Updated: Aug 14
Point Joe Vista Point is located 10 minutes away from Pacific Grove and offers amazing views of the ocean. Not only that, there is ample parking and benches to sit on, plus a unique history of this location. There are more viewpoints on 17-Mile Drive (Point Joe is the 5th), but this is my favorite.
We’ll talk about everything you need to know about Point Joe Vista Point, like its history, directions, the view, and more nearby locations to visit.
The History of Point Joe Vista Point
The history of this spot, in my opinion, is very interesting. It was named after a Chinese fisherman, Joe Porphyry. The rocky outcrop that you will see at Point Joe was noticeable among sailors, so they used it as a navigational point (the Monterey Peninsula had a shipping and fishing boom in the mid-1800s).
There were also plenty of shipwrecks here. You will probably be able to tell that this area has a rocky shore, so it was quite dangerous to sail here.
Like other coastal areas in California (the Bay Area is the most significant), Point Joe was fortified during World War II. Any attack on the Monterey Peninsula would face more resistance and acts as a concrete line of defense.
Last but not least is the granite rocks. They show 65 million years of history, which is around the time the dinosaurs went extinct. There is some very impressive rock history at the Grand Canyon if you’re ever there; we have blogged about Moran Point, Angels Window, and Navajo Point that overlook the national Park.
Nowadays, it is a popular tourist destination with its ocean scenery and a rock that is reminiscent of Morro Rock.
How to Get to Point Joe Vista Point
Before we get started, the admission fee into Pebble Beach and 17-Mile Drive is $11.25 per vehicle. There are 5 gates that you can enter through (it’s a private, gated community, but you can still enter), but we will cover the most common one.
Head over to the 5-way intersection on Sunset Drive and 17 Mile Drive (not to be confused with 17-Mile Loop in Monument Valley, which we wrote about in our Ear of the Wind arch blog) Drive south on 17 Mile Drive and you will quickly reach a gate (where you have to pay the entrance fee). If it helps, the coordinates of this gate are 36.61333° N, 121.93255° W; it’s also called Pacific Grove Gate.
Continue down 17 Mile Drive for a mile and turn right. Drive for a little less than a mile and turn right when you see the “Point Joe” sign like the picture below. On the way here, you will pass Moss Beach, The Restless Sea, Spanish Bay Vista Point, and Sawmill Gulch.
If you’re driving in from Carmel-By-The-Sea, drive to Pebble Beach and then Pescadero Point. From here, you’ll drive for 14 miles until you reach Point Joe Vista Point. You will pass a dozen or so viewpoints along the way.
Point Joe Vista Point
Point Joe looks over the ocean, Monterey Bay, Spanish Bay, and the rocky outcrop. You can see the waves crash into the rocks, sending salt water dozens of feet into the air. It is also next to the 14th hole of the Dunes Course of Monterey Peninsula Country Club - a well-known par 3. This golf course is one of the best golf courses in the country because of its amazing views.
There will be plenty of pelicans and other birds, flying around and sitting on the rocks in front of you. Don’t feed them anything. They need to find their own food to stay alive, plus there is a sign that warns against feeding animals.
Maybe the best part about this vista point is the beach telescopes (those ancient-looking things where you put in a quarter to see into the distance). There may be some ships or waves to look at, or the colors of the sunset.
Behind Point Joe are a couple of trees that look like they are being blown over. Over dozens of years, these trees have grown sideways because of the constant ocean breeze coming from the west. If you travel into the mountains on a “pass,” you can sometimes see trees that look like this. Some trees grow like shrubs that creep along the ground because it is the only way that they can survive in that harsh environment.
Last but not least is the interpretive sign (which we have already talked about above) that reads “Early mariners mistook Point Joe as the entrance to Monterey Bay, making it the site of many shipwrecks. In the early 1900s, a man named Joe lived in a driftwood hut here, selling trinkets to tourists and tending goats. It is debated whether Joe was named for the point, or the point was named for Joe.”
The rugged coastline, rocky cliffs, crashing waves, and the Monterey Peninsula are all visible from Point Joe Vista Point, which is why this is one of my favorite viewpoints along 17-Mile Drive. Not only this, there are over a dozen other places to see the ocean along this route.
Lone Cypress and Cypress Point Lookout give you not only a great view of the waves crashing on the rocks but also a Monterey Cypress that stands alone on the rocks. Monterey Cypress only grow in this small area of California. It can make for a great picture if you know some photography skills.
This tree is also special. It is over 250 years old and is in the Pebble Beach logo. It’s one of the most photographed trees in California due to its unique placement on the rocks. Lone Cypress is spot #12 on the 17-Mile Drive. You can see in the video below how big the waves can get.
Another fantastic viewpoint is Pescadero Point, southeast of Cypress Point Lookout. Here, you are surrounded by hundreds of trees. You are also very close to the shore and can watch the waves crash on the rocks. There are some very old trees (unfortunately dead) that are cool to look at. You can also catch a great sunset if there is no fog - there can be a lot of fog in coastal California. Lastly, you can see down the coastline with some forests and mountains visible.
When Is 17-Mile Drive Open?
17-Mile Drive is open to visitors year-round, but only from sunrise to sunset. This means that you’ll have to leave quickly if you watch the sunset. There are plenty of places in Monterey and Pacific Grove to watch the sunset without the fear of getting in trouble.
Packing List for 17-Mile Drive and Point Joe
A map. There are so many viewpoints and residential roads that you can get lost easily or miss a spot. You can get a map at the gate entrance to 17-Mile Drive to ensure that you won’t miss anything.
Sunscreen. You will likely be outside for a few hours, which is long enough to get a sunburn. It may be cloudy or foggy when you arrive and then get sunny, but that’s basically coastal California.
Food. Food will be tough to access in this gated community, so bring a meal and snacks with you. You’ll need enough energy to last you all day.
Water. Water is more accessible, but you can still get dehydrated easily. Bring enough water to last all day, and maybe even a cooler if you want some cold drinks.
Extra clothes. It can also get cold since you’re next to the ocean and its breeze. Some windproof clothes will be best due to Monterey’s constant breeze.
Sunglasses. If you’re like me, the sun can blind you when you’re on the coast. A pair of sunglasses will stop your constant squint and allow you to enjoy your day even more.
Camera. This is the most important optional item, in my opinion. Bringing a high-quality camera will allow you to get some eye-popping pictures that you can look at for years (and show off to your friends, of course).
Point Joe Vista Point is a great stop on 17-Mile Drive. Not only do you get amazing views of the ocean, but you also get to experience three different types of history. There are over a dozen other viewpoints along this route, so you can spend all day breathing in the ocean breeze. You can also travel into the mountains and Del Monte Forest right next door. Enjoy your day in Monterey!