Sea Otters

California sea otters, also known as southern sea otters, inhabit the California coast, from Half Moon Bay to Santa Barbara. They are warm-blooded mammals, related to minks, weasels and skunks. Although undeniably adorable, these furry critters boast more than just a pretty face. Sea otters use tools; consequently scientists recognize them as one of the top 10 intelligent animals.

These amazing creatures live entirely at sea, making their home in kelp forests. In times past, southern sea otters could be seen all the way from Oregon to Baja California. Unfortunately, commercial hunting greatly decimated the species. Hunters seek sea otters for their fur because it is the thickest of any animal. In addition, numbers decreased because of natural predators like orcas and sea lions. All of this resulted in a smaller population as well as an 80% decrease in their coastal range. Sea otters have been classified as an endangered species.

While the survival of any species pulls on the heartstrings, the survival of the California sea otter affects the health of many other ocean animals, as well as the ocean itself. Sea otters help keep kelp forests healthy by eating animals that eat the kelp. So, the numbers of animals and amount of grazing is kept in check. In short, sea otters keep kelp forests healthy, which protects all of the animals that inhabit them. For this reason, sea otters have been recognized as a keystone species, meaning that their importance to their habitat is greater than their size and population would indicate.

Visit these otter-spots to catch a glimpse of the frolicking critters. The locations are listed below, from North to South.

7 Places to Spot California Sea Otters

1. Elkhorn Slough at Moss Landing, California

The Elkhorn Slough, located seven miles from Monterey Bay, boasts 125 of sea otters, not to mention seals, sea lions and 340 species of birds!

California sea otters can be found at Elkhorn Slough
Moss Landing, California Photo: Shuan Xiang

2. Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey, California

Monterey offers a lot of local fun at Fisherman’s Wharf. Eat at the fabulous restaurants, visit the aquarium and scan the coast for California sea otters.

3. Cannery Row in Monterey, California

Sea otter enthusiasts come to enjoy great food and family fun at the ocean-front hotels at Cannery Row. Located in Monterey, California.

California sea otters inhabit cannery row
Cannery Row, Monterey, California Photo: mana5280

4. San Simeon, California

See otters year-round at San Simeon, specifically at Piedras Blancas Light Station. In addition, enjoy whale-watching, monarch butterflies and other ocean animals. Located about 40 miles from San Luis Obispo.

5. Cayucos, California

Spot otters along the coast at this famous surfing beach. Cayucos sits between Cambria and Morro Bay.

Cayucos hosts California sea otters
Cayucos, California Photo: Ken Ohyama

6. Baywood Pier at Los Osos, California

This small boardwalk-pier often hosts California sea otters. Great for those who like a peaceful nature walk.

7. Morro Rock at Morro Bay, California

If you want to see mommy and baby sea otters, visit Morro Rock. Watch mother otters groom, feed and play with their young almost any time of year. Located in Morro Bay.

Mommy and baby California sea otters can be found at Morro Rock
Morro Bay, California Photo: Cameron Venti

I hope that you try one of these California sea otter viewing spots! These are special creatures that are fun to watch and advantages to the planet. Tell us where you went and how many you saw!

Published by Michelle Kratzer

I like to write. I love the ocean. I live for babies and dogs and giggles.

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