Location: Three miles south of Carmel on Highway 1
Hours: 8 a.m. to 1/2 hour after sunset in the winter; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during Daylight Savings Time (as staffing permits)
Whalers Cabin Museum: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (as staffing permits)
Cost: Passenger cars: $10; $9 vehicle with a senior citizen; $5 with disabled discount card
Small coach or van: $50 (10-25 passengers); large bus $100
Annual Day Use Pass: $125 (valid for one year from date of purchase)
More information: (831) 624-4909 (diving information: 831-624-8413) or http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=571

The greatest meeting of land and water in the world.

Whew! How could a place described that way not be the top wonder of Monterey County?

The quote came from landscape artist Francis McComas. The words are difficult to challenge if you've ever been to Point Lobos State Reserve, with its wondrous mix of rocky cliffs, sweeping vistas, windswept trees and encircling blue-green sea.

The reserve spreads over almost 550 acres on land and 750 acres underwater, designated the first marine reserve in the United States in 1960. In 1992, the underwater area became part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

The reserve takes its name from the offshore rocks at Punta de los Lobos Marinos, or Point of the Sea Wolves. It is inhabited by more than 250 animal and bird species, and more than 300 plant species, including the Monterey cypress, which grows naturally in only two places.

Over the years, Point Lobos has been home to Ohlone Indians, Chinese fishermen, Japanese abalone harvesters and Portuguese whalers. It has been the site of an abalone cannery, coal mining business, granite quarry, military base, as well as the set for numerous films.

Visitors to this jewel of the state park system hike, picnic, scuba dive, tour the Whalers Cabin Museum, and simply soak up the reserve, following the advice of its stewards: "Walk gently. Breathe deeply.

"Reflect. Discover its spirit for yourself."