This is a KOA Express so just a small KOA with few amenities but that’s fine with me. The area seems to be mostly made up of working fishermen, restaurant employees, scientists, and a few artists. There are two research facilities here, the Elkhorn Slough Reserve and Monterey Bay Aquarium.
I would say that most of the people that check in to this small KOA spend their days driving to Monterey Aquarium, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, wine tours, Gilroy, all within short driving distances. I was here in February and the weather was a little uncooperative so that probably dampened my enthusiasm a little. The KOA has full hookups, all sites are back in, but they can’t accommodate really large RVs here due to limited space. The laundry room was very clean with everything working well. There is a little store in the office with snacks and souvenirs.
Maybe one of the best perks is three highly rated restaurants all within walking distance of the KOA. I ate at Haute Enchilada for lunch on my second day here, mostly because they don’t do “take away.” I paid $31 for a lunch plate — petit tamal trio — and Mexican beer, including tip. Phil’s Fish Market is at the harbor and seems to have a very comprehensive menu. However, I just bought some fresh fish to bring home with me. It seemed fresh and reasonably priced but I’m not an expert in those matters. I walked up to Whole Enchilada for lunch the day before we left. It was exceptional and the service was excellent. I had halibut tacos, two Coronas, a flan to-go, left a nice tip and I paid $46. Funny story — while I was there, an elderly couple came in, sat down, looked at the menus, then got up and left without ordering. Don’t forget, folks! It’s Bay Area prices.
The KOA just has a little on-leash strip of grass for the dogs. We spent most of our time walking in the harbor parking lot next door to us. The parking lot has little grassy areas with walkways and doggie bag dispensers so that was convenient. Another good place to walk is a little strip of path that follows the river inlet. Note that dogs are not allowed in the state park beach but are allowed on the little frontage strip that follows the Salinas River (per signs).
Even though it’s in the Monterey Bay Area, there seems to be a lot of economic depression, including people living in their very well-worn boats in the harbor. We did see some drunk locals sleeping behind a restaurant and hanging around in the parking lots. But I would think it should be safe if you stay on public paths and walk during the day.
Alongside Phil’s Fish Market, there is a path to the beach, which is free access. There are doggie bag dispensers and no signs that say anything about leashes. My big dog loves running on the beach but the weather didn’t really cooperate with us on this trip. I also read that you can buy fresh seafood right off the boats at dock A but that must be in other seasons because we never saw anyone.
In addition to a working harbor, this location has research facilities for the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Elkhorn Slough Reserve. The research vessel, Rachel Carson, was in the harbor for a few days and I got a picture of it.
The Elkhorn Slough Safari boat trip is something you should not miss. This is a two-hour trip up the slough on a pontoon boat with a naturalist tour guide. Some of the passengers had huge cameras and equipment but I was happy to just watch and take the occasional snapshot with my phone. The naturalist told me that the tour is exciting any time of year but you see more migratory birds during the winter. Otters have babies year round and I saw at least 4 otter mothers holding their babies.