If you want to see the famous Lone Cypress in Pebble Beach, you should know one thing: it’s going to cost you.
If you don’t do your research and show up in search of the solitary Monterey Cypress standing sentinel on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Pacific Ocean, what sticks with you after your visit may not be the warm memories of a leisurely drive along a spectacular stretch of coastal California. Instead, you may be left reeling from sticker shock.
Being from New Jersey, a small state with two major toll roads, paying a fee to drive anywhere doesn’t really phase me (much) but imagine my surprise upon discovering there’s a $9.75 fee for visitors to access Pebble Beach’s scenic 17-Mile Drive by car.
I’m not suggesting there shouldn’t be a fee–Pebble Beach is, after all, a gated community and can charge whatever it wants for access–but it might have been nice for this little tidbit of information to be prominently displayed on Pebble Beach’s online guide to 17-Mile Drive. You see, when you’re traveling in groups of two or three or four, paying $9.75 really isn’t a big deal; the cost per person breaks down to under five bucks and then goes down from there. As a solo traveler on a budget, I found the charge a bit steep.
But I really wanted to see the Lone Cypress so I forked over almost ten bucks and forged ahead.
Roughly halfway through the drive, another surprise was waiting for me: the Lone Cypress isn’t really alone. It’s an isolated unit within a grove of Monterey Cypress trees. Separate from the others, yes, but certainly not alone.
Not only did I feel like I’d been robbed, I also felt like I’d been duped. All because I wasn’t armed with adequate information in advance.
After conducting a little post-trip research, I found a few tips for visiting the Lone Cypress that I thought I’d share:
- There are three ways to forgo the entrance fee. The first is to bicycle 17-Mile Drive (and get an amazing workout in the process, naturally). The second: spend a minimum of $25 at an establishment in Pebble Beach and the entrance fee will be deducted from your bill. The third: buy a house in Pebble Beach. Okay, okay, I kid.
- I didn’t know this at the time but the Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) only grows naturally in two places on earth . One of those places is Pebble Beach. The scarcity of wild stands of the species prompted the State of California to list it as rare or endangered.
Have you ever been let down by a destination or attraction because you simply didn’t have enough information? Now that you know more, would you want to go back?
UPDATE: I received a response from Ryan Pierce, the public relations and marketing manager for the Pebble Beach Company. He summarized the purpose of the fee and further clarified the circumstances under which it might be waived:
As background, the $9.75 fee is used for a variety of purposes intended to maintain the heavily trafficked road infrastructure inside Pebble Beach as well as to preserve the protected native habitat areas throughout the property. This fee is waived for all guests and visitors who have a reservation at Pebble Beach Resorts, including staying at one of our three hotels, enjoying an appointment at our spa, dining at any of our restaurants or playing one of our three resort golf courses. As you noted in your post, this fee is also reimbursed with a $25 purchase in any of our food & beverage locations.
Now that I can make an informed decision, I fully intend on revisiting this grove of Monterey Cypresses someday. Hopefully, the weather will be better and I’ll take my time, have a leisurely lunch (in excess of $25, of course!), and spend some time among these rare trees.
UPDATE #2: Each year, I return to California’s Central Coast and in 2014, I had another opportunity to visit 17-Mile Drive and Pebble Beach. I was not disappointed.