The Big Chill

It's summertime in Sacramento and the living is easy—except when Mother Nature cranks up our city's thermostat. If you can't stand the heat, it's time to get out of town. From clear-bottom kayaking in Tahoe to a waterfall-filled hike in Marin and an ocean safari in Monterey, we've got 18 ways to keep your cool right now.

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Young sea explorers can go surface scuba driving at the Monterey Bay Aquarium all summer. (Photo courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium)


All the ocean’s a stage at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where exhibits featuring more than 35,000 sea creatures and plants give a peek into the natural splendor on display off the back deck, where the action is wet and wild. Through the Underwater Explorers program, aquatic adventurers ages 8-13 can suit up and go surface scuba diving from June 15 until Labor Day in a large tide pool to visit crab, starfish and sea cucumbers in their native habitat. Meanwhile, sunbathing otters and seals, among the 30-plus species of mammals that inhabit the bay, warm up the crowd before a short on-deck performance of Turning the Tide (June 22-Sept. 2), which depicts how the indigenous Rumsen Ohlone fished for food and reenacts conservationist Julia Platt’s crusade to make Monterey Bay the country’s first protected marine area. $50 ($30 for ages 3-12; additional $95 for scuba diving). 886 Cannery Row. Monterey. 831-648-4800. montereybayaquarium.orgCurtis Yee


The Santa Cruz boardwalk is nostalgia central whatever era your teenage self may hail from, and there’s no better way to revisit the past, or introduce your own teens to your OG crush, than by chilling to Smash Mouth or The English Beat at one of the free Friday night beach concerts that will take place from June 14-Aug. 30 ( in front of the 1907 wooden walkway. And we do mean chilling—you’ll want a warm blanket to sit on, and one to huddle under as the sun sets (hint: dig your toes deep into the sand to keep them toasty). If you’re more of a film buff than retro music fan, Wednesdays on the beach are movie nights from June 19-Aug. 14. Our can’t-miss pick of the season? The opening evening screening of the 1987 vampire camparama The Lost Boys, most of which was filmed locally. If you want to beat the crowds as well as the heat, you can join smaller throngs of local sailors and semi-retired hippies dancing in the sand behind the Crow’s Nest restaurant (maybe rideshare from downtown, as parking is limited; on Thursday nights through Aug. 29 at its Summer Beach Party, where booze, BBQ and an assortment of local bands party like it’s 1969—just don’t tell anybody about it. —Hillary Louise Johnson


You don’t have to be a sci-fi buff to feel transported to another universe during Kayak Connection’s nighttime bioluminescence tour of Elkhorn Slough, but if you are, you’ll swear you’re plying the glowing waters of Pandora, the radiant planet in James Cameron’s Avatar. Just before sunset, you’ll push off from Moss Landing and head down the channel, witnessing the bedtime routines of wildlife like sea otters and spotted harbor seals. But the real show begins when the sun goes down (Monterey Peninsula’s cloud cover means that summer nights are quite nippy, so bundle up). The voyage—reserve your spot early, as summer and fall weekend outings can book up fast—will lead you to illuminated pockets where you can witness the inlet’s bioluminescence phenomenon, a reaction caused by its single-celled inhabitants (in this case, diatom algae) that emit an out-of-this-world fluorescent blue light. The splendor is activated by movement, so splish-splash the night away in the shimmering alien waters before coming back to Earth. $70. 831-724-5692. kayakconnection.comJessica Rine

Take a walk on the wild and natural side at Point Lobos. (Photo by  David Royal/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom)


Some California landscapes are so iconic that you get a sense of déjà vu when you finally lay eyes on them in person—Muir Woods, Yosemite Valley and, of course, Big Sur, which begins with a bang at Point Lobos. Well-signed footpaths hug the rocky bluffs, offering postcard view after postcard view of coves, crooked manzanitas, dramatic outcroppings, basking sea lions and wildflowers that are ariot throughout the summer, long after the inland blooms have shriveled. Gorgeous enough to ravish the sensibilities of veteran outdoorspeople, this expansive windswept preserve is also accessible enough for small children and seniors (dogs aren’t allowed). You won’t have the place to yourself no matter the time or season, but the vistas are so transfixing that you’ll hardly care that you’re sharing the trails with families on the weekends and school groups on weekdays. Time your visit to low tide and you can extend it with a wade through the Weston tide pools, but if you want one of the 150 parking spaces, aim to beat the human tide by getting there early. $10 for parking. H.L.J.

 Spot whales (and other aquatic mammals like dolphins and sea otters) on a Fast Raft ocean safari. (Photo by Kate Spencer)


As Captain Ahab will tell you, the smaller the boat, the bigger the whale—at least that’s how it will seem aboard Monterey Bay’s smallest whale-watching vessel, the 33-foot Ranger. Agile and low to the water, the six-seat rigid-hulled inflatable craft from Fast Raft Ocean Safaris gets you up close and personal with the world’s largest mammal—expect to smell whale breath and get soaked with spray as barnacled behemoths breach, crash and splash (pro tip: if you’re seasick-prone, start your meds the night before). Guided by Captain Kate Spencer, passengers can expect to spot feeding humpbacks this summer (and through November)—lucky riders might even catch a glimpse of a 90-foot-long great blue—as well as dolphins, sea otters, seals and sea lions during the three-hour Moss Landing excursion. Choose between morning and afternoon rides (the morning water is less choppy, but humpbacks breach more consistently in the afternoon), and Captain Kate says to dress for snow—even in July—so suit up and we’ll call you Ishmael. $175-$185. 2486 Highway One. Moss Landing. 408-659-3900. fastraft.comC.Y.

 Refuge spa in Carmel offers some seriously cool water therapy. (Photo courtesy of Refuge Spa)


If the Dalai Lama and his devotees were to design a water park, where all the attractions were geared toward relaxation and contemplation, it would look like Refuge. This lushly landscaped, adults-only, 2-acre day spa in Carmel features four cool and cold plunge pools to shock the summer sludge out of your system between hot and warm soaks. Change into a bathing suit and robe, grab your water bottle, and, well, chill. Plan on spending at least three hours here, cycling through the warm-hot-cool-icy environments with plenty of time in between to nap in a hammock or read a book in an Adirondack chair around a fire pit. But leave time to soak up some ions from the wall of Himalayan sea salt in the sauna and open your pores in the eucalyptus steam room. If you’re tempted to rave to your partner about just how magical Refuge is, save it for the drive home because the entire complex is enveloped in a cone of silence—you’ll just have to use your inside voice to say “ahhh.” $52-$62. 27300 Rancho San Carlos Rd. Carmel. 831-620-7360. refuge.comH.L.J.