How Wide Is Monterey Bay from End to End?

Written by Oak Simmons
Published: August 23, 2023
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Monterey Bay is a beautiful bay of the Pacific Ocean in Northern California. The city of Santa Cruz lies at the northern end of the bay, and the city of Monterey lies to the south. Monterey Bay is known for its rich history, beautiful beaches, and impressive size. It has around 249 miles of shoreline, but this number fluctuates due to tides. How wide is Monterey Bay? This article explores the width, depth, and exciting wildlife of this gorgeous area.

Key Points

  • Monterey Bay is approximately 25 miles wide at its widest point.
  • Monterey Canyon lies along the ocean floor of Monterey Bay and is up to 12,743 feet deep.
  • The record for swimming across Monterey Bay is 12 hours and 42 minutes.

How Wide Is Monterey Bay?

View of Monterey Bay from above the Dunes

The shoreline of Monterey Bay is 249 miles long.

©Anne M Vallone/

According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey Bay is approximately 25 miles wide. This is at the bay’s widest point, between Seabright Beach in Santa Cruz and San Carlos Beach in Monterey.

How Deep Is Monterey Bay?

Monterey Bay is incredibly deep due to the massive Monterey Canyon which lies underneath its waters. The Monterey Canyon is even deeper than the Grand Canyon! At its deepest point, Monterey Bay has a depth of 12,743 feet.

Can You Swim Across Monterey Bay?

Amazingly, despite its massive size, some people have successfully swum across the entire 25-mile width of Monterey Bay. The record for the fastest swim across the bay was set in 2020 by Catherine Breed, with a time of 12 hours and 42 minutes. There have been 11 total successful marathon swims across Monterey Bay.

While the bay is home to several species of sharks, including the great white shark, shark encounters are extremely rare, and it is generally safe to swim in.

Wildlife in Monterey Bay

Monterey Bay contains an abundance of diverse wildlife habitats including the ocean, sand dunes, and tidal estuaries. There are numerous marine protected areas in and around the bay, established for the conservation of marine animals. Two protected areas out in the ocean of Monterey Bay are the Soquel Canyon State Marine Conservation Area, 10 miles west of Moss Landing, and the Portuguese Ledge State Marine Conservation Area, four miles north of Monterey. In addition to marine protected areas, there are also several conservation areas along the shores of the bay, including the Elkhorn Slough, a massive tidal salt marsh.

Let’s explore some of the amazing animals that live in and around Monterey Bay!

Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris)

river otter vs sea otter

Sea otters are the only marine mammal that uses tools. Otters use stones to crack open shells for food.

©Kirsten Wahlquist/

The sea otter is a marine mammal native to northern Pacific Ocean coastlines. Unlike river otters, sea otters do not build dens on land, and are actually capable of living without ever leaving the water. Sea otters forage for food on the ocean floor. Their diets are mainly mollusks, crustaceans, and sea urchins. According to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, sea otters are a keystone species, meaning they play a crucial role in maintaining the ecosystem they are a part of. Sea otters control the population of sea urchins, which would otherwise threaten kelp forests.

Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias)

Great white sharks are the ocean's apex predators.

Great white sharks are apex predators, meaning they are not preyed upon by any animal.


The great white shark is a large shark that lives around the world in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. According to a study of juvenile sharks by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the number of great white sharks in Monterey Bay is increasing. The study attributes this change to warming ocean waters. While great white sharks are often portrayed in the media as a danger to humans, they do not actually recognize humans as prey and encounters with sharks are rare. According to the International Shark Attack File of the University of Florida, there are an average of only six fatal shark attacks annually worldwide. That is far less likely than the risk of death from rip currents.

Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus)

snowy plover

Snowy plovers forage along the shore for flies, worms, and crustaceans.


Monterey Bay is home to over 180 species of birds, including some rare and endangered species. The snowy plover is a small shorebird native to North and South America. They are listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Since snowy plovers nest in sand dunes, they are vulnerable to human activity on beaches. The California Department of Parks and Recreation protects the species on state land by limiting motorized vehicles, dogs, and other threats to the birds.

Where Is Monterey Bay Located On a Map?

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Chris LaBasco/

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About the Author

Oak Simmons is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering North American wildlife and geography. They graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. A resident of Washington state, Oak enjoys tracking mammals and watching birds.

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