Tar residues are common on the coastline of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. These coastal tar residues have been washed ashore and usually occur on headlands near the high-tide line. In this study, 18 coastal tar residues were collected and analyzed to determine their carbon isotopic compositions and the values of selected biomarker ratios. All of the residues have very heavy (13C-enriched) carbon isotopic compositions spanning a narrow range (??13C = -22.2 to -23.4???), and 28,30-bisnorhopane is present in all samples. These same geochemical characteristics are found in Monterey Formation oils from which the coastal tar residues were likely derived. These coastal residues could result from natural seeps or from accidental spills. Statistically the coastal tar residues can be organized into three groups, each of which may represent different spill or seep events. Seven samples of potential local representative sources for the tar residues were examined, but none could account for the coastal tars.